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Archives for January 2017

Are You Aware of Recent Scams?

Financial scams are not uncommon in Australia. You may think that this will not happen to you or your family, but it could.

Scams come in all shapes and sizes from investment schemes, inheritance scams, betting and sports investment schemes to dating and romance scams.

Recently, a client was phoned by someone claiming to be from the Australian Tax Office who advised they were following up amounts owing for previous tax years. For the client, there was some credibility for this as previous tax returns were outstanding. Once the caller realised they had an ‘’in’’ they were incredibly persistent and even threatening to the point that they persuaded the client to go and purchase iTunes cards to pay the supposed debt. They obtained the numbers of these cards over the phone and were quick to cash them in.

The client became suspicious when they rang for more money, and she then rang us. We advised that it was a scam, and to be sure she should phone the tax office, who confirmed they had not called.

Not giving up, they phoned again and this time advised they were from Centrelink and provided a contact number to call in Canberra for verification. On talking to us, she rang the general number for Centrelink (not the number the caller provided) who again confirmed that they had not called.

If you ever have a phone call from someone claiming to collect money from a government agency, please be aware of this scam. A government agency will not collect money over the phone and are unlikely to make contact by phone unless responding to a call. They will also not use urgency tactics for payment.

If in doubt call the agency back on a general number, or call your adviser and if they are unavailable talk to another adviser. Scams can also be checked at scamwatch.gov.au and acorn.gov.au.

Please note: The information provided in this article is general advice only. It has been prepared without taking into account any person’s Individual objectives, financial situation or needs.  Before acting on anything in this article you should consider if it is appropriate for you, having regard to your objectives, financial situation and needs.

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My HECS-HELP Debt

What is HECS-HELP?

Australian citizens studying in Commonwealth supported places are eligible to apply for assistance to fund the student contribution amount for each unit in which they are enrolled.  This assistance is in the form of a HECS-HELP loan.  There is no real interest charged on the loan but the debt will be indexed each year in line with the Consumer Price Index.  The adjustment is made on 1 June each year and applies to any part of the debt that has been unpaid for 11 months or more. Eligible students can use a HECS-HELP loan for the whole amount of their student contribution.

I’ve finished studying – how much do I owe?

The Australian Taxation Office manages all HELP debts and this information can be viewed online through the myGov website once a myGov account has been created.  You can also call the ATO to find out the details and you will need to quote your TFN to access the information.

Paying back my loan

Even if you are still studying, you will need to begin repaying a HELP debt as soon as your income, as reported on your income tax return, is above the compulsory repayment threshold.  This amount is adjusted annually and for the 2016/17 financial year, the amount is $54,869 and above.  Repayments are made through the taxation system at a percentage of your annual income.  The percentage increases as your income increases.  For example, someone earning between $54,869 and $61,119 will repay the loan at the rate of 4% per annum, while someone earning in excess of $101,900 will repay 8% of their annual income.

Voluntary repayments can be made at any time and for any amount, and before 31st December 2016, there is a bonus of 5% for doing so.  This means that if you repay $500 by a voluntary payment, an additional credit of $25 is applied to your loan.

What if I can’t afford repayments?

You can apply to the ATO to have your payments deferred if you believe that your compulsory repayments would cause serious financial hardship.  In making this application, you will need to substantiate your claim by providing a detailed statement of income and expenditure.  It is possible to appeal should your application be unsuccessful.

Do I have to repay the loan and what happens to the debt if I die?

There are certain special circumstances that may result in cancellation of a debt for a particular unit if the unit has not been completed. You need to apply to have the special circumstances taken into account.  In the case of death, any compulsory repayment relating to the period up to the person’s death must be paid from the estate, but the remainder of the accumulated debt is cancelled.

Are you interested in gaining a better understanding of your HECS-HELP debt? Do you want to put a plan in place to make sure the loan is paid off as soon as possible? Contact us today for your free initial consultation, one of our advisers would be delighted to assist you.

Please note: The information provided in this article is general advice only. It has been prepared without taking into account any person’s Individual objectives, financial situation or needs.  Before acting on anything in this article you should consider if it is appropriate for you, having regard to your objectives, financial situation and needs.

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What Types of Insurance Do You Need?

There have been a lot of questions from clients lately about why they need all the different types of personal risk insurance; Life, Total & Permanent Disability (TPD), Trauma and Income Protection.  Each insurance covers something different and it is important to understand how all of these insurances work together.  Below I’ve detailed a brief summary about the different types of insurance and how they work together.

Life

Life insurance is pretty straightforward.  A lump sum amount will be paid out in the event of death or terminal illness.  The purpose of life cover is to pay down any debts, provide an income to your surviving spouse or children, contribute to future education expenses if you have children, and assist with funeral expenses.

Total & Permanent Disability

Total and Permanent Disablement (TPD) is payable in the event you become totally and permanently incapacitated due to sickness or injury, and it is unlikely that you will ever be able to return to work.  Again, this cover will provide a lump sum to reduce or extinguish debts, and provide an income to you and your family.  It may also help with home and car modifications following your disability and can assist with ongoing medical bills.

Trauma

Trauma cover also pays a lump sum should you be diagnosed with a serious medical condition, or if you suffer from an event covered under the contract. Trauma insurance covers a wide range of conditions such as Heart attack, Heart surgery, Cancer, Stroke and other neurological conditions, organ failure and various blood disorders.  Benefits can assist with the costs of specialist treatment and medication which are not covered via Medicare or private health cover.  Trauma protection can help with every day costs of living, and offer support financially should you or your partner need to take time off work to assist in recovery.

It is important to note that some people who suffer from a trauma event return to work before they can claim on their Income Protection policy.  Due to advances in medical technology, and less invasive treatment for many of the diseases covered via a Trauma policy, there is also a reduced likelihood of becoming totally disabled and a much higher survival rate.

Income Protection

Income Protection (IP) covers you for partial or total disability based on a waiting period and a benefit period.  If you suffer an injury or illness that leaves you unable to work for longer than your waiting period, you will be eligible to claim on your policy.  Income Protection typically provides a monthly payment whilst you are unable to work.  Your claim will continue until you are able to return to work, or you have reached the end of your benefit period.  It is important you know what your waiting and benefit periods are. The maximum entitlement for IP insurance is 75% of your taxable income, and you may also be able to cover ongoing superannuation contributions under some contracts.

As always, if you have queries or concerns about your insurance you should speak with your friendly adviser. We are here to help.

Are you interested in getting your current insurance reviewed or wanting to get the right cover for you and your family? Contact us today for your free initial consultation, one of our friendly advisers would be delighted to speak with you.

Please note: The information provided in this article is general advice only. It has been prepared without taking into account any person’s Individual objectives, financial situation or needs.  Before acting on anything in this article you should consider if it is appropriate for you, having regard to your objectives, financial situation and needs.

Read more