How to Get a Tax File Number
and Superannuation in Australia
Make sure you get your Tax File Number (TFN) sorted out or you will end up paying a lot more in tax than you should. Your TFN is used by the Australian Tax Office (ATO) to keep track of your superannuation payments and is similar to the NI number in the UK, the PPS in Ireland or SIN in Canada.
For working holiday makers, you will need to get your TFN as quickly as possible after you arrive in Australia. Employees without a TFN will get taxed at a whopping 46.5% as your employer is required by law to do this.
What is the easiest way to get a TFN?
There are two options: You can apply for it yourself (DIY) or you can get assistance and use a travellers company who will arrange your TFN for you.
Each option has its own advantages and disadvantages:
Advantages: It's easier than doing it yourself.
It is relatively staight forward to get a TFN yourself - see DIY below, however some travellers may have had a company offer to assist them.
Using a travellers company has a key advantage - often you do not need an Australian address and they will email your TFN to you. For many working holiday makers who are just about to arrive or who have just arrived and are staying in a hostel while looking for work - this may be the only realistic way to avoid getting taxed at 46.5% tax charges.
You can also apply for a TFN through the Australian Tax Office (ATO). It usually takes about 10-28 days to be issued. Applications can be made for your Australian TFN through the ATO either online or in-person. The main challenge working holiday makers face with applying directly though the ATO is that you need a postal address in Australia (the address you use needs to be secure since they are sending your TFN - which needs to be kept secure). If you have an Australian address and you will be there to receive your number in the next 28 days then “no worries mate”, go ahead and apply. You will also need to provide details including your passport or travel document number, your name and contact details for yourself or your preferred contact person.
When do I have to show my employer my TFN?
You have 28 days to provide this number to your employer, after which they are obligated to withhold tax from your pay at a rate of 46.5%. It is your responsibility to give your TFN to your employer. Since it usually takes at least a couple of weeks to get your TFN after you have applied for it, it’s really best to sort it out ASAP.
Superannuation - it really is "Super"
If you’ve already started applying for jobs in Australia you may have seen the term ‘superannuation’ mentioned. Mandatory superannuation is paid by employers on your behalf (in addition to your wages) into a fund. The idea is that if you stay working in Australia until retirement age you can access this money as income. For backpackers however since you are not retiring in Australia you are entitled to get this money back when you leave!
Keeping in line with the Aussie tradition of making words shorter, most Australians will simply refer to it as “super” rather than “superannuation” - For backpackers it really is SUPER too because you save some money for when your travels are over in Australia.
A pension fund that your employer pays for you. It is an additional payment and is not taken out of your wages. Your employer should pay 9% of your annual salary into your super fund. Sometimes employers may offer you a “package” where they will include superannuation in your annual salary.
Once you earn more than $450 a month, your employer is obliged to pay super.
Some employers will give you a membership card. If not, you can simply ask your employer for your superannuation fund details. If you have had more than one employer, be sure to keep track of your details for each super account and always ask for your super details before you leave a job; this will make it a lot easier when it comes to claiming back your super.
Employers usually set up their own super funds for employees, but if you plan on working and travelling a lot around Australia, it could be a better idea to set up your own super account and ask your employer to pay your super into that account. When you’re opening your first bank account (or even after you have opened your first bank account) in Australia you can also ask your bank to set up a super account for you.
You can claim you super online through the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) here. The documents you will need are: your personal details (name, date of birth); your passport number; superannuation fund and membership number; and your Australian tax file number (TFN).
You can claim your superannuation once you have left Australia and your visa has either expired or been cancelled.
You should receive your super within 28 days of the Australian Tax Office receiving your application. If more paperwork is required the process may be delayed, this can happen if your super claim is over $5,000.
Yes, you can return to work in Australia on a separate visa, even if you have claimed superannuation in the past.
Important Superannuation Tips
- If you’re planning on working and travelling around a lot then it could be better to set up your own super account and ask your employer to pay your super into that account. Otherwise, you’ll have to keep track of your different super funds and all of their details.
- If you work for cash, you probably won’t be getting any super. While that may seem like a better option at the time, you will be losing out on serious money in the long term.
To find out how much tax including super you could get back this year, check out our tax back page.