By Juliet Helmke July 29, 2021 Australians in lockdown may have used the extra time on their hands to get their tax returns lodged early. Over 2.1 million refunds have arrived in bank accounts, according to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), for a total of over $5.3 billion refunded so far this tax time. The average compensation across the refunds processed was $2,490. Many of the refunds will include the government’s low- and middle-income tax offset, which was first introduced in 2019. The program was extended in the most recent federal budget, covering people earning up to $126,000, at a cost of $7.8 billion. This year, under the offset, approximately 10 million Australians will receive a benefit back on their taxes ranging from $255 to $1,080. Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar noted the extra cash in Australians’ pockets came at a critical time for the Australian economy. “The injection of over $5.3 billion into the economy is welcome news during the current COVID-19 pandemic,” Mr Sukkar said. For those that hadn’t yet lodged their returns, Mr Sukkar encouraged people to take advantage of ATO’s Tax Help program, a free service open to anyone with simple tax affairs who earns around $60,000 or less in salary or wages each year. The program assists around 30,000 Australians annually in lodging their returns. Others who do not meet the requirements for the Tax Help program might be eligible for the National Tax Clinic program, a government-funded initiative independent of the ATO, which helps people who may not be able to afford professional advice and representation with their tax affairs.