Archive for 'super'

Spouse contributions – when are you eligible for a tax offset?

Contributions made on behalf of your spouse to a complying superannuation fund or a retirement savings account (RSA) may be eligible for a tax offset.

The 2019/2020 tax rules allow you to claim an 18% tax offset on super contributions up to $3,000 on behalf of your spouse. While you are able to contribute more than $3,000, there will be no spouse contribution tax offset over this amount. The amount you can claim depends on your spouse’s annual income:

  • $540 for spouse income of $37,000.
  • $360 for spouse income of $38,000.
  • $180 for spouse income of $39,000.

The tax offset may be available for individuals who meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • Your spouse’s assessable income, fringe benefits amounts and employer superannuation contributions equate to under $40,000.
  • Contributions made on behalf of your spouse were not deductible to you.
  • You and your spouse were Australian residents at the time of contributions.
  • Your spouse did not have non-concessional contributions that equated to a higher amount than their non-concessional contributions cap, or they did not have a total superannuation balance of $1.6 million or more at 30 June 2018.
  • Your spouse is younger than their preservation age, or are not retired while being between 65 and their preservation age.

Under Australian superannuation law, your spouse can be either:

  • Your partner who you are married to and live with, or;
  • Your de facto partner, who you live with on a genuine domestic basis.

The spouse contributions tax offset can be claimed on your tax return.

Posted on 28 May '20 by , under super. No Comments.

Your current employer superannuation obligations

Paying your employees superannuation is an integral part of being an employer. Superannuation provides income for your workers in retirement and it is your legal obligation to make sure you are paying your eligible employees the right amount, on time, to the right place and also in the right way. The ATO has also introduced a few schemes to help employers meet their super obligations due to financial strain caused by COVID-19.

Your super obligations are summarized in the following:

  • Check the eligibility of all your employees (some contractors or freelancers may be entitled to superannuation payments).
  • Pay your eligible employees 9.5% of their ordinary time earnings.
  • Super payments must be made at a quarterly minimum (employers who do not pay their superannuation on time may need to pay a superannuation guarantee charge).
  • Pay super into your worker’s fund of choice.
  • Pay the SuperStream way (both payments and data are sent electronically in a standard format).
  • Streamline your payment process with Single Touch Payroll.
  • Keep evidence to show that you have met your super obligations as an employer.

While the usual obligations apply, the ATO has also introduced assistance schemes in response to COVID-19 for employers. The superannuation guarantee amnesty, in particular, will provide you with arrangements which can adjust your payment terms and amounts relative to your financial circumstances as well as extend your payment plan to beyond 7 September 2020, provided you apply to participate in the amnesty by that date.

Applying for superannuation guarantee amnesty also means having any refunds returned to you as quickly as possible and being notified of any eligible income tax deductions you can claim on your contributions to employee super funds. However, if you are unable to maintain super payments despite being granted SG amnesty, you will be disqualified from the program. This disqualification will only apply to any unpaid quarters and you will need to pay a $20 per employee component for re-application of any unpaid quarters.

For updates in the event of more changes to super obligations and requirements, visit the ATO Super website or APRA-regulated funds page for more information.

Posted on 18 May '20 by , under super. No Comments.

What happens if your SMSF is non compliant?

While there are benefits to running an SMSF, they do not come without their compliance responsibilities. This includes lodging your fund’s annual return on time, attending to reporting obligations, and having an investment strategy. SMSFs who do not meet their obligations are subject to penalties by the ATO through the following measures.

Education direction

An SMSF trustee who does not meet compliance requirements can be given a written direction to undertake a course of education that is designed to improve their ability to meet their obligations, reducing the risk of future non-compliance. The course may be completed online within a nominated timeframe. Failure to comply with an education direction can result in an administrative penalty of 10 units.

Administrative penalties

SMSF trustees are liable to pay administrative penalties if they contravene provisions of the Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Act 1993 (SISA). This includes contraventions of borrowings, in-house assets, education direction, duty to notify of significant adverse events, and accounts and statements. The minimum penalty is $1,050 and the maximum penalty is $12,600.

