Making sense of the super changes

Making sense of the super changes

After backlash from both savers and crossbenchers, the Government came to a compromise last week and shelved one of its most controversial super plans.

The proposal was to cap after-tax (non-concessional) contributions at $500,000 over a lifetime, backdated to 2007. Pre-retirees and retirees who had already surpassed the cap were in a bit of a pickle.

So what’s changed? Instead of $500,000 in after-tax contributions over a lifetime, savers can make $100,000 a year, beginning July 1, 2017. That means there’s still about nine months left to take advantage of $180,000 annual non-concessional cap and the bring-forward rule, which, as the name suggests, allows you to bring forward three years’ worth of contributions ($540,000).

From next year, savers can put in $100,000 in after-tax contributions, but still have the opportunity to use the bring forward rule for three years’ worth of contributions ($300,000), so long as they are under 65. The reaction to the second iteration has been far more positive than it was for the first one. For those wondering how it may work in practice, the Government has released the following case studies:

Kylie’s superannuation balance is $500,000. She sells an investment property and makes a non-concessional contribution to her superannuation of $200,000 in October 2017. As Kylie has triggered her bring forward, she would be able to make a further non-concessional contribution of $100,000 in 2018-19. In 2020-21 her non-concessional contribution caps would reset and she could make further contributions from then.

Molly is 40 and has a superannuation balance of $200,000. In September 2016, she receives an inheritance of $250,000, which she puts into her superannuation. This triggers her three year bring forward, which is $540,000. From 1 July 2017, as the cap has been lowered, Molly can make a non-concessional contribution of $110,000 in 2017-18 and $20,000 in 2018-19. She can then access the new bring forward from 2019-20 and contribute up to $300,000 in non-concessional contributions.

Eamon has a total superannuation balance of $1.45 million. He can make a non-concessional contribution in 2017-18 of $200,000. He cannot access the full three year bring forward as this would take his balance over $1.6 million. Eamon would also not be able to make any further non-concessional contributions.

Gary is a 72-year-old retiree who works around 40 hours in September every year and has a superannuation balance of $450,000. As Gary meets the work test, he can make a non-concessional contribution of $100,000 in 2017-18. However, as Gary is aged over 65 he cannot access the three year bring forward.

Other numbers of note

The controversial $500,000 lifetime cap wasn’t the only reform introduced on budget night to be aware of. Here are the others worth knowing about:

  • $1.6m cap on funds in tax-free pension phase – retirees who have more than $1.6m in pension phase will have to put some of their funds back into accumulation mode. People with more than $1.6m in pension won’t be able to make any more after-tax contributions come July next year.
  • Before-tax cap of $25,000 a year. Currently the cap is $30,000 and $35,000 for people 49 and over.

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Learn more about superannuation

What are government co-contributions?

A government co-contribution is a bonus payment from the federal government into your superannuation account – but it comes with conditions. First, the government will only make a co-contribution if you make a personal contribution. Second, the government will only contribute a maximum of $500. Third, the government will only make co-contributions for people on low and medium incomes. The Australian Taxation Office will calculation whether you’re entitled to a government co-contribution when you lodge your tax return. The size of any co-contribution depends on the size of your personal contribution and income.

How much extra superannuation can I add to my fund?

There is an annual limit of $25,000 for concessional contributions – that is, money paid by your employer and extra money you pay into your account through salary sacrificing. There is also a limit on non-concessional contributions. Australians aged between 65 and 74 have a limit of $100,000 per year. Australians aged under 65 have a limit of $300,000 every three years.

What are concessional contributions?

Concessional contributions are pre-tax payments into your superannuation account. The payments made by your employer are concessional payments. You can also make concessional contributions with a salary sacrifice.

What should I know before getting an SMSF?

Four questions to ask yourself before taking out an SMSF include:

  1. Do I have enough superannuation to justify the higher set-up and running costs?
  2. Am I able to handle complicated compliance obligations?
  3. Am I willing to spend lots of time researching investment options?
  4. Do I have the skill to make big financial decisions?

It’s also worth remembering that ordinary superannuation funds usually offer discounted life insurance and disability insurance. These discounts would no longer be available if you decided to manage your own super.

What are the age pension's residence rules?

