With the rising costs of living and increased work commitments being faced by parents and guardians in today’s environment, raising and maintaining a young family in Australia can be a difficult task. The Australian Government recognises the increased costs associated with families by providing financial support through various benefits, to assist with the costs of raising children. It is important that you are aware of these available government payments to ensure you receive all the payments and financial assistance you are entitled to.

Child Care Rebate

The Child Care Rebate (CCR) is a payment from the Australian Government that assists parents or guardians with the cost of child care. The CCR reimburses parents and guardians for 50 per cent of out-of-pocket child care expenses for approved child care up to $7500 per child per year. It is not income tested, however there are still certain requirements you must meet to get the Child Care Rebate. You must have:

•  used approved child care during the year

•  been eligible for Child Care Benefit (the requirements for the Child Care Benefit are different to CCR)

•  passed the work / training/ study test at some time during the week the approved care was provided

From July 2011, if you are eligible, you have the option to receive your Child Care Rebate payments directly to your approved child care service or bank account fortnightly, quarterly or annually. If you believe you are eligible, you can make a claim with the Family Assistance Office. You must do this within two years of the end of the financial year for which you are claiming.

Medical Expenses

Taxpayers can claim a tax offset of 20% of their net medical expenses over the set threshold. The threshold is indexed and changes each year. This year it is $2,000 for the 2010/11 financial year, and will rise to $2,060 for the 2011/12 financial year.

Education tax refund – inclusion of school uniforms

The Government has changed the education tax refund to include school-approved uniforms, purchased from 1 July 2011. Items of clothing including hats, footwear and sports uniforms approved by a school as its uniform may be claimed from 1 July 2012. So from 1 July 2011 start keeping receipts for school uniform items so you can claim them next year.

Paid parental leave

Australia’s first national Paid Parental Leave Scheme started on 1 January 2011. Eligible working parents will receive parental leave pay (currently $589.40 a week before tax) for a maximum period of 18 weeks.

Dependent spouse tax offset phase-out

From 1 July 2011, eligibility for the dependent spouse tax offset will be confined to taxpayers with a dependent spouse born before 1 July 1971. Taxpayers who maintain an invalid or permanently disabled spouse, support a carer or who are eligible for the zone, overseas forces or the overseas civilian tax offsets are exempt from the new age limit and will still be able to claim the value of the dependent spouse tax offset via an expanded invalid spouse, zone, overseas forces or overseas civilian offset.

If you would like to speak with someone from our accounting team about what assistance you may be entitled to, or discuss various claims you can make in your income tax return submit an online enquiry, or call us on 1300 QUINNS (784 667) or +61 2 9223 9166 to book an appointment.