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Are You Paying Too Much Tax as a Sole Trader? Find Out Now

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An Introduction to Sole Trader Tax

A sole trader, also known as a sole proprietor, is a type of business structure that is owned and operated by a single individual. It’s one of the simplest forms of business ownership and the easiest to set up. When operating as a sole trader, there is no legal distinction between the owner and the business itself.

This means the sole trader is entitled to all profits generated by the business, but it also means that they are personally liable for any debts or liabilities the business incurs. They can hire employees, but they remain the sole owner of the small business itself and cannot employ themselves in the business.

Operating as a sole trader can offer a lot of flexibility and control, as the owner can make all decisions regarding the business without needing to consult with partners or board members. However, it also involves a higher level of risk compared to some other business structures because the owner’s personal assets could be at risk if the business becomes unable to meet its financial obligations.

As with all business structures, sole traders have specific tax obligations which they must meet. It’s crucial for anyone operating as a sole trader to understand these tax obligations to ensure they are compliant with the law and not paying more tax than necessary.

Understanding tax obligations is crucial for sole traders for several reasons:

Legal Compliance

First and foremost, understanding your tax obligations ensures that you are complying with the law. Failing to pay the correct amount of tax can result in penalties, fines, or legal action from tax authorities.

Financial Planning

Having a clear understanding of your tax obligations helps you to plan financially. You will know how much money you need to set aside for tax payments, which can help you manage your cash flow more effectively.

Maximising Profit

By understanding the ins and outs of the tax system, you may be able to identify legal ways to minimise your tax liability. This could include taking advantage of tax deductions or credits that you may not have been aware of.

Risk Management

As a sole trader, you are personally liable for any debts or liabilities incurred by your business. Therefore, understanding your tax obligations can also help you to manage risk and avoid incurring debts that you cannot pay.

Business Growth

Understanding tax obligations can also support business growth. By planning effectively for your expected tax bill, you can ensure that you have sufficient funds to reinvest in your business.

Understanding Sole Trader Tax

“Sole Trader Tax” refers to the tax responsibilities and obligations a sole trader has towards the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). As a sole trader in Australia, you are essentially running your business as an individual, and hence, the tax implications are tied to your personal income tax.

The following points explain the key aspects of sole trader tax in Australia:

Income Tax

As a sole trader, your business income is treated as your personal income. This means you will declare your business income (minus any deductions for business expenses) on your personal income tax return. The amount of income tax you are required to pay will depend on your total taxable income for that financial year and will be calculated based on individual income tax rates.

Tax Deductions

Sole traders can deduct certain business expenses from their own taxable income tax due. These can range from office supplies to travel expenses, home office costs, and more. Understanding what qualifies as a legitimate business expense is critical to lowering your tax liability.

Goods and Services Tax (GST)

If your business has a GST turnover of $75,000 or more, you are required to register for GST. Once registered, you’ll need to add GST to most goods and services you sell, and you can claim credits for most business purchases.

Pay as You Go (PAYG) Instalments

If you earn income from your business, you might need to make regular payments towards your expected end-of-year income tax liability through the PAYG instalments system.

Tax Reporting

Sole traders are required to lodge an annual tax return that includes all their business income and deductions. It’s essential to maintain accurate records throughout the year to make this process straightforward.


While not a tax per se, understanding your superannuation obligations is an essential part of your financial responsibilities. Sole traders have the option but are not obliged to make super contributions for themselves.


Sole traders are required to complete an annual income tax return. This involves reporting your income and expenses to the ATO.

Understanding your tax obligations as a sole trader is crucial to ensure you comply with Australian tax laws and accurately calculate your tax liabilities. Since the tax rules can be complex, consider seeking advice from a tax professional or consultant if you’re uncertain about your tax obligations.

