Tax offset v tax deduction: What’s the difference?

This year’s Federal Budget was full of talk about one-off support for households in the form of tax offsets, but most people are a bit hazy on the difference between a tax offset and a tax deduction.

Both can help reduce the amount of tax you pay each year, but a tax offset generally results in a bigger dollar tax saving than a tax deduction of the same amount. The key difference is the point at which they are applied to your income when calculating the final amount of tax payable.

What is a tax deduction?

A tax deduction is one of the first things applied to your income when calculating your tax bill. It reduces your taxable income and hence the amount of tax you pay, potentially moving you into a lower tax bracket. Deductions are intended to ensure you only pay tax on income exceeding the costs associated with earning that income.

For a small business, deductions ensure it doesn’t pay tax if its running costs exceed its revenue. Common deductions include operating expenses such as stationery, and capital expenses such as equipment.

There are also temporary deductions, such as the additional 20 per cent deduction for costs related to digital adoption (like portable payment services and cyber security) and employee training expenditure announced in the 2022 Federal Budget.

Employees can claim deductions in a similar way. Personal deductions include work-related expenses like the cost of a computer if you have a home office, or supplies purchased for classroom use by a teacher. Other deductions include the cost of managing your tax affairs, donations and income protection insurance.

Offsets are similar but different

Tax offsets on the other hand, are deducted at the end of the calculation process and directly reduce the tax you pay.

Offsets are used by the government to encourage specific outcomes, such as uptake of health insurance through the Private Health Offset, or adding money to your spouse’s super through a contribution offset. They are also used to provide tax relief or financial support to certain groups in the community.

Calculating tax using offsets and deductions

The easiest way to understand the difference between an offset and a deduction is to walk through an example.

In the table below, we have two taxpayers. One person has an income of $30,000 a year paying tax of 19c on every dollar above the tax-free threshold of $18,200. This results in tax of $2,242 before any deductions or offsets. The other earns $130,000 a year, paying the top marginal tax rate of 37c in every dollar above $120,000, resulting in tax of $33,167.

As you can see in the table below, the impact of a $1,000 tax deduction provides a bigger tax saving of $370 for the higher income earner, compared with $190 for the lower income earner.

However, not only does a $1,000 tax offset provide both taxpayers with a bigger tax saving of $1,000 each, but it’s worth relatively more to the lower income earner at 3.3 per cent of $30,000 compared with less than one per cent of $130,000.

Impact of a $1,000 tax deduction and tax offset on tax owed

Assessable incomeTax owed$1,000 tax deduction$1,000 tax offset
Tax owedTax savedTax owedTax saved
$130,000$33,167$32,797$370$32,167$1,000
$30,000$2,242$2,052$190$1,242$1,000

Source (with updated figures for 2021-22 financial year): ANU Tax and Transfer Policy Institute Tax Fact #6

How tax offsets affect the tax you pay

Unlike tax deductions, the ATO automatically applies most offsets to your tax payable when you lodge your tax return.

In general, tax offsets can reduce your tax payable to zero, but they can’t be used to generate a tax refund if you don’t pay tax. If your taxable income is $18,200 or less, an offset won’t reduce the tax you pay as your tax payable is already zero. If you have paid any tax on this amount, you receive the tax back as a refund, but no offset is applied.

Also, most tax offsets don’t reduce the Medicare Levy and Medicare Levy Surcharge (if any) you are required to pay.

The amount of tax offset you receive also depends on the particular offset and your taxable income. For example, with the Low and Middle Income Tax Offset (LMITO) for 2021-22, if your taxable income is $37,0000 or less, you will receive a $675 offset on your tax payable when you lodge your tax return. If your income is $48,001 to $90,000, however, the offset is worth $1,500.

9 tips for improving your profits

There are many advantages to running a small business. You have the flexibility and independence to make your own decisions, you can turn your vision into a reality and then reap the rewards.

However, there are financial risks and it can be difficult to make a profit, particularly when times are tough and there is strong competition for customers’ dwindling dollars.

In fact, many small business owners are currently taking home less than the average full-time adult wage, according to the Small Business Matters report by the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman.

If the way you have always run your business isn’t creating the returns you want, it may be time to try doing things differently.

