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Friday, 6 July 2007

Tax Reduction - Part 6

Medical expenses can consume a large chunk of ones cashflow, and also have tax implications. Firstly, medical insurance. In Australia there is universal public health coverage. A 1.5% medicare levy is charged based on your taxable income (there are some exemptions and reductions for special cases such as low income households) which contributes towards the cost of public health in Australia. There is also a medicare levy surcharge (MLS) of an additional 1% of taxable income is charged when your income is above the threshold and you don't have private hospital insurance. The threshold for an single taxpayer is $50,000 and varies for different family types. For example, DW and I have 2 children, so our MLS threshold is $101,500. In previous years when DW and I were both working fulltime we would have had to pay the surcharge if we didn't have private hospital insurance. So the monthly insurance premium of $144.20 was good value as it was close to what the surcharge would have cost anyhow. This year our combined taxable income will be a lot less (around $60,000) as DW is working part-time and also salary sacrificing around half of her wage into superannuation, and I am salary sacrificing around half of my wage as well. As the monthly insurance premium has increased to $151.45 we could save $1,817.40 by cancelling out insurance. We'd have to take up coverage again when DW resumes fulltime work. However, I don't think I'll cancel the insurance as it is very useful if you ever need "elective" surgery (otherwise you'll be on the public hospital waiting list, which can be very long).

The second tax aspect of medical expenses is the Net medical expenses tax offset. Net medical expenses are the medical expenses you have paid less any refunds you got, or could get, from Medicare or a private health fund. You can claim a tax offset of 20% – 20 cents in the dollar – of your net medical expenses over $1,500. There is no upper limit on the amount you can claim. For example, our total medical expenses on GP visits, specialist consultations and tests, pharmaceuticals, dental work and optical costs was $7,191 in the past 12 months. Our total refunds from medicare and our private hospital cover was $1,340 for this period, leaving us "out of pocket" to the tune of $5,851. This means I can claim a tax rebate of 20%x($5,851-$1,500) = $870.20, which is better than nothing. So it's important to keep all receipts for pharmacy, dental and optical expenses as medicare only has a record of the expenses that you claimed a refund for (mainly GP and specialist doctor and hospital costs).

Although it would be interesting to know the ratio of our health expenses to the benefit we've received from medicare and our private hospital insurance, it's not easy to calculate. For one thing the medicate levy only pays for part of the governments expenditure on public health. A larger amount comes out of consolidated revenue. Also, aside from the obvious medicare refunds that you have to apply for, there is an inbuilt subsidy for medicines via the PBS (Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme) which isn't printed on pharmacy receipts.

Copyright Enough Wealth 2007


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