Enforceable undertaking

SMSF trustees may be able to rectify non-compliance by providing a written commitment to an enforceable undertaking. The ATO may or may not accept the undertaking, which should include:

  • A commitment to ending the non-compliance behaviour.
  • What action will be taken as rectification.
  • The designated time period to rectify the contravention.
  • How and when the trustee will report the completion of rectification.
  • Strategies employed to prevent future contraventions.

Rectification direction

The ATO may decide to provide a trustee with written direction to rectify their contravention. The trustee will then be required to undertake specified action to rectify the non-compliance within a given timeframe. Rectification commonly involves employing managerial or administrative arrangements that will prevent similar contraventions in the future. Proof of compliance with the direction to rectify will be required. Failure to comply with the direction is an offence of strict liability, which can lead to disqualification or the removal of the fund’s complying status which may result in a significant tax penalty on the fund.

Disqualification

The ATO has the ability to disqualify individuals from acting as a trustee due to their non-compliance. This will take into account the severity of the contraventions and the likelihood of them reoccurring. Continuing to act as a trustee after disqualification is an offence that may result in further penalties.

Civil and criminal penalties

Civil and criminal penalties through court can apply when SMSF trustees contravene with provisions such as:

  • The sole purpose test
  • Prohibition of avoidance schemes
  • Promotion of illegal early release schemes
  • Duty to notify the regulator of significant adverse events.

Non-compliance notice

SMSFs may be issued a notice of non-compliance when serious contravention of super laws have occurred. This causes the fund to remain non-compliant until a notice of compliance is received. For every year the fund remains non-complying, its assessable income is taxed at the highest marginal tax rate.

Winding up the fund

After a contravention has occurred, the trustee may wind up the SMSF and roll over the remaining benefits to an Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) regulated fund. However, in some cases, the ATO may continue to issue the SMSF with a notice of non-compliance and/or apply other compliance measures.

Freezing the SMSF’s assets

A trustee may be given a notice to freeze an SMSF’s assets when it appears that conduct by the trustees or investment manager may adversely affect the interests of the beneficiaries. The notice may restrict the trustee or investment manager from acquiring assets and disposing of assets.

Posted on 14 May '20 by , under super. No Comments.

Things to know about the First Home Super Saver Scheme

Individuals looking to buy their first home may claim up to $30,000 of their super contributions through the First Home Super Saver (FHSS) Scheme, which aims to reduce pressure on housing affordability.

The scheme allows first home buyers to save money within their superannuation fund and accumulate faster savings with the concessional tax treatment of super. Eligible individuals who are able to use up to $15,000 of voluntary contributions per year, and a total of $30,000 contributions across all years. The FHHS amounts received will affect your tax for the year it is released to you; both the assessable and tax-withheld amounts from your FHSS payment will need to be included in your tax return.

The types of contributions eligible to go towards the FHHS scheme are voluntary concessional contributions and voluntary non-concessional contributions. Contributions can be made up to your existing contributions cap.

To be eligible for the scheme, individuals must:

  • Be at least 18 years of age.
  • Have not previously owned property in Australia, or have previously released First Home Super Saver funds.
  • Have the intent to live in the property you use the funds to purchase as soon as practicable, for at least the first 6 of the 12 months of owning the property.

Individuals experiencing financial hardship may also apply for the scheme even if they have already purchased property in the past if their financial hardship has resulted in a loss of property interest. This may be applicable to individuals who have experienced events such as:

  • Bankruptcy
  • Unemployment
  • Divorce
  • Natural disasters
  • Illness.

Posted on 4 May '20 by , under super. No Comments.

Assistance available for SMSFs and their members

The Government’s economic response to coronavirus will provide SMSFs and their members with additional support, including reducing minimum drawdown rates and early release of superannuation.

The minimum annual payment required for account-based pensions and annuities has been reduced in an initiative to assist retirees. For the 2019-20 and 2020-21 financial years, the minimum annual payment required for members has been reduced by 50%.

If the minimum drawdown amount has been paid, no further payments will be required for the rest of the year. Those who have already paid more than the minimum drawdown amount are able to have their member recontribute this amount if the member is eligible to make contributions. Re-contributions will continue to be subjected to rules or limits, such as contributions caps.

