AuthorMichael Scott

Road ahead for Shares

Trying to time investment markets is difficult if not impossible at the best of times, let alone now. The war in Ukraine, rising inflation and interest rates and an upcoming federal election have all added to market uncertainty and volatility.

At times like these investors may be tempted to retreat to the ‘’safety” of cash, but that can be costly. Not only is it difficult to time your exit, but you are also likely to miss out on any upswing that follows a dip.

Take Australian shares. Despite COVID and the recent wall of worries on global markets, Aussie shares soared 64 per cent in the two years from the pandemic low in March 2020 to the end of March 2022.i Who would have thought?

So what lies ahead for shares? The recent Federal Budget contained some clues.

The economic outlook

The Budget doesn’t only outline the government’s spending priorities, it provides a snapshot of where Treasury thinks the Australian economy is headed. While forecasts can be wide of the mark, they do influence market behaviour.

As you can see in the table below, Australia’s economic growth is expected to peak at 4.25 per cent this financial year, underpinned by strong company profits, employment growth and surging commodity prices. Our economy is growing at a faster rate than the global average of 3.75 per cent, and ahead of the US and Europe, which helps explain why Australian shares have performed so strongly.ii

However, growth is expected to taper off to 2.5 per cent by 2023-24, as key commodity prices fall from their current giddy heights by the end of September this year, turning this year’s 11% rise in our terms of trade to a 21 per cent fall in 2022-23.

Table: Australian economy (% change on previous year)

Actual %Forecasts %
2020-212021-222022-232023-24
Gross domestic product (GDP)1.54.253.52.5
Consumer prices index (CPI)3.84.253.02.75
Wage price index1.72.753.253.25
Unemployment5.14.03.753.75
Terms of trade*10.411-21.25-8.75

*Key commodity prices assumed to decline from current high levels by end of September quarter 2022
Source: TreasuryCommodity prices have jumped on the back of supply chain disruptions during the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. While much depends on the situation in Ukraine, Treasury estimates that prices for iron ore, oil and coal will all drop sharply later this year.

So, what does all this mean for shares?

Share market winners and losers

Rising commodity prices have been a boon for Australia’s resources sector and demand should continue while interest rates remain low and global economies recover from their pandemic lows.

Government spending commitments in the recent Budget will also put extra cash in the pockets of households and the market sectors that depend on them. This is good news for companies in the retail sector, from supermarkets to specialty stores selling discretionary items.

Elsewhere, building supplies, construction and property development companies should benefit from the pipeline of big infrastructure projects combined with support for first home buyers and a strong property market.

Increased Budget spending on defence, and a major investment to improve regional telecommunications, should also flow through to listed companies that supply those sectors as well as the big telcos and internet providers.

However, while Budget spending is a market driver in the short to medium term there are other influences on the horizon for investors to be aware of.

Rising inflation and interest rates

With inflation on the rise in Australia and the rest of the world, central banks are beginning to lift interest rates from their historic lows. Australia’s Reserve Bank is now expected to start raising rates this year.iii

Global bond markets are already anticipating higher rates, with yields on Australian and US 10-year government bonds jumping to 2.98 per cent and 2.67 per cent respectively. However, the yield on some US shorter-term bonds temporarily rose above 2.7 per cent recently. Historically, this so-called “inverse yield curve” has indicated recession at worst, or an economic slowdown.iv

Rising inflation and interest rates can slow economic growth and put a dampener on shares. At the same time, higher interest rates are a cause for celebration for retirees and anyone who depends on income from fixed interest securities and bank deposits. But it’s not that black and white.

While rising interest rates and volatile markets generally constrain returns from shares, some sectors still tend to outperform the market. This includes the banks, because they can charge borrowers more, suppliers and retailers of staples such as food and drink, and healthcare among others.

Putting it all together

In uncertain times when markets are volatile, it’s natural for investors to be a little nervous. But history shows there are investment winners and losers at every point in the economic cycle. At times like these, the best strategy is to have a well-diversified portfolio with a focus on quality.

For share investors, this means quality businesses with stable demand for their goods or services and those able to pass on increased costs to customers.

If you would like to discuss your overall investment strategy don’t hesitate to get in touch.

https://www.commsec.com.au/market-news/the-markets/2022/mar-22-budget-sharemarket-winners-and-losers.html

ii https://budget.gov.au/2022-23/content/bp1/download/bp1_bs-2.pdf

iii https://www.finder.com.au/rba-survey-4-apr

iv https://tradingeconomics.com/united-states/government-bond-yield

Federal Budget

A balancing act

Billed as a Budget for families with a focus on relieving short-term cost of living pressures, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s fourth Budget also has one eye firmly on the federal election in May.

At the same time, the government is relying on rising commodity prices and a forecast lift in wages as unemployment heads towards a 50-year low to underpin Australia’s post-pandemic recovery.

While budget deficits and government debt will remain high for the foreseeable future, the Treasurer is confident that economic growth will more than cover the cost of servicing our debt.

The big picture

The Australian economy continues to grow faster and stronger than anticipated, but the fog of war in Ukraine is adding uncertainty to the global economic outlook. After growing by 4.2 per cent in the year to December, Australia’s economic growth is expected to slow to 3.4 per cent in 2022-23.i

Unemployment, currently at 4 per cent, is expected to fall to 3.75 per cent in the September quarter. The government is banking on a tighter labour market pushing up wages which are forecast to grow at a rate of 3.25 per cent in 2023 and 2024. Wage growth has improved over the past year but at 2.3 per cent, it still lags well behind inflation of 3.5 per cent.ii

The Treasurer forecast a budget deficit of $78 billion in 2022-23 (3.4 per cent of GDP), lower than the $88.9 billion estimate as recently as last December, before falling to $43 billion (1.6 per cent of GDP) by the end of the forward estimates in 2025-26.

Net debt is tipped to hit an eye-watering $715 billion (31 per cent of GDP) in 2022-23 before peaking at 33 per cent of GDP in June 2026. This is lower than forecast but unthinkable before the pandemic sent a wrecking ball through the global economy.

Rising commodity prices

The big improvement in the deficit has been underpinned by the stronger than expected economic recovery and soaring commodity prices for some of our major exports.

Iron ore prices have jumped about 75 per cent since last November on strong demand from China, while wheat prices have soared 68 per cent over the year and almost 5 per cent in March alone after the war in Ukraine cut global supply.iii,iv

Offsetting those exports, Australia is a net importer of oil. The price of Brent Crude oil prices have surged 73 per cent over the year, with supply shortages exacerbated by the war in Ukraine.v Australian households are paying over $2 a litre to fill their car with petrol, adding to cost of living pressures and pressure on the government to act.

With the rising cost of fuel and other essentials, this is one of the areas targeted by the Budget. The following rundown summarises the measures most likely to impact Australian households.

Cost of living relief

As expected, the Treasurer announced a temporary halving of the fuel excise for the next six months which will save motorists 22c a litre on petrol. The Treasurer estimates a family with two cars who fill up once a week could save about $30 a week, or $700 in total over six months.

Less expected was the temporary $420 one-off increase in the low-to-middle-income tax offset (LMITO). It had been speculated that LMITO would be extended for another year, but it is now set to end on June 30 as planned.

The extra $420 will boost the offset for people earning less than $126,000 from up to $1,080 previously to $1,500 this year. Couples will receive up to $3,000. The additional offset, which the government says will ease inflationary pressures for 10 million Australians, will be available when people lodge their tax returns from 1 July.

The government will also make one-off cash payments of $250 in April to six million people receiving JobSeeker, age and disability support pensions, parenting payment, youth allowance and those with a seniors’ health card.

Temporarily extending the minimum pension drawdown relief

Self-funded retirees haven’t been forgotten. The temporary halving of the minimum income drawdown requirement for superannuation pensions will be further extended, until 30 June 2023.

This will allow retirees to minimise the need to sell down assets given ongoing market volatility. It applies to account-based, transition to retirement and term allocated superannuation pensions.

More support for home buyers

A further 50,000 places a year will be made available under various government schemes to help more Australians buy a home.

This includes an additional 35,000 places for the First Home Guarantee where the government underwrites loans to first-home buyers with a deposit as low as 5 per cent. And a further 5,000 places for the Family Home Guarantee which helps single parents buy a home with as little as 2 per cent deposit.

There is also a new Regional Home Guarantee, which will provide 10,000 guarantees to allow people who have not owned a home for five years to buy a new property outside a major city with a deposit of as little as 5 per cent.

Support for parents

The government is expanding the paid parental leave scheme to give couples more flexibility to choose how they balance work and childcare.

Dad and partner pay will be rolled into Paid Parental Leave Pay to create a single scheme that gives the 180,000 new parents who access it each year, increased flexibility to choose how they will share it.