Sole Trader Tax Rate

As a sole trader, the tax you pay is linked directly to your personal income tax. This means the tax rate is not a fixed percentage, but instead, your individual income tax rate depends on the amount of taxable income you earn from your business and other sources each financial year. In Australia, the individual income tax rates are as follows:

Up to $18,200 – Nil

$18,201 to $45,000 – 19 cents for each $1 over $18,200

$45,001 to $120,000 – $5,092 plus 32.5 cents for each $1 over $45,000

$120,001 to $180,000 – $29,467 plus 37 cents for each $1 over $120,000

$180,001 and over – $51,667 plus 45 cents for each $1 over $180,000

Source: ATO

Remember, these tax brackets do not include the Medicare levy, which is an additional 2% on top of the income tax you owe.

It’s also important to remember that as a sole trader, you’re able to claim deductions for expenses related to running your business, which can lower your taxable income and, therefore, your overall tax liability.

The above information provides an overview of the various sole trader tax rates, but these rates are subject to change over time. It’s always a good idea to check the latest tax rates and regulations on the official ATO website or consult with a tax professional, like the team at shoebox books and tax.

Several factors can influence the amount of tax a sole trader is required to pay. Here are the main ones:

Business Expenses and Deductions

The amount of business expenses and deductions a sole trader can claim will also affect their tax rate. The more expenses a sole trader can validly claim, the lower their taxable income, which may result in a lower tax rate.

Personal Tax Credits and Deductions

Personal tax credits and deductions (like deductions for personal super contributions or credits for foreign tax paid) can also affect the amount of tax a sole trader is required to pay.

Residency for Tax Purposes

A sole trader’s residency status for tax purposes can also influence their tax rate. Residents and non-residents can be taxed at different rates and have different tax obligations.

How To Reduce Your Sole Trader Tax Liability

Sole traders in Australia have several strategies they can use to potentially reduce their tax liability. Here are some of the most common methods:

Claiming Business Expenses

Sole traders can deduct any costs directly related to running their business. These expenses may include operating expenses, office rent, equipment purchases, advertising costs, business travel and more. It’s important to keep accurate records and receipts for all these expenses.

Home Office Expenses

If a sole trader runs their business from home, they may be able to claim a portion of their home expenses. This can include costs for electricity, internet, and even rent. The ATO provides a specific method for calculating these deductions.

Prepaying Expenses

Prepaying deductible business expenses, such as insurance premiums, interest on a lease or chattel mortgage or rent, can provide an immediate tax deduction in the current financial year. 

Depreciating Assets

The cost of assets that have a longer life – such as machinery, vehicles, or computer equipment – can be deducted over several years. The ATO has specific rules about how these deductions can be calculated, including an instant asset write-off for certain asset purchases.

Superannuation Contributions

Sole traders may be able to claim a deduction for personal super contributions they make, subject to eligibility requirements.

Professional Development

The cost of education and training courses that are directly related to your current line of work can also be claimed as a tax deduction.

How to Pay Tax as a Sole Trader

When paying taxes, It’s crucial to stay compliant, and we’re committed to making it as simple as possible.

Here’s our step-by-step guide:

Step 1: Securing Your ABN and TFN

Firstly, to operate as a sole trader in Australia, we’ll help you secure your Australian Business Number (ABN) and Tax File Number (TFN). Both can be applied for online via the Australian Business Register and the Australian Tax Office (ATO), respectively.  Or we can do that for you – contact us today.

Step 2: Clarifying Your Tax Obligations

It’s important to understand your tax obligations as a sole trader. Your first tax bill will be based on individual tax rates. As of our last update, if your profits are up to $18,200, you won’t pay any tax. Beyond that, tax rates can range from 19% to 45%, depending on your income bracket. The table above can guide you as to how much income tax you are liable for.

Step 3: Registering for GST if Needed

If your business is expected to have a GST turnover (gross income minus GST) of $75,000 or more, you’ll need to register for GST (The Shoebox team can help with this). Once registered, you’ll be required to include GST in the price of most goods and services you sell.

