Legalities, Financial & Insurance Information

 

Relevant Australian Legislation (currently in force)

  • Aged Care Amendment (2005, updated 2008)
  • Australian National Preventative Health Agency Bill (2010)
  • Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Act (1987)
  • Health and Ageing Legislation Act
  • Health and Community Services Legislation Act
  • Health and Other Services (Compensation) Care Charges Act (1995)
  • Health Legislation Act
  • My Health Records Act (2012)
  • National Health Amendment Act (1992)
  • National Health Reform Act (2011)
  • Occupational Health and Safety (Commonwealth Employment) Amendment Act (2006)
  • Work Health and Safety Act (2011)
  • World Health Organization Act (1947)

Australian Government – Federal Register of Legislation
https://www.legislation.gov.au/Browse/Results/ByPortfolio/Bills/Other/Health/0/0/Asmade

 

Advertising and marketing

Health professionals need to not only comply with AHPRA guidelines for advertising but also with the National Law.  The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) enforces the Competition and Consumer Act (2010)

AHPRA references Section 133 of the National Law on its site;

  • A person must not advertise a regulated health service, or a business that provides a
    regulated health service, in a way that-
  • Is false, misleading or deceptive or is likely to be misleading or deceptive; or
  • Offers a gift, discount or other inducement to attract a persona to use the service or
    the business, unless the advertisement also states the terms and conditions or the offer; or
  • Uses testimonials or purported testimonials about the service or business; or
  • Creates an unreasonable expectation of beneficial treatment; or
  • Directly or indirectly encourages the indiscriminate or unnecessary use of regulated
    health services.

All 14 National Boards regulating Australia’s health practitioners have published Guidelines of Advertising of Regulated Health Services, which are published on their individual websites, accessible via AHPRA’s website. (see links below)

What does this mean for internet or social media?
It is illegal to use testimonials in any way for advertising purposes with up to $5,000 penalty for an individual and $10,000 for a body corporate. For example; social media used to promote a business is considered advertising and therefore not include testimonials.  A community social media page or website (such as White coat) where patients discuss their personal experiences, is not considered advertising. The law does not ban unsolicited public discussion and opinion sharing about practitioners outside the context of the ‘regulated’ health service.

Penalties?
The National board will issue a series of written warnings to practitioners, detailing their breach of National Law.  If corrective action is not taken within the required time period, the board is entitled to take legal action which may include suspending or cancelling the practitioner’s registration and financial penalties. If you have inadvertently breached the advertising standards, you need to rectify the issue and remove the marketing material.  “Unless there are other aggravating factors involved, after a non-compliant advertisement or website has been fixed or removed, the National Board is unlikely to take further action.”

References, Further Reading and Useful Links

AHPRA Advertising Fact Sheet
http://www.ahpra.gov.au/Publications/AHPRA-FAQ-and-Fact-Sheets/advertising-fact-sheet.aspx

AHPRA Guidelines for advertising regulated health services
http://www.medicalboard.gov.au/Codes-Guidelines-Policies/Guidelines-for-advertising-regulated-health-services.aspx

AHPRA Social Media Policy
http://www.occupationaltherapyboard.gov.au/Codes-Guidelines/Social-media-policy.aspx

Professional Indemnity Insurance

As a health professional, you are legally held to account, to provide a high standard of professional service and you are considered an expert in your field, which may leave you open to claims of negligence and compensation.

How does it work?
Professional indemnity (PI) insurance is to protect you as the working health professional from the possibility of being sued. This insurance covers professionals against potential exorbitant legal costs and any damages that may or may not be payable as a result of a claim. Depending on your individual policy, there will be terms and conditions, however each policy will have a limit of indemnity as well as a payable ‘excess’ like any form of insurance. The limit of indemnity describes the maximum amount of cover that the insurance provider will provide for any one claim.  Different professionals from different industries will require varying levels of insurance and cover. Many companies offer PI insurance and often a discounted rate is available if you are a member of your professional association.

