Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison
By Sandra Shaw
National Communications Manager
An extension of the freeze on patients’ Medicare rebates to June 2020, an enhanced Medicare compliance program, and a new MBS item for screening diabetes patients are among changes in the 2016-2017 Federal Budget that was handed down tonight.
Benefits for small businesses with lower company tax rates, and an extension of the instant write-off for purchases of equipment up to $20,000 to businesses with a turnover of less than $10 million are other budgetary changes.
Optometry Australia CEO Genevieve Quilty said the MBS freeze was disappointing for patients.
‘The patient rebate has been frozen for a further two years and there is no certainty that indexation will be recommenced from 2020. It’s obviously going to be a concern to optometry patients because when they access optometry services up to 2020 their rebates are going to continue to be frozen at the levels they were in 2014,’ she said.
‘It effectively means that each year until 2020, as handed down in the Budget, their patient rebates will fall further and further behind the real cost of providing clinical care.’
Ms Quilty said that for optometrists who were small business operators, there was a large number of measures for them that would help sustain their small businesses into the future.
‘So there are some negative elements, as in all budgets, but also some positive elements which we will be talking further to our members about in the coming days when more detail is available,’ she said.
Ms Quilty said there was little information to hand tonight on the Government’s MBS compliance initiative.
‘We will provide further information to members as it becomes available in relation to the enhancements to compliance programs. It’s obviously going to be a significant new investment as the Government announced it was the largest such investment over the past 10 years,’ she said.
Ms Quilty welcomed the new MBS item for screening of diabetes patients.
‘What the measure will mean is that patients not seeking care from an optometrist or ophthalmologist will be screened at the GP point of care. Strong referral pathways will ensure these patients will then be referred to an optometrist for sight-saving care in collaboration with specialist practitioners as clinically necessary.
‘The Government has identified around 370,000 patients who will benefit from this measure, and a quarter of those will be Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients,’ she said.
Workers earning more than $80,000 a year will benefit from modest tax relief with the proposal to lift the middle income bracket of 32.5 per cent to a threshold of $87,000 from 1 July 2016. The move is intended to counter ‘bracket creep’, which causes workers to move into a higher tax bracket due to inflation.
From 1 July 2016, businesses with annual turnover less than $10 million will have a lower company tax rate of 27.5 per cent. The company tax rate will be progressively lowered to 25 per cent by 2026-2027 for all companies.
Also from 1 July 2016, the Government will extend a range of concessions that are already available to small businesses with turnover less than $2 million to all businesses with turnover less than $10 million.
The Government will make sure assistance is available for all small businesses by increasing the tax discount to eight per cent for unincorporated businesses with annual turnover less than $5 million, capped at $1,000. This discount will be further increased in phases to reach 16 per cent by 2026-2027.
A $1.6 million superannuation transfer balance cap on the total amount of superannuation that an individual can transfer into retirement phase accounts is to be introduced. This puts a limit on taxpayer support for tax-free retirement phase accounts but does not limit the savings that can be accumulated outside these accounts or outside superannuation.
The government will require those with combined incomes and superannuation contributions greater than $250,000 to pay 30 per cent tax on their concessional contributions, up from 15 per cent. This extends the current treatment of people with combined incomes and superannuation contributions over $300,000.
The superannuation concessional contributions cap is to be lowered to $25,000 per annum. The cap in the current financial year is $30,000 for those aged less than 49 years, and $35,000 for those aged more than 49 years.