Everyone Moving to Australia Needs to Apply for a Tax File Number

As a temporary visa holder, permanent migrant or temporary visitor, you can apply for your Australian Tax File Number (TFN) online once you are IN Australia. You cannot apply before arriving in the country.

Three Conditions You Must Meet to Apply for a Tax File Number Online

  1. You are a foreign passport holder, permanent migrant or temporary visitor.
  2. You are already in Australia.
  3. Your visa is one of the following:
    • a permanent migrant visa
    • a visa with work rights
    • an overseas student visa
    • a visa allowing you to stay in Australian indefinitely (including New Zealanders automatically granted a visa on arrival)

How to Apply for an Australian Tax File Number Online

Applying for a TFN online will take about 20 minutes.

You will be asked to enter personal details, including your passport or relevant travel document number, a postal address in Australia to send your TFN, your legal name and other names you use or have used, and contact details for yourself or your preferred contact person.

Your online tax file number application will be sent by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) to the Department of Australian Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) to verify your documentation, i.e., you have a valid working visa or a Premanent Residency visa, and you are present in the country.

Only one TFN will ever be issued to you. It’s like a Social Security Number in the US.

How long does it take to get a TFN?

Your TFN will take anywhere between 10 to 28 days. Twenty-eight days being the maximum about of time. I think ours took about a week to show up.

You must have a mailing address to get your TFN.

You can use your work address for the mailing address or if it’s ok with the owners of your short-term rental, that address. Once you have created your online account with the ATO, you can change your contact details at any time.

You cannot use a PO Box as the mailing address.

Do You Need a Tax File Number in Australia?

You are not required to have a TFN to work in Australia, but it is to your advantage to have one. Below is information directly from the Australian Tax Office website.

You (the employer) must withhold 49% from any payment you make to a resident employee and 47% from a foreign resident employee (ignoring any cents), if all of the following apply:

  • they have not quoted their TFN
  • they have not claimed an exemption from quoting their TFN
  • they have not advised you that they have applied for a TFN or have made an enquiry with us.

If an employee states at question 1 of the Tax File Number declaration they have lodged a Tax file number – application or inquiry for individuals with us, they have 28 days to provide you with their TFN.

If the employee has not given you their TFN within 28 days, you must withhold 49% from any payment you make to a resident employee and 47% from a foreign resident employee (ignoring any cents) unless we tell you not to.

From the ATO website.

Chances are you will not get hired by an employer without a TFN, even if you are on your spouse's or partner's visa and able to work legally in Australia.

I should note that getting a TFN does not authorize you to work in Australia. You must have a valid visa with work permits.

Why You Need to Link Your Tax File Number to Your Bank Account

Providing your bank in Australia with your TFN is not compulsory, but if you choose not to, banks are required by law to deduct tax from any interest earned on your account above a certain threshold at the highest marginal tax rate. To add your TFN to your bank account, just log in to your account and go to your account or profile settings. There is usually a space to enter your TFN there.

If you have a joint banking account with your spouse or partner, you both need to add your Tax File Numbers to the account. The primary reason for this is there is no joint filing for tax returns in Australia. Although, when you do file, you will be asked for your spouse's or partner's income details when you file your tax return.

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