With insecure, contract and casual work becoming increasingly common, particularly in the current COVID-19 affected economy, it's no surprise that many young and not-so-young Australians may have income from more than one job. If you are working two or more jobs casually or have overlapping contract work, you need to be careful to avoid an unexpected end of financial year tax debt.
This type of debt usually arises where a person with more than one job claims the tax-free threshold in relation to multiple employers, resulting in too little tax being withheld overall. To avoid that, you need to look carefully at how much you'll be making and adjust the pay as you go (PAYG) tax withheld accordingly.
Currently, the tax-free threshold is $18,200, which means that if you're an Australian resident for tax purposes, the first $18,200 of your yearly income isn't subject to tax. This works out to roughly $350 a week, $700 a fortnight, or $1,517 per month in pay.
When you start a job, your employer will give you a tax file number declaration form to complete. This will ask whether you want to claim the tax-free threshold on the income you get from this job, to reduce the amount of tax withheld from your pay during the year.
A problem arises, of course, when a person has two or more employers paying them a wage, and they claim the tax-free threshold for multiple employers. The total tax withheld from their wages may then not be enough to cover their tax liability at the end of the income year. This also applies to people who have a regular part-time job and also receive a taxable pension or government allowance.
The ATO recommends that people who have more than one employer/payer at the same time should only claim the tax-free threshold from the employer who usually pays the highest salary or wage. The other payers will then withhold tax from your payments at a higher rate (the "no tax-free threshold" rate).
If the total tax withheld from of your employer payments is more than needed to meet your year-end tax liability, the withheld amounts will be credited to you when your income tax return is lodged, and you'll get a tax refund. However, if the tax withheld doesn't cover the tax you need to pay, you'll have a tax debt and need to make a payment to the ATO.