Aussies will trash $900 million worth of Christmas gifts


$900 million worth of festive gifts destined for landfill, the tax office backtracks on old debts, and new cash fund joins ASX line-up. Here are five things you may have missed this week.

$900 million worth of unwanted Christmas gifts will be binned

A new report confirms that Christmas isn't just the peak period for giving - it's also a season of colossal waste.

unwanted christmas presents

Australia Institute research shows more than six million Australians expect to receive Christmas presents they don't want.

"Most of us love buying gifts for our loved ones, but 275,000 tonnes of them - or $921 million worth - are set to go unused or unworn," says Nina Gbor, director of the Waste and Circular Economy program at the Australia Institute.

"The bulk of these unused presents are destined for landfill, wasting money, and adding to plastic pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and the climate crisis."

The study shows nearly half of us would rather not receive presents at all, suggesting it's time to shake up our Christmas spending habits.

Gbor says, "Gifting experiences, homemade presents, gift cards or donations in someone's name are great alternatives to presents that would otherwise gather dust or go to waste.

"Buying fewer presents and focusing on quality over quantity doesn't just help save the environment, it also spares our wallets during the cost of living crisis."

ATO pauses debt-on-hold campaign

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) made a rare backflip - of sorts - this week, acknowledging that its 'tax debts on hold' campaign has caused distress, and the project is being put on ice.

'On-hold' debts are small sums owed to the ATO that are uneconomical to chase up.

Thousands of Australians have recently been notified of an outstanding tax debt, some balances dating back more than a decade.

That makes it hard to challenge the debt as tax records only need to be kept for five years.

On Tuesday however, the ATO announced the debt collection campaign will be paused "in response to community feedback".

That doesn't mean the debts will be scrapped.

The ATO makes it clear that it does not have the power to forgive or waive a tax debt.

New cash-based fund launches on the ASX

Betashares latest managed fund is now up and running on the ASX.

The Betashares Australian Cash Plus Fund (ASX: MMKT) provides exposure to cash and short-term money market securities such as negotiable certificates of deposit and floating rate notes that are generally only available to institutional investors.

The fund is aiming to generate a yield (before fees and expenses) of about 4.85% annually.

The annual management fee is 0.18%, with fund distributions set to be paid monthly.

Betashares suggests the fund could be used as a place to park funds in the short term while waiting for longer term investment opportunities.

Can't afford travel insurance? Can't afford to travel

The holiday season is fast approaching, and that means plenty of us will be jet-setting away on a well-deserved vacation.

Some holidaymakers will put their finances in jeopardy by cutting corners on travel insurance.

The temptation to bypass cover is real.

According to, premiums on travel cover have jumped by around 35% since the COVID pandemic.

That's seen one in two Australians rethink travel insurance in a bid to save money.

Research by Finder shows:

  • 21% have taken out the cheapest policy
  • 15% have skipped travel insurance altogether
  • 10% insured only part of their trip

Finder's Angus Kidman, says skimping on travel insurance is "a really dangerous trend".

He adds, "An overseas emergency can trash your finances if you don't have adequate cover."

Worryingly, close to one in 10 travellers say they have fibbed on their insurance application to hack down the premium.

Kidman warns, "Lying on your travel insurance application is a form of insurance fraud and can have lifelong consequences.

"If it's detected, you won't be covered and you may be refused cover in the future."

Shopping around, comparing policies and opting for a higher excess are simple ways to save premiums.

Bosses be warned - Christmas could come with a hidden tax take

Small businesses planning to celebrate Christmas could be up for hidden tax costs.

CPA Australia is warning employers that Christmas parties and gifts can attract Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT).

"Providing benefits to employees creates tax consequences," says Elinor Kasapidis, Head of Policy and Advocacy at CPA Australia.

"Employers are likely to have to pay FBT, which can prove incredibly costly to businesses, especially when buying gifts or organising a party for many people."

Kasapidis says it's all about the $300 rule.

Benefits given to employees must fall under this amount to avoid FBT. Anything over $300 can attract FBT at a flat rate of 47%.

It even pays to be selective about the date of the staff Christmas party.

"If a Christmas party is held in the office on a typical workday, the food and drinks costs are usually exempt from FBT. But if you want a weekend Christmas gathering, you'll potentially incur FBT," warns Kasapidis.

That makes it worth calling your tax adviser before forking out for staff celebrations that could see you slugged for FBT.

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A former Chartered Accountant, Nicola Field has been a regular contributor to Money for 20 years, and writes on personal finance issues for some of Australia's largest financial institutions. She is the author of Investing in Your Child's Future and Baby or Bust, and has collaborated with Paul Clitheroe on a variety of projects including radio scripts, newspaper columns, and several books.
Peter Owens
December 2, 2023 8.24am

My wife received one of these notices about a debt on hold. Only problem is I have the receipt to show that I paid this debt two years ago. Did we learn nothing from the Robo debt fiasco?