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The strategy :  To work out how the changes to the health insurance rebate affect me.

I suppose it means I’ll be paying more for my health insurance. That’s the gist of it though it will depend on whether Opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull delivers on his threat to block the legislation. As you may have picked up from the federal budget, the Government needs to find savings to fund higher pension payments.

One proposed measure is means testing the health insurance rebate, which currently allows you to claim a tax rebate of 30 per cent of the cost of your health insurance if you’re aged under 65, 35per cent if you’re 65 to 69 and 40 per cent if you’re 70 or older.

Most people ask their health fund to reduce their premiums to take account of the rebate rather than paying the full premium and claiming the rebate in their tax return. For someone under 65, a monthly insurance premium of $250 could be reduced to $175. That won’t change if you earn up to $75,000 if you’re single and $150,000 for families. But if your income is higher, your rebate will be reduced or cut out altogether.

How will that work? Let’s look at singles first. If you earn $75,001-$90,000, your rebate will be reduced to 20 per cent. If you earn $90,001-$120,000, the new rebate will be 10 per cent.

Once your income exceeds $120,000 you will be ineligible for the rebate.

For families, the combined income limits are $150,001-$180,000 for the 20per cent rebate, $180,001-$240,000 for the 10 per cent rebate and the rebate will disappear altogether once family income exceeds $240,000.

All income thresholds will be indexed to wages and will be adjusted for families with one child in the same way that thresholds are already adjusted for determining whether you have to pay the Medicare levy surcharge if you don’t have private health cover. The threshold is currently lifted by $1500 for each dependent child.

The Government says the definition of your income for the rebate will be the same as for the Medicare levy surcharge. Challenger’s head of technical services, Alex Denham, says this definition is changing from July 1 to include your taxable income, reportable fringe benefits, salary sacrificed to super or any personal deductible super contributions made and net investment losses. So higher-income earners won’t be able to use strategies such as salary sacrifice to get or increase their rebate.

Would I be better off dropping my health insurance and paying the Medicare levy surcharge? The proposed measures also include a rise in this surcharge precisely to stop this sort of behaviour.

The 1 per cent surcharge will rise to 1.25per cent once income exceeds $90,000 for singles or $180,000 for couples and to 1.5 per cent for incomes exceeding $120,000 or $240,000. That extra tax may cancel out any savings from dropping your health cover.

MLC’s head of technical services, Andrew Lawless, says a better option may be to make changes to your policy, such as increasing the excess you pay before claiming on the cover or reducing cover on ancillary benefits. However, to avoid the surcharge you must have hospital cover with an excess of $500 or less for singles or $1000 or less for families or couples per calendar year.

When will the changes come in? Not until July 1 next year, so you have time to check the final details if the measures are passed and weigh up your options.

It’s worth noting that the Medicare levy surcharge income limits will be indexed from their current levels of $70,000 for singles and $140,000 for couples to the new $75,000 and $150,000 levels at this time.

Source : www.watoday.com.au

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WESTERN Australia’s Liberal Government has handed down its first Budget, delivering a $647 million surplus but warning the state will be in deficit by 2012.

Treasurer Troy Buswell today delivered his first Budget since the Liberal Government came to power last year.

He said the 2008/09 surplus of $647 million would shrink to $409 million in 2009/10, and just $23 million the following year.

By 2011/12 the state will be in deficit to the tune of $513 million.

“Over the past months, as the global economy has been in decline, the state has been hit by large downward revisions to projected taxation revenue, GST grants from the Commonwealth and mining royalties,” Mr Buswell told parliament.

“Since the mid-year review, the Budget has lost a massive $4 billion in forecast revenue from these sources.”

Last year, then treasurer Eric Ripper delivered a surplus of more than $2 billion on the back of a booming commodities sector.

Economic growth remained high at 8 per cent for the 2008/09 financial year.

But forecasts predicted growth would fall into negative territory in 2009/10, with unemployment expected to peak, and business investment to fall by 17.5 per cent.