On the day you claim the age pension, you must be in Australia and you must have been an Australian resident for at least 10 years (with no break in your stay for at least five of those years). The following exceptions apply:

  • You’re exempt from the 10-year rule if you’re a refugee or former refugee
  • You’re exempt from the 10-year rule if you’re getting Partner Allowance, Widow Allowance or Widow B pension
  • You can claim the age pension with only two years of residency if you’re a woman whose partner died while you were both Australian residents
  • You might be able to claim the age pension if you’ve lived or worked in a country that has a social security agreement with Australia

When can I access my superannuation?

You can withdraw your superannuation when you meet the ‘conditions of release’. The conditions of release say you can claim your super when you reach:

  • Age 65
  • Your ‘preservation age’ and retire
  • Your preservation age and begin a ‘transition to retirement’ while still working

The preservation age – which is different to the pension age – is based on date of birth. Here are the six different categories:

Date of birth Preservation age
Before 1 July 1960 55
1 July 1960 – 30 June 1961 56
1 July 1961 – 30 June 1962 57
1 July 1962 – 30 June 1963 58
1 July 1963 – 30 June 1964 59
From 1 July 1964 60

A transition to retirement allows you to continue working while accessing up to 10 per cent of the money in your superannuation account at the start of each financial year.

There are also seven special circumstances under which you can claim your superannuation:

  • Compassionate grounds
  • Severe financial hardship
  • Temporary incapacity
  • Permanent incapacity
  • Superannuation inheritance
  • Superannuation balance under $200
  • Temporary resident departing Australia

 

How do I choose the right superannuation fund?

Different superannuation funds charge different fees, offer different insurances, offer different investment options and have different performance histories.

So you need to ask yourself these four questions when comparing superannuation funds:

  • How many fees would I have to pay and what would they cost?
  • What insurances are available and how much would they cost?
  • What investment options does it offer? How would they match my risk profile and financial needs?
  • How have these investment options performed historically?

What are reportable superannuation contributions?

For employees, there are two types of reportable superannuation contributions:

  • Reportable employer super contributions your employer makes for you
  • Personal deductible contributions you make for yourself

What fees do superannuation funds charge?

Superannuation funds can charge a range of fees, including:

  • Activity-based fees – for specific, irregular services, such as splitting an account after a divorce
  • Administration fees – to cover the cost of managing your account
  • Advice fees – for personal investment advice
  • Buy/sell spread fees – when you make contributions, switches and withdrawals
  • Exit fees – when you close your account
  • Investment fees – to cover the cost of managing your investments
  • Switching fees – when you choose a new investment option within the same fund

Am I entitled to superannuation if I'm not an Australian citizen?

Yes, permanent and temporary residents are entitled to superannuation.

Do I have to pay myself superannuation if I'm self-employed?

No, self-employed workers don’t have to pay themselves superannuation. However, if you do pay yourself superannuation, you will probably be able to claim a tax deduction.

What is the age pension's income test?

These are the rules for most people who want to claim the standard pension:

Single people

  • If your income per fortnight is up to $168, you’re entitled to a full pension
  • If your income per fortnight is over $168, your pension will reduce by 50 cents for each dollar over $168

Couples

  • If your income per fortnight is up to $300, you’re entitled to a full pension
  • If your income per fortnight is over $300, your pension will reduce by 50 cents for each dollar over $300

These are the rules for most people who want to claim the transitional pension:

Single people

  • If your income per fortnight is up to $168, you’re entitled to a full pension
  • If your income per fortnight is over $168, your pension will reduce by 40 cents for each dollar over $168

Couples

  • If your income per fortnight is up to $300, you’re entitled to a full pension
  • If your income per fortnight is over $300, your pension will reduce by 40 cents for each dollar over $300

For most people, the age pension cuts off if your fortnightly income exceeds these thresholds:

Category Fortnightly income
Standard pension for singles $1,944.60
Standard pension for couples living together $2,978.40
Standard pension for couples living apart due to ill health $3,853.20
Transitional pension for singles $2,038.00
Transitional pension for couples living together $3,317.00
Transitional pension for couples living apart due to ill health $4,040.00

Can I choose a superannuation fund or does my employer choose one for me?

Most people can choose their own superannuation fund. However, you might not have this option if you are a member of certain defined benefit funds or covered by certain industrial agreements. If you don’t choose a superannuation fund, your employer will choose one for you.

What happens if my employer falls behind on my superannuation payments?

The Australian Taxation Office will investigate if your employer falls behind on your superannuation payments or doesn’t pay at all. You can report your employer with this online tool.