What’s the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) stance?
“All health practitioners who undertake any form of practice in their respective profession(s) must have professional indemnity insurance arrangements that comply with the relevant registration standard, for all aspects of their practice.” (AHPRA website)

Approximately how much does it cost?
The costs vary significantly, depending on your profession, the area in which you practice, if any affiliations exist with your professional association or body and your level of indemnity. The list below is of course, not exhaustive.

For eg;
HPI – Occupational Therapist practicing in Queensland, $1 million level of cover, $651.53 annual premium
AON – Occupational Therapist private practice, OTA member, $165.73 – $182.51
HPI – Speech Pathologist in Queensland, $1 million level of cover, $567.60, annual premium
Guild – Speech Pathologist private practice, SPA member, $2 million level of cover, $335.72 annual premium
HPI – Physiotherapist in Queensland, $1 million level of cover, $747.45, annual premium

References, further reading and useful links

Professional Indemnity Insurance
Several online quotes available.
http://www.professionalindemnity-insurance.com.au/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=bizcoverbrandnew&gclid=CjwKEAiAr4vBBRCG36e415-_l1wSJAAatjJZJ9clS8h6uLYs_6j0SXQOMaW5Ge9Az-Dx8dCQGWmG4xoCUaPw_wcB

Health Professional Insurance Online (HPI)
https://www.hpionline.com.au/

Insurance House
Affiliates with Australian Podiatry Council, Australian Physiotherapy Association.
http://www.insurancehouse.com.au/occupation/health-professionals/

AON Insurance
Affiliates with Australian Psychological Society, Occupational Therapy Australia.
https://www.psychology.org.au/membership/benefits/insurance/
https://business-insurance.aon.com.au/Professions/Health-Professionals/Occupational-Therapists.aspx

Guild Insurance
Affiliates with Speech Pathology Australia.
https://www.guildinsurance.com.au/home

Biz Cover
http://www.bizcover.com.au/insurance-for-allied-health-professionals/

AHPRA
Fact sheets available regarding PI FAQs and PI insurance arrangements
https://www.ahpra.gov.au/Registration/Registration-Standards/PII.aspx

 

Healthcare Unions

Health Services Union (HSU) National
HSU has members across most health industries; including allied health professionals, paramedics, scientists, aged care workers, support staff, doctors and nurses. Their role is to support members through a range of services which include advancement and protection of wages, conditions, rights and entitlements for members through campaigning and workplace activism.  HSU National has branches in each Australian state and territory.

How much is it to join?
Membership fees vary state to state and often across salary levels. For example;
HSU NSW           $577.20 annual premium
HSU WA            $522.60-$846.30 annual premium, dependant on salary level, deducted fortnightly

Member benefits?
Benefits include professional indemnity insurance, free legal advice regarding your workplace or employment conditions, discounts on a range of goods and services and access to some professional development such as journal articles and online modules at discounted cost.

www.hsu.net.au

 

United Voice Union
United Voice Union represents workers across many industries, such as aged care, cleaning, early childhood, healthcare, hospitality, security and manufacturing. This union also has branches in every Australian state and territory.

How much is it to join?
Membership fees will vary dependant on profession and salary level. For example;

For example; $312-$633.36

Member benefits?
Benefits include information and support on how to resolve issues with your employer, your rights in the workplace, assistance and interpretation of workplace documentation, industrial and non-industrial services such as free will kits, funeral benefit and legal referrals.

http://www.unitedvoice.org.au

 

Salary Packaging

Salary packaging or salary sacrificing is a legal method by which an individual can reduce the amount of income tax they pay by paying for some items and living expenses with their pre-tax salary, hence lowering their taxable income. Due to incurring less tax for a given salary, the net result of this process is an increase in take-home pay.  Some commonly packaged expenses are recurring costs such as Professional Development expenses, mortgage repayments, additional superannuation contributions, rent payments, loan repayments, car expenses or car leasing payments etc.

