Stage 3 Tax Cuts for Workers, What About Retirees?

By Darren Moffatt

February 1, 2024


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In 2019, Australia witnessed a significant shift in its taxation policy with the introduction of the ‘Stage 3’ tax cuts, which were set to take effect in the 2024-25 financial year. Originally, these tax cuts were structured to favor high-income earners significantly. 

Under this plan, the tax bracket of $120,000 to $180,000 was to be removed, the top tax bracket threshold increased from $180,000 to $200,000, and the marginal tax rate for incomes between $45,000 to $200,000 was to be reduced from 32.5% to 30%​​. 

However, recent changes have shifted this focus, aiming to bring more balance to the tax system.

As we explore the nuances of these tax cuts, it’s important to consider the broader implications, especially for Australian seniors. 

While these revisions provide relief for many, they raise questions about fairness and support for retirees, who also face the brunt of rising living costs. 

Reports suggest that while the tax cuts bring benefits, they might disproportionately favor wealthier individuals, with 77% of the benefits going to the richest 25% of income earners​​. This skew towards higher income groups prompts a reflection on the support provided to different demographics, particularly retirees who often rely on fixed incomes.

Australian Retirees Left Out: Examining the Disparity

While the proposed tax cuts provide some relief for working individuals, there’s a notable gap when it comes to retirees. If you are a senior or nearing retirement, it’s essential to understand that these tax reforms may not directly address the unique financial challenges you face, particularly with the rising costs in healthcare, housing, and other daily expenses.

Given that the majority of retirees earn below the tax-free threshold or have income primarily from tax-favored sources like superannuation, the direct benefits of these tax cuts to retirees are minimal.

The challenge for retirees in this scenario is twofold:

  1. Seniors face the same inflationary pressures as the rest of the population. This includes rising costs in healthcare, utilities, and general living expenses, which can significantly strain their fixed income sources. 
  2. The tax system, as revised, does not provide direct relief to mitigate these pressures for the elderly, raising concerns about the equitable treatment of different demographics within the tax system.

This situation underscores the need for a more inclusive approach in tax reforms, one that also considers the financial vulnerabilities of retirees. 

While working Australians might see a reduction in their tax liabilities, retirees are largely dependent on other forms of financial support or savings, which are not directly addressed by these tax cuts.

The Rising Cost of Living: A Senior’s Dilemma

Inflation erodes the purchasing power of savings, making it harder for retirees to sustain their standard of living. For instance, the costs associated with a “comfortable” retirement lifestyle, as defined by the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA), are escalating. 

According to RateCity analysis, the income needed for a comfortable lifestyle for a couple aged 65-84 is expected to rise significantly in the next two years due to inflation. This increased cost of living means that retirees will need more funds to maintain the same lifestyle, which includes basic necessities and modest social activities.

Another significant factor is the increase in prices of essential goods and services. For instance, healthcare costs, a major concern for many retirees, have risen substantially. Private health insurance premiums are a key contributor to this increase. Similarly, energy costs, an unavoidable expense, are also expected to rise, adding to the financial burden.

[ Related Post: Cost-of-living crisis for Age Pensioners: what you need to know ]

Is It Fair? The Debate Around Retiree Support

The debate around the fairness of the Australian government’s approach to tax cuts, especially in relation to retirees, is multifaceted and raises several critical questions. This debate not only reflects the different perspectives on economic policy but also highlights the diverse needs and challenges faced by various segments of the Australian population, including retirees.

On one side of the debate, there’s the argument that the stage three tax cuts disproportionately benefit higher-income earners. For example, individuals earning $200,000 a year are expected to see a tax cut of $9075 annually, whereas those earning $50,000 will receive a much smaller cut of $125 per year. This disparity suggests that the more one earns, the more one saves under these changes, which raises concerns about the fairness towards lower-income earners, including many retirees. 

Critics of this approach argue that the government should have focused more on supporting those struggling with the cost of living, particularly during economic uncertainties and rising inflation. The implementation of these tax cuts during a period of inflation is seen by some economists as economically unsound, potentially exacerbating inflationary pressures​​.

Conversely, there is significant support for tax cuts that benefit middle to low-income earners. A poll conducted by the Australia Institute in late January 2024 found that 58% of voters supported middle to low-income earners benefiting more from the tax cuts. This perspective is underpinned by the belief that directing tax breaks towards lower-income earners is a fairer approach, especially given the ongoing economic challenges and growing income inequality. 

