How to apply for a tax file number in Australia

Roberto Efflandrin

If you’re an Australian citizen, or if you live and work in Australia as an expat, then you’ll likely want to get a tax file number (TFN). Having a TFN helps to make sure you’re paying the right amount of tax, lets you file your taxes online and allows you to access government benefits.

You might also find you need a TFN even if you don’t live in Australia at the moment - for example, if you’re married to an Australian citizen and your spouse wants to access family tax relief, or if you derive certain forms of income from Australia while living overseas.

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Here’s everything you need to know about how to apply for a tax file number in Australia.

What is a tax file number aka TFN?

A TFN (tax file number) is an individual reference number which is used in the Australian tax and superannuation systems. TFNs are issued by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), and your unique TFN will remain the same even if you change your name, employer, or other personal details.¹

Where can I find my Australian TFN?

If you have an Australian TFN already, but can’t remember it, you have a few options. Your TFN can be found in the following places:¹

  • On your income tax notice of assessment or in other correspondence from the ATO
  • On a payment summary from your employer, or your superannuation statement
  • Online, if you have a myGov account linked to the ATO
  • By contacting the ATO directly via their customer service number

What if I don’t have an Australian TFN? Why do I need it?

It’s not compulsory to have a TFN, but if you don’t, you’ll end up paying higher levels of tax. Your TFN is also key to accessing government benefits, and some forms of tax relief. And finally, if you’re an entrepreneur, you’ll need a personal TFN before you can register a business in Australia.¹

How do I get a TFN in Australia?

How you apply for your TFN will depend on whether you’re an Australian citizen living in Australia, applying from outside of Australia, or if you’re in Australia but a foreign passport holder.

Process for expats

There is a different process to follow if you’re applying for a TFN from within Australia and hold a foreign passport. You can get a TFN if you hold any of the following visa types²:

  • a permanent migrant visa
  • a visa that gives you the right to work
  • an overseas student visa
  • a visa that lets you stay in Australia indefinitely (including citizens of New Zealand who are automatically granted a visa on arrival)

If you have any of these visa types, you can apply for your TFN online, and it’ll be delivered to your Australian address within 28 days.


Applying for a TFN from outside of Australia

There are a few circumstances under which you might need a TFN even if you don’t live in Australia. For example²:

  • If you derive income of certain types from Australia
  • If you need to lodge an Australian tax return
  • If you want to register a business in Australia
  • If you are married to an Australian citizen who wants to claim family tax relief

If you have to apply for a TFN from outside of Australia, you can do so online - but remember that the forms used are different to those used if applying from inside the country. Everything you need can be found on the ATO website.

Applying for an Australian TFN should be pretty straightforward, as long as you have all the right documents to hand. Everything you need to apply is available on the ATO website - and if you don’t have the time to make arrangements yourself you can also have an agent or intermediary apply on your behalf for a fee. Once you have your TFN, you’ll usually pay less tax - so whether you’re a resident or an expat just staying in Australia for a short time, you’ll have more money to make the most of your time.

Applying for a TFN as an Australian citizen

If you were born in Australia, or have become an Australian citizen then you can apply for a TFN in the following ways²:

  • At a participating Australia Post branches
  • At a department of Human Services (Centrelink) centre
  • By post

If you choose to apply for your TFN via either a branch of Australia Post or a Centrelink centre, you’ll have to attend an interview and take along original copies of your documents. If you can’t make it to an interview, then you’ll have to apply by post and send in certified copies of the documents you need.

The exact documents required to support your application varies depending on your circumstances, but can include the following³:

  • Primary proof of identity, which can include a passport or birth certificate
  • Secondary proof of identity, such as an ATM card, a student ID card or Australian driving license
  • Additional documents if you wish to change the details of your TFN, such as a marriage certificate or proof of changing your name

You’ll be asked to provide several different pieces of identification, including at least one primary proof of identity, and any documents which aren’t in English, have to be translated at an embassy or by a professional or service approved of by the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters Ltd (NAATI).

The taxation office doesn’t charge a fee for providing a TFN. However, there are some agents and intermediaries who will get a TFN on your behalf, and who will levy charges for their services.

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  1. ATO Tax file number
  2. Australian residents – TFN application
  3. Smarteform ID documents

Sources checked on 5 July 2022

This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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