In addition, single parents will be able to take up to 20 weeks of leave, the same as couples.

Health and aged care

One of the Budget surprises in the wake of the Aged Care Royal Commission findings, was the absence of spending on additional aged care workers and wages.

Instead, $468 million will be spent on the sector with most of that ($340 million) earmarked to provide on-site pharmacy services.

The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) is also set for a $2.4 billion shot in the arm over five years, adding new medicines to the list. PBS safety net thresholds will also be reduced, so patients with high demand for prescription medicines won’t have to get as many scripts.

A $547 million mental health and suicide prevention support package includes a $52 million funding boost for Lifeline.

And as winter approaches, the government will spend a further $6 billion on its COVID health response.

Jobs, skills development and small business support

As the economy and demand for skilled workers grow, the government is providing more funding for skills development with a focus on small business. It will provide a funding boost of $3.7 billion to states and territories with the potential to provide 800,000 training places.

In addition, eligible apprentices and trainees in “priority industries” will be able to access $5,000 in retention payments over two years, while their employers will also receive wage subsidies.

Small businesses with annual turnover of less than $50 million will be able to deduct a bonus 20 per cent for the cost of training their employees, so for every $100 they spend, they receive a $120 tax deduction.

Similarly, for every $100 these businesses spend to digitalise their businesses, up to an outlay of $100,000, they will receive a $120 tax deduction. This includes things such as portable payment devices, cyber security systems and subscriptions to cloud-based services.

Looking ahead

With an election less than two months away, the government will be hoping it has done enough to quell voter concerns about the rising cost of living, while safeguarding Australia’s ongoing economic recovery.

The local economy faces strong headwinds from the war in Ukraine, the cost of widespread flooding along much of the east coast and the ongoing pandemic.

Much depends on the hopes for the rise in employment and wages to offset rising inflation, and the timing and extent of interest rate rises by the Reserve Bank.

If you have any questions about any of the Budget measures, don’t hesitate to call us.

Information in this article has been sourced from the Budget Speech 2022-23 and Federal Budget support documents.

It is important to note that the policies outlined in this publication are yet to be passed as legislation and therefore may be subject to change.

https://tradingeconomics.com/australia/gdp-growth-annual

ii https://www.abs.gov.au/media-centre/media-releases/annual-wage-growth-increases-23

iii https://tradingeconomics.com/commodity/iron-ore

iv, v https://tradingeconomics.com/commodities

Autumn 2022

It’s March already which marks the beginning of Autumn. While this is traditionally the season when things cool down, the economic and political scene is gearing up with the Federal Budget later this month and a federal election expected by May.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February increased volatility on global financial markets and uncertainty about the pace of global economic recovery. Notably, crude oil prices surged above $US100 a barrel, breaking the $100 mark for the first time since 2014. Rising oil prices add to inflationary pressures and could set back global economic recovery in the wake of COVID. In Australia, the price of unleaded petrol hit a record 179.1c a litre in February and is expected to go above $2.

In the US, inflation hit a 40-year high of 7.5% in January. Australian inflation is a tamer 3.5% and this, along with unemployment at a 13-year low of 4.2%, is raising expectations of interest rate hikes. The Reserve Bank stated earlier in February that a rate hike in 2022 was ‘’plausible” but that it is ‘’prepared to be patient”. The Reserve is also looking for annual wage growth of 3% before it lifts rates, but with annual wages up just 2.3% in the December quarter Australian workers are going backwards after inflation. The average wage is currently around $90,917 a year.

Before the latest events in Ukraine, consumer and business confidence were improving. The ANZ-Roy Morgan consumer rating rose slightly in February to 101.8 points, while the NAB business confidence index was up 15.5 points in January to +3.5 points.

War in Ukraine has triggered a flight to safety, with bonds, gold and the US dollar rising while global shares plunged initially before rebounding but remain volatile. The Aussie dollar closed at US72.59c.

Avoid the rush: Get ready for June 30

It seems like June 30 rolls around quicker every year, so why wait until the last minute to get your finances in order?

With all the disruption and special support measures of the past two years, it’s possible your finances have changed. So it’s a good idea to ensure you’re on track for the upcoming end-of-financial-year (EOFY).

Starting early is essential to make the most of opportunities on offer when it comes to your super and tax affairs.

New limits for super contributions

Annual contribution limits for super rose this financial year, so maximising your super contributions to boost your retirement savings is even more attractive.

From 1 July 2021, most people’s annual concessional contributions cap increased to $27,500 (up from $25,000). This allows you to contribute a bit extra into your super on a before-tax basis, potentially reducing your taxable income.

If you have any unused concessional contribution amounts from previous financial years and your super balance is less than $500,000, you may be able to “carry forward” these amounts to further top up.

Another strategy is to make a personal contribution for which you claim a tax deduction. These contributions count towards your $27,500 cap and were previously available only to the self-employed. To qualify, you must notify your super fund in writing of your intention to claim and receive acknowledgement.

Non-concessional super strategies

If you have some spare cash, it may also be worth taking advantage of the higher non-concessional (after-tax) contributions cap. From 1 July 2021, the general non concessional cap increased to $110,000 annually (up from $100,000).

These contributions can help if you’ve reached your concessional contributions cap, received an inheritance, or have additional personal savings you would like to put into super. If you are aged 67 or older, however, you need to meet the requirements of the work test or work test exemption.

For those under age 67 (previously age 65) at any time during 2021-22, you may be able to use a bring-forward arrangement to make a contribution of up to $330,000 (three years x $110,000).

To take advantage of the bring-forward rule, your total super balance (TSB) must be under the relevant limit on 30 June of the previous year. Depending on your TSB, your personal contribution limit may be less than $330,000, so it’s a good idea to talk to us first.

More super things to think about

If you plan to make tax-effective super contributions through a salary sacrifice arrangement, now is a good time to discuss this with your employer, as the ATO requires documentation prior to commencement.

Another option if you’re aged 65 and over and plan to sell your home is a downsizer contribution. You can contribute up to $300,000 ($600,000 for a couple) from the proceeds without meeting the work test.

And don’t forget contributing into your low-income spouse’s super account could score you a tax offset of up to $540.

Get your SMSF shipshape

If you have your own self-managed super fund (SMSF), it’s important to check it’s in good shape for EOFY and your annual audit.

Administrative tasks such as updating minutes, lodging any transfer balance account reports (TBARs), checking the COVID relief measures (residency, rental, loan repayment and in-house assets), and undertaking the annual market valuation of fund assets should all be started now.

It’s also sensible to review your fund’s investment strategy and whether the fund’s assets remain appropriate.

Know your tax deductions

It’s also worth thinking beyond super for tax savings.

If you’ve been working from home due to COVID-19, you can use the shortcut method to claim 80 cents per hour worked for your running expenses. But make sure you can substantiate your claim.

You also need supporting documents to claim work-related expenses such as car, travel, clothing and self-education. Check whether you qualify for other common expense deductions such as tools, equipment, union fees, the cost of managing your tax affairs, charity donations and income protection premiums.

Review your investment portfolio

After a year of strong investment market performance, now is also a good time to review your investments outside super. Benchmark your portfolio’s performance and check whether any assets need to be sold or purchased to rebalance in line with your strategy.

You might also consider realising any investment losses, as these can be offset against capital gains you made during the year.

If you would like to discuss EOFY strategies and super contributions, call our office.


Tax Alert March 2022

New super and tax rules passed in Parliament

Some of the last sitting days before this year’s Federal election saw changes to the tax and super rules finally pass through both houses of Parliament. Here’s a roundup of some of the key developments.

Loss carry back extended and super rules changed

Several reforms to the tax and super rules were legislated during the final marathon full Parliamentary session before this year’s Federal election. They include an extension of the business loss carry-back tax offset for the 2022-23 financial year and an extension to 30 June 2023 for the temporary full expensing regime.

Removal of the current $450-per-month threshold for payment of Superannuation Guarantee (SG) contributions means from 1 July 2022, employers will be required to make contributions for employees earning less than this amount.

Other key changes to the super rules include application of the work test to super contributors aged 67 to 74 who claim a deduction for personal contributions. However, from 1 July 2022 contributors over age 67 will be able to make or receive non-concessional super contributions using a bring-forward arrangement.

The new legislation also includes a reduction in the age limit for downsizer super contributions to 60 and an increase to the maximum allowable amount of contributions under the First Home Super Saver Scheme from $30,000 to $50,000.

Loss carry back tool launched

To help businesses correctly claim the loss carry back (LCB) tax offset in their company tax return, the ATO has launched a new online tool to help prevent errors and ensure correct completion of LCB labels in your return.

