Correcting a mistake in a prior year return – income tax and GST dovetail

correction fluid

Request an amendment or object?

As we have noted on this blog including in our post:

Is an objection needed to amend a tax assessment?

it will often be better for a taxpayer to object against an assessment of income tax (AOIT) the taxpayer doesn’t accept rather than request an amendment of the AOIT by the Commissioner of Taxation. That can be for a number of reasons for that including:

  • where the taxpayer seeks to be or needs to be assertive that the AOIT needs to be fixed; or
  • where time for amendment of the AOIT may be running against the taxpayer.

Dealing with simple mistakes

However were the taxpayer has simply made a mistake on an income tax return (ITR) where:

  • an objection isn’t worth the trouble; and
  • the mistake doesn’t present a real risk of overpaid tax to the taxpayer;

then requesting an amendment of an AOIT based on the ITR will be a simple solution and, in the case of a GST where a BAS or BASs have returned the error, won’t even be necessary.

Example – fees overstated in a prior year

Let us say a company registered for GST earned fees from an activity in the 2020 income year, and as a result of a dispute with the payer, the company had to refund those fees back to payer in the 2022 income year.

Income tax

The fees were returned as assessable income in the 2020 income tax return of the company.

The company can either:

If the company is a small business entity the company should act promptly to ensure it is within the two year period of review (time limit allowed) for amendments of AOITs.

Goods and services tax

For GST it’s different.

The fees were returned as taxable supplies in BASs of the company in 2020.

The company can correct taxable supplies overstated, on an earlier BAS or BASs, on its upcoming BAS as a credit error so long as the upcoming BAS is within the four period of review of the BAS with the overstated taxable supplies: GSTE 2013/1 Goods and Services Tax: Correcting GST Errors Determination 2013

To be eligible to correct credit errors in this way, rather than by having the prior period BAS amended:

•  the error must be within the four year BAS period of review, as stated;

•  the error has not been corrected in another BAS; and

•  the tax period in which the error was made is not subject to ATO compliance activity.

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