What is the Medicare levy? – Forbes Advisor Australia


Australia has a universal funded, publicly health insurance scheme known as Medicare, which means that every Australian, alongside a small number of eligible international visitors, can access free or low-cost treatment.

Of course, health care is not ‘free’—Australians do pay for it, but it is paid as a regular deduction from employment incomes known as the Medicare levy, rather than at the time treatment is needed.

It is something most Australians pay regardless of whether they have private hospital insurance. The Medicare levy is also means-tested so that healthcare remains free for the lowest income earners.

The arrangement is so effective in removing cost barriers to healthcare that Australia was ranked first among OECD countries for equity and healthcare outcomes in 2021 (incidentally, the US ranks last).

How the Medicare Levy Works

The formula is simple: the Medicare levy is 2% of a person’s taxable income. The Medicare levy is collected from employees in the same way income tax is collected. Generally, the pay as you go (PAYG) amount that an employer withholds from a salary or wages includes an amount to cover the Medicare levy. The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) does its calculations on the actual amount owed when an income tax return is lodged, but usually there will not be a big disparity.

The levy is in addition to other forms of income tax. It is listed on the Notice of Assessment or a tax refund estimate at the end of every financial year.

Who Pays the Medicare Levy?

Everyone who earns more than $29,033 in the most recent tax year is required to pay a 2% Medicare levy. There are a few limited exceptions to this.

Who Doesn’t Pay the levy?

Those who earn equal to or less than $23,365 do not need to pay the Medicare levy in the 2021-22 financial year. The cut-off is $36,925 for seniors and pensioners who are entitled to the seniors and pensioners tax offset (SAPTO).

Reductions are also available for a single person without dependents who has a taxable income between $23,365 and $29,207 (or $36,925 and $46,157 for seniors and pensioners entitled to SAPTO).

It is possible to qualify for a reduction even if your taxable income is higher than the threshold if you have sole care of one or more dependent children, your spouse died during the income year and you do not have another spouse on 30 June, or you are entitled to an invalid and invalid carer tax offset.


The best way to ascertain upcoming obligations at the end of the financial year is to use the Medicare Levy Calculator on the ATO website. However, the ATO notes that in some cases its calculations will not be accurate, such as if exempt foreign employment income was received. It may be necessary to check with an accountant if you wish to know in advance.

What is the Medicare Levy Exemption?

Exemptions are available for three reasons: the person is a foreign resident, meets certain medical requirements or is not entitled to Medicare benefits.

Full and half exemptions are also available.


Is the Medicare levy different from the Medicare Levy Surcharge?

Tea Medicare Levy Surcharge (MLS) is an extra tax on top of the Medicare levy. It only applies to high income earners. The MLS was introduced in 1997 as an incentive for people on higher incomes to take out private health insurance and not overburden the public system. It is in effect a penalty for not taking out private health insurance.

A single person who earns more than $90,000 and lacks private health insurance is required to pay the surcharge, along with families who earn at least $180,000. It is an extra 1 to 1.5% of a person’s taxable income.

In a way, the levy effectively makes some private health insurance policies ‘free’ because it saves the high-income earner from having to pay the levy.

Does everyone have to pay the Medicare levy?

At what income does the Medicare levy start?

How do I avoid the Medicare levy?

Has the Medicare levy gone up?

Who is eligible for Medicare levy reduction?


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