Beat the tax man to claim your lost super

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There is around $17 billion in lost superannuation accounts and some of it could be yours.

But you better get in quick to stake your claim on the funds, before it is transferred to the tax man, under a move the federal government says will save members from paying unnecessary fees.

It was announced this week that the government will collect an extra $675 million by lowering the threshold at which lost superannuation accounts are automatically moved to the Australian Tax Office (ATO).

At the moment, super accounts held by people who cannot be contacted are transferred to the ATO if they have a balance of less than $200 and have had no contributions for five years. From January, the threshold is $2000 and no contributions for a year or more.

The change will hand the budget $675 million in savings over four years. The money will be held in trust and members will be able to reclaim their lost funds from the ATO, which will pay interest equivalent to inflations on their unclaimed super. Currently, no interest is paid.

Losing track of some of your super is surprisingly easy – it may happen when you change jobs, have more than one job at a time, change names or simply forget how many super accounts you have.

Thankfully, tracking down and laying claim to your lost super isn't as hard as you might think. In the case of lost super, your name would have been reported by your super fund to the ATO, and listed on the lost members register. A member is recorded as "lost" when their account has been inactive for two or more years and at least two letters addressed to that member are returned undelivered. You can search for your lost super online using the ATO's SuperSeeker tool or by calling 13 28 65.

If you have reached retirement age and your super remains unclaimed, your name would be listed on the ATO's unclaimed super money register, and can also be tracked down on the SuperSeeker website.

If the amount in your lost super account is less than $200, you can withdraw it without paying any cash. A good idea may be to put that amount into a savings account and add to it over time for extra income stream, or simply make a contribution to your existing fund.

Under new legislation introduced into the House of Representatives, you can now transfer any lost superannuation electronically, without having to fill out numerous paper forms. This can save you time and effort, so claiming your share of lost super has never been easier.

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