Money Consumer Tampon tax axed and four other January 1 law changes you should know about

Tampon tax axed and four other January 1 law changes you should know about

A slew of new laws will come into effect on January 1. Photo: Getty
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Revellers across the globe are preparing to farewell 2018 and welcome in a new year, but that’s not the only thing that’s about to change.

Once the clock strikes midnight and ushers in January 1, 2019, a slew of new regulations will come into effect.

Here are five law changes that will affect the lives of millions of people across the country come the first day of the new year.

Tampon tax axed

The 10 per cent GST on sanitary products, such as tampons and menstrual pads, will be removed as of January 1.

The abolition of the so-called tampon tax is a victory for women’s rights advocates who have rallied against the “sexist” impost since it came into effect with the introduction of the GST in 1999.

Criticised as “a tax on women”, the tampon tax was controversially levied on sanitary products despite other items, including incontinence pads, sunscreen and Viagra, receiving exemptions.

Credit card crackdown

Australian households are among the world’s most highly indebted, owing $51.6 billion in credit card debt alone, $31.8 billion of which is accruing interest at an average of rate of more than 17 per cent.

Tougher laws aimed at curbing credit card debt kick in on January 1, meaning that those who overspent over Christmas and are banking on a balance transfer may be in for a shock.

The new laws will “curtail the credit card limits for many Australians and prevent some people on low incomes from getting a credit card altogether”, RateCity research director Sally Tindall said.

“This will be a difficult medicine for some people to swallow, but it’s a positive step towards getting Australians off the credit card debt treadmill.”

From January 1 credit card providers will have to:

  • Assess whether a new customer can afford to repay the credit limit within three years
  • Stop applying interest charges retrospectively
  • Provide online options to cancel cards or to reduce credit limits.

Lifetime cap on HELP debt

Tertiary students will need to consider their study choices even more carefully in 2019 due to the introduction of a new lifetime limit on the amount of money the government will loan to university and Vocational and Educational Training (VET) students for tuition fees.

The new lifetime Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) cap comes into effect on January 1 and will be set at $104,440 for most students, and $150,000 for those studying medicine, dentistry or veterinary science.

Prior to January 1, the government capped only postgraduate, full-fee, and vocational loans.

The new cap is not retrospective, however, meaning that existing HELP loans taken out before January 1 will not count towards it.

Youth Allowance, ABSTUDY changes

Life’s about to get a little easier for young adults in regional and rural Australia hoping to claim Youth Allowance or ABSTUDY, with the parental income limit rising from January 1.

From January 1, the combined parental income limit will increase from $150,000 to $160,000 per year, with an extra $10,000 added for each additional child.

Family Court of Australia nixed

With wait times blowing out to up to a year and a half, the overloaded Family Court of Australia will be combined into a single court with the Federal Circuit Court come January 1.

Attorney-General Christian Porter announced the change in May, with the federal government arguing that the consolidation will help to speed up the resolution of family disputes.

The move comes ahead of the final report from a review of the nation’s beleaguered family law system by the Australian Law Reform Commission, due to be delivered by March 31.

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