Members of SMSFs who have been adversely affected by COVID-19 may be able to access up to $10,000 of their super before 1 July 2020, as well as a further $10,000 between 1 July 2020 and 24 September 2020, on compassionate grounds. To be eligible, members must satisfy at least one of the following criteria:

  • They are unemployed.
  • They are eligible for certain government support payments, including a job seeker payment, youth allowance for jobseekers or parenting payment.
  • They were made redundant on or after 1 January 2020.
  • They had their work hours reduced by at least 20% on or after 1 January 2020.
  • They are a sole trader and either had a turnover reduction of at least 20% or had their businesses suspended, both on or after 1 January 2020.

Applications for early access can be made through myGov.

In addition to these initiatives, the Government will also be automatically deferring the lodgement of 2019 SMSF annual returns until 30 Junes 2020.

Posted on 30 April '20 by , under super. No Comments.

Managing longevity risk and your superannuation

Longevity risk is a common and important factor to consider when planning for your retirement funds. Longevity risk refers to the risk of outliving your savings and arises as people enter retirement, and in most cases, with a fixed amount of money to use during their retirement years. Managing your longevity risk is important because retirees often have no idea of how long they will need their retirement funds for. Here are a few strategies to help you manage your longevity risk:

Purchase an account-based pension:

An account-based pension is a regular income stream you can buy with the money from your super after you retire and reach your preservation age. When buying an account-based pension, you can choose how much of your super funds you’d like to transfer to the pension phase, the size and frequency of your payments (within a set limit) and how you want your money to be invested through your pension.

If you were thinking of purchasing an account-based pension to begin with, now may be the time as the Government is temporarily reducing superannuation minimum drawdown rates for account-based pensions by 50%. The annual payment as a percentage of account balance currently has reduced rates between 2% and 7% (from age brackets from 55 to 95+ respectively).

Set up a lifetime annuity:

Lifetime income annuities and insurance products designed to provide income throughout your retirement. Annuities are bought from insurance companies with a lump sum of cash and in return, you can get regular income payments until you pass away or for the amount of time you’ve agreed upon.

To make sure you purchase the right annuity for your desires and circumstances, it is often wise to consult a financial adviser before making your decision or go through a reliable insurance broker. In the case that you’d like to avoid paying commission fees from an insurance broker, you can also purchase lifetime annuities from investment companies rather than a traditional insurance company.

Age pension as a safety net:

While there are a number of retirement safety net options available to retirees, age pension is the most obvious and most reliable. An age pension is a means-tested Government-backed safety net for retirees who are unable to fully provide for themselves in retirement. While a stable income stream to take note of, age pensions usually only provide their recipients with the bare minimum and hence considering some of the strategies listed above will give you more leeway with your funds and lifestyle after retirement.

Posted on 16 April '20 by , under super. No Comments.

Expert advice on early superannuation access as a result of COVID-19

Under the coronavirus stimulus package released and revised by the Australian Federal Government on 22 March 2020, individuals in financial trouble due to the negative economic impacts of COVID-19 will be able to access their superannuation funds early. However, while the option is available, it is recommended that individuals only consider withdrawing from their super in the case of absolute emergencies and treat it as a last resort.

With the new rules on superannuation, workers whose incomes are reduced by at least 20% due to the COVID-19 outbreak are allowed to take $10,000 out of their super for the 2019-20 financial year and another $10,000 for 2020-21. Individuals will also not need to pay tax on any withdrawn amounts and existing welfare payments will not be affected either.

While the introduced early access to superannuation funds may be inviting for newly unemployed workers, it is important to consider whether the temporary relief is necessary and worth foregoing super funds available for long term investment. For example, even when accounting for Australia’s slowing economy in the coming years, $10,000 is predicted to be worth over $65,000 in another 30 years.

Especially for younger workers who are less likely to have access to other savings, the choice to give up future savings for current comfort is a difficult one. Experts instead are recommending Australians to apply for the other payments and benefits made available to vulnerable Australians through the coronavirus stimulus package, such as added $550 fortnightly supplements to Australians on JobSeeker payments and other welfare recipients and pensioners.

Experts also predict that the Australian Government will introduce more stimuli for increased cash flow in the Australian economy and more payments for unemployed, struggling and vulnerable Australians in the case of COVID-19 becoming more of a serious economic issue. Hence, withdrawing funds from your superannuation account should be considered a last resort and not for the sake of unnecessary temporary relief.

