‘How long should I keep tax records?’. It’s a question I’m often asked. It seems simple enough, but it’s actually not that straightforward.
The key thing that I tell people is that if the ATO ever questions your tax affairs, then it is up to you to prove the correct amount of tax. It’s not the ATO who needs to prove how much tax you have to pay.
If you’re subject to an audit, then the ATO can simply make a reasonable attempt at working out how much your tax should be and then issue you an assessment for that amount. If you don’t agree, you need to show what the right amount of tax is. It’s not as simple as just showing that the ATO is wrong; you need to actually show how the right amount of tax should be calculated. This means that you should be careful to keep all of your tax records, so that you can explain yourself to the ATO and the Courts if you ever need to.
Tax disputes aside, the law generally requires you to keep tax records for 5 years after tax returns are lodged. This means you should keep all receipts, proof of income, calculations, nominations and other records which support the contents of you tax return for five years.
If records relate to a company, then the Corporations Act 2001 requires the company to keep financial records for 7 years.
If the records relate to a superannuation fund, then some of those records must be kept for 10 years, including minutes of trustee meetings, and copies of all reports given to members.
In addition to the general rules, there are some circumstances where you must keep the tax records for longer than 5 years after lodging the relevant return.
Waterhouse Lawyers specialises in helping taxpayers when they find themselves in a fight with the ATO. We help clients all over Australia to deal with the ATO and resolve their tax disputes.