Australia | May 30, 2024

Taming Taxes Down Under — A Breakdown of Australian Income Taxes

Are you finding the Australian tax system complex and difficult to navigate? This comprehensive guide is designed to take the confusion out of understanding how income taxes work Down Under, whether you're a long-term resident or a newcomer to the country.

Australian dollars next to a pocket calculator and three wooden cubes with the word "tax" written on them

In this in-depth guide, we walk you through the self-assessment pay-as-you-go taxation model in Australia, highlighting who needs to lodge a tax return and how to do it. We will also explore the progressive income tax structure, along with a detailed view of different tax brackets. This article also covers important aspects like the Medicare levy and tax offsets. Read on and equip yourself with valuable insights.

The Australian Income Tax System

Australian income taxation is largely based on a self-assessment model, underpinned by the pay-as-you-go (PAYG) withholding tax regime. This system ensures that employers deduct an amount from their employees' salary payments to cover their tax liabilities. The deducted amount is then remitted to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and is generally reflective of each employee's tax liability.

You will need to lodge a tax return in Australia if you had tax withheld from your wages during the year, are an Australian resident earning an annual salary of more than $18,200, are a foreign resident who earned any income in Australia during the year, or if you are leaving Australia for more than one income year. You will not usually need to file a tax return if you are in Australia on a working holiday earning less than $45,001 per year, or if you're a foreign resident who only earns income in Australia from interest, dividends and royalties.

How to Lodge a Tax Return

The Australian tax year runs from 1 July to 30 June. In most cases, you will need to file a completed return with the Australian Tax Office by 31 October. This should include how much you earned during the year, and any expenses you may be able to deduct. If you end up owing money on your tax return, this will usually need to be paid by 21 November.

To submit your tax return, you can use Australia's myTax online tax filing system, and complete all the necessary paperwork without lifting a pen. If you'd prefer, you can also file in traditional paper format or instruct a registered tax agent to file a tax return on your behalf.

Australian Income Tax

Income tax is paid on all forms of personal income, including wages, business profits, and returns made from investments. Australia has a progressive tax system which means that you pay more tax as your income increases. This means you don't pay a flat rate of tax for all your earnings. Firstly, everyone can earn a certain amount of tax-free income known as a "tax-free threshold". For the 2024 – 2025 tax year, the first $18,200 you earn is tax-free. You'll then pay 19% on earnings between $18,201 and $45,000, 32.5% on earnings between $45,001 and $120,000, and 37% on earnings between $120,001 and $180,000. Anything you earn above $180,001 is taxed at 45%.

Source: Australian Taxation Office, Individual income tax rates, 2023 – 2024
Taxable Income Rate Applied Tax Payable
$0 to $18,200 0% $0
$18,201 to $45,000 19% 19 cents for each $1 over $18,200
$45,001 to $120,000 32.5% $5,092 plus 32.5 cents for each $1 over $45,000
$120,001 to $180,000 37% $29,467 plus 37 cents for each $1 over $120,000
$180,000 or more 45% $51,667 plus 45 cents for each $1 over $180,000
Check our Australian Salary Calculator to get an accurate estimate of your take-home pay and tax liability.

Medicare Levy

The Medicare levy is charged at 2% of your taxable income, and contributes to the costs of Australia's public health system (known as Medicare). This charge is applied in addition to any income tax you pay, although you may be entitled to a reduction or discount depending on your circumstances. You may also have to pay the Medicare levy surcharge (MLS) if your income is high enough and you, your spouse, or your dependent children aren't covered by an appropriate level of private patient hospital cover. You will not be liable to pay the MLS if you earn less than $90,000 per year (or $180,000 for families).

Source: Australian Taxation Office, Medicare levy reduction for low-income earners
Taxable Income Rate Applied
$0 to $24,275 0%
$24,276 to $30,345 10% with potential for part reduction
$30,346 or more 2%

Income Tax Offsets

Tax offsets (also known as rebates) can reduce the amount of tax you pay on your taxable income. The most common rebate is the low income tax offset (LITO). Tax offsets are worked out by the Australian Taxation Office after you lodge your tax return. Offsets can reduce the amount of tax you pay, but any surplus amount cannot be refunded to you. You'll usually be eligible for at least a partial LITO offset if your taxable income totals $66,667 or less.

Source: Australian Taxation Office, Low and middle income earner tax offsets
Taxable Income Reduction Available
$37,500 or less $700
$37,501 to $45,000 $700 minus 5 cents for every $1 above $37,500
$45,001 to $66,667 $325 minus 1.5 cents for every $1 above $45,000
$66,668 or more $0


Summing up, the Australian tax system might seem complex at first glance, but if you are armed with the right knowledge, it is easy to navigate. From the progressive tax structure to the nuances of the Medicare levy, understanding these elements allows you to handle your tax commitments responsibly. Informed tax decisions can lead to better financial outcomes, putting you on the path to financial stability and success.