About Tax File Number
A tax file number is a unique identification number issued by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). A Tax File Number is the Australian equivalent of America’s Tax Identification Number, the United Kingdom’s Unique Taxpayer Reference/National Insurance Number, France’s Tax Identification Number and Germany’s Steuer-ID. Tax file numbers are nine-digit numbers, arranged in three sets of spaced numbers, i.e. xxx xxx xxx, issued to individuals and corporate organisations for tax-related purposes as prescribed by taxation regulations. These numbers are included on tax-related documents and are only assigned consequent upon a duly approved application submitted by a taxpayer (individual or corporate). Exemption rules apply to certain taxpaying entities such as schools non-profit organisations.
The Australian Taxation Office uses the tax file number to identify, track and gather information on taxpaying individuals and organisations. A tax identification number makes organisations and individuals eligible for government benefits and job opportunities, aids electronic lodging of tax returns, reduced taxation rates and the acquisition of an Australian Business Number (ABN). A tax file number is free and has no expiry period. The usage and disclosure of this number follow a strict regime of rules. Authorisation to demand for tax file number from individuals is restricted to selected individuals and organisations like Australian Taxation Office, labour employer, banks, the Department of Human Services, pension and retirement savings funds providers, investment groups, vocational education providers, tax agents, solicitors and accountants. Authorised individuals and organisations are forbidden, however, from recording, collecting, using or passing on tax file number information except authorised to do so by taxation, personal assistance or superannuation (retirement) regulation.
Tax file numbers come in a variety of forms. There is a personal tax file number and business tax file number for individual and corporate organisations, respectively.
Applying for a tax file number
The application process for a tax file number involves no payment of application fees and charges. It varies according to the applicant’s residential and citizenship status. The application process for the under a listed set of applicants will now be discussed in detail:
- Australian citizens
- Non-Australian Citizens
- Non-Australian Residents
Australian citizens tax file number application
Australian citizens (i.e. those born in Australia, with an Australian passport or in possession of a citizenship certificate) are given the freedom of choosing between the following methods:
1. Online application through myGovID
Australian citizens using this method must meet the following eligibility requirements:
- Be 15 years old at least as at the time of application
- Be an Australian passport holder. Expired passports of up to three years are accepted.
- Possess any other formal Australian identification document (birth certificate, citizenship certificate, driver’s license or Medicare card.
As part of the application process, applicants set up a Strong myGovID profile. This is done on the myGovID app downloadable from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. Applicants further input the following personal details: name, date of birth and personal e-mail address.
The application process includes verification of passport and one other formal Australian identification document, as well as photo verification. A completed online application is the last step in a chain of steps involving terms and conditions review, confirmation of myGovID profile, an online Tax File Number application, and creating a myGov account. Delivery of a tax file number follows instantly.
2. Application through Australia Post
This method requires the applicant’s physical presence at a designated Australia Post location for an interview. It involves the following procedures:
- Completing an electronic form
- Printing the summary of the application, which includes an application reference number
- Booking an interview session at an Australia Post location within 30 days of completing the electronic form
- Attending the scheduled interview session at the Australia Post location. Applicants are required to present the printed application along with a formal Australian identification document.
- Completing the application by signing the application at the interview location.
Delivery of tax file number occurs within a 28-day window from the date of application completion and submission.
3. Application through Services Australia
This application method is for Australian citizens who are either a Services Australia customer or are unable to apply through the myGovID or Australia post. Applicants using this method place orders online or to Services Australia for an application form. The form is filled and turned in at a Services Australia location along with specified formal Australian identification documents.
4. Application by post
In the event that an applicant is unable to use any of the previously discussed methods, the applicant can still apply by post. Under this method, the application completes a paper form. This form is sent along with attached copies of proof of identity documents to an address listed on the form.
Non-Australian Citizens tax file number application
Non-Australian citizens are required to satisfy the following conditions to be eligible to apply for a tax file number:
- Be a foreign passport holder, permanent migrant or temporary visitor already in Australia.
- Hold one of the following visa categories:
- Permanent resident visa
- Work visa, inclusive of the following categories: subclass 417, subclass 420, subclass 421 and subclass 462
- Overseas student visa
- A permanent residence visa
Citizens who are not Australians but are eligible can also apply for tax file number online. Additionally, they are required to possess a valid passport or other applicable travel documents. Non-Australians without valid visas are barred from applying for a tax file number. Delivery of tax file number is done within a 28-day window from the date of online application completion to the Australian postal address filled in on the application form.
Non-Australian Residents tax file number application
Non-Australian residents are required to satisfy the following conditions to be eligible to apply for a tax file number:
- Have an Australian business interest or organisation as an income source
- Be married to a spouse resident in Australia with an additional condition of holding an interest in applying for government benefits related to childcare and family tax.
- Hold membership of an Australian superannuation fund
- Have a need to file an Australian tax return or an Australian Business Number.
Applicants who belong to this category complete a downloaded tax file number application form designed for non-Australian residents. This form is filled and posted to an address specified on the form, along with certified copies of proof of identity documents. Delivery of tax file number occurred within a 28-day window from the date of receipt of a completed application and required supporting documents. Proof of identity documents used for application by non-Australian residents are to be certified by the following individuals: a notary public, Australian embassy/high commission/consulate staff.
Identity documents written in languages other than English are to be translated and certified. Documents that are accepted for verifying individuals’ identity include birth certificates and a passport issued by the applicant’s country of origin. Non-resident applicants may be asked to present copies of national photo identification card, government identification, marriage certificate and driver’s license issued by the applicant’s country of origin.
The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) equally provides communication channels for applicants to report cases of loss, theft and unauthorised access. In the event where any of the three scenarios is the case, the agency offers information, guidance and support in re-establishing identity for the concerned. The agency may complement these services with security measures.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- How much do I need to pay to apply for a tax file number?
The application process for a tax file number involves no payment of application fees and charges.
- What is the validity period of a tax file number?
A tax file number does not have a validity period. It is permanent and does not expire.
- What is the Australian Taxation Office?
The Australian Taxation Office is an Australian government agency responsible for administering procedures and processes pertaining to revenue collection in Australia. It is responsible for issuing tax file numbers.