Income protection and tax (ATO rules)

What tax rules apply to income protection in Australia?

Income protection insurance offers a crucial form of financial protection for many Australians, providing an ongoing replacement income when you are ill or injured and unable to work. It’s important protection which is why the Australian government often permits tax deductions to be made from premiums paid for income protection insurance policies.

DISCLAIMER: This article contains general advice and does not consider your own personal circumstances. It is not tax advice and the general nature of this material may not be applicable to you. You should obtain professional advice and verify our interpretation before relying on the information contained in our article.

As a general rule of thumb here's how income protection is taxed in Australia:

Deductions (on the premiums you pay)

  • Outside of super. Premiums paid for income protection insurance policies held outside of superannuation are tax deductible.
  • Inside of super. Payments for income protection insurance policies held inside superannuation are not tax-deductible when insurance premiums are deducted from your super contributions.

Tax you'll pay (if you receive a payment)

  • Outside of super. Payouts are generally taxed (at the marginal rate) if your benefits are to replace lost income and the premiums were deductible.
  • Inside of super. Trustees will usually apply a 'withholding PAYG tax' from payouts for policies held inside super.

However, you must declare any benefit you receive from an income protection policy on your income tax return, so read on to discover all the ins and outs of income protection insurance and tax.

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Read the guide to pre-paying income protection insurance for a tax benefits.

When are income protection premiums tax deductible?

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) explains that you can claim the cost of premiums you pay for insurance against the loss of your income. As long as your income protection premiums relate to earning an assessable income, and provided the policy is held outside of your superannuation fund, your premiums can be claimed as a tax deduction.

How much can I claim in deductions?

When you file your tax return you can claim your income protection premiums (for policies outside of super) as a tax deduction. The size of the tax refund will depend on your annual assessable earnings and the marginal tax rate that applies.

Policyholder’s Annual EarningsAnnual Premium to InsurerMarginal Tax RateTax RefundCost of Cover (after refund)
Between $18,201 and $37,000$1,00019%$191$810
Between $37,000 and $80,000$1,00032.5%$325$675
Between $80,001 and $180,000$1,00037%$370$630
$180,001 or more$1,00045%$450$550

This table does not include the Medicare levy (2%), and temporary budget repair levy (2% for incomes over $180,000).

When are income protection premiums not tax deductible?

The ATO clearly spells out the situations when you will not be able to claim your income protection insurance premiums as a tax deduction:

“You can't claim a deduction for a premium or any part of a premium:

  • for a policy that compensates you for such things as physical injury
  • where the policy is taken out through your superannuation and insurance premiums are deducted from your super contributions.”

For example, you won’t be able to claim premiums for life insurance, trauma insurance or critical illness insurance as a tax deduction. With combined policies, you can still claim back the portion of premiums paid for the income protection component of your policy.

Some of the similar types of insurance that might seem like they’re not tax deductible, but actually are, include sickness and accident insurance policies and premiums paid by a business owner for workers compensation insurance.

These are tax deductible because although they pay for physical injury, they do not directly compensate physical injury and in fact insure one’s ability to earn an income. Similarly, ongoing income replacement benefits that can be paid out by those types of insurance are also tax assessable.

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How do I claim a deduction?

Income protection premiums can be claimed just like any other work deduction on your income tax return. You can only claim a deduction for premiums paid in the financial year relevant to your tax return. If you’re unsure of the process it may be worth consulting an accountant or tax advisor.

Combined cover

In cases where not all of the premium you pay is for income protection insurance, for example if you have life cover and income protection cover bundled together, ou will need to break it down into income and capital components.

If you can’t show how much of your premium provided protection for your income and how much provided cover is of a capital nature then you may not be able to claim deductions for any of it – so ask your insurer to help you break it down.

Case Study: Kate Claims a Deduction

Kate is an accountant who earns $100,000 a year. This level of income means that she needs to pay the following in income tax: $19,822 plus 37c for each $1 over $87,000. In total this works out to be $24,892.

Kate's income protection

However, Kate also has income protection insurance cover in place outside of superannuation, for which she is paying $1,000 in premiums per year. This means her premiums can be claimed as a tax deduction.