The interactive tool helps companies work out their eligibility for the tax offset and calculate the maximum offset they can claim. It also displays labels that must be completed in the company tax return.

FBT deadline approaching

Employers need to remember the annual fringe benefits tax (FBT) deadline is rapidly approaching on 31 March 2022.

The FBT year runs from 1 April to 31 March, and you are required to self-assess your FBT liability for certain benefits you have provided to your employees or their families and other associates.

As an employer, you may be able to claim an income tax deduction for the cost of providing fringe benefits and for the amount of FBT you pay, so it’s important to get your paperwork in order.

New ‘right’ for businesses to request B2B eInvoicing

The government is currently consulting on whether to introduce a Business eInvoicing Right (BER) giving businesses the ‘right’ to ask other businesses to send an eInvoice for transactions.

The BER would be established as part of a new regulatory framework or under the Corporations Act 2001.

Implementation of the BER would be in three phases starting with large entities before moving to medium and finally small businesses.

Add industry codes to your ABN details

Holders of an Australian Business Number (ABN) can now include up to four additional business activities when updating their ABN details.

The extra information will help government agencies better target appropriate business support and stimulus measures.

If you offer business services other than those listed as your main business activity, it may be time to update your ABN details with some additional industry codes.

Focus on small business CGT concessions

The ATO has announced it’s paying closer attention to businesses mistakenly claiming small business capital gains tax (CGT) concessions to which they are not entitled.

Anyone claiming one or more small business CGT concessions in a recent income tax return may receive an ATO letter asking you to check your claim and ensure you meet the basic eligibility conditions.

The taxman is also encouraging taxpayers planning to claim a small business CGT concession to check what attracts its attention in this area.

Trading stock taken for private usage

If you take goods from your business’ trading stock for private use, you will need to check the updated values applying for both adults and children aged four to 16 when preparing your tax return.

The tax man has updated the value of goods it will accept for certain industries during 2021-22.

The new amounts will apply to owners of businesses such as cafes, greengrocers, takeaway food shops, mixed businesses, butcheries and bakeries.


How to calm those market jitters

It’s been a rocky start to the year on world markets but that doesn’t mean you should hit the panic button. Staying the course is generally the best course, but that’s easier said than done when there’s a big market fall.

In January markets plunged some 10 per cent but then staged a recovery. That volatile start may well be an indication of how the year pans out.i

The key reasons for this volatility are fear of inflation, the prospect of rising interest rates and pressure on corporate profits. Add to that ongoing concern surrounding COVID-19 and the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and it is hardly surprising markets are jittery.

But fear and the inevitable corrections in share prices that come with it are all a normal part of market action.

Downward pressures

Rising interest rates and inflation traditionally lead to downward pressure on shares as the improved returns from fixed interest investments start to make them look more attractive. However, it’s worth noting that inflation in Australia is nowhere near the levels in the US where inflation is at a 40-year high of 7.5 per cent. In fact, the Reserve Bank forecasts underlying inflation to grow to just 3.25 per cent in 2022 before dropping to 2.75 per cent next year.ii

Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe concedes interest rates may start to rise this year, with many market analysts looking at August. Even so, he doesn’t believe rates will climb higher than 1.5 to 2 per cent. After all, with the size of mortgages growing in line with rising property prices and high household debt to income levels, rates would not have to rise much to have an impact on household finances and spending.iii

Even with rate hikes on the cards, yields on deposits are likely to remain under 1 per cent for the foreseeable future compared with a grossed-up return (after including franking credits) from share dividends of about 5 per cent.iv

The old adage goes that it’s “time in” the market that counts, not “timing” the market. So if you rush to sell stocks because you fear they may fall further, you risk not only turning a paper loss into a real one, but you also risk missing the rebound in prices later on.

Over time, short-term losses tend to iron out. Growth assets such as shares offer higher returns in the long run with higher risk of volatility along the way. The important thing is to have an investment strategy that allows you to sleep at night and stay the course.

Chance to review

A downturn in the market can also present an opportunity to review your portfolio and make sure that it truly reflects your risk profile. Years of bullish performances on sharemarkets may have encouraged some people to take more risks than their profile would normally dictate.

After many years of strong market returns, it’s possible that your portfolio mix is no longer aligned with your investment strategy. You may also want to make sure you are sufficiently diversified across the asset classes to put yourself in the best position for current and future market conditions.

A recent study found that retirees generally have a low tolerance for losses in their retirement savings. Retirees often favour conservative investments to avoid experiencing downturns, but this means they may lose out on strong returns and capital growth when the market rebounds.

Think long term

Over the long term, shares tend to outperform all other asset classes. And even when share prices fall, you are still earning dividends from those shares. Indeed, the lower the price, the higher the yield on your share investments. And it is also worth noting that with Australia’s dividend imputation system, there are also tax advantages with share investments.

For long-term investors, rather than sell your shares in a kneejerk reaction, it might be worthwhile considering buying stocks at lower prices. This allows you to take advantage of dollar cost averaging, by lowering the average price you pay for a particular company’s shares.

Investments are generally for the long term, especially when it comes to your super. Chopping and changing investments in response to short-term market movements is unlikely to deliver the end results you initially planned.

If the current turbulence in world markets has unsettled you, call us to discuss your investment strategy and whether it still reflects your risk profile and long-term objectives.

https://tradingeconomics.com/stocks

ii https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-02-02/rba-governor-philip-lowe-press-club-address/100798394

iii https://www.ampcapital.com/au/en/insights-hub/articles/2022/february/the-rba-ends-bond-buying-but-remains-patient-on-rates-we-expect-the-first-rate-hike-in-august?csid=1135474712While

iv https://www.ampcapital.com/au/en/insights-hub/articles/2022/february/the-rba-ends-bond-buying-but-remains-patient-on-rates-we-expect-the-first-rate-hike-in-august?csid=1135474712While

Easing into Retirement

As the nation drifts back to work and study after the summer break, it’s often a time to start putting your New Year’s resolutions into practice. For some, an extended holiday may have convinced you that you are ready for more of the good life and that it’s time to retire.

In the past, that would have meant leaving work for good. These days, retirement is far more fluid.

You might simply want to wind back your working hours to give your mind and body room to breathe. Or you may want to leave your full-time job but keep your career ticking over with part-time or consulting work. Others may dream of leaving the nine to five to run a B&B or buy a hobby farm.

Changing retirement patterns

There are already signs that people’s retirement plans are changing.

In 2019, the average retirement age for current retirees was 55 (59 for men and 52 for womeni), but the age that people currently aged 45 intend to retire has increased to 64 for women and 65 for men.ii

There are many reasons for this gap between intentions and reality. Only 46 per cent of recent retirees said they left their last job because they reached retirement age or were eligible to access their super. Substantial numbers retired due to illness, injury or disability (21 per cent) while others were retrenched or unable to find work (11 per cent).iii

Retired women were also more likely than men to retire to care for others. But for people who can choose the timing of their retirement, there can be good reasons for delay.

Reasons for delaying retirement

As the Age Pension age increases gradually from 65 to 67, anyone who expects to rely on a full or part pension needs to work a little longer than previous generations.

We’re also living longer. A man aged 65 today can expect to live another 20 years on average while a woman can expect to live another 22 years.iv So the longer we can keep working and building a nest egg the further our retirement savings will stretch.

And then there’s COVID. If you lost your job or your hours were reduced during the pandemic, you may need to work a little longer to rebuild your savings. Even if you kept your job, you couldn’t go anywhere so you may have postponed your retirement plans. But now the COVID fog is lifting, and borders are reopening, retirement may be back on the agenda.

Whatever shape your dream retirement takes, you will need to work out how much it will cost and if you have sufficient savings to make it happen.

Sourcing your retirement income

The more you have in super and other investments the more flexibility you have when it comes to timing your retirement. If you plan to retire this year, you will need to be 66 and six months and pass assets and income tests to apply for the Age Pension. But you don’t have to wait that long to access your super.

Generally, you can tap into your super once you reach your preservation age (between age 55 and 60 depending on the year you were born) and meet a condition of release such as retirement. From age 65 you can withdraw your super even if you continue working full time.

But super can also help you transition into retirement, without giving up work entirely.

Preservation age

Date of birthPreservation age
Before 1 July 196055
1 July 1960 – 30 June 196156
1 July 1961 – 30 June 196257
1 July 1962 – 30 June 196358
1 July 1963 – 30 June 196459
From 1 July 196460

Source: ATO

Transition to retirement

If you’re unsure whether you will enjoy retirement or find enough to do to fill your days, it can make sense to ease into it by cutting back your working hours. One way of making this work financially is to start a transition to retirement (TTR) pension with some of your super.

