Tax file number (TFN) – How do I get mine?

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In life there are three things that are guaranteed –

  • Birth
  • Death
  • Taxes

Australia is no exception, even if you only plan to stay for a short while. The same as anywhere if you work, then you need to pay taxes! In this post we will look at what an Australian tax file number is? Who needs one? And how to apply for one.

What is a tax file number?

The Australian tax file number is something that every backpacker on a working holiday visa who plans on working to fund their travels will need. It is a number that will be given to you from the Australian tax office. Every time you start a new job you employer should ask you for it, so that the proper amount of tax can be deducted from your wages each week/month. You can only be given one of these, so keep it safe. In all fairness it will be etched into your brain by the end of your travels, especially if you plan on moving round a lot, going from job to job.

Who actually needs one?

Everyone on a working holiday visa that intends to work for even one day. Although it is not mandatory to have one, without one you will still be able to gain employment but you will be liable for 47% tax!!!!! Let’s be serious no one wants that. Don’t get me wrong, like most places there is cash in hand work available, but it’s more like a couple of days here and there. Nothing solid enough to actually make any real money over the long term. Also let’s be serious, “the man” isn’t happy if he isn’t getting his cut! Do you really want to be thrown out of Australia for tax avoidance? So my advice is soon as you arrive in Australia get straight onto this. After all less tax means more beer/travel!

So where do I get one of these?

Luckily enough getting you tax file number is pretty straight forward. You can either head down to your local tax office and apply there and then, or the preferred route for most backpackers is to do it online at the Australian governments’ registration page. You will need to supply your passport number, legal name and an Australian address where your tax file number can be sent. When applying online, the process should only take around 20 to 30 minutes an average and costs nothing to do. Your application should be processed within 28 day of you submitting your entry. After submitting your application you will be given a receipt with your personal details on, which you can then pass on to new employers to stop the dreaded 47% tax bracket hitting you in the beer tokens until your TFN arrives. If after 28 days you have still not given your new employer your tax file number, the tax rate will jump up to 47%.

Quick summary

Pretty simple really, apply for this online as soon as you are able to and get job hunting. Even if you’re not looking to jump straight into work, it’s still better to get this out of the way just so you have it when you need it.






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2 thoughts on “Tax file number (TFN) – How do I get mine?

  • September 30, 2019 at 3:39 am

    Hello Anthony.
    My name is AngeI. I read this article and the other ones you have written. All are great! Really helpful and fun to read.
    I have a question about this specific topic, right now I am in my country, I will be travelling soon to Adelaide, I already have a place to stay. My question is, can I apply from my country right now for a TFN and put the australian address where I am going to be staying? would I have any inconvenience if I apply now from abroad?

    I want to save time and have my TFN as soon as I arrive.

    Also I would like to know if you can give me your email address or facebook, I have another questions that arose reading your other posts.

    Thanks in advance Anthony.
    Have a great day.

    • September 30, 2019 at 11:31 am

      Hi Angel, I’m glad you found these articles interesting 🙂 Regarding the TFN, the official stance is that you have to be on Australian soil before you can apply for your TFN. After a little research online it seems that people are saying that you can apply for your TFN before you enter Australia and as you said, just use the first address you’ll be at when you arrive.

      Other people and myself were under the impression that it wouldn’t work before you arrive as part of the application for a TFN requires an active working holiday visa in order to be successful. Your working holiday visa will only become active once you pass through customs in Australia. In your case Adelaide.

      To be honest though, the TFN rarely takes the quoted 28 days to arrive mine took just over a week. As well as the TFN not taking 4 weeks to arrive you can also secure work without it. All that will happen is that you’ll be charged emergency tax (you can claim it back in June) until you can submit your TFN to your employer.

      The only way I can see it being a problem is if you want to land in Adelaide and get straight on the road. Ideally you would already have your TFN but once you stop travelling for work then you can apply for it. Maybe you might have to pay a little more in tax for the first 2 weeks but I wouldn’t worry too much about it.

      I hope this helps.

      P.s I’ve messaged you back on Facebook.


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