Some companies who provide salary packaging services are:
Prosperity
http://www.prosperitysalarypackaging.com.au (NSW)
Remserv
https://www.remserv.com.au (QLD)
Smartsalary
https://www.smartsalary.com.au/
Advantage
https://www.salary.com.au/
Maxxia
http://www.maxxia.com.au/ (NSW/SA)
Paywise
https://www.paywise.com.au/public/default.aspx (WA)

How much extra could I expect??
Depending on your salary and how much of the FBT (fringe benefit tax) free cap you choose to utilise you could expect to increase your take home pay by up to $2,000 to $3,000 p.a.

Set up requirements?
It is advisable that you and your employer clearly state and agree on all the terms of any salary sacrifice arrangement. The contract is usually in writing, but may be a verbal one. If you enter into an undocumented salary sacrifice arrangement, you may have difficulty establishing the facts of your agreement. Subject to the terms of any contract of employment or industrial agreement, employees can renegotiate a salary sacrifice arrangement at any time. Where you have a renewable contract, you can renegotiate amounts of salary or wages to be sacrificed before the start of each renewal.
The contract of employment includes details of your remuneration, including any salary sacrifice arrangement. This contract can be varied by agreement between you and your employer.

I work for a small private practice, am I still able to salary sacrifice?
Technically speaking, salary packaging is (in most cases) an option for any employee; that said, salary packaging is an agreement between employer and employee. As such, the employer must be aware of their Fringe Benefit Tax situation and be willing to form an agreement with the employee.

References, Further Reading and Useful Links

Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) “Money Smart”
https://www.moneysmart.gov.au/managing-your-money/income-tax/salary-packaging

Australian Tax Office (ATO)
https://www.ato.gov.au/General/Fringe-benefits-tax-(FBT)/In-detail/Employees/Salary-sacrifice-arrangements-for-employees/

ATO – Information for Employers
https://www.ato.gov.au/business/super-for-employers/in-detail/salary-sacrifice/salary-sacrificing-super—information-for-employers/

 

Superannuation

Super is money set aside over your lifetime to provide for your retirement. It’s a partly compulsory plan introduced by the Government.

  • You may open a super account otherwise your employer will open one for you
  • You and your employer may make contributions
  • The superannuation fund invests the funds according to your plan or investment choices
  • Investment returns, positive or negative will affect your account, in addition to administration and investment fees, insurance costs and taxes.
  • You will receive periodic information about your account
  • Once you meet a condition of release, such as retirement or serious medical or life threatening condition, you can access your funds.
  • The Government provides tax incentives for contributions to assist you to grow your super over time

According to section 17 of the Payroll Tax Act (2007) superannuation contributions are included as wages.  This means that all employer superannuation contributions made for employees are taxable.
Superannuation Guarantee (SG) legislation requires employers to pay a minimum level of super for each employee at least quarterly. Currently most Australians receive a minimum of 9.5% of their salary paid into   super account from their employer. The SG rate will remain at 9.5% until 1 July 2021, when it will increase to 10%.
It is best to consolidate your super funds if possible to reduce fees, maximise growth and ensure no funds are lost! Before you move any funds out of a superannuation account, check if there are any termination fees, differences in insurance offered and whether or not your employer can pay into the new fund.

Hesta Superfund
Healthcare industry super funds are run to benefit members, so the profits go back into the fund for members.
https://www.hesta.com.au/

QSuper – Queensland Superannuation Fund
For QLD Government employees and their partners only. You can register your partner or spouse for an account even if they aren’t a QLD government employee.  Their employer can pay into the QSuper fund as they would any other.
https://qsuper.qld.gov.au/

WA Super – Western Australian Superannuation Fund
Open to all Western Australians, regardless of industry or employer.
http://www.wasuper.com.au/

Super SA – South Australian Superannuation Fund
Super fund for South Australian public sector employees.
http://www.supersa.sa.gov.au/

State Super –
http://www.statesuper.nsw.gov.au/sss

VicSuper – Victorian Superannuation Fund
Open to the public and employees from any industry or state.
http://www.vicsuper.com.au/

Australian Super
Largest Superannuation Fund in Australia. Open to all Australians across industries. Default fund for Northern Territory public sector employees
https://www.australiansuper.com/

How do I choose a Super Fund?
If you are able to choose your own super fund, consider your existing fund(s) as you may experience fees when transitioning.  Consider the following and don’t be afraid to ask questions!