Kate's deduction

With a marginal tax rate of 39% she can claim a deduction of $390.

Essential, Kate sees her tax bill decrease to $24,502 (from 24,892).

Note; that for the purposes of this example Kate is exempt from the Medicare Levy.

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How are income protection benefits taxed?

According to the ATO, “You must declare any amounts you received for lost salary or wages under an income protection, sickness or accident insurance policy or workers compensation scheme.”

In other words, you’ll need to pay tax on the monthly benefits you receive just like you would on your regular income. The amount of tax you pay is determined by the amount you earn per year and the resulting tax bracket you fit into.

2016-2017 tax rates or Australian residents*

Taxable IncomeTax on this Income
$0 - $18,200Nil
$18,201 - $37,00019c for each $1 over $18,200
$37,001 - $80,000$3,572 plus 32.5c for each $1 over $37,000
$87,001 - $180,000$17,547 plus 37c for each $1 over $80,000
$180,001 and over$54,547 plus 45c for each $1 over $180,000
  • *This table does not include the Medicare levy of 2%.
  • *This table does not include the temporary budget repair levy of 2% on incomes above $180,000

2016-2017 tax rates for foreign residents

Individuals who are foreign residents for tax purposes can still get income protection insurance in Australia, and are subject to different tax rates. Foreign residents are not required to pay the Medicare levy, but may still be subject to the temporary budget repair levy.

Depending on the situation, foreign residents may be able to claim deductions for income protection insurance in similar ways.

Taxable IncomeTax on this Income
$0 - $87,000Nil
$87,001 - $180,000$28,275 plus 37c for each $1 over $87,000
$180,001 and over$62,685 plus 45c for each $1 over $180,000

Case Study: Tim Pays Tax on His Income Protection Benefits

Tim is a sole-trader plumber who earns $72,000 a year. Because he knows that his health is crucial to the success of his business, Tim has income protection insurance in place.

This proves to be a sound investment when, on August 1, 2015, Tim is seriously injured in a car accident. As Tim is unable to work, once he has been disabled for the 30-day waiting period his income protection insurance begins offering a monthly benefit of $4,500.

At the end of the 2015/16 financial year Tim is still receiving a benefit, but he needs to file his income tax return. His income is worked out based on the following calculations:

  • Income from 1st month before injury: $6,000
  • Income during waiting period: $0
  • Income for remaining 10 months: $4,500 per month, totalling $45,000

Tim’s total income for the 2015/16 financial year is therefore $51,000, meaning he will be taxed at the following rate:

  • $3,572 plus 32.5c for each $1 over $37,000

This means Tim’s tax bill will be $8,122 – minus any deductions he can claim, including the premiums he has paid for income protection cover.

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Tax treatment of income protection inside superannuation

The details above apply to standalone income protection policies held outside of super. So what happens if you take out cover through your superannuation fund?

  • You will generally not be able to claim tax deductions for premiums.
  • The trustee of your super fund will apply withholding tax to benefit.

Speak to a tax specialist

The tax treatment can also get more complicated in other ways, such as if you are not paying any of the premiums through superannuation contributions, are dividing premiums between super contributions and salary sacrifice, if your employer is making their own contributions to your premium payments, and other situations. Generally you will not be able to claim your income protection premiums as a tax deduction, but will need to expect Pay As You Go (PAYG) withholding tax to be applied to any benefit payments you receive from your policy.

Exceptions for self employed workers

If you’re self-employed you may be able to claim your income protection insurance premiums as tax deductions even when held inside a superannuation policy. Because these premiums can be paid straight from before-tax superannuation contributions, this might work out to be a tax-effective strategy. Note that premium payments for insurance policies held inside superannuation may still count towards the tax-free super contribution limit.

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Income protection and fringe benefits tax

Another factor you might need to consider when shopping around for group income protection insurance, such as if you’re an employer looking to provide insurance for workers, is Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT).

What is fringe benefits tax?

