Tax, superannuation and bank accounts

Tax Refund

If you have worked in Australia, and had income tax deducted from your wages, make sure you apply for an income tax refund before you leave Australia by lodging a Tax Return. You can also apply for a refund if you’ve had tax withheld on bank account interest i.e. if you didn’t supply your bank with your Tax File Number.

Overseas students who are enrolled in a course that is more than 6 months long are generally treated as Australian residents for tax purposes. 

For students who worked in Australia and who are returning home, Taxation Returns can be lodged by:

  1. Hard copy Taxation Return. Once you have received your final Payment Summary from your employer (and interest advice, if applicable) you can lodge a hard copy taxation return using the form in the TaxPack. In practice it can often be difficult to get an employer to issue a payment summary before the end of the financial year (30 June).
  2. Electronic Taxation Return. You can lodge your tax return online via the Australian Tax Office website and follow the prompts for ‘e-tax online tax return’.

Please note: any refunds you are entitled to can only be paid into an Australian bank account, not into overseas bank accounts. Cheques can be posted overseas but they will be in Australian dollars.

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has reciprocal taxation arrangements with most countries, so that your Australian income can be included with income received from your home country.

Superannuation

Superannuation or 'super' is a way of saving money for retirement. You may be entitled to compulsory super contributions from your employer. These super guarantee contributions must be at least 9% of your ordinary earnings. Your employer may have made award (i.e. legally required) superannuation payments into a 'super' fund on your behalf. As temporary residents, international students who have worked in Australia are eligible to access their superannuation once they permanently depart Australia. Instructions on how to access your superannuation are available on the ATO website.

Bank Accounts

Most students returning home find the best thing to do is to close their bank accounts before leaving Australia. This way they are not charged fees for keeping the account active while out of the country.

Closing your Account

In order to close your account, visit your bank’s local branch and they can pay out your final balance over the counter. The Commonwealth Bank and Westpac Bank have branches in the Agora on Melbourne campus. If you are not able to visit a branch, you can generally notify the bank in writing that you want to close your account. Don’t forget to stop any automatic deductions that come from this account such as bills, rent or loan repayments. If you don’t cancel these payments, you will usually be charged a dishonour fee.

Keep your account open

If you decide that you want to keep your account open, there are a few points to consider:

Fees

Most banks charge monthly fees to keep your account open. You may have had these fees waived while you were a student at La Trobe, but now that you have finished studying, the bank will start charging these fees. If you do not have much money in your account these fees can reduce your balance to $0 and your account will be closed. Some banks offer accounts that do not have monthly account keeping fees. You should contact your bank to find out if they have an account that suits your needs.

Dormancy

If you do not use your account for about 6 to 12 months your account can be made dormant. This means that the account is closed. A one-off dormancy fee is charged and your money is transferred to a ‘lost monies’ account. If this happens, you will need to contact your bank to find out how to retrieve the funds.

Internet/Telephone Banking

If you have registered for phone banking you can manage your account over the phone. If you have registered for internet banking you can manage your account via the internet.

Change of Address

Regardless of whether you decide to close your account or not, make sure you advise the bank of your address in your home country to be sure that you don’t miss any important information. Most banks will send statements overseas, but some will not send replacement cards to foreign addresses. If you have reliable friends or family that live in Australia, you may want to use their address and ask them to forward your mail to you in your home country.

Using bank cards overseas

Most banks’ debit cards can be used overseas. However, there are restrictions on which ATMs you are able to use. For example, Commonwealth Bank cards with the Cirrus or Maestro logo on the back can only be used at ATMs that also display these logos. Transaction fees are significantly higher for overseas transactions.  Credit cards such as Visa or MasterCard are accepted more widely than regular bank cards. Most credit cards charge a conversion fee for each transaction. Contact your bank for details.