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If you’ve lost your tax file number (TFN) there are a few options for you to try to get it back.

Your first avenue of inquiry, if you use the services of a tax agent or accountant, will be to ask them for your tax file number as you will have previously provided it to them. If not however, you can call the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) on 13 28 61 from 8am to 8pm Australian eastern standard time (AEST) Monday to Friday to find out what you can do to get your TFN. You can also phone on Saturday between 10am and 4pm (and Sunday at the same hours, but only until the end of October).

The ATO will need to make certain you are who you say you are, and that you’re the correct person with whom to be discussing your tax affairs (identity theft can, and does, occur) – so be ready to answer a few identifying questions. You may also, if you haven’t done so already, be invited to record a short “voiceprint”, which is another layer of security that can identify you the next time you call.

If however you have reason to suspect your TFN has been stolen or may be being misused, there’s another number to call — 1800 467 033. The ATO is keen to track down unauthorised TFN use as soon as possible.

The document trail
But before you grab the phone to try to track down your lost TFN, have you tried other sources? You might want to rifle through your paperwork and check the following, as your TFN should be on them:

  • your income tax “notice of assessment” for a previous year
  • any correspondence sent to you from the ATO
  • a payment summary from your employer
  • an account statement from your superannuation fund.

Do the paperwork
Another option is to fill in a form provided by the ATO to apply for, or inquire about, a TFN. But as the ATO will only process the bona fide paperwork that it provides taxpayers, you will need to order an actual paper form. Go to the ATO’s “online ordering” page and fill in your details, or call 1300 720 092(note this is different to the above number).

Located overseas?
If you’re not in the country you can still call the ATO main switchboard on +61 2 6216 1111. It is staffed between 8am to 5pm AEST on weekdays (except public holidays).

Permanent migrants or temporary visitors to Australia can apply for a TFN online at any time after entering Australia. This option is available if you are:

  • a working holiday-maker
  • a New Zealander and you are automatically granted a visa on arrival
  • an overseas student and your visa has been amended to allow you to work
  • a person with a valid visa allowing you to stay in Australia indefinitely
  • a person with a business visa.

To apply, go to this ATO webpage. Non-residents of Australia for tax purposes can apply for a TFN using the Tax file number – application or enquiry for individuals living outside Australia form (here’s the link).

Once you get it back, keep that TFN on-hand
Your TFN is an essential piece of information needed for several reasons — it’s not just a reference number you need to drag out at tax time. Opening bank accounts, applying for government benefits and keeping track of your super savings will all require a TFN.

Centrelink and the Child Support Agency can also require your TFN, as well as higher education providers, banks and other financial institutions, solicitors and of course your accountant or tax agent.

You will also need your TFN if you land a job. If you’ve just started at a new workplace for example, you have 28 days in which to provide your new employer with your TFN before they’ll start withholding tax from your pay at the maximum rate. This should be ample time to try the measures mentioned above.

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