A truckload of tax and super reforms in 2013

feature-super-truck-200Last year saw the usual proverbial “truckload” of tax and superannuation changes were either passed by Federal Parliament, or proposed to commence this year. It’s difficult to keep up with it all, but below I set out some of the changes that might be of interest to SMEs.

And as I alluded to in last week’s column, this year’s federal election is sure to see more changes promised.

Significantly, January 1 saw something of a changing of the guard in that a new Tax Commissioner, Chris Jordan, took up his role, and a new Chair of the Board of Taxation, Teresa Dyson, commenced. They both have a very busy year ahead of them.

The following tax changes commence, or are expected to commence, during 2013.

  • Medical expenses rebate: legislation still before Parliament proposes that an income test will apply to the rebate for medical expenses from July 1, 2012 i.e. for 2012-13 tax returns. For taxpayers with adjusted taxable income above the Medicare Levy Surcharge thresholds ($84,000 for singles or $168,000 for couples or families in 2012-13), the threshold above which they may claim the net medical expenses tax offset will increase from the current $2,120 to $5,000 and the rate of reimbursement will be reduced from 20% to 10%. The claim threshold will be indexed annually to the CPI. Tax returns for the 2012-13 year (i.e. ending on June 30, 2013) will first reflect the changes.
  • Mature age worker tax offset: the mature age worker tax offset has been phased out from July 1, 2012 for taxpayers born on or after July 1, 1957. Again, tax returns for the 2012-13 year will first reflect the changes.

Superannuation

There are lots of changes here, particularly for SMEs that have self-managed super funds (SMSFs) – and it seems from stats just released that SMSFs continue to grow strongly and are now a major component of the superannuation sector holding over 30% of total superannuation assets. SMEs should particularly take note of the following.

  • All employers should note that the compulsory super contribution rate will rise by 0.25% to 9.25% from 1 July 2013 i.e. for the 2013-14 year. This is first phase of the scheduled increase from 9% to reach 12% from 2019-20. There will be increments of 0.25% in the first two years and 0.5% thereafter (i.e. from 2015-16) until the rate reaches 12% (from 2019-20).
  • SMSFs and related party asset acquisitions and disposals: Draft legislation proposes new rules requiring that a trustee or investment manager of an SMSF could acquire an asset from a related party if the asset is business real property acquired at market value, as determined by a qualified independent valuer. The valuer must also be independent and therefore cannot be a member of the fund or a related party of the fund. It will still be possible to acquire business real property and certain in-house assets (not exceeding 5%) from a related party, provided that the asset is acquired at market value as determined by a qualified independent valuer. However, it will only be possible for an SMSF to acquire a “listed security” from a related party in a way prescribed by regulations (yet to be released as at January 1, 2013). The changes are intended to apply from July 1, 2013.
  • A new registration regime for approved SMSF auditors applies from January 31, 2013. SMSF auditors are required to apply to ASIC for registration as an “approved SMSF auditor”. Auditors can apply for registration from January 31, 2013. All auditors will be required to be registered with ASIC by July 1, 2013 to audit SMSFs after that time. All SMEs that have self-managed super funds should be aware of this requirement concerning auditors of their funds.
  • SMSF approved auditors: From July 1, 2013, draft regulations propose to require SMSF trustees to appoint an approved auditor no later than 45 days before the due date for lodgment of the fund’s annual return. The draft regulations (yet to be finalised) also provide that the prescribed period for which an audit report in respect of an SMSF must be given is 28 days after the trustee of the fund has provided all documents relevant to the preparation of the report to the auditor.
  • The MySuper application and authorisation process commenced from January 1, 2013. Authorised superannuation entities will be able to offer a MySuper product from July 1, 2013. Employers will be required to make superannuation guarantee contributions (for employees that do not have a chosen fund) to a default fund that offers a MySuper product from January 1, 2014.
  • A trans-Tasman portability scheme will permit transfers between certain Australian superannuation funds and New Zealand KiwiSaver schemes from July 1, 2013. The proposed scheme will enable Australians and New Zealanders to consolidate their retirement savings in their country of residence when they emigrate and intend to stay indefinitely or permanently in the host country. Currently, Australians and New Zealanders working in Australia cannot take their superannuation with them when they permanently leave Australia. Note that New Zealand-sourced retirement savings from KiwiSaver schemes held in Australian superannuation funds will not be able to be transferred to or held in a self-managed superannuation fund.

Other changes

  • Private health insurance rebate: From July 1, 2013, the private health insurance rebate will no longer be paid on any lifetime health cover loading applied to the cost of a private health insurance policy for lifetime health cover. Legislation to implement this is still before Parliament, but is expected to pass before June 30, 2013.
  • The education tax refund has been abolished and replaced by the Schoolkids Bonus from January 1, 2013. For those eligible, the first instalment of the Bonus ($205 per primary student and $410 per secondary student) will be paid by Centrelink or the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, directly into their bank accounts between January 9 and 22, 2013 to help with back-to-school expenses. Eligibility requirements for the Bonus are that the student must be undertaking primary or secondary studies and be under 20 years of age, and the parent or carer must be receiving one of several government payments, including Family Tax Benefit Part A or Youth Allowance or Disability Support Pension.
  • Social Security benefits: From January 1, 2013, the length of time many payments and concession cards can continue while a recipient is temporarily overseas was reduced from 13 weeks to 6 weeks. Payments affected include Pension Supplement, Disability Support Pension, Carer Payment, Wife Pension, or if a person is a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card Holder.

Happy 2013! And it’s only just started.

Terry Hayes is the Editor-in-Chief of tax news reporting at Thomson Reuters, a leading Australian provider of tax, accounting and legal information solutions.

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