Tax Troubles: What to Do When Records Go Missing


We’ve all been there—rummaging through drawers, scouring folders, and frantically searching computer files, only to realise that our tax records are nowhere to be found. Whether it’s due to a move, a technological mishap, or the unfortunate aftermath of a natural disaster, the panic that sets in is undeniable. But fear not, for there are solutions and steps to take when faced with the challenge of lost or destroyed tax records.

The Modern Age and ATO’s Assistance:

Living in the modern era comes with its perks, and one of them is the ATO’s advanced systems that can pre-fill a significant amount of data. While this eases the burden of record-keeping, unforeseen circumstances can still leave taxpayers in need of essential backup documents. The ATO, recognising these challenges, offers support by re-issuing or supplying copies of various tax documents, including income tax returns, activity statements, and assessment notices.

Friendly Tax Professionals:

In record-keeping distress, your friendly neighbourhood tax professional can be a beacon of hope. Armed with knowledge and experience, these experts can guide you through the process, helping you retrieve the necessary information and ensuring a smoother resolution to your tax woes.

Lost TFN? There’s Still Hope:

Losing your Tax File Number (TFN) can be a daunting experience, but fret not. The ATO likely has your TFN on record, and if not, alternative identity verification methods—such as your date of birth, address, and bank account details—can be employed. Super funds also hold TFNs, requiring a similar identity verification process.

Reconstructing Records:

If your employer, payer, or bank has copies of relevant documents that have been lost or destroyed, reaching out to them is a prudent step. Moreover, if your bank charges fees for record replacement or related services due to a disaster, remember that these fees are deductible in the income year they are incurred.

No Substantiation? ATO Understanding:

In situations where substantiation of claims in tax returns or activity statements becomes challenging due to lost or destroyed records, the ATO demonstrates flexibility. The ATO can accept claims without substantiation if it is not reasonably possible to obtain the original documents, providing taxpayers with a measure of relief in difficult circumstances.

Self-Managed Super Funds (SMSFs):

For those managing their super funds, the ATO acknowledges the importance of maintaining compliance and offers support in times of disaster-related record loss. SMSF owners can request additional time to meet reporting obligations, and the ATO aims to provide available information previously reported for the fund.


While the loss or destruction of tax records can be a stressful experience, it’s essential to know that avenues for assistance exist. From the support of tax professionals to the understanding approach of the ATO, taxpayers have options to navigate these challenges. So, the next time you find yourself during tax record chaos, take a deep breath, reach out for support, and know that there are solutions to help you overcome the hurdle.