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STAMP duty on housing loans could be abolished after the Henry tax review, which is likely to recommend states be given a share of income tax to make up the difference.

The most likely path to do this would be for the Commonwealth to give the states the ability to impose their own surcharge on income tax, which would be collected for them by the Australian Tax Office.

 The Henry review has been inundated with submissions calling for the end of stamp duty.

Tax economists argue that the tax on moving house, although easy to collect, leads to poor use of the housing stock and poor labour mobility, The Australian reports.Having to pay stamp duty not only discourages elderly people from moving to more appropriate accommodation, it also deters people from moving house to a better jobs market. 

At a conference conducted by the Henry tax review at the Melbourne Institute last week, both international and Australian tax economists said stamp duty should go, with Melbourne University professor John Freebairn describing the tax as “a piece of garbage”.

The review panel is being influenced by state submissions arguing that replacing stamp duty by extending other state taxes, such as payroll tax or land tax, would be too difficult to implement nationally.

Tasmanian Treasury secretary Don Challen, who is close to the inquiry’s head, federal Treasury secretary Ken Henry, told last week’s conference that reform of state taxes would succeed only with leadership from the national government.                                                                                                                                                      stamp duty

“If you want to achieve a difficult reform, you’ve got to make it a national one,” Mr Challen said.

He said it would be too hard to win political consensus to extend land or payroll taxes.

“It requires eight lots of political commitment and eight lots of legislation and that path is doomed to failure,” he said.

However, he said he believed states would be willing to act on stamp duty if the commonwealth provided an avenue for alternative revenue.

The idea of giving states a cut of income tax was pressed two years ago by the OECD, which suggested the states “piggy-back” on income tax. The OECD also urged states to drop stamp duty.

One of the world’s leading experts on federal taxes, Canada’s Richard Bird, said the states were heading for a financial crisis because they did not have a sufficient tax base to support their burgeoning health and education costs, which were all rising much faster than the consumer price index.

One of the problems with stamp duty for the states is that it is vulnerable to the state of property markets.

Stamp duty usually raises about $14 billion a year for the states, but the recent state budgets showed big falls of more than $1bn each in NSW and Queensland, in 2008-09, for example.

“In Australia, it should certainly be feasible to permit states to impose a surcharge on the federal personal income tax base,” Professor Bird said.

He said that, ideally, Australia would follow the Scandinavian practice of allowing states to have a flat tax surcharge on income, rather than mirroring the commonwealth’s progressive taxation.

The states would be allowed to set their own level, making states more responsible for their own finances.

Source  :  www.news.com.au

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What is superannuation?

Superannuation is a way of saving for your retirement. Both you and your employer can make contributions that accumulate over time andsuper this money is then invested in shares, government bonds, property, or other appropriate investments.                                 

On retirement, or after disability or death you then receive the money (less charges and taxes) as regular periodic payments (ie, a pension), a lump sum payment, or a combination of both.

Employers must contribute to an employee’s superannuation fund. This is called the Superannuation Guarantee, which came into operation on July 1, 1992.

The amount of the contribution is 9 per cent of an employee’s wages (excluding overtime, leave loading and fringe benefits).

Some employees are left out. The Superannuation Guarantee (Administration) Act says that employers do not have to pay the Superannuation Guarantee in certain circumstances.

Some of the exceptions are:
• employees earning less than $450 per month;
• employees under the age of 18 who work 30 hours per week or less;
• employees over 70 years of age;
• anyone paid to do domestic or private work for 30 hours per week or less.

Can the employer pay more?

An employer can make payments above the compulsory superannuation guarantee as:
• a reward for a worker’s performance;
• a type of co-payment, where the employer’s contribution increases in line with the employees voluntary contribution; or
• a ‘salary-sacrifice’ – this is where the employer makes a contribution that would otherwise be paid as salary.

Note, there are limits to the amount of salary sacrifice that can be made in a financial year.

If you want your employer to pay more, you should get advice from a financial advisor, but keep in mind that employers are limited in the amount that can be claimed as a deduction for superannuation contributions made for a particular employee.

Check with your superannuation fund or the Australian Tax Office to find out what these limits are – they change each year.  www.ato.gov.au

Should I contribute too?

If you have money left over after your weekly expenses, and you want to save for the future, you may want to consider making superannuation contributions as compared to other forms of investment.

Note, there are aged base limits that affect whether or not you can contribute to superannuation – for details, see the Australian Taxation Office web site.