  • investment performance (this will be expressed as a percentage, eg average return of 10% over the previous 12 months)
  • number of investment options
  • fees
  • insurance options
  • extra services, such as financial planning services, or access to other financial services.
  • Review product disclosure statements (PDS)
  • Review superannuation rating agencies to see how your fund is rated
  • Consider consulting a financial advisor

Women & Superannuation
On average, the Australian woman retires with around half of the superannuation balance of their male counterparts.  There are a few reasons why this is still happening, however the primary causes are women still (!!) earn less on average than men and women are also likely to have periods or reduced hours and significant career breaks in order to raise their children.  In addition, women also have a longer life expectancy and 3 out of 4 women end up retiring earlier than expected.
Hence, it is important both men and women to;

  • Plan financially for reduced hours or career breaks
  • Consider income protection for both yourself and your partner
  • Be smart about super, combine your funds, ensure your fund has your TFN to reduce tax
  • Actively add to your super from the time you start work!
  • Consider utilising Government co-contributions as able
  • Talk with your super fund about your options regularly and look to your retirement realistically. Many need to live for 20 years plus after they retire…

https://www.australiansuper.com/superannuation/women-and-super.aspx

Am I eligible for co-contributions? What’s the benefit?
The government will pay you a tax free superannuation contribution when you make a non-concessional (after tax) contribution into your super account – if you satisfy a work test, income test and age test. If you earn $36,021 or less for the financial year 2016/2017, the Federal Government will co-contribute 50 cents for every dollar you contribute up to a maximum of $500 in the year. If you earn more than $36,021, your co-contribution entitlement reduces by 3.33 cents for every dollar you earn over $36,021, until it cuts out at $51,021 (for the 2016/2017 year).

Can I access any tax breaks for superannuation contributions if I’m self-employed?
Yes, if you meet several criteria including;

  • You satisfy the ‘maximum earnings as an employee’ condition;
  • You meet the age-related conditions (75 yrs and under);
  • You made personal contributions to the fund;
  • You have advised us of the amount you intend to claim as a deduction using the approved ATO form, which is available from the ATO website; and
  • The ATO have acknowledged your notice of intent and agreed to the amount you intend to claim as a deduction.

Can I access any tax breaks for superannuation contributions if I am self-employed but also have a part-time job?
Yes, an individual may also be able to claim a tax deduction for super contributions if he or she is substantially not employed, that is, they receive only a small part of their income as an employee, and they satisfy the 10 per cent income test rule. You’re eligible to make tax-deductible super contributions when your employment income is less than 10% of your total income.

Total income is assessable income (includes salary, wages, dividends, interest, rent, foreign source income etc – all gross income before tax deductions) plus salary sacrifice contributions and reportable fringe benefits.
http://www.superguide.com.au/superannuation-topics/self-employed

Can I arrange an early release of superannuation funds?
Yes if you meet one of the release criteria

  • You cease employment at 60 years
  • You retire from the workforce at or after your ‘preservation age’
  • You reach 65 years, even if you continue to work
  • You suffer from a terminal medical condition
  • You become permanently incapacitated or die
  • You meet the criteria for funds to be released under ‘financial hardship’ or ‘compassionate grounds’

The ‘preservation age’ increases gradually from age 55 to 60, depending on when you were born.  For those born after June 1960 it is now 60 years.
https://www.humanservices.gov.au/health-professionals/subjects/early-release-superannuation-information-health-professionals

References, Further Reading & Useful Links

The Super Guide – Independent information about Superannuation
http://www.superguide.com.au
http://www.superguide.com.au/boost-your-superannuation/cashing-in-on-the-co-contribution-rules

The Australian Tax Office
www.ato.gov.au

 

Potential Tax Deductions

To claim a work related deduction;

  • it must be related to your work
  • you must have spent the money yourself and you weren’t reimbursed
  • you must keep your own records and written evidence for 5 years from the date you lodge your tax return as you may be required to provide these details if audited

