If you’ve been hunting through your physical and digital records and still can’t find your lost tax file number (TFN), don’t stress. There are methods you can use to recover it. You can jump straight to these tips by scrolling down to the third section of this article. If you want a quick refresher on what a tax file number is and how to keep yours safe, read the following sections first.
What Is a Tax File Number?
Your TFN is a nine-digit number that’s unique to you. It identifies you in the tax and superannuation systems, which is why you need to include it on your tax returns. You’ll also need a TFN if you want to get a job, apply for government benefits, or get an Australian Business Number (ABN). This is a number you’ll have for life, so it’s vital that you keep a record of it, and keep it safe. Avoid sharing it with anyone other than your bank, your employer, the ATO, your tax accountant, and your super fund.
Pro tax tip: If you don’t have a TFN, your employer will be obligated to take the maximum margin of tax from your wage, even if you’re in a lower tax bracket. So, it’s not something you want to skip over.
How Do I Apply for a Tax File Number?
Applying for a TFN is free, and you can do so at any age. Don’t let anyone convince you to pay them money for this service because it is quick and easy to achieve on your own.
The process you use to apply for your TFN will depend on your residency status. If you’re an Australian resident over 15 years old, you can apply for your TFN through:
- Your myGov account;
- At an Australia Post branch;
- Through a Services Australia centre
- Or by post.
If you’re a foreign passport holder, migrant or temporary visitor, or Australian citizen living abroad, the process will be different.
For a detailed guide to applying for a TFN, check out our blog: What Is A Tax File Number?
Regardless of your residency status, you’ll need proof of identity to apply for a tax file number. After the application process, you should receive your TFN within 28 days. If you don’t receive it, an ITP Tax Accountant can help. Alternatively, you can phone the ATO on 13 28 61.
I’ve Lost My Tax File Number: What Can I Do?
If you’ve lost your TFN, don’t panic. There are ways to find it again. Your TFN will be in:
- Previous year’s tax returns;
- Your income statement;
- Any correspondence from the ATO;
- Your superannuation account.
I Still Can’t Find My Tax File Number: What Do I Do Next?
Your next step is to contact the tax agent who completed your last tax return. Tax accountants need to keep your TFN on file for record-keeping purposes, so they’ll be able to look it up for you. They may ask some questions first to confirm your identity. However, you shouldn’t have any trouble answering them.
If you haven’t completed any tax returns with a registered tax accountant, you can call the ATO on 13 28 61. Once again, the person will ask you qualifying questions so they can correctly identify you. You may also be asked to provide a voiceprint for future calls.
What Is a Voice Print?
Voice prints are a record of your speech that can be compared to a new sample to see if the frequency, amplitude, and duration match. The ATO uses voice prints as an added layer of security that can accurately identify you.
You’ll be asked to enter your TFN before you set up your voice print. When prompted, you need to say “In Australia, my voice identifies me,” three times. This is the recording they use to identify your voice. You’ll then need to submit other proof of identity information. Once successfully set up, you can use your voice print to quickly confirm your identity when you ring the ATO.
What if I Think My TFN Was Stolen?
If you think someone has accessed your TFN fraudulently, you need to take action. Scammers could use your TFN in conjunction with other stolen data to:
- Access your bank account;
- Access your myGov account;
- Steal your superannuation;
- Make fraudulent self-managed super fund registrations;
- Apply for and receive government benefits;
- Sell your home;
- Commit fraud in your name;
- Create fraudulent BAS adjustments for your business;
- Sell your identity to crime groups.
Once your identity has been stolen, you’re in a messy situation that may take a long time to fix. Identity theft will make everything from getting a job to renting a house more difficult. You may even face stressful hurdles when applying for government services or applying for a bank account or credit card.
Pro Tax Tip: If you suspect your TFN has been stolen, contact ITP on 1800 367 487 or the ATO on 1800 467 033 immediately.
How Do I Keep My TFN Safe?
We can’t stress enough how important it is to keep your TFN safe. There are only a few people and places that can ask for your TFN, including:
- Your registered tax agent;
- The ATO;
- your bank or financial institution;
- your employer after you start a job;
- your super fund.
Pro Tax Tip: Don’t share your TFN with anyone other than the institutions listed above. And be mindful of scammers who call and pose as the ATO or a bank representative. If in doubt, hang up and call the institution on their official customer service line. If it was a legitimate call, someone will connect you to the relevant department.
How Do I Protect Myself from Identity Theft?
The first step is understanding the way cybercriminals work. They are adept at piecing together information from multiple social media platforms and posts. Scammers may, for example, gain information from your LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram profiles, and use it to determine factors like your mother’s maiden name, your address, your first pet’s name, and your kids’ names. When combined, these snippets of information can allow them to create a virtual identity detailed enough to give them access to your account information.
For this reason, you need to avoid sharing any of the following information on social media:
- Your TFN;
- Financial information;
- Birth dates;
- Addresses (even old ones as these can be used in security questions);
- Photos that contain identifying information;
- Any myGov account information;
- Anything you’ve used in security questions (e.g. the make of your first car, your favourite colour, your favourite high school teacher).
It’s also crucial to carefully consider all friend requests and only add people you genuinely know. If you want to be extra security conscious, set your profiles to private.
Personal password managers like Bitwarden offer a safe space to store your passwords and data. To access your stored credentials, you’ll just need to remember one login for your chosen password manager. You’ll find plenty of free and paid services offering individual, family, and business packages. However, it’s crucial to conduct a bit of research first to ensure you select a reputable provider that takes adequate steps to encrypt and protect your data.
Pro Tax Tip: If you’ve received documents or emails with your TFN, permanently delete the emails and destroy the documents. Don’t share your online passwords with anyone, and where possible, avoid sending your TFN, passwords, or other sensitive financial information via email.
Virus and Malware Protection
In today’s world, everything revolves around a virtual environment, so anti-virus software is a must. Here are the main steps to follow:
- Ensure your anti-virus, malware, and spyware protection software is up to date;
- Check that your firewall is on;
- Avoid entering personal information into websites that aren’t secure or that you’re not sure of;
- Avoid clicking links in emails or text messages unless you’re 100% certain you know and trust the sender.
If you’re still uncertain about any of the topics we’ve covered in this article, a registered tax agent can help. Once you’re set up with an ITP accountant, we can take the hard work out of tax record-keeping and help you protect your tax-related data. ITP’s Accounting Professionals are all registered with the Tax Practitioners Board. And together, we’ve been helping Australian businesses and individuals with their tax concerns for more than 50 years. If you’ve lost your TFN, contact ITP, and we’ll turn an otherwise frustrating mission into a quick and easy task.
Phone 1800 367 487 to chat with one of our friendly tax agents today.