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Hospitals hit with $5000 FBT cap on meals

The Federal Government has imposed a tight cap on fringe benefit tax exemptions for public and not-for-profit hospital staff, fuelling concerns many institutions will struggle to attract and retain doctors, nurses and other highly qualified health workers, undermining their ability to provide vital care.

Confirming fears public hospitals would be caught up in attempts by the Commonwealth to boost its revenue, the Government has announced plans to introduce a cap on FBT exemptions for meals and entertainment for hospital employees.

Under current arrangements, hospital staff, including doctors and nurses, are eligible for FBT exemptions worth up to $17,000 a year, while the FBT exemption for meals and entertainment is uncapped.

But the Government has flagged a crackdown on the perk, announcing the introduction of “a single grossed‑up cap of $5,000 for salary sacrificed meal entertainment and entertainment facility leasing expenses”.

The change is due to come into effect from 1 April next year, and the Government said it would “improve the integrity of the tax system by introducing a limit on the use of these benefits”.

It is expected to provide a $295 million boost to Budget revenue in its first four years.

But the AMA has warned that the change will be costly for many hospitals, particularly in rural areas, that struggle to attract the staff they need.

AMA Vice President Dr Stephen Parnis said public hospitals relied heavily on FBT exemptions to help them offer doctors and other highly trained staff competitive salary packages.

“Traditionally, public hospitals have been a less attractive area of practice for doctors because private sector work generally attracts greater remuneration when compared with the salaries and conditions available to most doctors who work primarily in public hospitals,” he said. “Ill-conceived and rushed reforms could significantly affect the ability of public hospitals to recruit and retain staff.”

“Public hospitals are under the pump, and are demanding places to work,” Dr Parnis said. “The FBT exemption has been a way of making them more attractive places to work.”

 

Adrian Rollins

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