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Decoding the Tax-Free Threshold: What It Means for You

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  • Tax News

No one likes paying tax, and sometimes, you don’t have to! The tax-free threshold is a government-based initiative that allows Australian individuals to earn up to $18,200 a year without paying income tax. Not sure what to do next? Let us hold your hand through the entire process. Keep scrolling to learn how to determine your eligibility, claim the tax-free threshold, and ensure your tax responsibilities are navigated confidently.

Key Takeaways

  • The tax-free threshold in Australia allows residents to earn up to $18,200 without paying income tax, but non-residents and foreign residents are ineligible and taxed on all Australian income. It is noted however, that If you are an Australian Resident for Tax Purposes on a temporary visa, you qualify for being a temporary resident, meeting eligibility for the tax-free threshold.
  • To claim the tax-free threshold, Australian residents must submit a Tax File Number declaration to their payer; for those with multiple employers, it should generally be claimed from the job with the highest salary to avoid under-withholding.
  • Incorrectly claiming the tax-free threshold from multiple employers can lead to underpaid tax and potential financial penalties; however, if used correctly, it can increase take-home pay and potentially result in a tax refund.

What is the Tax-Free Threshold?

The tax-free threshold is an essential aspect of Australia’s income tax system. It’s a set amount you’ve earned each financial year–without having to pay income tax. Currently, that stands at a cool $18,200. But it’s not just a number; it’s an instrument designed to align the amount of tax withheld with your actual tax liability. In other words, it ensures you only pay the correct amount of tax throughout the financial year and no more.

The tax-free threshold is your ally in managing your tax bill and maximising your income. However, not claiming the tax-free threshold can lead to paying more tax during the year, which might result in a larger tax refund or a reduced tax bill at the end of the financial year. So, how you manage the tax-free threshold can significantly impact your financial outcome.

Eligibility for the Tax-Free Threshold

So, who’s eligible for the tax-free threshold? If you’re an Australian resident, you’re in luck! You can claim the tax-free threshold, potentially increasing your net income. If you are a non-resident for the full income year, you are not eligible to claim the tax-free threshold. This means that different tax obligations may apply to non-residents. The same applies to foreign residents for the entire financial year. They do not receive the tax-free threshold and are taxed on all income earned in Australia. This can be avoided by becoming a temporary resident through being an Australian resident for tax purposes on a temporary visa. Providing eligibility for individuals to claim the tax-free threshold. Read more about that here.

Understanding your eligibility for the tax-free threshold is crucial. It can potentially save you from a hefty tax bill at the end of the financial year. It’s about being proactive, understanding your tax obligations and planning your finances accordingly.

How to Claim the Tax-Free Threshold

Someone calculating their taxable income

Now that we know what the tax-free threshold is and who’s eligible – let’s discuss how to claim it. You must submit a tax file number declaration to your employer to claim the tax-free threshold to ensure you receive the correct tax benefits according to your circumstances. In most cases, this could be your employer or a Government agency like Centrelink that pays you.

Additionally, a withholding declaration form can be completed and provided to your employer to claim the tax-free threshold. So, when you start a new job and fill out the tax file number declaration form, answer ‘yes’ to question 9 to claim the tax-free threshold. It’s a simple step that can significantly impact your take-home pay.

Tax File Number Declaration Form

Your Tax File Number (TFN) declaration is your tool to claim the tax-free threshold. It’s the form you provide to your employer when starting a new job or changing your tax circumstances. By correctly filling out this form, you can ensure your employer withholds the correct amount of tax from your pay, taking into account the tax-free threshold.

Working with Multiple Employers

Working with multiple employers adds another layer to managing the tax-free threshold. To maximise your income effectively, it’s crucial to know which job to claim the tax-free threshold for. As a general rule, it’s best to claim the tax-free threshold from the job that pays the highest annual salary.

For additional jobs beyond the highest-paying one, it’s a good idea to advise your employers to withhold tax at the ‘no tax-free threshold’ rate, reducing the likelihood of racking up a tax debt at the end of the income year.

