Jun 19

Prepare for the end of the financial year

A lot of people leave their end of financial year preparation too late. If you feel that your finances could do with a shake-up before June 30, there are many tax-effective strategies that you and your financial adviser can implement now to ensure that the end of June runs as smoothly as possible.

A tax deductible way to manage risk

Income protection insurance is an essential part of any financial plan, designed to secure your family’s lifestyle in the event of illness or injury.

Income protection insurance premiums are generally tax deductible, so if you purchase income protection insurance and pay your annual premium before 30 June 2013, you may be able to include the deduction in this year’s tax return. Business owners may also be able to claim deductions on their business insurance premiums.

Splitting income with your spouse

Investing in your spouse’s name can reduce, or even eliminate, the amount of tax paid on the investment income. This is true if your partner has a lower marginal rate of tax or is earning less than $20,542 pa.1

Splitting income with your partner can be as simple as having your cash reserves (excluding your everyday bank account) in the name of the partner with the lower marginal tax rate.

Private health insurance

The Government has made significant changes to the Medicare levy surcharge and the private health rebate from 1 July 2012. If you are currently paying the Medicare levy surcharge, you should consider taking out Private Health insurance before 30 June to avoid paying the surcharge again.

Even though you might have private health insurance, you may find, based on your circumstances and income, your private health rebate has reduced this financial year ending 30 June 2013. To ensure that you understand the full impact, contact your health fund for more details.

Keep your receipts

The most common reason why people don’t take advantage of tax deductions is simply because they don’t keep receipts. While keeping receipts for big ticket items is necessary, you don’t always need a receipt for the smaller items such as stationery and books. If the total amount you are claiming is $300 or less, you need to be able to show how you worked out your claims, but you do not need written evidence.

Claim your uniform

If you are a tradesperson or if you have to wear a uniform for work you might find the clothes are tax deductible or the laundry expenses are tax deductible.

Negative gearing

Negative gearing is another strategy used to manage tax liabilities. Geared investments use borrowed funds, therefore enabling a higher level of investment than would otherwise be possible. Negative gearing refers to the cost of borrowing exceeding the income generated by the investment. This difference may be an allowable tax deduction. If you borrow to invest in shares you may obtain imputation credits which can be used to further reduce the amount of tax you pay.

Pre-paying your investment expenses

Gearing (borrowing to invest) can be an effective way to achieve long-term lifestyle and financial goals. As an added bonus, the interest that you pay on your investment loan is generally tax deductible. If you have commenced a gearing strategy, or are about to set one up, pre-paying your interest bill for up to 12 months before 30 June 2013 may enable you to bring forward your tax deduction and pay less tax this financial year.

Capital Gains Tax management

If you have a Capital Gains Tax (CGT) liability this year, there are a few strategies that you could consider to reduce the impact. These can be complicated to undertake, so it is recommended that you speak to your financial planner for more information.

Use a capital loss to offset your tax

The timing of the sales of assets (such as shares) can greatly affect your tax position. If you sell an asset because it is no longer appropriate for your circumstances and incur a capital loss, the capital loss may be offset against any capital gain you have realised throughout the financial year allowing you to manage your CGT liability. If you don’t have a capital gain to offset, unused losses can be carried forward to offset gains in future years.

Stay in it for the long-haul

If you have purchased assets (such as shares or managed funds) during the market downturn and they have risen in value, you might rethink selling them. Otherwise, you may have to pay a lot of CGT.

A way to trim CGT is to hold onto the investment for more than 12 months. Since 21 September 1999, individual investors have been entitled to claim a 50 per cent discount on capital gains they make on assets held for longer than 12 months.

Delay any income

Thinking of selling off a profitable asset, such as shares or property? It may be worth deferring this sale until after 30 June 2013. In doing so, you will delay incurring CGT for another financial year. So while you will still need to pay the CGT eventually, freeing up short-term cash flow may be beneficial depending on your circumstances.

Consider different types of investment structures

Investing into different types of investment structures (such as insurance bonds or superannuation) can prove to be a taxintelligent investment. The investment income within an insurance bond is taxed at a maximum rate of 30 per cent, which provides a saving of 16.5 per cent for a high income earner (calculation: 46.5 per cent – 30 per cent) and withdrawals after ten years are tax-free. There is also no need to include investment earnings in your tax return while funds remain invested.

Insurance bonds offer a range of different opportunities from investing for children, wealth accumulation for high income earners to passing your wealth onto the next generation outside of your estate.

More money in your super

From 1 July 2013, the Superannuation Guarantee (SG), the mandatory super contribution your employer makes for you, will increase from 9 per cent to 9.25 per cent.