Case study

Ellie, a teacher, has just turned 60. She wants to reduce her workload to three days a week so she can explore other interests and gradually ease into retirement. Her salary will drop but if she starts a TTR pension she can top up her income with regular monthly withdrawals.

Most super funds offer TTR pensions, or you can start one from your self-managed super fund (SMSF). You decide how much to transfer into a TTR pension account, but there are some rules:

  • You must have reached your preservation age
  • Money can only be withdrawn as an income stream, not a lump sum
  • There is a minimum annual withdrawal amount, for example, 4 per cent of your TTR account balance (2 per cent until June 2022) if you are aged 55-64
  • The maximum annual withdrawal is 10 per cent of your TTR account balance
  • Income is tax-free if you are aged 60 or older; if you’re 55-59 you may pay tax on the TTR income, but you receive a tax offset of 15 per cent.

One of the benefits of this strategy is that while you continue working you will receive compulsory Super Guarantee payments from your employer. A downside is that you will potentially have less super in total when you finally retire.

Retirement is no longer a fixed date in time, with far more flexibility to mix work and play as you make the transition. If you would like to discuss your retirement options and how to finance them, give us a call.

i, iii https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/labour/employment-and-unemployment/retirement-and-retirement-intentions-australia/latest-release

ii https://newsroom.kpmg.com.au/will-retire-data-tells-story/

iv https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/life-expectancy-death/deaths-in-australia/contents/life-expectancy

Spring 2021

It’s September and spring is here, providing a welcome lift in spirits. After some spectacular performances by our athletes at the recent Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, hopefully you are inspired to achieve some personal goals of your own.

August provided mixed economic news, with central banks, business and consumers remaining cautious. In a widely-reported speech, US Federal Reserve chair, Jerome Powell said there remained “much ground to cover” before he would consider lifting interest rates, sending stocks higher and bond yields lower.

In Australia, shares and shareholders were boosted by a positive company reporting season. According to CommSec, of the ASX200 companies that have reported so far, 84% reported a profit in the year to June, 73% lifted profits and dividends were up 70% to $34 billion. One of the COVID “winners” is the construction sector. While the value of construction rose 0.4% overall in the year to June, the value of residential building was up 8.9% and renovations rose 24.5%, the strongest in 21 years. One of the COVID “losers”, retail trade was down 3.1% in the year to June.

While unemployment fell from 4.9% to 4.6% in July, full-time jobs and hours worked were lower due to the impact of lockdowns. The Westpac-Melbourne Institute index of consumer sentiment fell 4.4% in August while the NAB business confidence index fell 18.5 points in July, the second biggest monthly decline since the GFC. Wages grew 1.7% in the year to June, well below the 3% the Reserve Bank wants before it considers lifting interest rates.

Iron ore prices fell 18% in August, while the Aussie dollar finished the month weaker at US73.2c.

Aged care payment options

When it comes time to investigate residential aged care for yourself, your partner, parent or relative, the search for a facility and how to pay for it can seem daunting. The system is complex, and decisions are often made in the midst of a health crisis.

Factors such as location to family and friends, reputation for care or general appeal are just as important as the sometimes-high price of a room and other fees in residential aged care.

Even so, costs can’t be ignored.i

Accommodation charges

The first thing to be aware of when researching your residential aged care options is that there are separate costs for the accommodation and the care provided by the facility.

The accommodation payment essentially covers your right to occupy a room. You can pay this accommodation fee as a lump sum called the Refundable Accommodation Deposit (RAD), or a daily rate similar to rent, or combination of both.

The daily rate is known as the Daily Accommodation Payment or DAP and is effectively a daily interest rate set by the government. The current daily rate is 4.04 per cent. If the RAD is $550,000 then the equivalent DAP is $60.87 a day ($550,000 x 4.04%, divided by 365 days).

A resident can pay as much or as little towards the RAD as they choose, but any outstanding amount is charged as a DAP.

The RAD is fully refundable to the estate, unless it is used to pay any of the aged care costs such as the DAP.

Daily fees

As well as an accommodation cost there are daily resident fees that cover living and care costs. There is a basic daily fee which everyone pays and is set at 85 per cent of the basic single Age Pension. The current rate is $52.71 a day and covers the essentials such as food, laundry, utilities and basic care.

Then there is a means tested care fee which is determined by Services Australia or Veteran’s Affairs. This figure can range from $0 to about $256 a day depending on a person’s income and assets. The figure has an indexed annual and a lifetime cap – currently set at $28,339 a year or $68,013 over a lifetime.

Some facilities offer extra services, where a compulsory extra services fee is paid. It has nothing to do with care but may include extras like special outings, a choice of meals, wine with meals and daily newspaper delivery. It can range from $20-$100 a day.

A means assessment determines if you need to pay the means-tested care fee and if the government will contribute to your accommodation costs. Everyone who moves into an aged care home is quoted a room price before moving in. The means assessment then determines if you will have to pay the agreed room price, or RAD, or contribute towards it.

How means testing works

A means-tested amount above a certain threshold is used to determine whether you pay the quoted RAD and how much the government will contribute towards the means-tested care fee.

A person on the full Age Pension and with property and assets below about $37,155 would have all their costs met by the government, except the $52.71 a day basic daily fee.

A person on the full Age Pension with a home and a protected person, such as their spouse, living in it and assets between $37,155 and $173,075 may be asked to contribute towards their accommodation and care.

To be classified a low means resident there would be assessable assets below $173,075.20 (indexed). It is also subject to an income test.

A low means resident may pay a Daily Accommodation Contribution (DAC) instead of a DAP which can then be converted to a Refundable Accommodation Contribution (RAC). They may also pay a small means-tested care fee.

Payment strategies

The fees you may pay for residential care and how you pay them requires careful consideration. For example, selling assets such as the former home to pay for your residential care can affect your aged care fees and Age Pension entitlements.

If you would like to discuss aged care payment options and how to ensure you find the right residential care at a cost you or your loved one can afford, give us a call.

i All costs quoted in this article are available on https://www.myagedcare.gov.au/aged-care-home-costs-and-fees

Tax Alert September 2021

Although smaller businesses are now enjoying a lower corporate tax rate, their quarterly super bills have gone up, following the latest indexed rise in the Super Guarantee rate.

Here’s a roundup of some of the other key developments when it comes to the world of tax.

SME tax rate drops

With business conditions remaining tough, small and medium companies will welcome the lower corporate tax rate applying from 1 July 2021. Businesses with a turnover under $50 million are now only up for tax of 25 per cent.

This reduction was part of legislation passed back in 2018 to gradually reduce the corporate tax rate from 27.5 per cent to 25 per cent.

More small companies are eligible for this lower rate as the turnover threshold to access a range of tax concessions has been lifted from $10 million to $50 million.

Reminder on SG increase

If you are an employer, don’t forget the Superannuation Guarantee (SG) rate increased by 0.5 per cent on 1 July 2021, making the annual rate 10 per cent.

When paying SG contributions for the July to September quarter for your employees, check your calculations are based on the new, higher rate to ensure you don’t run into problems with the ATO.

The higher SG rate may also increase your Workcover premiums and payroll tax liability.

Tax status of COVID-19 grants

If your business is taking advantage of the financial support provided by state and territory governments during pandemic lockdowns, it’s essential to check the strict tax rules covering these grants.

Most of these financial supports have been given a concessional tax status and are classed as non-assessable non-exempt (NANE) income, but only grants paid in the 2020-21 and 2021-22 financial years currently qualify.

For the grant to qualify for NANE income tax status, your business’s aggregated turnover for the current year must be under $50 million. You are also required to be carrying on a business in the current financial year and the grant program must be declared an eligible grant through a legislative instrument.

Continuation of full expensing and loss carry-back

In more good news, eligible business taxpayers who took advantage of the government’s full expensing and loss carry-back measures in the past financial year will be able to use them again this financial year.

The temporary full expensing regime was introduced to help businesses with an aggregate annual turnover of under $5 billion to cope with the financial challenges of the pandemic. Eligible businesses can deduct the full cost of any eligible depreciable assets purchased after 6 October 2020.

Similarly, eligible companies will also be able to carry-back tax losses from the current income year (2021-22) to offset previously taxed profits going as far back as 2018-19 when they lodge their business tax return.

FBT exemption for retraining and reskilling

The ATO is reminding employers that if they provide training or education to employees who are made redundant, or soon to be redundant, the cost is exempt from fringe benefits tax (FBT).

Eligible employers using the exemption are not required to include the retraining in their FBT returns, or in the reportable fringe benefits listed in the employee’s Single Touch Payroll reporting or payment summary.

