Federal Budget 2015

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

We watched the budget last night, we’ve been reading about it ever since and we’ve done all the hard work for you. Here are the highlights and the details of how the budget might affect you!

  • The budget deficit is forecast to fall to $35.1 billion in 2015/16 and to $6.9 billion in 2018/19 based on current economic growth forecasts. 
  • No new taxes on superannuation this term.
  • From 2017 the assets test threshold on the pension will be adjusted meaning about 170,000 pensioners will receive up to $30 a fortnight more, but those with higher assets who currently claim the part-pension may no longer be eligible. However they will retain access to the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card or Health Care Card. 
  • Changes to the income test treatment of defined benefit income streams. From 1 January 2016 the Government will introduce an ‘income deduction cap’ on defined benefit income streams. Under this proposal, the level of income from defined benefit schemes that can be excluded from any income test will be capped at 10 per cent.
  • An additional $3.5 billion will be invested over five years on child care assistance, including a new Child Care Subsidy, based on family income. 
  • Small businesses will receive a tax cut of 1.5 per cent down to 28.5 per cent - the lowest small business company tax rate in almost 50 years. Small businesses can now claim an immediate tax deduction for purchases up to $20,000.
  • A $5 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility will be established for major infrastructure projects such as ports, railways, pipelines and electricity generation across Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia. 

Changes to the assets test threshold to qualify for a pension

Plans to change the age pension indexation rate, announced in last year's budget, will not go ahead. Instead, more than 170,000 pensioners are expected to get about $30 a fortnight more under new arrangements proposed to start from 1 January 2017.

However, the Government will amend the assets test for determining eligibility for the age pension and reverse changes made in 2007 to the asset test taper rate. This will result in more than 235,000 pensioners receiving less than their current entitlement and around 91,000 people will lose the pension completely.
The proposed changes will increase the value of assets a person can have in addition to the family home (‘assets free threshold’), in order to qualify for a pension. From 1 January 2017, the assets free threshold is proposed to increase as follows:

  • from $202,000 to $250,000 for single home owners
  • from $286,500 to $375,000 for couples who own their own home
  • from $348,500 to $450,000 for single non-home owners
  • from $433,000 to $575,000 for couple non-home owners

A $3 taper rate will apply for every additional $1,000 in assets above the asset free threshold for a full pension.

From 1 January 2017, the government will reduce the maximum value of assets (excluding the family home) that a person can have to qualify for a part pension. The changes in the ‘maximum asset thresholds’ are:

  • $823,000 for couple home owners (down from $1,151,500)
  • $547,000 for single home owners (down from $775,500)
  • $1,023,000 for couple non-home owners (down from $1,298,000)
  • $747,000 for single non-home owners (down from $922,000).

Pensioners who lose pension entitlements from January 1 2017 as a result of the changes proposed in the May budget will remain eligible for the  Commonwealth Seniors Card (or a Health Care Card for those under the pension age), that gives them concessions on medicines and bulk-billing.

Changes to the income test treatment of defined benefit income streams

From 1 January 2016 the Government will introduce an ‘income deduction cap’ on defined benefit income streams. Under this proposal, the level of income from defined benefit schemes that can be excluded from any income test will be capped at 10 per cent.

With the current pension rules, some people are able to exclude a percentage of their defined benefit income stream from the Age Pension means test.

For example: a couple with a defined benefit scheme income of $120,000 a year with a 50% deductible amount can exclude $60,000 from the income test. Only the remaining $60,000 is assessed as income under the income test, which results in the couple receiving a part pension of $7,400 per year in addition to their defined benefit income.

Under the proposed change this couple would no longer be eligible for a part pension.

This measure may potentially impact some QSuper members receiving a lifetime defined benefit pension, i.e. members with a State, Police or Parliamentary account.

Department of Veterans Affairs Pensions and defined benefit income streams paid by military superannuation funds are exempt from this measure.

Reduced red tape on lost and unclaimed super

The Government will implement measures from 1 July 2016 to reduce red tape for members and superannuation funds.

By removing redundant reporting obligations and streamlining lost and unclaimed superannuation administrative arrangements, the Government will make it easier for individuals to be reunited with their super.