Also, if you are aged 70 or over, your employer is currently not required to make SG payments on your behalf. This will change from 1 July 2013, as this upper age limit that applies to SG contributions will be abolished, and your employer will be required to make SG contribution for you.

The increased SG rate will mean more in your super, but it could affect your take home pay depending on your terms of employment. If you receive a fixed salary package (including your salary and your employer’s super contributions), when your employer applies the SG increase you could experience a reduction in your take home pay, while your overall salary package remains the same.

However, if your salary is a fixed amount and your employer pays SG contributions on top of this, then your take home pay will remain the same and the increase in SG will be borne by your employer.

You should also remember that SG contributions are concessional contributions, so if you are making salary sacrifice contributions, you should make sure you don’t unintentionally breach the concessional contribution limit.

If you have any questions how this change to the rate of the SG affects your personal circumstances, speak to your financial adviser.

Salary packaging

Salary packaging is also known as a salary sacrifice arrangement. It is where an employee agrees to forgo part of their salary or wages in return for the employer providing them with benefits of a similar value. For certain industries (such as the medical profession and charities) or high income earners it can be an effective way to obtain tax savings, particularly if you are on the top marginal tax rate.

Some of the most common items that can be salary packaged include:
• superannuation
• motor vehicles
• expenses ‘otherwise deductible’ to the employee.

You should make sure any salary packaging agreement you enter into has a positive outcome in after-tax terms. Employers are not required to offer salary packaging to employees and it is wise to ask your employer what benefits you can salary package and speak to your financial adviser or accountant about the opportunities.

Salary sacrifice into superannuation

Superannuation can be a tax-effective investment. If you are an employee, you could look at contributing to superannuation through salary sacrifice, thereby reducing your taxable income. In the long term, salary sacrificing has many benefits as it not only helps to increase your superannuation savings but could also reduce the amount of tax you pay. You could even salary sacrifice your annual bonus into superannuation, but this needs to be arranged in advance with your employer.

If you decide to salary sacrifice into superannuation, this amount is taken from your pre-tax salary. Your employer will automatically deduct it from your salary and deposit it directly into your superannuation fund. As a result, your contribution will be taxed at a maximum rate of 15 per cent, as opposed to your marginal rate, which may be as high as 46.5 per cent (including Medicare levy of 1.5 per cent).

Additionally, the reduced salary amount that you actually take home would then become your assessable income for tax purposes. This may enable you to move down a tax bracket, reducing your amount of total tax payable. Even though the taxfree threshold has risen to $18,200 this financial year, most people will still pay personal income tax. The lowest possible rate of tax is 20.5 per cent (the marginal tax rate of 19 per cent plus the Medicare levy of 1.5 per cent) and most people will be taxed at 34 per cent (marginal tax rate 32.5 per cent plus the Medicare levy of 1.5 per cent). Placing surplus money into superannuation could save you 5.5 per cent (calculation: 20.5 per cent less contributions tax rate of 15 per cent) or 19 per cent tax (calculation: 34 per cent less contributions tax rate of 15 per cent).

For 2012/2013 the per annum cap on deductible superannuation contributions for everyone is $25,000. However, it is proposed that this will increase to $35,000 from 1 July 2013 for those aged 60 or more, and from 1 July 2014 for those aged 50 or more.2 You should consider speaking to your financial adviser about how this may impact your retirement planning strategy.

Excess contributions

It is proposed that from 1 July 2013, excess concessional contributions3 will be taxed at your individual marginal tax rate, rather than the current excess contributions rate of 47 per cent, although the higher rate will still apply to excess contributions for the 2012/2013 financial year.

When topping up your super, you should also bear in mind contributions to other super funds you may have made or have been made on your behalf to ensure your contributions do not exceed the contributions cap, which is still $25,000 for everyone in 2012/2013.

Have you turned 65 during this financial year?

If you have turned 65 this year, it is your last opportunity to contribute up to $450,000 before 30 June 2013 by using the three year bring forward non-concessional contribution cap. Making personal after-tax contributions into super can provide your superannuation a boost. This is complex and you will need to talk to your financial adviser about the contribution rules.

Get your Government co-contribution

The Government co-contribution4 (of up to a maximum of $500 per annum) is one of the most straightforward and effective ways for you to increase your superannuation savings. Employees and self-employed people who earn between $31,920 pa and $46,920 pa may be eligible. If you are eligible, you may simply make a personal non-concessional contribution into your super before 30 June and the Government will match that contribution.

Self-employed contributors may also be eligible for the Government co-contribution until age 71. Just remember that you need to have personal non-concessional contribution in your account that you have not claimed as a tax deduction.