You are, however, required to keep a detailed record of all the training and education provided if you intend claiming this exemption.

Changes to SuperStream

And finally, a reminder that from 1 October 2021, self-managed super funds (SMSFs) will only be able to roll member benefits into and out of their fund using SuperStream. Some electronic release authorities will also need to be processed using SuperStream.

SMSF trustees need to ensure their fund will be ready to meet the new requirements by checking the details recorded with the ATO are up-to-date for both the fund and its members.

Trustees should also check they have provided the ATO with details of the fund’s ABN and unique bank account for super payments.

Future proofing your career with professional development

“The only thing that is constant is change” – so said the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus and it continues to ring true today.

Industries are changing, continuing to evolve in response to challenges (such as the COVID-19 pandemic), technological disruptors and customer expectations. As a result, there is a greater need for the workforce to continue to adapt and develop. We need to be agile to stay on top of these changes, continue developing and learning, which will work towards future proofing our careers.

While some industries have formal professional development programs, there are many ways to foster your own development for those who don’t have formal pathways. Here is how you can take the lead to future proof your career.

Enrol in a course

Some workplaces offer both in-person and online courses, for example LinkedIn Learning, so take advantage of what’s on offer. You can also seek out professional courses relevant to your industry to upskill, keeping you abreast of the changing environment – not to mention that further education is a great additional to your CV as it showcases your engagement within the industry and your proactive approach to your career.

Attend webinars or seminars

While COVID restrictions have halted many in-person seminars, there are plenty of online webinars you can attend, some which are specifically on the topic of future proofing your career. While there are a number of free webinars you can attend, others may be offered by organisations to their members. Paid membership to these organisations be they industry groups, or groups centred around a common goal, can be a worthwhile investment assisting with not only educational sessions but networking opportunities.

Not only are webinars accessible from your office or living room, they tend to be more budget-friendly than seminars. However, seminars offer face-to-face learning and networking opportunities, so they are great to utilise where possible.

Pick up a book or listen to podcasts

It doesn’t get easier than picking up a book to arm yourself with new knowledge. There is a wealth of information out there, some which will be general advice discussing trends and management styles, others that will be tailored to your industry.

If you don’t have much time to read, opt for an audio book to listen to in the car or during exercise. Podcasts are also excellent ways of getting helpful information in a format that is convenient and can be tapped in and out of. As they are regularly created, you’re likely to get more up-to-date information this way.

Enlist the help of a mentor

It’s clear that a mentor can help you stay on top of your industry or explore new opportunities by providing support and guidance. A 2019 survey showed that while 76% of people thought mentors are important, only 37% actually have one.i

The study also found that 61% of mentor-mentee relationships developed naturally, with 25% happening after someone offered to mentor, and 14% when someone asked for a mentor. This means that there’s likely to already be someone in your life who could be your mentor. Think about who is dynamic in facing industry changes and don’t be shy to ask if they’re open to mentoring you.

Join peer groups

An extension of having a mentor, peer groups provide you with the support of others who are also dedicated to professional and personal growth. If you are someone who thrives on peer support, it will be invaluable to be part of a group of people rather than going it alone.

You can give each other feedback, check in on each other’s goals and share helpful experiences and resources such as great books or webinars. This is also a fantastic way to make real-life connections – you might even meet someone who helps you land a new job or open doors to a new industry. Online tools such as Meetup can help you find a group near you and keep an eye on industry meetups as well.

Life is full of change, but rather than feeling overwhelmed, embrace it. By furthering your education, you’ll future proof your career and feel more empowered tackling the changes you face.

https://online.olivet.edu/research-statistics-on-professional-mentors

Investing Lessons from the Pandemic

When the coronavirus pandemic hit financial markets in March 2020, almost 40 per cent was wiped off the value of shares in less than a month.i Understandably, many investors hit the panic button and switched to cash or withdrew savings from superannuation.

With the benefit of hindsight, some people may be regretting acting in haste. Although for others, accessing their super under the early release due to COVID measures was a difficult but necessary decision at the time.

As it happened, shares rebounded faster than anyone dared predict. Australian shares rose 28 per cent in the year to June 2020 while global shares rose 37 per cent. Balanced growth super funds returned 18 per cent for the year, their best performance in 24 years.ii

While every financial crisis is different, some investment rules are timeless. So, what are the lessons of the last 18 months?

Lesson #1 Ignore the noise

When markets suffer a major fall as they did last year, the sound can be deafening. From headlines screaming bloodbath, to friends comparing the fall in their super account balance and their dashed retirement hopes.

Yet as we have seen, markets and market sentiment can swing quickly. That’s because on any given day markets don’t just reflect economic fundamentals but the collective mood swings of all the buyers and sellers. In the long run though, the underlying value of investments generally outweighs short-term price fluctuations.

One of the key lessons of the past 18 months is that ignoring the noisy doomsayers and focussing on long-term investing is better for your wealth.

Lesson #2 Stay diversified

Another lesson is the importance of diversification. By spreading your money across and within asset classes you can minimise the risk of one bad investment or short-term fall in one asset class wiping out your savings.

Diversification also helps smooth out your returns in the long run. For example, in the year to June 2020, Australian shares and listed property fell sharply, but positive returns from bonds and cash acted as a buffer reducing the overall loss of balanced growth super funds to 0.5%.

The following 12 months to June 2021 shares and property bounced back strongly, taking returns of balanced growth super funds to 18 per cent. But investors who switched to cash at the depths of the market despair in March last year would have gone backwards after fees and tax.

More importantly, over the past 10 years balanced growth funds have returned 8.6 per cent per year on average after tax and investment fees. High growth funds returned 10.3 per cent per year and the most conservative funds returned 5.5 per cent per year.ii

The mix of investments you choose will depend on your age and tolerance for risk. The younger you are, the more you can afford to have in more aggressive assets that carry a higher level of risk, such as shares and property to grow your wealth over the long term. But even retirees can benefit from having some of their savings in growth assets to help replenish their nest egg even as they withdraw income.

Lesson #3 Stay the course

The Holy Grail of investing is to buy at the bottom of the market and sell when it peaks. If only it were that easy. Even the most experienced fund managers acknowledge that investors with a balanced portfolio should expect a negative return one year in every five or so.

Unfortunately, we can only ever be sure when a market has peaked or troughed after the event, by which time it’s usually too late. By switching out of shares and into cash after the market crashed in March last year, investors would have turned short-term paper losses into a real loss with the potential to put a big dent in their long-term savings.

Even if you had seen the writing on the wall in February 2020 and switched to cash, it’s unlikely you would have switched back into shares in time to catch the full benefit of the upswing that followed.

Timing the market on the way in and the way out is extremely difficult, if not impossible.

Looking ahead

Every new generation of investors has a pivotal experience where lessons are learned. For older investors, it may have been the crash of ’87, the tech wreck of the early 2000s or the global financial crisis. For younger investors and many older ones too, the coronavirus pandemic will be a defining moment in their investing journey.

Now that shares and residential property prices have rebounded strongly, investors face new challenges. That is, how to make the most of the prevailing market conditions while ignoring the FOMO (fear of missing out) crowd.

By choosing an asset allocation that aligns with your age and risk tolerance then staying the course, you can sail through the market highs and lows with your sights firmly set on your investment horizon. Of course, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make adjustments or take advantage of opportunities along the way.

We’re here to guide you through the highs and lows of investing, so give us a call if you would like to discuss your investment strategy.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/lizfrazierpeck/2021/02/11/the-coronavirus-crash-of-2020-and-the-investing-lesson-it-taught-us/?sh=241a03a46cfc

ii https://www.chantwest.com.au/resources/super-funds-post-a-stunning-gain

New Financial Year

As the new financial year gets underway, there are some big changes to superannuation that could add up to a welcome lift in your retirement savings.

Some, like the rise in the Superannuation Guarantee (SG), will happen automatically so you won’t need to lift a finger. Others, like higher contribution caps, may require some planning to get the full benefit.

Whether you are just starting your super journey or close to retirement, a member of a big super fund or your own self-managed super fund (SMSF), it pays to know what’s on offer.

Here’s a summary of the changes starting from 1 July 2021.

Increase in the Super Guarantee

If you are an employee, the amount your employer contributes to your super fund has just increased to 10 per cent of your pre-tax ordinary time earnings, up from 9.5 per cent. For higher income earners, employers are not required to pay the SG on amounts you earn above $58,920 per quarter (up from $57,090 in 2020-21).

Say you earn $100,000 a year before tax. In the 2021-22 financial year your employer is required to contribute $10,000 into your super account, up from $9,500 last financial year. For younger members especially, that could add up to a substantial increase in your retirement savings once time and compound earnings weave their magic.

