RACGP’s new fees means-tested on total income

4 minute read

Misrepresent your pre-tax all-source income and risk being booted out of the college.

RACGP membership fees are only increasing by about 4% on paper, but part-timers should be prepared to get bumped up to full fee-paying members under a new system.

Following the revelation that the RACGP will end up several million dollars in debt at the end of this financial year, it’s perhaps no surprise membership fees and categories are getting a new look.

The RACGP will now ask you to declare whether your pre-taxation income from all sources is above or below $100,000 before billing you for membership.

In an email to members on Wednesday, the college said it believed means-testing was a fairer way to segment member subscription categories than the amount of time worked in general practice.

“One of the reasons for this is that we had too many subscription categories, making it more difficult than necessary for GPs to determine the appropriate category for them and creating an administrative burden for the college,” RACGP CEO Paul Wappett told The Medical Republic.

“The new categories make membership simpler for GPs while retaining appropriate discounts.”

Mr Wappett confirmed that the RACGP has “no intention” of asking members to disclose their entire income or their income sources – just whether or not their pre-tax income from all sources is $100,000 or more.

Where there were previously 16 membership categories, there will now be just nine.

The old system primarily segmented members by the number of hours they worked – full-time GPs paid $1503 each year, GPs who worked less than 20 hours per week paid $978 and non-clinically active GPs paid $604.

New RACGP fellows and full-time GPs whose spouse or partner was also a full-time GP paid the same membership fees as the part time GPs. GPs who were on extended parental or sick leave for the duration of the financial year, GPs who were 70 years or older, GPs who live overseas all paid the same fees as a non-clinically-practising GP.

There were also reduced fees for international medical graduates working toward Australian registration, GP registrars, retired GPs, resident doctors, medical students and for doctors who have registration in Fiji, Hong Kong and Malaysia and also live overseas.

Under this setup, just 39% of members paid full fees.

The nine categories under the new system are: GPs who earn more than $100,000 or more from all revenue sources before tax, GPs who earn less than $100,000 from all revenue sources before tax, GPs over the age of 70, GP trainees, international graduates, doctors living and working outside Australia, pre-vocational doctors and retired GPs.

Fees for each division are roughly the same as under the previous system, just with a 4.2% price hike. The full fee cost is now $1567 and the concession fee is $940.

The 4.2% increase – which the college noted in an email to members was below the total increase in the consumer price index – represents the blended CPI rate for health and education.

Doctors who live overseas now pay slightly more in membership fees, at $855, and there are no concessions for GPs who are married to each other.

All fellowed GPs will receive the same benefits, regardless of category.

The key change is that “full time” has been replaced by an income threshold.

Doctors who work less than 20 hours a week in general practice – and have therefore been paying part-time member fees – but have other sources of income (investments, a second job, etc.) that tip them over $100,000 in annual income will now have to pay an additional $500 in member fees.

The Medical Republic does not know how many members this change will affect.

According to the RACGP, the $100,000 cutoff was chosen because it represents the median income for GPs working three days per week.

Come renewal time, members will be asked to choose one of the categories and declare that they are telling the truth about it.

In other words, there won’t be a complex process to prove that someone’s income is what they say it is.

Accountant David Dahm, who specialises in healthcare and general practice accounting, told TMR that means-testing members was a highly unusual move.

“How are they going to police it?” he said.

“I feel that [the college is] asking for too much information.

“I don’t think your income is anybody’s business but your accountant’s and the tax man’s.”

If a doctor were to lie about their income (and the college finds out), it could constitute a breach of the RACGP Members Code of Conduct, and the consequences of that include sanctions or loss of membership.

Not everyone will be paying more, though – membership for pre-vocational and retired doctors is now free.

Past presidents, lifetime members and honorary members will continue receiving membership for free.

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