In Australia, individuals must pay taxes on certain income, such as wages, rental income, bank interest, and dividends, to name a few. Even though people are required to lodge a tax return as an individual they need to advise the tax office (ATO) if they have a spouse as this can impact their tax return, Family Tax Benefits and Childcare payments. For this reason, people must also notify the ATO when a relationship ends. A tax file number (TFN) is an important part of our identity and unique to each individual.

The Tax Office defines a spouse as “another person (of any sex) who:

  • you were in a relationship with that was registered under a prescribed state or territory law
  • although not legally married to you, lived with you on a
  • genuine domestic basis in a relationship as a couple.”

If people experience financial hardship when a relationship ends because of domestic and family violence, they can contact the ATO Emergency Support Line to let them know the relationship has ended and why. There are several ways the ATO can assist, including:

  • Priority processing of tax returns
  • Providing assistance with financial documents
  • Potentially giving early access to tax refunds
  • Extending a debt repayment period
  • Deferring compulsory repayments like Higher Education Loan Program (HELP debt)

If someones's partner has stolen their Tax File Number (TFN), accessed their MyGov account, or used their tax information illegally, the ATO can assist people to re-establish their identity and monitor any suspicious activity on their account.

Some of the things perpetrators are known to have done with this information include:

  • Committing refund fraud
  • Illegally applying for government benefits in another person's name
  • Changing bank account details with the ATO or Centrelink
  • Stealing refunds by accessing another person's MyGov account.

The Government recommends people report any of this activity so they can provide support to protect their identity. If you suspect someone is committing fraud, you could also consider reporting this to the police.

Dealing with tax affairs can be overwhelming so people can nominate someone they trust – like a family member, friend, financial counsellor, or pro bono lawyer from a community legal centre – to speak to the ATO on their behalf about their tax affairs.

The information on the ATO website is translated into various languages.

The ATO can assist if you believe your TFN has been stolen. Learn about income tax.