Over 400,000 Australians Predicted To Pay $500 Tax Surcharge

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Leading health insurer, HBA predicts more than 400,000 Australians will pay an extra $500 or more a year in tax because they didn't have private hospital cover, based on recent figures from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

Each new financial year we see a rise in the number of surcharge related calls from Australians who receive their tax statements and see their tax liability from the previous financial year

An ATO report shows that in the financial year to June 2005, more than 374,000 Australians paid $228 million in additional tax through the Medicare Levy Surcharge. On average this equates to an extra $610 per taxpayer on their tax bill.

While more than 10 million Australians have private health insurance, the number paying the surcharge in 2004/05 increased by 91,000 taxpayers compared to the previous financial year, or more than 32 per cent.

HBA's Managing Director, Richard Bowden said although half the population has private health insurance, basically a reason this number has increased is that there is a lack of awareness about the surcharge and the benefits of private hospital cover.

"At tax time, people often discover that their tax refund isn't as large as they expected because of the Medicare Levy Surcharge."

"It is surprising the number of calls our national call centre receives from customers who were unaware of the surcharge."

"Each new financial year we see a rise in the number of surcharge related calls from Australians who receive their tax statements and see their tax liability from the previous financial year," Mr Bowden said.

"Anyone currently paying the levy can avoid the surcharge next year by taking out private hospital cover now."

Mr Bowden added that health insurance is a 'win win' situation where you can have the peace of mind knowing you're covered for those unforseen medical emergencies and at the same time help to reduce your tax bill.

For as little as $509.00 a year a single person in NSW can join HBA's Hospital Saver and be covered for hospital treatment and not pay the surcharge. In many cases the cost of private hospital cover will be completely offset by the tax savings.

All Australian taxpayers pay a 1.5 percent Medicare Levy. The Medicare Levy Surcharge is imposed on individuals earning over the threshold who do not have an appropriate level of hospital cover. The Medicare Levy Surcharge is an initiative of the Federal Government to take pressure off the public system and encourage people to take advantage of the benefits of private hospital cover.

In recent times this Government policy has had a significant influence on the take up of private health insurance in Australia.

The surcharge applies to singles with a taxable income of $50,000 or more a year and families with a combined taxable income of $100,000 or more. For example, a family without private hospital cover and a taxable income of $100,000 or more could pay at least an additional $1,000 per year in tax. Singles earning $50,000 without hospital cover could pay an additional $500 in tax - or more if their taxable salary is higher.

More than one million Australians have private health insurance with HBA. For six consecutive years, HBA members have received premium rises that have been lower than the national industry average.

HBA members are also covered by one of Australia's most effective gap cover systems; this year the industry Ombudsman reported that of the ten largest health funds, HBA was the only fund to cover more than 94% of hospital charges.

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