There are lots of areas to explore to improve profits. The good news is that many don’t require extra expenditure, just a different way of doing things, or a new mindset about your core clients and products.

Here are nine ideas that could boost your profit margin and help improve the return you receive from all the hours you put into your business.

1. Go digital

Consider whether it’s time to add some digital solutions to improve the efficiencies within your business. Many manual tasks related to payroll, regulatory requirements and business reporting are ripe for automation. Introducing new software or technologies can see a big reduction in the time required to complete these necessary – but largely unprofitable – tasks within your business.

2. Understand your cash flow

Preparing a cash flow budget and automating your invoicing and collection processes can improve your cashflow and profits.

3. Collect what you’re owed

Taking steps to enhance your post-sale credit control may lose you a few customers, but these are usually the ones increasing your servicing costs by failing to pay on time.

4. Keep on top of essential reporting

Ensure all your business reports (such as BAS, Taxable Payments Annual Report, Single Touch Payroll and tax returns), are up-to-date and lodged online to save time and keep on top of your obligations. It’s also important not to forget your Super Guarantee records and payments, or you risk paying the Super Guarantee Charge.

5. Improve your visibility

Consider whether an enhanced social media presence could spread your message further. Check if your website and Google ranking are properly optimised. If Google cannot find you, potential customers are unlikely to know you exist.

6. Keep your customers close and sell them more

Think about the potential for selling more to your existing customers. Upselling – or the old ‘Would you like fries with that?’ – can add to your bottom line without the costs associated with finding and selling to new customers.

Check your customer ‘churn’ rate to identify how long customers stay with you. Experts estimate it costs between five to 25 times more to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one. Develop strategies to reduce your churn rate, as increasing retention rates by five per cent can increase profits by 25 to 95 per cent. i

7. Review pricing and products

Analyse your offer to see if unprofitable products need to be eliminated. Review your pricing by working out how much margin you need to cover your expenses and develop a pricing strategy.

8. Be ruthless about expenses

Audit your business expenses and identify any that can be eliminated or reduced by switching to cheaper suppliers or options (such as leasing and refinancing). Try negotiating if you are paying for recurring monthly services. Smarter spending on fixed costs is an easy way to gain extra dollars in profit.

9. Set aside time to plan ahead

Evaluate what is working in your business and what isn’t. Write a detailed business plan for the year ahead so you and your team know where you are headed and what is needed to get there. Consider outsourcing resource-intensive tasks (such as IT or marketing) to free up time so your employees can spend more time generating profits.

Call us today for some help with improving your business’s bottom line.

https://hbr.org/2014/10/the-value-of-keeping-the-right-customers

Financial wellbeing is a gift worth giving yourself

The festive season is a time of joy and celebration but, for some, it can also lead to a financial hangover in the New Year.

Overspending on gifts, parties, and decorations can quickly add-up, leaving us with unwanted debt in the New Year.

In 2022, Australians spent more than $66.7 billion during the pre-Christmas sales in preparation for the festive season. The rising cost of goods and services mean that even though many are trying to curb their spending, it is expected that we will spend a little extra this year.

5 ways to rein in Christmas spending

  1. Create a Christmas budget – A budget is an effective way of controlling spending. It may not sound like fun, but it helps you to understand what you would like to spend and how much debt you are prepared to live with. List all of the costs you can think of (gifts, decorations, food, travel and entertainment), then set limits for each category and stick to them diligently. Consider using budgeting apps or spreadsheets to track your expenses and ensure you stay on track.
  2. Embrace the spirit of giving – Instead of buying individual gifts for every family member or friend, organise a Kris Kringle or Secret Santa gift exchange. This not only reduces the financial burden for everyone, but it adds an element of surprise and excitement to the holiday festivities.
  3. Take advantage of sales and discounts – Begin your Christmas shopping early to take advantage of sales and discounts. Stockpiling non-perishable food items and other essentials before prices rise closer to Christmas can deliver big savings.
  4. Online shopping – You can often find better prices by shopping around online and various third-party websites offer cash back or rewards not available in store.
  5. DIY and personalised gifts – Tap into your creativity by making your own gifts. Handmade gifts can be a welcome and thoughtful way of giving. Consider creating homemade cards, photo albums, or baking treats for loved ones.

