On this page

  • Understand what ‘Resident for tax purposes’ means
  • Goods and Services Tax (GST)
  • Check if you need a tax file number – you probably do!
  • Paying tax if you are here on a student visa

In Australia, if you have an Australian bank account or if you work and earn money, you need to have a tax file number (TFN) and lodge an annual tax return with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

The tax year (also called the financial year) runs from 1 July to 30 June. Most tax payers are required to lodge their returns by 31 October.

Residency for tax purposes

A resident for tax purposes pays tax in Australia and is able to claim deductions. You may be a resident for tax purposes even if you are not an Australian citizen or permanent resident. To find out if you are a resident for tax purposes, contact your education agent, or the work out your residency page on the ATO website

You can also phone the ATO on 13 28 65 (dialling within Australia) or +61 2 6216 1111 (from outside Australia).

Studying for less than six months

If your course of study goes for less than six months, you may not be a resident for tax purposes. You may also not be eligible for a tax file number. When you open a bank account, let them know your overseas address and the bank will deduct 10% tax from any interest earned.

Goods and Services Tax

Australia has a Goods and Services Tax (GST) which is applied to many items you purchase. The price displayed in Australian shops and online stores includes GST. You do not need to add it to the diplayed price. When you make a purchase and receive a tax receipt, you'll see the GST amount included.

The GST does not apply to fresh food, your education or international airfares.

Tax file number

Your Australian TFN is unique. It belongs to you and you do not need to re-apply, even if your circumstances change.

Apply for a Tax File Number (TFN) if you:

  • want to open an Australian bank account
  • are earning money in Australia as an employee or business owner
  • want to pay the minimum tax on money you earn, including wages, interest, dividends, sales and professional services
  • are enrolled in a course that is more than six months long.

Apply for a tax file number

When you apply for a TFN using the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) website or an official ATO form, you do not have to pay a fee.

To apply online as an international student, you may need a valid passport or relevant travel documents.

Apply for free on the ATO website using their online form.

Hint: Some education agents and third party websites charge a fee to lodge your application. If someone is asking you to pay a fee, check what services they are offering in addition to the application.

Lodge an income tax return

If you are a resident for tax purposes you must lodge an income tax return at the end of the tax year.

If you have a job, your employer provides you with a payment summary that shows the amount you earned and the amount of tax they have taken out and paid to the ATO already.

Your employer is required by law to supply you with the payment summary by 14 July for the previous tax year. For example if you worked between 1 July 2016 and 30 June 2017 your employer must provide you with a payment summary before 14 July 2017.

Complete your tax return, including payment summaries.

The ATO checks the amount deducted by your employer against the amount you are legally required to pay. If there is a difference you may receive a tax refund or the tax office may ask you to pay some extra tax.

You can lodge your tax return online. If you need help, you can talk to the financial support services at your education provider or the ATO. You can also hire a tax agent to do your tax for you. Tax agents usually charge a fee to provide this service. They may agree to take their fee from any refund you receive.

ATO Tax Help program

If you need help lodging your tax return, you may be eligible for the Tax Help program.

See more and watch a video about the program on the Tax Help program page on the Australian Taxation Office website.

Staff at the Study Melbourne Student Centre can also help with more information about the program.

Study Melbourne Student Centre

Around tax time each year, the Study Melbourne Student Centre provides help and information about lodging tax returns and other tax-related matters. Visit the Study Melbourne Student Centre web page or check our events.

Before you leave Australia

When you go home after your study finishes, and if you have been paying tax or your employer has been paying tax on your behalf, you must lodge a final tax return. 

You may be entitled to a tax refund on amounts that your employer has taken out of your wages. You may also be eligible for Superannuation refund and refunds of some goods and services tax (GST) or wine equalisation tax (WET). 

Read more on the Returning to your home country page on the Australian Taxation Office website.