Some of the advantages are:
• generally, you pay less tax on interest from superannuation savings than bank interest;
• with a ‘salary sacrifice’ the superannuation contribution is taken straight out of your wages, so you are not tempted to use it for purposes other than savings.

There are limits to the amount that you can “salary sacrifice”;
• the interest on superannuation savings is ‘compounded’, that is, interest earned by the superannuation fund is added to the total investment, so the interest earns more interest.

The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority estimates that a sum of money ‘compounded’ at 7 per cent a year will double in value in ten years; and
• you may be able to access the benefits of the low income super rebate and low income spouse rebate.
• you may be able to access financial incentives offered by the Government such as the co-contribution scheme. Under this scheme Government will contribute up to $1500 (depending on your income) when you contribute to your fund.

Check the Australian Taxation Office web site for details.

Ultimately, the pros and cons of contributing to superannuation is something you should get advice about.

What are the tax advantages?

The maximum tax rate for your employer’s contribution is 15 per cent.

The income you earn through the fund’s investments is also taxed at a maximum 15 per cent rate.

Salary sacrifice contributions will be taxed at 15 per cent.

Once you reach 60 you can withdraw your superannuation as a lump sum or income stream tax free.

There are also tax advantages if you contribute to your spouse/de facto’s super fund. The set off depends on their income. Check the Tax Office for details.

What laws apply?

The main laws that apply to superannuation are the:
• Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Act and Regulations (regulates most private superannuation funds);
• Superannuation Guarantee (Administration) Act and Regulations (tells employers the minimum contribution they must pay);
• Income Tax Assessment Act,.

The jargon

Accumulation funds – money is invested and the final benefit depends on the total contributions, plus earnings of the fund.

Annuity – like a pension. You receive regular periodic payments for either fixed amount of time or until you die.

Benefit – the money paid to you out of the superannuation fund or held on your behalf within the fund.

Contribution – the money paid into the superannuation fund by either you or your employer.

Defined benefit funds – the final benefit is paid on the basis of a specific formula, so the employer carries the risk if the growth of the fund does not cover the benefit.

Lump sum – money received in a single payment.

Preserved – money that you cannot withdraw from your fund until retirement or certain other events, eg reaching a certain age and leaving employment either temporarily or permanently. This includes money paid by your employer, interest earned on that money or contributions paid by a self-employed person which have been claimed as a tax deduction and any undeducted contributions you make after 1 July, 1999.

Rollover – transferring money from one fund to another.

Unrestricted or non- preserved amount – money that can be paid to you at any time form your superannuation fund

Rights to information

You are entitled to certain information from your superannuation fund. This includes:
• a member statement which shows the amount of your benefit at the start and end of the relevant period, the amount that is preserved and contact details (generally provided annually);
• a fund report which shows the fund’s financial position (generally provided annually);
• notification of changes that affect you, e.g. a change to the superannuation fund’s rules; and
• a statement that shows your benefit, including death benefits when you leave.

Source  :  www.news.com.au

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Two WA businesses have joined forces to resurrect the 80s trend of home trading to give today’s buyers a new approach in the tough economic climate.
  
Tradehomes.com.au launched last week, in conjunction with OrangeTee Real Estate, to offer a forum where sellers can advertise their properties and negotiate an equal trade for other property, cash or any item with an asset value.
  
Common trade items include houses, land, vehicles, boats, gold, gems, stocks, bonds and jewellery, providing the traded assets total the value of the property’s price.
  
Trade Homes Australia director Kara Tripp said the service was nothing new but was giving a new breed of buyers and sellers a fresh option in a difficult market.
  
“At the end of the day, trading has always been going on behind the scenes, with people exchanging properties for properties etc; we are just creating a forum for people to do it,” Ms Tripp said.
  
“It is getting harder for some buyers to get finance so it is just thinking outside the box. If they have other assets, such as a boat, it is essentially turning that into property.” 
   

OrangeTee Real Estate was theexchanging properties for properties, providing support for traders at the negotiation and settlement stages.
  
“A lot of people get quite daunted when it comes to negotiating deals, so we thought it would be helpful to have experienced real estate agents on board, for people who like the idea but are not comfortable doing it themselves,” Ms Tripp said.
  
So far, one deal has involved the trade of an apartment for assets that included gemstones and gold.
  
REIWA president Rob Druitt said the practice was fine as long as it was well managed and researched, with all parties seeking the appropriate valuation and advice before entering into discussions.

 

LOUISE BAXTER  www.thewest.com.au

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