Tackle any debt now

With many household budgets feeling the pinch due to rising housing, power, petrol and other costs, debts may already be increasing. But if you are feeling burdened with debt, don’t decide to leave it until after Christmas. The time to tackle it is now before it gets out of hand.

One option to consider, is to consolidate your high interest debts into a single more manageable loan. This approach can simplify repayments and potentially reduce interest rates, making it easier to eliminate debt over time. But it is important to do your calculations carefully to make sure it is worthwhile for you and then to be vigilant about watching spending.

Another option is to take a cold, hard look at your expenses. Is there something that can be cut back, and that money diverted to repaying debt? Any reduction of your debt load will help, no matter how small. Some people like to implement the snowball method in tackling their debts: while continuing to make the minimum repayments on all your debts you pay a little extra on the smallest debt to pay it off faster. Getting rid of debts can help to inspire you to continue.

Taking control of Christmas spending and debt is crucial for starting the New Year on a positive financial note. So, start planning early, know what you can afford to spend and prioritise your financial wellbeing for a debt-free and stress-free holiday season.

If you are struggling with post-Christmas debt or need assistance to manage your finances, we are here to help. Contact our team of financial experts today to discuss strategies to regain control of your financial future. Make this Christmas season a time of joy and financial empowerment.

Pre-Christmas spending forecast to tread water as uncertainty looms for discretionary retailers | Australian Retailers Association

Making sure your deductions don’t get personal

It can be easy to overlook your personal use of business assets when it comes to completing your business and self managed super fund tax returns but be warned, the ATO is taking an interest in this area.

The ATO’s Small Business Random Enquiry Program found around 16 per cent of small businesses were either carelessly or deliberately overclaiming expenses in their tax returns.

If business assets are used for a mix of business and private use – such as vehicles and phones – the amount claimed must reflect only the business-related portion of the expense.

The ATO is urging taxpayers to remember this rule when claiming business-related deductions, including those for work-from-home expenses (such as internet and mobile phone usage), and work vehicles.

Rental properties under the spotlight

Holiday home rentals are also an area where many taxpayers are failing to follow the tax rules.

Deductions for holiday home expenses can only be claimed to the extent they relate to producing rental income, so you need to apportion your expenses if the property is only genuinely available for rent part of the year.

Apportionment is also required if you use the property for private purposes during the year, only use part of it to earn rent, or if it is used by family or friends at various times during the year.

Expenses relating solely to the rental of the property (such as agent commissions and advertising costs), don’t need to be apportioned.

Avoiding mistakes

To ensure you don’t invite attention from the ATO, review your treatment of business asset expenses annually, in case your private usage has changed.

New or additional private usage of the asset means you need to recalculate the percentage of business used to determine the correct deduction claim.

Proper business records explaining all relevant transactions (including payment to and receipts from employees, shareholders and associates) need to be kept to support your claims.

Common taxpayer errors

The ATO says there are some common errors when it comes to claiming deductions.

Taxpayers are not permitted to claim any deductions against business income for expenses relating to an asset entirely used for private purposes.

An example is an asset (such as a boat or plane) purchased and used for private purposes.

Deductions can only be claimed for the relevant percentage of business use. For example, if the private use component represents 60 per cent, only 40 per cent of the expense amount can be claimed in your return.

FBT and deemed dividends

Another common mistake is claiming a deduction for an asset giving rise to a deemed dividend. This arises when an asset is purchased through a company and used for private purposes by a company shareholder or their associates.

Under the tax rules, both the company and the dividend recipient must record such dividends in their income tax returns, as the asset is being used for their personal benefit.

Some small businesses also misunderstand the implications of purchasing an asset (such as a motor vehicle), that is used by an employee or the associate of an employee for personal purposes.

When this occurs, the benefit must be reported in the business’s fringe benefit tax (FBT) return and the resulting FBT liability paid.

Fixing lodgement mistakes

To avoid finding your business in the ATO’s spotlight, check you have correctly apportioned all expense claims before lodging your business or SMSF return.

You also need to consider whether the rules for private company benefits and FBT apply to any of your business assets. If you make a mistake with a deduction claim, you will need to amend or lodge an income tax or FBT return to correct your tax position. There are time limits on both business and super amendments.