Vehicle & Travel Expenses
Parking fees, tolls and public transport may be claimed if you are required to travel to attend professional development such as conferences, meetings or between two or more jobs.
For claiming deductions for using your own car, it is recommended you keep and maintain a record of kilometres travelled to attend meetings, conferences or between different sites or jobs.  You can claim via 2 methods;

  • cents per kilometre; 66 cents per kilometre for all motor vehicles for the 2015-2016 financial year and you may claim a maximum of 5,000 kms per car. You don’t need evidence but you may be required to demonstrate how the business kilometres were worked out (logbook or diary record still recommended)
  • logbook method; claim is based on a business percentage of the car’s running expenses. To work out the business percentage, you need to record the odemeter readings for a minimum of 12 weeks.  You may also claim fuel and oil costs based on receipts or estimation based on the odometer readings.

Most people cannot claim the cost of travel between home and their place of work as this travel is private.

https://www.ato.gov.au/Individuals/Income-and-deductions/Deductions-you-can-claim/Vehicle-and-travel-expenses/Car-expenses/

Clothing, Laundry & Dry-Cleaning Expenses
You may only claim deductions for the cost of buying and cleaning occupation-specific clothing, protective clothing and distinguishable uniforms if used for work purposes.

  • occupation-specific clothing; “not everyday in nature and allows the public to easily recognise your occupation”
  • protective clothing; eg sun protective, safety-coloured vests, non-slip nurse’s shoes, steel-capped boots, gloves, overalls and heavy duty shirts and trousers. Ordinary shoes and clothing can not be required, even though for many of us closed in non-slip shoes are required to work within a hospital setting for example.
  • uniforms; you can claim for compulsory and non-compulsory uniforms if it is unique and distinctive to the organisation and not available to the public. Non-compulsory uniforms may be claimed if registered with AusIndustry.

For the cleaning of work related clothing, if completed yourself you may claim $1 per load (washing, drying, ironing – if work clothing only) or 50 cents per load if personal items also included. You must have written evidence if your claim exceeds $150 and your total claim for work-related expenses exceeds $300.
Dry-cleaning is claimable with receipts, if your total work-related claim exceeds $300 you will need additional evidence such as diary entries.

https://www.ato.gov.au/individuals/income-and-deductions/deductions-you-can-claim/clothing,-laundry-and-dry-cleaning-expenses/

Gifts & Donations To claim a tax deduction the gift or donation needs to meet these 4 criteria;

  • it must be made to a deductible gift recipient (DGR)
  • it must be money or property
  • it must be a voluntary transfer of money or property where you receive no material benefit or advantage
  • the gift must comply with relevant gift conditions which may differ between DGR’s

https://www.ato.gov.au/individuals/income-and-deductions/deductions-you-can-claim/gifts-and-donations/

Home Office Expenses
If you undertake any work duties from a home office, consider these potential deductions;

  • for home office equipment; you may be able to claim the cost of items (up to $300 per item) or the depreciation of items (items costing $300 or more)
  • phone calls or a percentage of your phone rental or plan; if you can demonstrate you are “on call” or required to make work-related calls away from your workplace
  • heating, cooling and lighting
  • repairs to your home office
  • cleaning expenses

In order to make any of these claims, you are required to keep all receipts, itemised phone records or diary records of work related calls or a diary demonstrating how much you have used your equipment, home office and phone for work-related purposes over a representative 4 week period.

https://www.ato.gov.au/Individuals/Income-and-deductions/Deductions-you-can-claim/Home-office-expenses/

Interest, Dividend & Other Investment Income Deductions
Self-Education Expenses
You may be able to claim deductions under this section if the course or training you have undertaken;

  • directly relates to your current work, maintaining or enhancing your skills or knowledge you require
  • or it is likely to result in an increase in income from your current employment

You can claim the following expenses in relation to your self-education:

  • accommodation and meals (if away from home overnight)
  • computer consumables; eg ink or toner
  • course, conference or workshop fees (excluding HECS/HELP fees)
  • the decline in value for depreciating assets (cost exceeds $300)
  • purchase of equipment or technical instruments costing $300 or less
  • equipment repairs
  • travel to/from place of education or fares eg flights, public transport
  • home office running costs (see above)
  • interest
  • internet usage (excluding connection fees)
  • phone calls
  • stationery & postage
  • student union, services and amenities fees
  • textbooks
  • professional or academic journals and subscriptions

If you have a room set aside for self-education purposes, you may be able to claim decline in value of (and repairs to) your home office furniture and fittings, as well as a portion of the heating, cooling, lighting and cleaning representing the period you use the room for self-education activities. Alternatively, you can use a fixed rate of 45 cents per hour of usage instead of keeping individual costs for heating, cooling, lighting, cleaning and decline in value of furniture for that room.

Self-education expenses are broken into five categories. If all of your self-education expenses are ‘category A’ items then you have to reduce your deduction by $250.  Category A includes conference fees, texts, stationery, running expenses for the home office, car expenses (using the logbook method) or travel expenses. See the below link for details and a ‘’calculator’’ to assist you!

https://www.ato.gov.au/Individuals/Income-and-deductions/In-detail/Education-and-study/?page=1#Calculating_your_claim

Tools, Equipment & Other Equipment
If the tools are used for both work and private purposes you will need to apportion the amount you use for work related activities. For example; If you have a computer that is used for private purposes for half of the time you can only deduct 50% of the cost.

You may claim the cost of buying and repairing the equipment you need for your work, eg;

  • Laptops, computers, software and hardware
  • Book shelves, filing cabinets, desks, chairs, lamps
  • Electronic organisers, diaries, mobile phones, specific work bags
  • Safety or protective equipment
  • Relevant equipment eg stethoscope, electrical stimulation units, assessments, goniometers

It depends on the cost of the item, as to what you may claim, for example;

  • Single items that cost $300 or less, or form part of a set that costs $300 or less, you may claim their cost
  • For single items or sets of items that cost $300 or more you may only claim a deduction for their decline in value.

Other Deductions
For any tax expense claim, you have to demonstrate:

  • the expense was required to earn the income, and
  • the expense was not private or domestic in nature.

Relevant examples include;
Digital information, e-books, periodicals, e-journals, subscriptions;

  • if the item is $300 or less it may be deducted, if $300 or more, only the decline in value may be deducted as it will form part of your ‘’professional library’’

Professional indemnity insurance
Income protection insurance

  • You can claim the cost of premiums you pay for insurance against the loss of your income. You must include any payment you receive under such a policy on your tax return. You cannot claim, however, life insurance/trauma insurance/critical care insurance.

Personal Superannuation contributions

  • You may claim deductions of your contributions if you are a sole trader, partner in a partnership or unemployed and are aged between 18-75 yrs.

Costs of managing tax affairs

Mobile phone, internet & home phone expenses
You can claim phone or internet use if you have used these services for work purposes, you have paid for these costs and have records to support claims.  You need to keep records for a 4 week period in each financial year if you wish to make a claim $50 or greater. For example; diary records, electronic records, itemised bills and any evidence to prove you have needed these services for work purposes. If your employer provides you with a phone or computer and is billed for use, you cannot make any claims. Similarly if you received reimbursement from your employer you can not make any claim for deductions.

If you do have a legitimate claim, there are rates you can use to assist you to calculate your incidental usage (see link below).

Seminars, conferences & education workshops
Union fees & subscriptions to professional associations
Annual registration fees
Sunglasses, but not prescriptive glasses or contacts
Deductions for specific industries and occupations

  • Such as Australian Defence employees, nurses, direct carers, educators, fitness/sporting professions (see link for more details)

References, Further Reading & Useful Links

Australian Tax Office
https://www.ato.gov.au

https://www.ato.gov.au/Individuals/Income-and-deductions/In-detail/Deductions-for-specific-industries-and-occupations/Nurses-midwives-and-direct-carers—claiming-work-related-expenses/

https://www.ato.gov.au/individuals/income-and-deductions/deductions-you-can-claim/other-deductions/claiming-mobile-phone,-internet-and-home-phone-expenses/