01.Budget weekend wrap-up
Following last week's release of the National Commission of Audit, speculation has been rife around what recommendations may make it into this year's upcoming budget, to be delivered by Treasurer Joe Hockey on Tuesday 13 May 2014.
A few budget-related areas have stirred particular controversy:
This is still very much on the table, with Prime Minister Tony Abbott this morning refusing to rule out the possibility of a deficit levy in federal budget, saying that while it will be a "difficult" budget it will be a "fair" budget.
The levy would see those earning over $80,000 per annum being slugged an extra $800 a year, and those on more than $180,000 paying an extra two per cent of their annual income. This is despite a weekend Galaxy poll that found more than 70% of those surveyed believe a deficit levy would constitute a broken promise in light of Abbott's pre-election promise of no new taxes.
People who are overweight or smoke could pay more for health insurance if the government follows the Commission of Audit's recommendation to allow health funds to vary the cost of premiums for some customers due to their "lifestyle factors, including smoking, which materially increase a person's health risk".
Simpler tax returns
In some better news for consumers, the government has confirmed that simpler tax returns will be available from 1 July 2014. An “app style” tax return will allow millions of wage-earners to review their tax return, which will be pre-filled by the Australian Tax Office (ATO) and make changes if necessary before returning it via smartphone, tablet or computer.
It's expected that the new "MyTax" system will reduce the time needed to prepare and lodge a tax return for millions of Australian taxpayers.