We can help you to correct any mistakes and to deal with the ATO to ensure your tax reporting is smooth and worry-free.

Market movements and review video – December 2023

Stay up to date with what’s happened in markets and the Australian economy over the past month.

Consumer prices eased by more than expected in October. The news that inflation may have been tamed means interest rate rises may be behind us, for now.

Even the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is optimistic about our economic recovery, predicting rate cuts from late 2024.

The ASX200 regained most of its October losses through November. Hopes the US may be ceasing its interest rate hikes impacted investor sentiment, as did the better than expected inflation figures locally.

Click the video below to view our update.

Please get in touch if you’d like assistance with your personal financial situation.

Tax Alert September 2023

While the government is boosting the tax deductions available for small business spending on staff training, other taxpayers such as landlords are facing closer scrutiny from the Australian Taxation Office. Here are some of the latest developments in the world of tax.

Amnesty for small business late lodgements

If your small business is not up-to-date with its tax lodgements, it could be a smart idea to take advantage of the government’s current Lodgement Penalty Amnesty.

The program is designed to encourage small businesses to re-engage with the tax system and fix any outstanding income tax, FBT returns and business activity statements due between 1 December 2019 and 28 February 2022.

Taxpayers have until 31 December 2023 to lodge their overdue forms without lodgement penalties being applied (general interest charges still apply).

Businesses with an annual turnover under $10 million when the original lodgement was due are eligible for the amnesty.

Insurance focus for latest data-matching

As part of its ongoing data-matching program, the ATO has announced it will require both income protection (IP) and landlord insurers to provide information on their customers for the period 2021-22 to 2025-26.

Insurers must provide detailed information on the policy and policy owner to help the ATO “identify and educate” taxpayers failing to meet their lodgement obligations.

The landlord data is expected to net records relating to around 1.6 million landlords, while the IP data will cover 800,000 individuals.

New skills and training boost starts

Small business owners keen to upskill their employees can now take advantage of the government’s new skills and training boost if they spend money on these activities before 30 June 2024.

If you have an aggregated annual turnover of less than $50 million, you can claim a bonus deduction equal to 20 per cent of qualifying expenditure on external training courses provided by eligible registered training providers.

You can also claim an additional 20 per cent bonus for expenditure on digitising your business operations and relevant assets such as portable payment devices, cyber security systems and subscriptions for cloud-based services.

Tax penalties increase again

The unit amount used by the ATO to calculate penalties it imposes has increased again, rising to $313 from 1 July 2023.

The government had already increased the penalty amount for the 1 January to 30 June 2023 period, making this the second increase this calendar year.

If the ATO decides to impose a penalty, the unit amount is used to calculate your actual fine. Activities such as giving false or misleading statements, or behaving with intentional disregard for example, result in a 60 penalty unit fine.

GST food and beverage list updated

If you supply or sell food and beverage products, it’s time to recheck the ATO’s detailed food list showing the GST status of major food and beverage product lines, as the tax regulator recently made around 30 updates to the list.

Although some changes corrected existing entries, new food and beverage lines have been added and some current entries deleted.

The ATO encourages businesses to review this list regularly to ensure they are meeting their GST obligations accurately.

Reminders about tax offsetting rules

The ATO is currently writing to businesses with a debt on hold of more than $10 to explain its tax offsetting process.

Under the offsetting rules, any tax refund and credit entitlements are automatically used to pay off an existing tax debt.

If you have an outstanding tax debt, you can choose to pay all or part of it at any time, including through a payment plan.

New-look ATO Charter

Taxpayers could find their interactions with the ATO improving following the release of its revised Taxpayers’ Charter, now called the ATO Charter.

The Charter explains what you can expect when interacting with the ATO, the regulator’s commitments to taxpayers, and the steps you can take if you’re not satisfied.

Trusts and the new super tax rules

Ensuring you’ve structured your finances tax-effectively is always a concern, but with new tax rules for super on the horizon, many people with large balances are considering alternative vehicles to save for retirement.

Unsurprisingly, this has sparked a renewed interest in an old favourite – trusts.