Tax Implications of Claiming the Tax-Free Threshold

Let’s delve deeper into the tax implications of claiming the tax-free threshold and how much tax is owed. When you claim the tax-free threshold, the first $18,200 of taxable income you earn during the financial year is not subject to tax. This essentially increases your net income, potentially providing immediate financial benefits, especially if you earn below $18,200.

However, it’s vital to keep track of your income from all jobs for tax purposes to ensure you pay the correct amount of tax and avoid penalties that may arise from underreporting.

Advantages of Claiming the Tax-Free Threshold

Claiming the tax-free threshold comes with several advantages. For starters, it allows individuals to earn up to $18,200 in a financial year without paying tax. This results in more significant take-home pay throughout the tax year due to lower tax deductions from your salary.

Furthermore, if, for any reason, excessive tax has been withheld during the year, claiming the tax-free threshold appropriately could result in a tax refund. So, claiming the tax-free threshold not only boosts your income throughout the year but could also offer a pleasant surprise at tax time, such as a tax return.

Potential Pitfalls and Risks

Risk and reward balancing on a scale

While the advantages are enticing, there are also some potential pitfalls that come with claiming the tax-free threshold. Incorrectly claiming the tax-free threshold, such as with multiple employers when not eligible, can lead to underpayment of taxes and subsequent financial penalties during a tax return.

If you claim the tax-free threshold from multiple employers and your total taxable income exceeds $18,200, you might end up with a tax bill due to under-withholding. When this occurs, it can inadvertently place you into a higher tax bracket, increasing your tax payable at the end of the financial year. Moreover, claiming the tax-free threshold on income from a second job can lead to a tax debt at the end of the year, due to insufficient total tax withheld and essentially paying too much tax.

To mitigate these risks, consider advising your other payers to withhold tax at the ‘no tax-free threshold’ rate. By doing so, you can better manage your taxable pension and help avoid any unpleasant surprises at tax time.

Tax-Free Threshold and Second Jobs

Balancing man on tightrope

The tax-free threshold can become a tad more complex when two jobs come into play. Claiming the tax-free threshold for a second job could result in owing the Australian Tax Office (ATO) money at tax time. This is due to not paying tax on the income from a second job, which may push you into a higher tax bracket and increase your tax payable.

To navigate this, it’s advised to claim the tax-free threshold only from your primary employer and not from a second job. This can help minimise your tax debt at the end of the financial year.

When to Claim the Tax-Free Threshold for a Second Job

If your total income from all jobs is $18,200 or less, you can claim the tax-free threshold from each employer without incurring a tax liability. However, if your total income exceeds this amount, you should claim the tax-free threshold from the payer who pays the highest salary or wage.

Adjusting Tax Withholdings

To match your end-of-year tax liability and avoid overpaying or underpaying taxes, you may need to adjust your tax withholdings. For the typical worker, this can be done using PAYG withholding variation applications. These applications allow you to adjust the amount of tax your employer withholds from your payments.

You can apply for either upward variations, which increase the amount of tax withheld, or downward variations, which decrease the withheld tax. It’s essential to note that Australian residents must meet certain conditions to be eligible for a withholding variation. These include keeping all their tax returns current and no outstanding tax debts.

Low-Income Tax Offset

The Low-Income Tax Offset (LITO) is another factor you should consider, especially if you’re concerned about paying too little tax. LITO is designed to reduce the tax burden for individuals earning up to $66,667. If you earn $37,500 or less, you can benefit from the full low-income tax offset of $700.

For those earning between $37,501 and $45,000, the offset reduces and tapers off by 5 cents for each dollar earned above $37,500. The offset is further reduced for incomes between $45,001 and $66,667. This is another way the ATO assists low-income earners and another reason to understand your tax obligations fully. If you’re keen to learn more about Tax Offsets in Australia, check out our latest guide for the full rundown.


To sum up, understanding the tax-free threshold is an essential part of managing your finances and maximising your income. It’s not just about ticking a box on a form; it’s about understanding how that box affects your taxable income, your tax obligations, and your potential tax refund.

By now, you should have a solid understanding of the tax-free threshold, how to claim it, and the potential implications of doing so. Remember, knowledge is power, and in this case, it could also mean more money in your pocket! For all your tax and bookkeeping needs, please call or book a free consultation with Shoebox Books and Tax!