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New perks that kicked in on January 1 could leave you better off

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Free TAFE courses, cheaper power prices, tampon price cuts, better benefits for students living away from home and baby bundles worth $300 ... these are some of the perks available (if you qualify) from January 1 this year. Mid-year you can look forward to personal income tax cuts too.

Free TAFE courses

To encourage more people to study essential services, the Victorian government is meeting the cost of 30 TAFE courses and 18 pre-apprenticeship courses. The offer is only available if you're an Australian or a New Zealander and aged under 20, upskilling, unemployed or looking to change careers.

The broad list of courses includes accounting, tourism, cyber security, horticulture, baking, signage, ageing support, agriculture, dental assisting, community service, mental health, nursing and plumbing.

baby bundle

Electricity cuts

Victorians are eligible for a $50 power saving rebate from power giants EnergyAustralia, Origin and AGL as well as many smaller suppliers when they use the comparison energy website.

Also there are other power rebates for Victorians, from $250 to $720, for the 285,000 households that are with Origin, AGL and EnergyAustralia's default deals, also known as standing offers, or on expired market offers.

AGL has also announced electricity prices will come down by 1.6% in Victoria, saving households $23 a year, while gas prices will come down by 0.9% for residential customers. It follows on from a price cut by AGL for electricity across NSW, Queensland and South Australia from July 1, 2018.

If you are a concession cardholder and live in NSW, ACT, Queensland or South Australia, you might be eligible for a discount up to 15% on your power bill from January 1. It is restricted to concession cardholders with a default or standing offer tariffs. Non-discounted plans will get an automatic discount on electricity from January 1.

Origin Energy will provide an automatic 10% discount to concession cardholders in these states on standing offers or non-discounted plans.

EnergyAustralia will automatically activate a 15% discount on electricity and gas usage for its eligible concession card customers. It has also removed fees for all paper bills and over-the-counter customers in NSW, ACT, Queensland and South Australia.

No more GST on tampons

tampon tax bloody annoying

Sanitary products such as tampons no longer have to pay 10% GST. From January 1, the 10% tax has been removed on tampons, pads, menstrual cups, maternity pads and leak-proof underwear.

Baby bundle

Having a baby in NSW? You qualify for a $300 state-funded baby bundle that includes a sleeping bag, play and change mats, a muslin wrap, bath and room thermometers, a baby toothbrush, breast pads, a first aid kit, board books, a facecloth, baby wipes, hand sanitiser and barrier cream.

Parents in NSW will be able to access both the $100 Active Kids voucher and the $100 Creative Kids rebate each year for every school-aged child. It helps pay for sport and cultural activities such as art, dance, music and drama classes.

Parents will be able to access the rebate online or in person at a Service NSW centre.

The NSW government will also provide subsidies for three-year-olds to attend pre-school for two years. Previously the subsidy was available only for the year before school. The government estimates this saving to be worth around $825 a year on average.

Youth Allowance, ABSTUDY boost

It is easier for young adults in rural and regional areas claiming Youth Allowance and ABSTUDY while they live independently away from home while studying.

The parental income cut-off has been raised and parents can now earn up to $160,000 for young adults to receive both living-away-from-home benefits.

An extra $10,000 has been added to the parental income limit for each eligible sibling in the family. For example, Luke lives with his parents and his two school-aged sisters. His two sisters are also eligible children, so the cut-off will be $180,000.

Ten-minute grace period for parking fine

From January 31 motorists in NSW will be given a 10-minute grace period for parking fines after paying for at least one hour of parking and receiving a physical ticket or coupon.

Personal income tax cuts

Tax cuts are coming mid-year for millions of Australians. Those earning up to $37,000 per year will see tax bills reduced by $200.

The maximum offset of $530 will apply to those earning between $48,000 and $90,000. This benefit gradually reduces to zero when taxable income is $125,000.

Some 2.3 million Australians will be better off when a measure to combat bracket creep (the process by which inflation pushes wages and salaries into higher tax brackets) also begins on July 1.

People earning between $87,000 and $90,000 a year will move down into a lower tax bracket, paying 32.5% tax instead of 37%.

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Susan has been a finance journalist for more than 30 years, beginning at the Australian Financial Review before moving to the Sydney Morning Herald. She edited a superannuation magazine, Superfunds, for the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia, and writes regularly on superannuation and managed funds. She's also author of the best-selling book Women and Money.
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