Federal budget 2020: job switchers to automatically keep super accounts

Federal budget 2020: job switchers to automatically keep super accounts

Australians will have their super accounts “stapled” to them as they move jobs, but concerns have been raised that workers could find themselves trapped in an inferior fund.

The $3 trillion superannuation system is facing a major overhaul to address what the government has described as “structural flaws” within the system.

In one of the key changes to the system under the federal budget, new super accounts will not be automatically created for workers when they start a new job from July 2021.

The reform is aimed at minimising unnecessary fees paid by workers, with Australians stumping up $30 billion in super fees last year, according to Treasury data – more than the $27 billion spent annually on energy, and $12 billion on water bills.

The data also showed 4.4 million people across the country are holding 6 million super accounts, setting Australians back $450 million in unnecessary fees.

“Too many Australians are paying too much in superannuation fees,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said in his budget speech on Tuesday night.

Multiple superannuation accounts, many created unintentionally when workers switch jobs, can erode retirement savings through multiple sets of fees and insurance premiums charged to the member.

“Added labour market turnover as the economy recovers from the impact of COVID-19 creates even more urgency to protect members from being defaulted into a duplicate account they do not need,” according to budget documents.

The measure, being implemented for the first time, is forecast to boost the super balances of Australians by about $280 million a year.

Concerns raised about new super reforms

But the move to staple members to their super fund has caused concern in the industry.

While preventing new super accounts from being created, Industry Super Australia believes the reform overlooks members who are already in a poor performing fund, as it will not help the consolidation of existing surplus accounts.

“While it is pleasing the government is tackling multiple accounts, stapling workers to a single fund could leave them stuck in a dud fund for life, costing them hundreds of thousands of dollars at retirement,” Industry Super Australia chief executive Bernie Dean said.

He said workers’ retirement savings should be automatically rolled over into a new fund when they change jobs.

“Stapling the money to a member would remove multiple accounts quicker and more effectively weed out underperformers. Underperformance is the biggest cost drain on member savings and dud funds need to be removed no matter what type of fund they are,” Mr Dean said.

“With the government’s early release of super scheme sending millions of members accounts backwards, every dollar in saved fees and improved returns is desperately needed and will ensure members get the maximum benefit of the legislated SG (super guarantee) increase.”

Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees chief executive officer Eva Scheerlinck said being stapled to a super fund could have implications on insurance. Some workers may potentially end up uninsurable if they are stuck with a fund that does not have insurance covering their line of work.

“For instance, someone whose first out-of-school-job is working in call centre who then goes on to work in the mining industry may be stapled to a fund where they don’t qualify for insurance protection,” she said.

List of underperforming super funds to be made public

The super stapling reform is part of a raft of changes to the superannuation system, as the government focuses on the industry as one of the key initiatives in the budget.

MySuper funds will need to undergo an annual performance test from July 2021, while other super funds regulated by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) will come under the same rules from July 2022.

Members will be notified in writing if their fund fails the test, and funds that miss the mark for two years in a row will be barred from signing up new members until their performance lifts.

Australians are depositing $100 billion of their life savings into 3 million accounts tied to underperforming super funds, according to Treasury data.

The government has also announced it will develop a new superannuation comparison website, to be named YourSuper, which will help Australians compare super fund fees and returns through comparison tables and rankings updated every three months. Underperforming funds will be publicly listed on YourSuper.

The online tool will also notify users if they have more than one super account and remind them to consider consolidating their accounts.

The superannuation reform package is expected to deliver benefits worth an estimated $17.9 billion over the next 10 years.

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Learn more about superannuation

What is a superannuation fund?

A superannuation fund is an institution that is legally allowed to hold and invest your superannuation. There are more than 200 different superannuation funds in Australia. They come in five different types:

  • Retail funds
  • Industry funds
  • Public sector funds
  • Corporate funds
  • Self-managed super funds

Retail funds are usually run by banks or investment companies.

Industry funds were originally designed for workers from a particular industry, but are now open to anyone.

Public sector funds were originally designed for people working for federal or state government departments. Most are still reserved for government employees.

Corporate funds are arranged by employers for their employees.

Self-managed super funds are private superannuation funds that allow people to directly invest their money.

How do you find superannuation?

Lost superannuation refers to savings in an account that you’ve forgotten about. This can happen if you’ve opened several different accounts over the years while moving from job to job.

You can use your MyGov account to see details of all your superannuation accounts, including any you might have forgotten. Alternatively, you can fill in a ‘Searching for lost super’ form and send it to the Australian Taxation Office, which will then search on your behalf.

What is MySuper?