Trusts have always been popular in Australia, with the government’s Tax Avoidance Taskforce (Trusts) estimating more than one million were in place in 2022.

Separating ownership using a trust

The popularity of trusts for business, investment and estate planning purposes is due to both their flexibility and inherent benefits, particularly when it comes to managing your tax affairs.

At their heart, trusts are simply a formal relationship where a legal entity holds property or assets on behalf of another legal entity.

This separation means the trustee legally owns the assets, but the beneficiaries of the trust (such as family members) receive the income flowing from the assets.

A common example of a trust structure is a self managed super fund (SMSF), where the fund trustee is the legal owner of the fund’s assets, and the members receive investment returns earned on assets held within the SMSF trust.

Which trust is best?

There are many different types of trusts, with the appropriate structure depending on the financial goals you’re trying to achieve.

For small businesses and families, the most common trust is a discretionary (or family) trust. These vehicles are very flexible and can be used with immediate and extended family members, family companies or even charities.

In a discretionary trust, the trustee has absolute discretion on how both the income and capital of the trust are distributed to various beneficiaries.

This gives the trustee a great deal of flexibility when it comes time to allocate income to family members paying different marginal tax rates.

Advantages of a trust structure

Discretionary trusts offer tax, asset protection, estate planning and property holding benefits.

They can also assist with the accumulation of assets for younger generations within your family and provide opportunities for the discounting of capital gains.

For small businesses and farming operations, a discretionary trust can be used to provide valuable asset protection. If your business goes bankrupt or a beneficiary is divorced, creditors will be unable to access assets or property held within the trust as it is the legal owner of the assets.

Building wealth outside super

With new tax rules for super fund balances over $3 million being introduced, trusts also provide a useful tool to consider for continued wealth accumulation.

Unlike super funds, trusts don’t have annual contribution limits, restrictions on where you can invest or borrowing limits. Money can be added and removed from the trust as necessary, providing significant financial flexibility.

Discretionary trusts can also be used with vulnerable beneficiaries who may make unwise spending decisions. The trustee can decide to provide a spendthrift child or a family member with a gambling addiction regular income, but not large capital sums.

Holding ownership of assets within a trust is useful for estate management, as the assets will not be part of a deceased estate, avoiding the possibility of a Will being challenged.

Trusts aren’t always the solution

Although trust structures provide many benefits, there are also tax issues that need to be considered. For example, any trust income not distributed to beneficiaries is taxed at the top marginal rate.

Distributions to minor children are taxed at higher rates and a trust is unable to allocate tax losses to beneficiaries, so they must remain within the trust and be carried forward.

Trusts can be expensive to set up, administer and dissolve when they are no longer needed and the trustee’s actions are restricted by the terms of the trust deed.

If a family dispute arises, running a trust can become difficult and making changes once it is established isn’t easy.

If you would like to find out more about trusts and whether one is appropriate for your business or family, call us today.

Salary sacrifice to cut tax and boost your super

This time of year, people’s thoughts start turning to their tax return, but it can also be a good time to set things up so you don’t pay more tax than required next financial year.

Simply talking to your employer about setting up an arrangement to “sacrifice” some of your pre-tax salary could potentially lower your tax bill – and boost your retirement nest-egg.

Reducing your tax bill

A salary sacrifice arrangement simply involves coming to an agreement with your employer to pay for everyday items or services you would normally pay for out of your after-tax salary directly from your before-tax salary. This might include things like childcare, health insurance or super. The benefit is that this reduces the level of income the ATO uses to calculate your tax bill.

If you set up a salary sacrifice arrangement with your employer, it’s important to understand that while your taxable income is lower, the benefits are still listed on your annual payment summary. For some people, this reduces the tax offsets, child support payments or other government benefits they receive, limiting the value of salary sacrifice.

Salary sacrificing options

The items or services you can pay for using salary sacrifice depends on your employer.

Some employers let their employees salary sacrifice for expenses such as cars, health insurance, school fees and home phones. Others are not prepared to do this, as they may end up paying Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT) on the benefits you receive.

Employers are usually more willing to allow you to package FBT-exempt work-related items such as portable electronic devices, computer software, protective clothing or tools of trade, as these generally don’t result in FBT bills.

