Superannuations Frequently Asked Questions
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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
What is the superannuation rate?
The superannuation rate, or guarantee rate, is the percentage of your salary that your employer must pay into your superannuation fund. The superannuation guarantee has been set at 9.5 per cent since the 2014-15 financial year. It is scheduled to rise to 10.0 per cent in 2021-22, 10.5 per cent in 2022-23, 11.0 per cent in 2023-24, 11.5 per cent in 2024-25 and 12.0 per cent in 2025-26.
What is an SMSF?
An SMSF is a self-managed superannuation fund. SMSFs have to follow the same rules and restrictions as ordinary superannuation funds.
SMSFs allow Australians to directly invest their superannuation, rather than let ordinary funds manage their money for them.
SMSFs are regulated by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). They can have up to four members. All members must be trustees (or directors if there is a corporate trustee).
Unlike with ordinary funds, SMSF members are responsible for meeting compliance obligations.
What are the risks and challenges of an SMSF?
- SMSFs have high set-up and running costs
- They come with complicated compliance obligations
- It takes a lot of time to research investment options
- It can be difficult to make such big financial decisions
What should I know before getting an SMSF?
Four questions to ask yourself before taking out an SMSF include:
- Do I have enough superannuation to justify the higher set-up and running costs?
- Am I able to handle complicated compliance obligations?
- Am I willing to spend lots of time researching investment options?
- 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.
How do I set up an SMSF?
Setting up an SMSF takes more work than registering with an ordinary superannuation fund.
An SMSF is a type of trust, so if you want to create an SMSF, you first have to create a trust.
To create a trust, you will need trustees, who must sign a trustee declaration. You will also need identifiable beneficiaries and assets for the fund – although these can be as little as a few dollars.
You will also need to create a trust deed, which is a document that lays out the rules of your SMSF. The trust deed must be prepared by a qualified professional and signed by all trustees.
To qualify as an Australian superannuation fund, the SMSF must meet these three criteria:
- The fund must be established in Australia – or at least one of its assets must be located in Australia
- The central management and control of the fund must ordinarily be in Australia
- The fund must have active members who are Australian residents and who hold at least 50 per cent of the fund’s assets – or it must have no active members
Once your SMSF is established and all trustees have signed a trustee declaration, you have 60 days to apply for an Australian Business Number (ABN).
When completing the ABN application, you should ask for a tax file number for your fund. You should also ask for the fund to be regulated by the Australian Taxation Office – otherwise it won’t receive tax concessions.
Your next step is to open a bank account in your fund’s name. This account must be kept separated from the accounts held by the trustees and any related employers.
Your SMSF will also need an electronic service address, so it can receive contributions.
Finally, you will need to create an investment strategy, which explains how your fund will invest its money, and an exit strategy, which explains how and why it would ever close.
Please note that you can pay an adviser to set up your SMSF. You might also want to take the Self-Managed Superannuation Fund Trustee Education Program, which is a free program that has been created by CPA Australia and Chartered Accountants Australia & New Zealand.
What is an SMSF investment strategy?
All SMSFs are required to have an investment strategy, which should explain what assets the fund will buy and what objectives it will pursue. This strategy must be reviewed regularly.
Issues to consider include how much risk the SMSF will take, how easily its assets can be converted into cash and how it will pay out benefits.
What contributions can SMSFs accept?
SMSFs can accept mandated employer contributions from an employer at any time (Funds need an electronic service address to receive the contributions).
However, SMSFs can’t accept contributions from members who don’t have tax file numbers.
Also, they generally can’t accept assets as contributions from members and they generally can’t accept non-mandated contributions for members who are 75 or older.
How are SMSFs allowed to invest their funds?
SMSFs can invest in conventional assets such as shares, term deposits, managed funds and property.
SMSFs can also buy ‘collectibles’ such as artwork, jewellery, antiques, coins, stamps, vintage cars and wine – although there are special rules that apply to collectibles.
Investments must be made on an arm’s length basis, which means that assets must be bought and sold at market prices, while income must reflect the market rate of return.
As a general rule, SMSFs can’t buy assets from members or related parties.
How are SMSFs taxed?
Funds that follow the rules are taxed at the concessional rate of 15 per cent. Funds that don’t follow the rules are taxed at the highest marginal tax rate.
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