The Australian tax system relies on taxpayers self-assessing. This means that you are responsible for working out how much you can declare and claim on your tax return. You also need to be able to show how you arrived at these figures – in some cases you may be required to provide written evidence.
In order to prepare an accurate tax return and support the claims you make, you need to keep careful records. The records you need to keep depend on your personal circumstances. If you are not sure, it is better to keep too many records than not enough.
This guide will provide general advice to help you identify what records you need to keep.
How long should you keep your records?
Generally, you must keep your written evidence for five years from the date you lodge your tax return, or, if you:
have claimed a deduction for decline in value (formerly known as depreciation) – five years from the date of your last claim for decline in value
acquire or dispose of an asset – five years after it is certain that no capital gains tax (CGT) event can happen, so you know you don't need the records to work out a capital gain or loss
are in dispute with us – the later of five years from the date you lodge your tax returnorwhen the dispute is finalised.
Shorter retention from 2004–05 on
We have made a determinationSDR 2006/1External Linkthat some records for 2004–05 and later income years held by individuals with simple tax affairs need only be retained for two years. The records that are covered by this determination are a:
family agreement that is relevant to 2004–05 or later
copy of a payment summary given to an individual in the income year commencing 1 July 2004 or later
taxpayer declaration that is made on or after 1 April 2004 for returns and documents lodged with us by a tax agent on a taxpayer's behalf, authorising the agent to lodge and declaring that the information supplied is correct (for example, the taxpayer declaration on a tax agent lodged tax return).
What are simple tax affairs?
You are classed as having simple tax affairs in an income year if you are an individual taxpayer and:
your income consists only of
salary or wages (other than from associates)
interest paid by a financial institution or government body
dividends from an Australian company listed on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX)
you claim deductions only for
the cost of managing your tax affairs
bank fees and charges, including taxes and duties
deductible gifts of money and donations of money
you are not
a foreign resident for the year of income
entitled to a foreign tax credit
required to adjust your taxable income because of payments to or from your associates
in receipt of a capital gain or loss that must be taken into account in your tax return
in receipt of foreign employment income, or income from service on an approved overseas project that is exempt from tax in Australia.