In addition to being allowed early access into individual super funds, superannuation minimum drawdown rates will also be temporarily reduced by 50% for account-based pensions and others similar until 2021.

The Government has also reduced the upper and lower social security deeming rates by a further 0.25 percentage points, with upper at 2.25% and lower at 0.25% which will come into effect on 1 May 2020.

Posted on 2 April '20 by , under super. No Comments.

Investing in shares vs property in SMSFs

Shares and property are two popular investment options for those with a self-managed super fund (SMSF). However, they both have very different attributes and choosing the one that will achieve the best outcome for an SMSF depends on your personal goals and situation.

While the price of shares can vary drastically, property is a relatively stable asset, making it appealing to those who want more security and predictability. Property prices are also negotiable unlike shares, and you can generally borrow money at a lower rate for property purchases.

It may seem hard to find the perfect investment property, but older and undercapitalised properties can be renovated for profit. However, returns from property rentals can be dented due to factors such as land tax, utilities and rates, maintenance and tenancy vacancies.

Shares are more dynamic and volatile than property. One advantage is the accessibility of investing in shares, as you can enter the share market with a few thousand dollars – much less than what you need to invest in a property.

Maintaining a portfolio of quality shares that pay tax-effective dividends may be a good way to fund retirement. With the right portfolio allocation, shares also have the potential to provide a better, stronger income than property rentals, as long as that income is sustainable and increasing.

Property can generally be used as a wealth-creation tool, while shares can create a reliable retirement income. For those who can afford to put more money into investments, it may be a good idea to consider investing and diversifying in both. If you’re unsure about which investment option is right for you, seeking financial advice may be the best option.

Posted on 18 March '20 by , under super. No Comments.

Becoming socially conscious of where you super invest

Whether you are a newcomer to the workforce or have been working full time for 30 years, you must have come across the concept of superannuation. Chances are, you’ve already been steadily building your retirement funds in one of the 500 Australian superannuation funds but are still unfamiliar with how exactly your super is being managed and where your super fund is investing your money in.

With the beginning of a new decade and social issues on the rise, it is time to take a more conscious stance on what you are doing with your super and what causes you are supporting through the employment of your money through your super fund.

A recent investigation into Australian super funds by the Australian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR), released in February 2020, found that 50 of the largest super funds in Australia are proxy voting against local climate-change initiatives. These organisations are instead approaching climate change from a global perspective, whilst ignoring more pressing domestic challenges to reduce carbon emissions..

The lack of support from Australian super funds for localised climate action is growing problematic, as Australia fails to address its appalling record on carbon emissions and is falling behind new-age global goals to fight against environmental degradation and climate change.

In contrast, some of Australia’s most environmentally and socially conscious super funds lack the reputation to attract long-term users. To look for more environmentally friendly Australian super funds, the Responsible Investment Association Australasia (RIAA) grades supers based on their ethical contributions and makes this information available to the public.

Instead of mindlessly joining Australian super funds that are neglecting growingly problematic domestic climate change issues, Australians need to become more conscious of our indirect actions and super investments. Rather than investing in an unethical super fund, looking into self-managed super funds may be another good option. We need to learn to take matters into our own hands and become more socially conscious of where exactly our money goes.

Posted on 28 February '20 by , under super. No Comments.

You can now opt-out of super guarantee as a high income earner

If you’ve unintentionally been going over your superannuation concessional contributions cap in past years, you may not have to worry about it from now on. As of 1 January 2020, eligible individuals with multiple jobs can apply to opt-out of receiving super guarantee (SG) from some of their employers.

You may be eligible to apply if you:

  • Have more than one employer.
  • Expect that your employers’ mandatory concessional super contributions will exceed your concessional contributions cap for a financial year.

Employees who are eligible can apply for the super guarantee shortfall exemption certificate when they complete the Super guarantee opt-out for high income earners with multiple employers form (NAT 75067).

When you opt-out of SG contributions, you must still receive SGC from at least one employer. If other employers agree to use the SG exemption, then they may provide an alternative remuneration package instead, as to not be disadvantaged. However, the exemption certificate:

  • Does not restrict the employer from making super contributions on behalf of the employee.
  • Does not change the employer’s obligations or an employer’s agreement with their super fund.
  • Cannot be varied or revoked once issued.

Posted on 20 February '20 by , under super. No Comments.