There have been quite a few tax changes over the past year which could affect you as an individual taxpayer.
Education tax refund
The education tax refund allows eligible parents to claim a refund on some education expenses incurred on or after 1 July 2008 for their children who are in primary or secondary school.
It also allows independent students under the age of 25 who are undertaking primary or secondary school studies to claim a refund on some of their education expenses.
You can claim the education tax refund in your tax return using receipts for expenses you have kept throughout the year. If you don’t need to lodge a tax return you can still claim the refund from the Tax Office.
Family tax benefit
You can no longer claim the family tax benefit in your tax return. The benefit, including claims for current and prior years, can now be claimed as a fortnightly payment or a lump sum through the Family Assistance Office.
First home saver accounts
If you have a first home saver account the Australian Government may make an annual contribution to your account based on your contributions throughout the year. You don’t pay tax on earnings on the account and you don’t need to declare any income from this account anywhere on your tax return.
However, if you’re not required to lodge a tax return, you will need to lodge a First home saver account – notification of eligibility form before the Government will pay any contributions. The form is available from the Tax Office website.
The HECS-HELP benefit is available to eligible maths and science graduates working in certain occupations, and early childhood education teachers working in specific locations.
The benefit will reduce a compulsory HELP repayment amount. It will also reduce the accumulated HELP debt directly for early childhood education teachers where they don’t have to make a compulsory repayment.
You can apply for the benefit from 1 July by completing the HECS-HELP benefit application form available from the Tax Office. You will also need to lodge a tax return. Early childhood education teachers who don’t need to lodge a tax return this year may still apply if they notify the Tax Office.
More information about the HECS-HELP benefit is available on the Tax Office website, on our blog, or by contacting our office.
Medicare levy surcharge thresholds
The Medicare levy surcharge thresholds increased to $70,000 for a single person and $140,000 for families from 1 July 2008.
This means if you or your family earned above these thresholds during 2008-09 and didn’t have private patient hospital cover you will pay a surcharge of 1 per cent for any period during the year you didn’t have cover.
For this year only, you are considered to have been covered by private hospital cover all year if you took out an appropriate policy some time between 1 July and 31 December 2008, and then continued to be covered from 1 January to 30 June 2009.
Same sex couples – death benefits dependent
The definitions of spouse and child have been changed to include same-sex partners and their children for the purposes of defining who is a death benefits dependant for employment termination payments and super lump sum payments.
This means the dependents of a person in a same-sex relationship will now be able to receive a lump sum death benefit tax free if they qualify.
Upper income limit for certain tax offsets
Some tax offsets are now restricted to people with a taxable income of less than $150,000. These include the following tax offsets:
- dependent spouse
- invalid relative
- parent or spouse’s parent.
More information on how each offset is affected is available on our blog or from the Tax Office website.
Claiming donations to charity
Many people made donations to fund-raising and charitable organisations after the Victorian bushfires and Queensland floods which may be tax deductible.
You can claim a tax deduction in your 2009 tax return for your gift or donation if the organisation is a registered deductible gift recipient.
When you claim a tax deduction for donations you need to keep your receipt as evidence of your donation. A web receipt or credit card statement is also acceptable if you donated over the phone, web or through third parties such as banks or retail outlets.
If you gave to a ‘bucket donation’ you can also claim a tax deduction equal to your contribution up to $10 without the usual need to keep a receipt.
To check the tax deductible status of an organisation visit www.ato.gov.au/nonprofit.