Boost your super account

One of the most popular forms of salary sacrifice is redirecting some of your pre-tax salary into your super fund. Most companies are willing to provide this option as it not only helps you build retirement savings, but it can also earn them a tax deduction.

When you salary sacrifice into your super, your contributions are taxed at 15 per cent when your super fund receives the money. For most people this is a lower tax rate than if they received the money as normal income.

A further bonus with salary sacrificing into super is you only pay 15 per cent on any investment earnings you receive inside super, instead of your marginal tax rate for investments held outside super.

Find out what’s on offer

If you’re interested in a salary sacrifice arrangement, it’s a good idea to discuss the subject with your employer or HR team to find out the company’s policy.

It’s also a good idea to talk to us, as the value of these arrangements needs to be weighed up carefully against your reduced take-home pay and the potential loss of government benefits.

These arrangements should be put in writing before you earn the income you are sacrificing, so you need to talk to your employer prior to the start of the new financial year if your salary will change from 1 July.

Tips for employers

Allowing your employees to salary sacrifice can help them reduce their tax bill and it boosts engagement with your business. Another overlooked benefit is if your employee salary sacrifices into their super, you can claim a tax deduction for their contributions, as they are considered employer contributions.

To do this, you need to ensure you create an ‘effective’ salary sacrifice arrangement meeting the ATO’s guidelines. Otherwise the benefits your employee receives are considered part of their taxable income.

Effective arrangements require a clear agreement stating the terms and conditions and they must be documented in writing to avoid any uncertainty or future disputes.

Sacrifice arrangements can only apply to wage and salary payments for work yet to be performed, not past earnings. Salary and wages, leave entitlements, bonuses or commissions accrued prior to the arrangement cannot be used.

A simple way to avoid problems is to document your employees’ salary sacrifice arrangements before the start of a new financial year – or whenever there is a change to their salary – so it covers future earnings.

You need to keep detailed records of these arrangements for five years and list all sacrifice amounts on the employee’s annual payment summary.

If you would like help working out if a salary sacrifice arrangement makes sense for you, call our office today.

Why is ageing hard to talk about?

In life, many of us are totally at ease and comfortable talking to our family and friends about many topics. However, for whatever reason, there are certain subjects that we’re either reluctant or feel uneasy to discuss openly – typically they are love and relationships, politics, religion and money … call them the “taboo topics”.

Add another taboo topic to the list. That is the topic of ageing. As we age and reach our elderly years, asking for some help to do things to make life easier can be really hard to bring up in conversation.

When families get together, there are things we just notice but we’re reluctant to say anything. We notice that Dad might be starting to forget things or Mum is having difficulty getting out of her chair and seems a bit uneasy on her feet. Any attempt to say something is usually met either in silence or the words “I’m okay, just getting older” are uttered.

And for many families that’s where things are left.

Then there’s a crisis…

Families are then drawn together when there’s been a crisis such as a fall or a hospital admission. Then discussions and decisions are usually being made under high stress and emotion in hospital hallways and carparks. This is not an optimal starting point.

Making decisions and what’s the trade-off…

Like other life decisions, when it comes to ageing decisions, some are relatively simple to make with minimal consequences, whilst others can be very difficult.  When making decisions, there are usually “trade-offs” to be considered.

The impact of these trade-offs usually increases as the importance of the decision increases. Therefore, to make the best possible decision, it’s important to consider as many options as humanly possible.

So what needs to be thought about…

When it comes to ageing and getting some help there are usually many options to consider and everyone is different. For instance, when getting some help in the home, exactly what help is required and possible now and into the future, who will provide the help and at what cost? If moving into an aged care facility, what care will be required, where will the new home be, what to do with the family home, and how to pay for this are all decisions that need to be made and there are usually many options to consider.

So how do families identify these options and make appropriate decisions?

Where do you start? What questions do you ask and who to?  Are the answers you get back in your best interest … or someone else’s? What needs to be done and when? What happens if there’s a problem?

How Family Aged Care Advocates fit in…

That’s where Family Aged Care Advocates step in. We provide guidance and support to help families identify the relevant options to help you make informed decisions to get the best care outcomes for the people you love and care for most. We’re independent aged care specialists only interested in the right outcomes for your family … that’s all that matters and there’s no trade-off with that.