The SG rate is scheduled to rise again to 10.5 per cent on 1 July 2022 and gradually increase until it reaches 12% on 1 July 2025.

Higher contributions caps

The annual limits on the amount you can contribute to super have also been lifted, for the first time in four years.

The concessional (before tax) contributions cap has increased from $25,000 a year to $27,500. These contributions include SG payments from your employer as well as any salary sacrifice arrangements you have in place and personal contributions you claim a tax deduction for.

At the same time, the cap on non-concessional (after tax) contributions has gone up from $100,000 to $110,000. This means the amount you can contribute under a bring-forward arrangement has also increased, provided you are eligible.

Under the bring-forward rule, you can put up to three years’ non-concessional contributions into your super in a single financial year. So this year, if eligible, you could potentially contribute up to $330,000 this way (3 x $110,000), up from $300,000 previously. This is a useful strategy if you receive a windfall and want to use some of it to boost your retirement savings.

More generous Total Super Balance and Transfer Balance Cap

Super remains the most tax-efficient savings vehicle in the land, but there are limits to how much you can squirrel away in super for your retirement. These limits, however, have just become a little more generous.

The Total Super Balance (TSB) threshold which determines whether you can make non-concessional (after-tax) contributions in a financial year is assessed at 30 June of the previous financial year. The TSB at which no non-concessional contributions can be made this financial year will increase to $1.7 million from $1.6 million.

Just to confuse matters, the same limit applies to the amount you can transfer from your accumulation account into a retirement phase super pension. This is known as the Transfer Balance Cap (TBC), and it has also just increased to $1.7 million from $1.6 million.

If you retired and started a super pension before July 1 this year, your TBC may be less than $1.7 million and you may not be able to take full advantage of the increased TBC. The rules are complex, so get in touch if you would like to discuss your situation.

Reduction in minimum pension drawdowns extended

In response to record low interest rates and volatile investment markets, the government has extended the temporary 50 per cent reduction in minimum pension drawdowns until 30 June 2022.

Retirees with certain super pensions and annuities are required to withdraw a minimum percentage of their account balance each year. Due to the impact of the pandemic on retiree finances, the minimum withdrawal amounts were also halved for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 financial years.

Age of retireeTemporary minimum withdrawalNormal minimum withdrawal
Under 652%4%
65 to 742.5%5%
75 to 793%6%
80 to 843.5%7%
85 to 894.5%9%
90 to 945.5%11%
95 or older7%14%

Source: ATO

But wait, there’s more

Next financial year is also shaping up as a big one for super, with most of the changes announced in the May Federal Budget expected to start on 1 July 2022.

The Budget included proposals to:

  • repeal the work test for people aged 67 to 74 who want to contribute to super
  • reduce the minimum age for making a downsizer contribution (using sale proceeds from your family home) from 65 to 60
  • abolish the $450 per month income limit for receiving the Super Guarantee
  • expand the First Home Super Saver Scheme
  • provide a two-year window to commute legacy income streams
  • allow lump sum withdrawals from the Pension Loans Scheme
  • relax SMSF residency requirements.

All these measures still need to be passed by parliament and legislated.

Time to prepare

There’s a lot for super fund members to digest. SMSF trustees in particular will need to ensure they document changes that affect any of the members in their fund. But these latest changes also present retirement planning opportunities.

Whatever your situation, if you would like to discuss how to make the most of the new rules, please get in touch.

Winter 2021

It’s June which means winter has officially arrived. As we rug up and spend more time indoors, it’s a perfect time to get your financial house in order as another financial year draws to a close. And what a year it has been!

The local economic news in May was dominated by the federal Budget, and better-than-expected economic data. Australia’s budget deficit is smaller than expected just six months ago, at $177.1 billion in April. This was underpinned by rising iron ore prices, up 22% this year, and higher tax receipts from more confident businesses and consumers.

The NAB business confidence and business conditions ratings hit record highs in April of +26 points and +32 points respectively. New business investment rose 6.3% in the March quarter, the biggest quarterly lift in nine years. Housing construction is also going gangbusters, up 5.1% in the March quarter while renovations were up 10.8% thanks to low interest rates and government incentives. Retail spending is also recovering, up 1.1% in April and 25.1% on a year ago. The ANZ-Roy Morgan weekly consumer confidence index rose steadily during May to a 19-month high of 114.2 points, well above the long-term average. As a result of the pick-up in economic activity, unemployment fell from 5.7% to 5.5% in April.

In response to all this, the Reserve Bank lifted its economic growth forecast to 9.25% for the year to June and 4.75% for calendar 2021. If realised, this would be the strongest growth in 30 years, albeit rising out of last year’s COVID recession. The major sticking point remains wages. Wage growth was 0.6% in the March quarter but just 1.5% on an annual basis, below inflation. The Aussie dollar finished May at around US77c after nudging US79c earlier in the month.

Counting down to June 30

It’s been a year of change like no other and that extends to tax and superannuation. As the end of the financial year approaches, now is a good time to check some new and not so new ways to reduce tax and boost your savings.

With so many of us confined to our homes over the past year, the big deductible item this year is likely to be working from home expenses.

Home office expenses

If you have been working from home, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has introduced a temporary shortcut method which can be used for the 2020-21 financial year. This allows you to claim 80c for each hour you worked from home during the year.i

The shortcut method covers the additional running costs for home expenses such as electricity, phone, internet, cleaning and the decline in value of home office furniture and equipment.

Some people may get a better result claiming the work-related portion of their actual working from home expenses using the actual cost method.

Alternatively, if you do have a dedicated home office, you can claim using the fixed rate method. The fixed rate is 52c an hour for every hour you work at home and covers things like gas and electricity, and the decline in value or repair of office furniture and furnishings. On top of this, you may be able to claim the work-related portion of phone and internet expenses, computer and stationery supplies, and the decline in value of your digital devices.ii

Pre-pay expenses

While COVID has changed many things, some things stay the same. Such as the potential benefits of pre-paying next year’s expenses to claim a tax deduction against this year’s income.

Some examples are pre-paying 12 months’ premiums for your income protection insurance and work-related expenses such as professional subscriptions and union fees. If you are unsure what you can claim, the ATO has a guide for a range of occupations.

If you own an investment property, you might also consider pre-paying 12 months’ interest on your loan and other property-related expenses.

Top up your super

If your super could do with a boost and you have cash to spare, now is the time to check whether you are making the most of the contribution strategies available to you.

You can make tax-deductible contributions up to $25,000 a year, including Super Guarantee payments by your employer. You can also contribute up to $100,000 a year after tax. From July 1 these caps will increase to $27,500 and $110,000 respectively, so it’s important to factor this into decisions you make before June 30.

For instance, if you recently received a windfall and are considering using the ‘bring forward’ rule, you might consider holding off until after July 1. This rule allows you to bring forward two years’ after-tax contributions. By holding off until July 1 you could contribute up to $330,000 under the new limits.

Also increasing on July 1 is the amount you can transfer from your super account into a pension account. The transfer balance cap is increasing from $1.6 million to $1.7 million.

So if you are about to retire and your super balance is close to the cap, it may be worth delaying until after June 30. Finally, from 1 July 2020, if you are under age 67 you can now make voluntary contributions without meeting a work test. And if 2020-21 is the first year that you no longer satisfy the work test, you may still be able to add to your super if you had a total super balance below $300,000 on 1 July 2020.

Manage investment gains and losses

Now is a good time to look at your portfolio for any loss-making investments with a view to selling before June 30. Any capital loss may potentially be used to offset some or all of your gains.

Of course, any decisions to buy or sell should fit with your overall investment strategy and not for tax reasons alone.

For all the challenges of the past year, there are still many ways to improve your overall financial situation. So get in touch to make the most of strategies available to you to before June 30.

https://www.ato.gov.au/general/covid-19/support-for-individuals-and-employees/employees-working-from-home

ii https://www.ato.gov.au/individuals/income-and-deductions/deductions-you-can-claim/home-office-expenses/

Tax Alert June 2021

The Government is continuing to support COVID-affected businesses by extending most of its pandemic inspired tax offsets and benefits. But at the same time the ATO has micro businesses like contractors who fail to declare all their income in its sights.

Here’s a roundup of some of the key developments when it comes to tax.



LMITO extended again

For individual taxpayers, an important tax change is the Budget announcement of another one-year extension to the current low- and middle-income tax offset (LMITO) for 2021-22.

This welcome decision will provide a valuable tax offset of up to $1,080 for individuals and $2,160 for dual income families as taxpayers repair their post pandemic finances.


