Saturday, June 23, 2012

Summary of many tax and benefit changes on July 1

The government has taken to announcing changes in taxes and benefits long before they take effect. But that day has to come eventually and a host of changes - big and small, good and bad - are set to start tomorrow week, July 1, the first day of the new financial year.

Actually, all the bad changes start on July 1, but some of the good ones have arrived this month.

Even so, July 1 will be the most significant day for tax changes since July 1, 2000, the start date for the goods and services tax.

Two new taxes are starting, the carbon tax and the mining tax, though combined they raise far less than the GST.

Like the GST, both taxes come as part of packages, meaning much of the proceeds from them are used to cover the cost of cuts in other taxes and increases in pensions and benefits.

But here's a difference: the government is increasing the budget's redistribution of income from higher- to lower-income earners by imposing means tests and by other means.

A means test on the 30 per cent private health insurance rebate will take effect and the 20 per cent net medical expenses tax offset will also be means-tested.

Next are changes to the taxation of superannuation. Super contributions have been taxed at the flat rate of 15 per cent. Now, workers earning up to $37,000 a year will, in effect, pay no contributions tax, whereas those earning more than $300,000 a year will pay 30 per cent.

Older workers had been permitted to make concessional contributions to super, including by salary sacrifice, of up to $50,000 a year, but this will now drop to $25,000.

The minerals resource rent tax will raise only about $3 billion a year and has been designed to have no adverse effects on the economy or retail prices.

Proceeds from the tax will be used to provide two new tax concessions for small business and cover the cost of replacing the tax rebate on parents' spending on school children's education expenses with lump-sum bonuses for each schoolchild. The first bonuses have just been paid.

Mining tax revenue will also cover the cost of a tiny increase in unemployment benefits (from March) and an increase in the family tax benefit Part A, to take effect from July 1 next year.

The carbon tax will fall mainly on the production of electricity and gas. It will add 9 per cent to household electricity and gas bills, but quite small amounts to most other retail prices.

Treasury has estimated that, all told, the tax will add just 0.7 per cent to the consumer price index. Since Treasury was right in predicting the 10 per cent GST would add 2.5 per cent to the index, you can believe it.

However, the total rise in household electricity bills from July 1 will be twice that attributable to the carbon tax.

Whereas the GST will raise $48 billion next financial year, the carbon tax is expected to raise $4 billion in its first year and about $7 billion in later years.

Because it's designed simply to raise the prices of emissions-intensive goods and services relative to other prices, much of its proceeds are being used to compensate people for their higher cost of living.

But, again, the compensation is going only to low- and middle-income earners. Means-tested pensions, allowances and family benefits have already been raised.

And a limited tax cut will take effect from July 1. The tax-free threshold will be raised from $6000 to $18,200 (but with a largely offsetting reduction in the low-income tax offset). About 60 per cent of all taxpayers will get a tax cut worth about $5.80 a week, but no individual earning more than $80,000 a year will receive a cut.

All that higher-income earners get is a separate, backhanded saving: the end of the temporary flood levy.