Mr Buswell said the Government would provide a one-year payroll tax rebate to small businesses with payrolls of up to $3.2 million to help protect jobs.

“Some 6,700 small businesses will be eligible for this payroll tax rebate, which will fully offset payroll tax for around 68,000 employees,” he said.

“The cost of this rebate is estimated at $100 million.”

A $47 million jobs training and skills package, and a $8.3 billion spend on infrastructure in the next financial year are key components of the Budget.
Mr Buswell said law and order were also strong focuses, in line with the Government’s election promises to boost funding for police and pump more money into prisons

Mr Buswell said the Government’s election promise to toughen up sentencing laws and introduce mandatory sentencing for people who assault police was underpinned in the Budget by a significant investment in prison capacity.

 

A total of $655 million will be invested in 2012/13 to create an extra 1657 prison beds across the state.

A record $5.1 billion spend on health services in the next year – rising 5.9 per cent, or $282 million from last year – will include the fast tracking of forward works for a new children’s hospital, the construction stage of the Fiona Stanley Hospital, and new hospitals in two regional centres.

Mr Buswell said the Government would push ahead with public sector reforms in a bid to achieve improved performance and efficiency.

The first stage of the economic audit committee promised by the Government during the last election was complete and a range of hard decisions had delivered $7.6 billion over the forward estimates, Mr Buswell said.

“I am looking forward to the second stage of the economic audit to identify strategies for broader reform over the longer term, so we can ensure the budget stays in surplus,” he said.

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budget 09TONIGHT’S Federal Budget will be about three things – jobs, nation building and a path back to surplus.

That was the message from Treasurer Wayne Swan this morning as he again repeated the Government’s mantra that there would be “difficult decisions” and “no easy answers”.

Just hours from delivering a in Budget ravaged by a $200 billion writedown revenue, Mr Swan said he was working in the “most difficult set of circumstances in 75 years”.

But he dodged questions about the likely impact on Labor in the polls, saying: “What we have to do is the right thing in the nation’s long-term economic interests”.

Wealthy retirees emerged as the latest group to pay the price for that stance today.

The Daily Telegraph reported they could have their pensions cut to help fund a $30-a week increase for almost one million single age pensioners.

The Government is expected to tighten the taper rate on the age pension, a method by which it claws back the welfare payment from retirees with an independent income.

It is just one of a number of cutbacks the Government is expected to outline as it tries to rein in an expected almost $60 billion Budget deficit.

The 30 per cent tax rebate for private health insurance coverage will be means tested, payouts for obstetric and IVF services under the Medicare Safety Net will be cut back and the increase in the first-home owners grant will be wound back.

Wealthy Australians will have their tax break on superannuation contributions cut in half and government superannuation co-contributions for low income earners will be slashed from $1500 to $1000 a year.

The “sin taxes” on alcohol and cigarettes could be increased.

But the Budget will announce an 18-week paid maternity leave scheme.

And it is expected to include a big-spending jobs package to combat an expected increase in unemployment to 8.5 per cent as a result of the global financial crisis.

The Opposition said the Budget cutbacks were made necessary by the Government’s irresponsible big-spending stimulus packages in response to the global financial crisis.

The $30-a-week rise in the pension will go only to single age pensioners and will see the weekly pension rate rise from $284.90 to $315 a week.

It will answer criticism that the payment left in poverty those who relied solely on the pension.

The rise is also expected to be extended to single veterans and disability pensioners but will not go to single mothers.

The pension rise will cost more than $3 billion, and to help pay for it, the Government is expected to tighten means testing of pensions.

Currently, single pensioners can earn up to $41,000 and still receive a small pension payment.

They also qualify for a range of concessions on medicines, council rates, electricity bills and telephone allowances worth up to $10,000 a year.

Couples can earn up to $68,000 and still get access to these valuable concessions.

http://www.news.com.au

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