MySuper accounts are basic, low-fee accounts. If you don’t nominate a superannuation fund, your employer must choose one for you that offers a MySuper account.

MySuper accounts offer two investment options:

  1. Single diversified investment strategy

Your fund assigns you a risk strategy and investment profile, which remain unchanged throughout your working life.

  1. Lifecycle investment strategy

Your fund assigns you an investment strategy based on your age, and then changes it as you get older. Younger workers are given strategies that emphasise growth assets

What superannuation details do I give to my employer?

When you start a job, your employer will give you what’s called a ‘superannuation standard choice form’. Here’s what you need to complete the form:

  • The name of your preferred superannuation fund
  • The fund’s address
  • The fund’s Australian business number (ABN)
  • The fund’s superannuation product identification number (SPIN)
  • The fund’s phone number
  • A letter from the fund trustee confirming that the fund is a complying fund; or written evidence from the fund stating it will accept contributions from your new employer; or details about how your employer can make contributions to the fund

You should also provide your tax file number – while it’s not a legal obligation, it will ensure your contributions will be taxed at the (lower) superannuation rate.

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.

How do you create a superannuation account?

Before you create a superannuation account, you’ll need to check if you’re allowed to choose your own fund. Most Australians can, but this option doesn’t apply to some workers who are covered by industrial agreements or who are members of defined benefits funds.

Assuming you are able to choose your own fund, the next step should be research, because there are more than 200 different superannuation funds in Australia.

Once you’ve decided on your preferred superannuation fund, head to that provider’s website, where you should be able to fill in an online application or download the appropriate forms. You’ll need your tax file number (assuming you don’t want to be charged a higher tax rate), your contact details and your employer’s details (if you’re employed).

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 a part-time employee?

As a part-time employee, you’re entitled to superannuation if:

  • You’re over 18 and earn more than $450 before tax in a calendar month
  • You’re under 18, you work more than 30 hours per week and you earn more than $450 before tax in a calendar month

How long after divorce can you claim superannuation?

You or your partner could be forced to surrender part of your superannuation if you divorce, just like with other assets.

You can file a claim for division of property – including superannuation – as soon as you divorce. However, the claim has to be filed within one year of the divorce.

Your superannuation could be affected even if you’re in a de facto relationship – that is, living together as a couple without being officially married.

In that case, the claim has to be filed within two years of the date of separation.

Either way, the first thing to consider is whether you’re a member of a standard, APRA-regulated superannuation fund or if you’re a member of a self-managed superannuation fund (SMSF), because different rules apply.

Standard superannuation funds

If your relationship breaks down, your superannuation savings might be divided by court order or by agreement.

The rules of the superannuation fund will dictate whether this transfer happens immediately, or in the future when the person who has to make the transfer is allowed to access the rest of their superannuation (i.e. at or near retirement).

Click here for more information.

SMSFs

If your relationship breaks down, you must continue to observe the trust deed of your SMSF.

So if you and your partner are both members of the same SMSF, neither party is allowed to use the fund to inflict ‘punishment’ – such as by excluding the other party from the decision-making process or refusing their request to roll their money into another superannuation fund.

This no-punishment rule applies even if the two parties are involved in legal proceedings.

Click here for more information.

Financial consequences

Superannuation funds often charge a fee for splitting accounts after a relationship breakdown.

Splitting superannuation can also impact the size of your total super balance and how your super is taxed.

Click here for more information.

How is superannuation calculated?

Superannuation is calculated at the rate of 9.5 per cent of your gross salary and wages. So if you had a salary of $50,000, your superannuation would be 9.5 per cent of that, or $4,750. This would be paid on top of your salary.

The ‘superannuation guarantee’, as it is known, has been 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.

Who can open a superannuation account?

Superannuation accounts can be opened by Australians, permanent residents and temporary residents. You’re automatically entitled to superannuation if:

  • You’re over 18 and earn more than $450 before tax in a calendar month
  • You’re under 18, you work more than 30 hours per week and you earn more than $450 before tax in a calendar month

When did superannuation start?

Australia’s modern superannuation system – in which employers make compulsory contributions to their employees – started in 1992. However, before that, there were various restricted superannuation schemes applying to certain employees in certain industries. The very first superannuation scheme was introduced in the 19th century.

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.

Is superannuation included in taxable income?

Superannuation is not included when calculating your income tax. So if you have a salary of $50,000, your assessable income would be $50,000, not $50,000 plus superannuation.

That said, superannuation itself is taxed. It is generally taxed at 15 per cent, although if you earn less than $37,000, you will be reimbursed up to $500 of the tax you paid.