Step 4: Recording Your Income and Expenses

At Shoebox Books & Tax, we emphasise the importance of keeping detailed and accurate records of all your income and expenses. These records will help you determine your profit (income minus expenses), which is the amount you’ll pay tax on. Remember, many of your business expenses can be claimed as tax deductions. The more deductions you claim, the less tax you will be liable for.

Step 5: Lodging Your Tax Return

When the financial year ends (June 30 in Australia), Shoebox can assist you in completing your individual tax return, including the supplementary section. You’ll need to report your business income and expenses here.

Step 6: Calculating and Paying Your Income Tax

Based on the information you provide in your tax return, the ATO will calculate how much tax you need to pay. Shoebox can help ensure you understand this calculation and will guide you through the payment process.

Step 7: Setting Up Pay As You Go (PAYG) Instalments

Depending on the amount of tax you owed in the previous financial year, you might need to make quarterly payments or PAYG instalments throughout the year. These instalments contribute to your expected tax liability and Shoebox can help you navigate this process.

Step 8: Ongoing Professional Advice

At Shoebox Books & Tax, we know that tax can be complex and that specifics can change based on new legislation or changes in your business. That’s why we offer ongoing professional advice to ensure you’re meeting all your tax obligations and taking full advantage of the deductions available to you.

We want to assure you that we’re here to support you. Failure to meet your tax obligations can result in penalties from the ATO, but with our expert guidance, we’ll help you accurately report your income and pay the correct amount of tax.

Common Queries on Sole Trader Tax Payment

Can I claim my home office expenses on my tax return?

Yes, if you’re running your business from home or use part of your home to do your work, you may be able to claim a portion of your running costs and occupancy expenses. This could include utilities like electricity and gas or rent. We can help you understand what you’re eligible to claim and how to calculate these deductions.

What happens if my business makes a loss?

If your business makes a loss, you can generally carry forward that loss to offset it against future income, thereby reducing your future tax liability. In some circumstances, you may also be able to offset these losses against other income or carry the loss back to offset it against income from previous years. We can guide you through the specifics based on your circumstances.

Do I need to pay GST?

If your business has a GST turnover (gross income minus GST) of $75,000 or more, you’ll need to register for and pay GST. Once registered, you’ll include GST in the price of most goods and services you sell and can claim credits for the GST included in the price of business purchases. We can assist you with the GST registration process if required.


A sole trader business is a business structure owned and run by a single person with no legal distinction between the owner and the business. The sole trader is personally liable for any business debts or liabilities. Sole traders must understand their tax obligations for legal compliance, financial planning, profit maximisation, risk management, and business growth.

Sole trader tax refers to tax responsibilities towards the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). Tax implications are tied to the trader’s personal income. Key aspects of sole trader tax in Australia include income tax, tax deductions, Goods and Services Tax (GST), Pay as You Go (PAYG) instalments, capital gains tax, reporting, superannuation, and self-assessment.

As a sole trader, the tax you pay is based on personal income tax rates, which depend on your total taxable income for the financial year.

Sole traders can potentially reduce their tax liability by claiming business expenses, home office expenses, prepaying expenses, depreciating assets, making superannuation contributions, investing in professional development.

To pay tax as a sole trader, you need to secure an ABN and TFN, understand your tax obligations, register for GST (if needed), keep track of income and expenses, lodge your tax return, pay income tax on your profits, make PAYG instalments, and seek ongoing professional advice to calculate tax due.

At Shoebox Books & Tax, we assist sole traders with understanding their tax obligations, registering for GST, recording income and expenses, lodging tax returns, calculating and paying income tax, setting up PAYG instalments, and providing ongoing professional advice.

Sole Trader tax can be confusing and frustrating at times. That’s why Shoebox Books & Tax are passionate about getting the best return possible for small businesses. Get in touch with our team today and get your sole trader tax return all sorted!

References and Further Reading