In addition to this reduced red tape, these measures will also allow the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) to pay unclaimed superannuation directly to a person who is suffering a terminal medical condition.

The Government is also working with the New Zealand government to investigate whether it is possible for the ATO to pay unclaimed superannuation directly into a KiwiSaver account.

Relaxing the criteria for people with a terminal medical condition

Currently, two medical practitioners must certify that a member is likely to die within one year in order for the member to gain unrestricted tax-free access to their superannuation balance through a ‘terminal medical condition’ condition of release. From 1 July 2015 the period will be extended to two years.

Child Care

A number of changes to child care subsidies were announced under the Jobs for Families child care package including:

  • New child care subsidy
    The Government will establish a new Child Care Subsidy from 1 July 2017. Families on incomes between $65,000 and $170,000 will be around $30 a week better off. Those on higher incomes will, on average, continue to receive the same level of support.
    Families on incomes of less than $65,000 per year will receive ongoing access to early childhood learning, and can be eligible for additional financial support through the Child Care Safety Net.
  • In Home Care (Nannies) Pilot
    The Government is proposing to establish a two year In Home Care (Nannies) Pilot to support 10,000 children in families who find it difficult to access mainstream child care services. This program will provide taxpayer-subsidised nannies to shift workers including nurses, police, paramedics, firefighters, and families in remote and rural areas. The program is scheduled to start in January and will see an hourly subsidy per child paid. Families with an annual income of less than $250,000 annually will be eligible.
  • Parental leave pay (PLP)
    Currently individuals are able to access Government assistance in the form of PLP, in addition to any employer‑provided parental leave entitlements.
    The Government will remove the ability for individuals to receive both, however the Government will ensure that all primary carers would have access to parental leave payments that are at least equal to the maximum PLP benefit (currently 18 weeks at the national minimum wage).
    The Government will ensure that all primary carers would have access to parental leave payments that are at least equal to the maximum PLP benefit (currently 18 weeks at the national minimum wage).

New Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility

The Government is proposing to establish a concessional loan facility of up to $5 billion in the hopes of increasing private sector investment in infrastructure in northern Australia.

The Government is hoping to partner with the private sector and governments of Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory to provide large concessional loans for the construction of ports, pipelines, electricity and water infrastructure.

The loan facilities will be open for applications from 1 July 2015.

Financial Crimes

A Serious Financial Crime Taskforce is being established to undertake investigations and prosecutions in relation to superannuation and investment fraud, identity crime and tax evasion. The Taskforce comprises a range of Australian Government agencies including the ATO, Australian Federal Police, AUSTRAC and ASIC.

Small business

Small business will receive a tax cut of 1.5% down to 28.5% - the lowest small business company tax rate in almost 50 years.

Small businesses will also be able to claim an immediate tax deduction for purchases up to $20,000.

Multinational Anti-Avoidance Law

The Government plans to introduce a new targeted tax avoidance rule directed at large multinational firms that seek to shift profits from sales in Australia to offshore ‘tax havens’.

GST extended to offshore supplies of services and intangibles to Australian consumers

From 1 July 2017, the Government will extend the application of GST to cross border supply of digital products and services imported by customers.

Under current law, digital products imported by consumers are not subject to GST.

Stronger penalties for tax avoidance

The Government announced that it plans to double the penalties for large companies that enter into tax avoidance and profit sharing schemes.

Taxpayers who enter into these schemes may face having to pay the primary tax, interest and additional penalties calculated at 100% of the primary tax amount.

Waiting periods for unemployment

From 1 July 2016, it is proposed all new claimants of Newstart Allowance, Youth Allowance (Other) and Special Benefit under 25 years of age and who are eligible for a Stream A in jobactive, will be subject to a new rapid activation strategy, RapidConnect Plus.

This new strategy will require the claimant to undertake a number of additional job search activities within the first four weeks before they receive income support.

 

Please keep in mind, these budget changes are yet to be legislated and may be subject to change. We will keep you up to date on all proposed changes on our website and in our member newsletter Super Scoop.

For more information: http://www.budget.gov.au

QSuper: 1300 360 750.