The argument here is that focusing on the needs of those facing financial hardships, which includes many retirees, should be a priority. It’s suggested that tax policy should uplift all Australians, rather than disproportionately favoring the financially comfortable​​.

This ongoing debate around the fairness of the tax cuts reflects a broader conversation about the role of government in addressing the needs of different segments of society, including retirees. It underscores the importance of considering the diverse and sometimes conflicting interests and needs within the community, especially in crafting economic policies that have far-reaching impacts.

Exploring Solutions: What Can Be Done for Retirees?

As retirees in Australia grapple with the complexities of financial security during their golden years, several measures and policies are being considered and implemented to support them. 

  • Flexible Work Bonus Scheme: Allowing pensioners to earn more while still receiving pension benefits, thereby encouraging them to remain active in the workforce.
  • Changes in Superannuation Taxation: Implementing an additional tax on superannuation earnings for individuals with balances over a certain threshold to distribute tax concessions more equitably.
  • Superannuation Payment on Payday: Legislation to ensure employers pay superannuation contributions concurrently with regular pay, enhancing timely retirement savings.
  • Guidance and Education for Retirees: Proposing a range of measures to provide retirees with better information and understanding of managing their superannuation and retirement income.
  • Integration of Retirement Income System: Efforts to effectively integrate the three pillars of the retirement income system: the Age Pension, superannuation, and savings outside superannuation.
  • Introduction of Reverse Mortgages: Offering a financial tool that allows retirees to use the equity in their homes to generate additional income or manage expenses, without the need to sell their property.

[ Related Post: How Reverse Mortgages Align with Australia’s Ageing Demographics

Reverse Mortgages: A Lifeline for Struggling Seniors

A Reverse Mortgage can be a vital tool for Australian seniors seeking financial flexibility during their retirement years. This type of loan allows you to access the equity in your home, providing additional income without the need to sell your property.

Here’s how it works:

  • Ownership and Repayment: With a reverse mortgage, you retain ownership of your house and can live in it as long as you like. You don’t need to make repayments as long as you reside in the property. The loan is repaid when you sell the house, move out, or upon your passing, at which point the estate handles the sale and loan repayment.
  • Accessing Funds: You can receive the borrowed amount as a regular income stream, a one-off lump sum, a line of credit, or a combination of these options.
  • Negative Equity Protection: This feature ensures you never owe more than the value of your home. If your home is sold for less than the loan balance, you or your estate aren’t required to pay the excess, provided there’s no fraud or misrepresentation involved.
  • Risks and Considerations: It’s important to be aware of the risks. Reverse Mortgage rates are usually higher than standard home loans, which can lead to a rapid increase in the amount owed. This loan might affect your Age Pension eligibility, and if you’re not careful, it might not leave enough for aged care expenses or an inheritance.

Before deciding on a Reverse Mortgage, it’s crucial to seek independent financial advice and consider all implications, including any impact on pension eligibility and long-term financial security. 

Learn more about Reverse Mortgages here. 

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute financial advice. Please consult a licensed financial advisor before you make any decision.

  • Sadly once again the Silent Majority ( people over 60 y.o) miss out. I believe once you reach Age pension age you should qualify no matter how much money you have. Our Centrelink system is grossly out of balance. It needs to be re hashed but no government has the intestinal fortitude to make changes to the system. First thing they could do is stop paying Newstart for anyone under 30 y.o. This would save the Government a fortune.But no they need to support the dole bludgers. Go and get a job , and yes of course we must support those who have a disability but those that can work should go and work

    • Dear Rod, I thought we all had gotten over the dole bludger rhetoric! From you comments, it sounds that you have substantial wealth and in all probability are not receiving the age pension. Otherwise you would not be advocating that everyone, regardless of how much they have receive the age pension. Assuming you are married and own your own home you can have assets of over $1 million and still receive some pension. I would also assume that you currently or in the past have taken advantage of the current policy on negative gearing, capital gains concessions and dividend imputation credits? These concessions cost the government tens of billions every year. Yet you want to deprive those under 30 of the meagre Job Seeker payment of around $750 per fortnight – less than $20,000 pa! Not sure what they have done to offend you? As far as the government not having the guts to change the system, you may remember that the Labour Party suggested changes to the system in 2019 and these were rejected by the vested interests, in all probability people like yourself!

  • Australia is a disgusting unfair Country not paying ALL Retired taxpayers especially those born here, denying them the aged pension and any benefits just because we worked more to save money instead of wasting it.

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