Separate to income tax, FBT is business tax paid by employers on certain benefits they provide to their employees. Fringe benefits might include giving an employee permission to use a work car for private purposes, or contributing to income protection insurance premiums for a policy taken out on an employee. Typically, fringe benefit tax for life insurance type policies taken out by a business, on employees, will be taxable as a fringe benefits in line with the premiums the employee could have expected to pay themselves, for the same policy.

What won't fringe benefits tax be payable?

Income protection insurance premiums might not be susceptible to FBT where the “otherwise deductible” rule applies. Essentially, this means that when someone else could be claiming a deduction for the same expense, FBT will not apply to the relevant portion.

Consider this example where FBT will not apply at all:

Michael works for a construction company and decides to take out income protection cover. He is named as the life insured and the policy owner, but because Michael is a highly valuable employee, his boss decides to cover the cost of Michael’s premiums too. In this instance, Michael’s boss may not have to pay any FBT on the premiums because they would be otherwise deductible to Michael..

In addition, in cases where income protection cover is used as a type of key person insurance and the benefit is used to replace the business’s income, FBT is once again typically not payable.

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Some final questions you might have

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8 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    KazMarch 25, 2019

    I have a friend who is tax resident in HK and has been for many years. His income protection policy was to insure income in HK. If this friend were to return to Australia and become and Australian tax resident, would these income protection policy payouts be assessable in Australia, given the policy was insuring a Hong Kong income?

    Many thanks,

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JeniMarch 28, 2019Staff

      Hi Karen,

      Thank you for getting in touch with Finder.

      As per this ATO page, an Australian resident must declare all income he earned anywhere in the world on his Australian tax return. It is best to speak to a tax agent on this specific situation for a more accurate info on this tax matter.

      I hope this helps.

      Thank you and have a wonderful day!


  2. Default Gravatar
    ThereseAugust 8, 2018

    I received income protection as a lump sum after waiting for the insurance company, as they were not going to pay, I received Newstart but I had to pay it all back. Is the income protection payout taxable income?

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JhezAugust 8, 2018Staff

      Hello Therese,

      Thank you for your comment.

      The ATO considers income protection to be tax deductible if it is paid under the policy to replace the loss of your income. ATO does not consider it to be tax deductible if it is paid under a policy to compensate for a death, injury or accident, such as under a life insurance, trauma or total permanent disability policy. This is also explained above.

      You’re best to seek advice from a tax agent so they can provide you with a computation in case.

      Should you wish to have real-time answers to your questions, try our chat box on the lower right corner of our page.


  3. Default Gravatar
    MichaelApril 28, 2018

    I have received a two year retrospective payment on an income protection claim against my insurer. My monthly payments for these two years were paid in a lump sum and the payments have continued every three months after the two years retrospective payment.

    My question is whether I should pay tax in the financial year when I received the lump sum payment or should I pay tax based on the financial year related to the time period when the payments were claimed.

    I was unable to work during the two years so the tax implications are significant.

    Thanks for your advice


    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JeniApril 29, 2018Staff

      Hi Michael,

      Thank you for getting in touch with finder.

      You must declare any amounts you received for lost salary or wages under an income protection, sickness or accident insurance policy or workers compensation scheme.

      If you’ve made a personal injury claim and you agree to a settlement, or a court orders in your favour, you may receive compensation in the form of a lump sum payment or structural (periodic) payments (or both). Such payments are tax-free, provided certain conditions are met.

      You don’t include payments made to you under an income protection, sickness or accident insurance policy (where the premiums are deductible and the payments replaced income) at this question, if:

      -tax has already been withheld
      -you’ve already included them on your tax return

      You may want to know more about other income you need to declare on your tax return by checking out this link.

      I hope this helps.

      Have a great day!


  4. Default Gravatar
    RuthAugust 16, 2017

    I have been paid an income protection benefit lump sum for 6 month period outside of super. How much tax would I need to factor into ny budget if given 19,000.00?

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      RenchAugust 16, 2017Staff

      Hi Ruth,

      Thanks for your inquiry.

      I believe this page will be helpful to you. You can make use of the Tax Calculator and have an idea on how much tax that you will need to pay.

      Kind regards,

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