Tax File Number (TFN)
In the United States it is called a Social Security Number, in Britain a National Insurance Number, and in Australia, we call it a Tax File Number (TFN). Everyone who pays tax gets a TFN. Tax file numbers are obtained from the Tax Office when individuals commence their working life and are used to help identify your tax records.
Your TFN is identifiably yours and yours alone, and you shouldn't share it with friends, or online. Sharing the details of your tax file number could result in identity theft.
What do I do with my TFN? When do I use it?
You will be asked to provide, or declare, your tax file number in certain situations, such as starting work for the
first time, or changing jobs, or applying for allowances and benefits from Centrelink. Of course, you'll also have to provide it to lodge a tax return or deal with the Tax Office.
The people or organisations most likely to ask for your details are:
the Tax Office
your bank or other financial institution
your university, and
your superannuation fund.
When you start a new job, you provide your TFN by filling in a form from your employer. You have 28 days to give them your tax file number before tax begins to be deducted at the highest rate.
Once you've filled out the form, your employer will use the information you have provided (regarding any dependants or higher education loan schemes) to determine how much tax is taken out of your salary or wage payments.
To ensure your TFN is used appropriately, you have the right to:
ask what legal basis the organisation has in asking for the tax file number
be told that if you don't provide it, you're not doing anything wrong, and
be told what the consequences of not providing the tax file number will be.
Do I have to have a tax file number?
No, it is not compulsory to have a TFN, but life is pretty difficult without one. An employer that does not have
your tax file number is legally required to hold back tax from your pay at the top marginal rate, even if you are earning so little that you'd almost be paying no tax at all otherwise. And any interest from bank accounts, unfranked dividends from companies or dividends (franked or unfranked) passed to you through unit trust distributions, will have the highest possible level of tax taken out, if a TFN isn't provided.
You also need a TFN to be able to access government benefits or support, such as unemployment benefits, that you are entitled to. Tertiary students will need one to access the government's higher education loans.
Only one TFN will ever be issued to you. Once you have a TFN , you don't need to re-apply for one if your circumstances change, for example, if you change your name, have investments or claim government benefits.
Who can apply for a tax file number online?
Foreign passport holders, permanent migrants and temporary visitors
You can apply for a tax file number online if you meet these three conditions:
You are a foreign passport holder, permanent migrant or temporary visitor.
You are already in Australia.
Your visa is one of the following:
a permanent migrant visa
a visa with work rights
an overseas student visa
a valid visa allowing you to stay in Australia indefinitely.
To apply online you must have a valid passport or relevant travel documents.
You don't have to provide proof of identity documents – The Tax Office will compare your personal and travel document details with Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) records.
Visitors and permanent migrants need authorization from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) to work in Australia.