Continuation of full expensing and loss carry-back

Business taxpayers should also be happy with the Budget announcement of an extension to the full expensing and loss carry-back measures. Under the full expensing rules, eligible businesses with an aggregate annual turnover of up to $5 billion are able to deduct the full cost of eligible depreciable assets until 30 June 2023.

Eligible companies can also carry-back tax losses from the 2022-23 income year to offset previously taxed profits as far back as 2018-19. This tax refund is available when you lodge your business tax return for the 2020-21, 2021-22 and 2022-23 financial years.


ATO tracks contractor payments

While the Budget provided tax incentives, contractors working in courier, cleaning, building and construction, road freight, IT, security and surveillance industries are increasingly under the tax man’s spotlight.

The ATO has announced it’s now combining data from its Taxable Payments Reporting System (TPRS) with its other data and analytical tools to ensure more than $172 billion in payments to contracting businesses have been properly declared. The ATO is now proactively contacting contractors identified as not declaring income reported by their customers through the TPRS.


New food and drink limits

The new reasonable weekly food and drink amounts businesses can pay an employee as a living-away-from-home allowance (LAFHA) have been released.

For this FBT year (starting 1 April 2021), the ATO considers it reasonable to pay an adult working in Australia a total food and drink expense of $283 per week. As an employer, if you pay more than this you will be liable for FBT on the LAFHA over this amount.


New tax umpire

Small businesses will now have more rights to pause or modify the collection of tax debts under dispute with the ATO.

The Budget included an announcement that small businesses will be able to apply to the Small Business Taxation Division of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to have an ATO debt recovery action paused until their case is decided.


End to STP exemption

From 1 July 2021, the exemption for small employers on reporting closely held payees through the Single Touch Payroll (STP) system will end.

This exemption allowed small employers to not report payee information for any individuals directly related to the business. Closely held payees include family members of a family business, directors or shareholders of a company, or beneficiaries of a trust.


More support brewing

The Budget also recognised the importance of small business entrepreneurs and technology-driven innovators, with incentives to spur economic growth.

Brewery and distillation businesses will also benefit from a new measure giving them full remission (up from 60 per cent) of any excise paid on alcohol produced up to a new $350,000 cap on the Excise Refund Scheme from 1 July 2021.

The Budget also recognised the growth in local digital gaming businesses, with a new Digital Games Tax Offset. From 1 July 2022, eligible game developers will be able to access a 30 per cent refundable tax offset for qualifying Australian games expenditure of up to $20 million a year.

The Government also plans to provide tax incentives for medical and biotechnology companies by introducing a new ‘patent box’ from 1 July 2022. Income from patents will be taxed at 17 per cent, rather than the normal 30 per cent corporate rate.


The financial rewards of optimism

If it wasn’t already clear, the past 12 months certainly cemented the fact that life has a habit of throwing us the occasional curveball. The reality is we all face challenges, however approaching life with a positive mindset can help us deal with any issues we may face and improve our lives in many ways.

Having a positive outlook not only improves our health and wellbeing, it can also have a meaningful and very positive impact on our finances.

How optimism can improve our finances

If you have a cautious or anxious approach to your finances, such as worrying you’ll never have enough money or being wary of spending, it will likely come as a surprise to hear that being optimistic can improve your financial situation.

A recent study connected the link between financial well-being and an optimistic mindset, finding that people who classify themselves as optimists enjoy 62 per cent fewer days of financial stress per year compared to pessimists.

Superior financial well-being

When you are positive in your outlook, you are also much more likely to follow better financial habits in managing your money. Optimists tend to save for major purchases, with around 90 percent of optimists having saved for a significant purchase, be it a car, a house or an overseas holiday, compared to pessimists at just 70 per cent.i

However, optimism does not equal naivety and optimists still tend to have contingency plans in place for unforeseen events that may detrimentally impact their bottom line. Some 66 per cent of optimists had an emergency fund, compared to under 50 percent of the pessimists.i

This goes to show that maintaining an optimistic approach to your finances does still involve planning for the future. By being prepared, you’ll reduce the stress that comes from feeling the rug could be pulled from beneath you without a safety net.

Your career and earning capacity

An optimistic approach to life and your career leads to achieving greater career success and the financial rewards that come with being successful in your job.

Optimists are 40 percent more likely than pessimists to receive a promotion within a space of twelve months and up to six times more predisposed to being highly engaged in their chosen career.i

Changing your attitude

Knowing that optimism is great for your wallet and your health is one thing, but how do you shift your outlook? If you’re prone to worry, focussing on pessimistic outcomes or a bit of a sceptic, looking on the bright side of life can seem easier said than done.

It is possible to nurture optimism, and you get this opportunity every day. Cultivating optimism can be as simple as adopting optimistic behaviours.

So, what are the financial behaviours of optimists that we can emulate?

Optimists tend to be more comfortable talking about and learning about money and are more likely to follow expert financial advice than their more pessimistic peers.

Positive people display a correspondingly positive approach to their finances. They tend to put plans in place and have the courage to dream big. You don’t have to be too ambitious in how you carry out those plans, every small step you take will help you to get where you want to be.

Everyone experiences setbacks at various times, however optimists rise to these challenges, learning from their past mistakes and persisting in their endeavours. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you are experiencing difficulties. We all face challenges and during these times, focus on solutions rather than just the problems, be conscious of your “internal talk” and don’t be afraid to seek out support. It’s important to focus on what you can do differently going forward, this could be as simple as working towards a “rainy day” fund.

It’s never too late to change your outlook. By embracing optimism, you can reap the rewards that a more positive outlook provides.

https://www.optforoptimism.com/optimism/optimismresearch.pdf/

Investing in recovery

In his third and possibly last Budget before the next federal election, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is counting on a new wave of spending to ensure Australia’s economic recovery maintains its momentum.

As expected, the focus is on jobs and major new spending on support for aged care, women and first-home buyers with some superannuation sweeteners for good measure.

With the emphasis on spending, balancing the Budget has been put on the back burner until employment and wages pick up.

The big picture

This year’s Budget is based on a successful vaccine rollout which would allow Australia’s borders to open from mid-2022. The Treasurer says he expects all Australians who want to be vaccinated could have two doses by the end of the year.

So far, the economic outlook is better than anyone dared hope at the height of the pandemic just a year ago, but challenges remain.

Unemployment, at 5.6%, has already fallen below pre-pandemic levels and is expected to fall sharply to 5% by mid-2022. But wage growth remains stubbornly low, currently growing at rate of 1.25% and forecast to rise by just 1.5% next year. This is well below inflation which is forecast to rise 3.5% in 2020-21 and 1.75% in 2021-22.

The treasurer forecast a budget deficit of $161 billion this financial year (7.8% of GDP), $52.7 billion less than expected just six months ago, and $106.6 billion (5% of GDP) in 2021-22.

Net debt is forecast to increase to an eye-watering $617.5 billion (30% of GDP) by June this year before peaking at $920.4 billion four years from now.

The large improvement in the deficit has been underpinned by the stronger than expected economic recovery and booming iron ore prices. Iron ore prices have surged 44% this year to a record US$228 recently.i

Funding for aged care

The centrepiece of the Budget is a $17.7 billion commitment over five years to implement key recommendations of the Aged Care Royal Commission. This includes $7.8 billion to reform residential aged care and $6.5 billion for an immediate investment in an additional 80,000 Home Care Packages.

In other health-related initiatives, the Treasurer announced additional funding of $13.2 billion over the next four years for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, taking total funding to $122 billion.

And in recognition of the toll the pandemic has taken on the nation’s mental health, the Government will provide an extra $2.3 billion for mental health and suicide prevention services.

Focus on Women

After criticism that last year’s Budget did not do enough to support women’s economic engagement, this Budget works hard to restore gender equity. The Women’s Budget Statement outlines total spending of $3.4 billion on women’s safety and economic security.

Funding initiatives include:

  • Funding for domestic violence prevention more than doubled to at least $680 million.
  • Funding for women’s health, including cervical and breast cancer and endometriosis and reproductive health, boosted by $354 million over the next four years.ii
  • Increased subsidies for second and subsequent children in childcare from a maximum of 85% to 95%, while families with household incomes above $189,390 will no longer have their annual payments capped at $10,560.iii

While childcare is of benefit to all parents, it is generally mothers who rely on affordable care to increase their working hours.

As widely touted, proposed changes to superannuation and support for first home buyers also have women in mind.

Superannuation gets a boost

In a move that will benefit part-time workers who are largely women, the Treasurer announced he will scrap the requirement for workers to earn at least $450 a month before their employers are obliged to pay super.

The Government will also expand a scheme allowing retirees to make a one-off super contribution of up to $300,000 (or $600,000 per couple) when they downsize and sell their family home. The age requirement will be lowered from 65 to 60.