The new low income superannuation contribution

From 1 July 2012, employees and self-employed people earning up to $37,000 receive a refund of contributions tax on their concessional contributions which include employer contributions (and salary sacrifice contributions) or contributions claimed as a tax deduction into their super account. This will ensure employees and self-employed people are no worse off when receiving or making these types of contributions.

One of the best things about the low income superannuation contribution is its simplicity as you don’t need to make a claim for it. All you have to do is lodge your tax return and the ATO does the rest. This means your superannuation fund may receive up to $3,300 in concessional contributions and not pay any tax on them. It’s that easy but it is advisable to speak to a financial adviser about the best contribution mix for your personal situation.

Make a personal deductible contribution

Self-employed, non-working or retirees may find themselves in a situation where they can significantly boost their retirement savings, as well as reducing their taxable income by making a personal deductible contribution. The simplification of and changes to personal deductible contribution rules is one such opportunity.

For 2012/2013 the per annum cap on deductible superannuation contributions for everyone is $25,000. However, it is proposed that this will increase to $35,000 from 1 July 2013 for those aged 60 or more, and from 1 July 2014 for those aged 50 or more.5

Note: If you are self-employed, non-working or retired, you need to ensure that you will satisfy the eligibility criteria and you make your personal deductible contribution into superannuation before 30 June.

Spouse superannuation contributions

If your spouse is on a low income, you could receive a tax offset for making a contribution to your spouse’s superannuation fund, so long as their assessable income (including reportable fringe benefits) is less than $13,800.

However, to claim the maximum offset of $540, your spouse must earn $10,800 or less and you need to contribute $3,000 to their superannuation in the same financial year. Because it’s a tax offset, you would make a direct saving against your income tax liability.

Claim your medical expenses

This is available to taxpayers earning less than $84,000 who have net medical expenses in the year of income exceeds the current threshold of $2,120. The offset is calculated as 20 per cent of the excess of net medical expenses over the threshold.

For individuals with adjusted taxable income above the Medicare levy surcharge thresholds ($84,000 for singles and $168,000 for couples or families in 2012/13), the threshold will be increased to $5,000 and the rate of reimbursement will be reduced to 10 per cent for eligible out of pocket expenses incurred.

Your Medicare financial tax statement will help you work out whether you can claim the offset in your tax return. The statement shows you how much you have paid for medical expenses and how much you have claimed back from Medicare.

The Government will phase out the net medical expenses tax offset with transitional arrangements for those currently claiming the offset. The tax offset will continue to be available for taxpayers for out-of-pocket medical expenses relating to disability aids, attendant care or aged care expenses until 1 July 2019. This transitional phase out will coincide with the DisabilityCare Australia changes being fully operational and the aged care reforms having been in place for many years.

From 1 July 2013, those taxpayers who claimed the tax offset for the 2012/13 income year will continue to be eligible for it for the 2013/14 income year if they have eligible out-of-pocket medical expenses above the relevant thresholds. Similarly, those who claim it in 2013/14 will continue to be eligible in 2014/15.

Transition to retirement for self-employed clients

One of the common tax-effective retirement planning strategies for those aged 55 or over is to transition to retirement (TTR). A TTR strategy offers opportunities for wealth accumulation and tax efficiency, especially for those aged over 60, who can access a tax-free income stream.

There are two components to the TTR strategy:
• commence a non-commutable account based pension receiving between three and ten per cent of the account balance as an income stream
• making contributions into superannuation so that, including the pension, the overall net income remains unchanged.

TTR strategies are complex in nature and it is best discussed with a financial adviser to determine whether or not it is appropriate for you.

Exotic schemes

Be sure to seek independent professional advice before you invest in any of the more creative and exotic tax/investment schemes that emerge around this time each year. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is!

1 Based on 2012/13 tax scales and low income tax offset of $445 taken into account.

2 Draft legislation to enable this increase has been released, but has not passed through Parliament at the time of completing this flyer.

3 This change is currently a proposal only, no draft legislation has been released.

4 Draft legislation to enable this change has been released, but has not passed through Parliament at the time of completing this flyer. 5 Draft legislation to enable this increase has been released, but has not passed through Parliament at the time of completing this flyer.

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This flyer has been prepared by Lonsdale Financial Group Limited. ABN 76 006 637 225 AFSL No 246934.
This is general advice only and does not take into account your financial circumstances, needs and objectives. Before making any decision based on this document, you should assess your own circumstances or seek advice from a financial adviser and seek tax advice from a registered tax agent. Information is current at the date of issue and may change.
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