Material contained in this publication is a summary only and is based on information believed to be reliable and received from sources within the market. It is not the intention of RGM Financial Planners Pty Ltd ABN 36 419 582 Australian Financial Services Licence Number 229471, RGM Accountants & Advisors Pty Ltd ABN 69 528 723 510 that this publication be used as the primary source of readers’ information but as an adjunct to their own resources and training. No representation is given, warranty made or responsibility taken as to the accuracy, timeliness or completeness of any information or recommendation contained in this publication and RGM and its related bodies corporate will not be liable to the reader in contract or tort (including for negligence) or otherwise for any loss or damage arising as a result of the reader relying on any such information or recommendation (except in so far as any statutory liability cannot be excluded).

Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.

How do interest rates affect your investments?

Interest rates are an important financial lever for world economies. They affect the cost of borrowing and the return on savings, and it makes them an integral part of the return on many investments. It can also affect the value of the currency, which has a further trickle-down effect on other investments.

So, when rates are low they can influence more business investment because it is cheaper to borrow. When rates are high or rising, economic activity slows. As a result, interest rate movements are also a useful tool to control inflation.

Rising steadily

For the past few years, interest rates have been close to zero or even in negative territory in some countries, but that all started to change in the last year or so.

Australia lagged other world economies when it came to increasing rates but since the rises began here last year, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has introduced hikes on a fairly regular basis. Indeed, the base rate has risen 3.5 per cent since June last year.

The key reason for the rises is the need to dampen inflation. The RBA has long aimed to keep inflation between the 2 and 3 per cent mark. Clearly, that benchmark has been sharply breached and now the consumer price index is well over 7 per cent a year.

Winners and losers

There are two sides to rising interest rates. It hurts if you are a borrower, and it is generally welcomed if you are a saver.

But not all consequences of an interest rate rise are equal for investors and sometimes the extent of its impact may be more of a reflection of your approach to investment risk. If you are a conservative investor with cash making up a significant proportion of your portfolio, then rate rises may be welcome. On the other hand, if your portfolio is focussed on growth with most investments in say, shares and property, higher rates may start to erode the total value of your holdings.

Clearly this underlines the argument for diversity across your investments and an understanding of your goals in the short, medium, and long-term.

Shares take a hit

Higher interest rates tend to have a negative impact on sharemarkets. While it may take time for the effect of higher rates to filter through to the economy, the sharemarket often reacts instantly as investors downgrade their outlook for future company growth.

In addition, shares are viewed as a higher risk investment than more conservative fixed interest options. So, if low risk fixed interest investments are delivering better returns, investors may switch to bonds.

But that does not mean stock prices fall across the board. Traditionally, value stocks such as banks, insurance companies and resources have performed better than growth stocks in this environment.iAlso investors prefer stocks earning money today rather than those with a promise of future earnings.

But there are a lot of jitters in the sharemarket particularly in the wake of the failure of a number of mid-tier US banks. As a result, the traditional better performers are also struggling.

Fixed interest options

Fixed interest investments include government and semi-government bonds and corporate bonds. If you are invested in long-term bonds, then the outlook is not so rosy because the recent interest rates increases mean your current investments have lost value.

At the moment, fixed interest is experiencing an inverted yield curve, which means long term rates are lower than short term. Such a situation reflects investor uncertainty about potential economic growth and can be a key predictor of recession and deflation. Of course, this is not the only measure to determine the possibility of a recession and many commentators in Australia believe we may avoid this scenario.ii

What about housing?

House prices have fallen from their peak in 2022, which is not surprising given the slackening demand as a result of higher mortgage rates.

Australian Bureau of Statistics data showed an annual 35 per cent drop in new investment loans earlier this year.iii

The changing times in Australia’s economic fortunes can lead to concern about whether you have the right investment mix. If you are unsure about your portfolio, then give us a call to discuss.

https://www.ig.com/au/trading-strategies/what-are-the-effects-of-interest-rates-on-the-stock-market-220705
ii https://www.macrobusiness.com.au/2023/02/inverted-yield-curve-predicts-australian-recession/
iii https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/economy/finance/lending-indicators/latest-release