In addition, from 1 July 2022 the work test that currently applies to super contributions (when either making or receiving non-concessional or salary sacrificed contributions) made by people aged 67 to 74 will be abolished.

Despite opposition from within Coalition ranks, Superannuation Guarantee payments by employers will increase from the current 9.5% of earnings to 10% on 1 July and then gradually increase to 12% as originally legislated.

Support for first home buyers

Housing affordability is on the agenda again as the property market booms. To help first home buyers and single parents get a foot on the housing ladder, the Government has announcediv:

  • The Family Home Guarantee, which will allow 10,000 single parents to buy a home with a deposit of just 2%.
  • An extra 10,000 places on the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme in 2020-21. Now called the New Home Guarantee, the scheme gives loan guarantees to first home buyers, so they can buy a home with a deposit as low as 5%.
  • An increase in the maximum voluntary contributions that Australians can release under the First Home Super Saver Scheme from $30,000 to $50,000.

Improvements to the Pensions Loan Scheme

In a move that will please cash-strapped pensioners, the Treasurer announced that the Pensions Loan scheme – a form of reverse mortgage offered by the Government – will allow people to withdraw a capped lump sum from 1 July 2022. Currently income must be taken as regular income, which makes it difficult to fund larger purchases or home maintenance.

Under the new rules, a single person will be able to withdraw up to the equivalent to 50% of the maximum Age Pension each year, currently around $12,385 a year ($18,670 for couples).

The Government will also introduce a No Negative Equity Guarantee which means the loan amount can never exceed the value of the home.

Tax cuts for low-and-middle-income earners

Approximately ten million Australians will avoid a drop in income of up to $1,080 next financial year, with the low-and-middle-income tax offset extended for another 12 months at a cost of $7.8 billion.

Anyone earning between $37,000 and $126,000 a year will receive some benefit, with people earning between $48,001 and $90,000 to receive the full offset of $1,080.

Low and middle income tax offset

Taxable incomeOffset
$37,000 or less$255
Between $37,001 and $48,000$255 plus 7.5 cents for every dollar above $37,000, up to a maximum of $1,080
Between $48,001 and $90,000$1,080
Between $90,001 and $126,000$1,080 minus 3 cents for every dollar of the amount above $90,000

Source: ATO

Job creation and training

With companies warning of labour shortages while the nation’s borders are closed, the Government has been under pressure to do more to help unemployed Australians back into work.

So, the focus in this Budget is squarely on skills training with $6.4 billion on offer to increase workforce participation and help boost economic growth.

This includes a 12-month extension to the Government’s JobTrainer program to December 2022 and an additional 163,000 places. The Treasurer also announced funding of $2.7 billion for 170,000 new apprenticeships.

Job creation is also at the heart of an extra $15.2 billion in road and rail infrastructure projects, expected to create 30,000 jobs. This is on top of the existing 10-year $110 billion infrastructure spend announced previously.

Looking ahead

With an election due by May 21 next year, this is as much an election Budget as a COVID-recovery one. Although another Budget could be squeezed in before an election, it would have to be brought forward from the normal time.

The Government will be hoping that it has done enough to provide funds where they are needed most to continue the job of economic recovery.

If you have any questions about any of the Budget measures and how you might take advantage of them, don’t hesitate to call.

Information in this article has been sourced from the Budget Speech 2021-22 and Federal Budget support documents.

It is important to note that the policies outlined in this publication are yet to be passed as legislation and therefore may be subject to change.

https://tradingeconomics.com/commodities (viewed 11/5/2021)

ii https://www.health.gov.au/ministers/the-hon-greg-hunt-mp/media/354-million-to-support-the-health-and-wellbeing-of-australias-women

iii https://ministers.treasury.gov.au/ministers/josh-frydenberg-2018/media-releases/making-child-care-more-affordable-and-boosting

iv https://ministers.treasury.gov.au/ministers/josh-frydenberg-2018/media-releases/improving-opportunities-home-ownership

Bonds, Inflation & Your Investments

The recent sharp rise in bond rates may not be a big topic of conversation around the Sunday barbecue, but it has set pulses racing on financial markets amid talk of inflation and what that might mean for investors.

US 10-year government bond yields touched 1.61 per cent in early March after starting the year at 0.9 per cent.i Australian 10-year bonds followed suit, jumping from 0.97 per cent at the start of the year to a recent high of 1.81 per cent. ii

That may not seem like much, but to bond watchers it’s significant. Rates have since settled a little lower, but the market is still jittery.

Why are bond yields rising?

Bond yields have been rising due to concerns that global economic growth, and inflation, may bounce back faster and higher than previously expected.

While a return to more ‘normal’ business activity after the pandemic is a good thing, there are fears that massive government stimulus and central bank bond buying programs may reinflate national economies too quickly.

As vaccine rollouts gather pace, the OECD recently lifted its 2021 economic growth forecast for the global economy to 5.6 per cent, up from 4.2 per cent in December. Most of this is due to a doubling of its US growth forecast to 6.5 per cent, on the back of the Biden administration’s US$1.9 trillion stimulus package.iii

US 10-year bond yields vs Australian 10-year bond yields

Source: Reuters, CommSec

The OECD now expects Australia to grow by 4.5 per cent this year, up from its previous estimate of 3.2 per cent.iv

The risk of inflation

Despite short-term interest rates languishing close to zero, a sharp rise in long-term interest rates indicates investors are readjusting their expectations of future inflation. Australia’s inflation rate currently sits at 0.9 per cent, half the long bond yield.

To quash inflation fears, Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) Governor Philip Lowe recently repeated his intention to keep interest rates low until 2024. The RBA cut official rates to a record low of 0.1 per cent last year and also launched a $200 billion program to buy government bonds with the aim of keeping yields on these bonds at record lows.v

Governor Lowe said inflation- currently 0.9 per cent – would not be anywhere near the RBA’s target of between 2 and 3 per cent until annual wages growth, currently at 1.4 per cent, rises above 3 per cent. This would require unemployment falling closer to 4 per cent from the current 6.4 per cent.

In other words, there’s some arm wrestling going on between central banks and the market over whose view of inflation and interest rates will prevail, with no clear winner.

What does this mean for investors?

Bond yields move in an inverse relation to prices, so yields rise as prices fall. Bond prices have been falling because investors are concerned that rising inflation will erode the value of the yields on their existing bond holdings, so they sell.

For income investors, falling bond prices could mean capital losses as the value of their existing bond holdings is eroded by rising rates, but healthier income in future.

The prospect of higher interest rates also has implications for other investments, normally tipping the balance away from growth assets such as shares and property to bonds and other fixed interest investments.

Shares shaken but not stirred

In recent years, low interest rates have sent investors flocking to shares for their dividend yields and capital growth. In 2020, US shares led the charge with the tech-heavy Nasdaq index up 43.6%. This was on the back of high growth stocks such as Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google – the so-called FAANGs – which soared during the pandemic.vi

It’s these high growth stocks that are most sensitive to rate change. As the debate over inflation raged, FAANG stocks fell nearly 17 per cent from mid to late February and remain volatile.

That doesn’t mean all shares are vulnerable. Instead, market analysts expect a shift to ‘value’ stocks. These include traditional industrial companies and banks which were sold off during the pandemic but stand to gain from economic recovery.

Property market resilient

Against expectations, the Australian residential property market has also performed strongly despite the pandemic, fuelled by low interest rates.

National housing values rose 4 per cent in the year to February, while total returns including rental yields rose 7.6 per cent. But averages hide a patchy performance, with Darwin leading the pack (up 13.8 per cent) and Melbourne dragging up the rear (down 1.3 per cent).vii

There are concerns that ultra-low interest rates risk fuelling a house price bubble and worsening housing affordability. In answer to these fears, Governor Lowe said he was prepared to tighten lending standards quickly if the market gets out of hand. Only time will tell who wins the tussle between those who think inflation is a threat and those who think it’s under control. As always, patient investors with a well-diversified portfolio are best placed to weather any short-term market fluctuations.

If you would like to discuss your overall investment strategy, give us a call.

i Trading economics, viewed 11 March 2021, https://tradingeconomics.com/united-states/government-bond-yield

ii Trading economics, viewed 11 March 2021, https://tradingeconomics.com/australia/government-bond-yield

iii https://www.reuters.com/article/us-oecd-economy-idUSKBN2B112G

iv https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/growth-prospects-for-australia-and-world-upgraded-by-oecd-20210309-p57973.html

https://rba.gov.au/speeches/2021/sp-gov-2021-03-10.html

vi https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/12/31/stock-market-record-2020/

vii https://www.corelogic.com.au/sites/default/files/2021-03/210301_CoreLogic_HVI.pdf