Superannuation Rules

The rules around superannuation, and superannuation in SMSFs (Self Managed Super Funds) specifically, seem to change regularly and if you are an SMSF trustee it is your responsibility to keep on top of changes to any superannuation rules.

While you can rely on your accountant or advisor for advice, ultimately you are the one responsible for the management of your SMSF so it’s important to keep on top of any changes as they can have significant impacts on the strategies that you are in process of implementing and your plans for the future.

Getting back to basics for a minute – what is superannuation?  It is simply money set aside to provide you with income in your retirement. Generally, people start to accumulate super when they work as an employee – employers are obliged to pay a ‘superannuation guarantee’ amount to an employee’s superannuation fund in addition to the salary or wages that they pay.

Many people think super is complicated and yes, there are quite a few rules about how much you can contribute and what you can and can’t do, but bottom line, super is just a structure in which investments can be held.  You can choose to put your superannuation money into an industry or retail fund and let others manage the investments for you or you may decide to manage your own super by opening an SMSF.

Everyone has differing opinions on the pro’s and con’s of super but if you are an employee you have to do something with it and it can be an effective structure to accumulate and preserve assets for retirement so even having a basic understanding of what you can and can’t do with your super is useful to help with your long term planning.

Getting money into super

 Let’s talk about contributions – yes, successive governments seem to be making it harder to get money into the concessionally taxed super environment, however, there are still things you can do to build up your super.

Concessional Contributions

Concessional or before tax contributions are available to everyone. Your employer contributions and any salary sacrifice contributions you make are concessional and any personal contributions that you make from after tax dollars that you request to be treated as tax deductible contributions are also concessional.  This means they are not taxed at your nominal tax rate outside super but are taxed at the ‘concessional’ super tax rate of 15% when they go into your fund.  There is an annual limit but, it may be a sound strategy, as and when you can afford it, to get as much concessional contributions into super as you can up to the limits. If you request some of your personal contributions to be treated as concessional you are eligible to claim a tax deduction form them . The ATO requires you to lodge a notice of intent to claim to your super fund and have the notice acknowledged by the super fund before your lodge your personal tax return.

Catch-up Concessional Contributions

Those with super balances under $500,000  are allowed to make ‘catch up contributions of unused limits over 5 years. Unused concessional caps will accrue from 1st July 2017 and can be taken advantage of after 1st July 2018.  This is good news for women with disrupted work patterns or people who have larger assets outside of super that they sell closer to retirement.  T

Non-Concessional Contributions

The non concessional or contributions made with after tax dollars are also available to everyone. Again there is an annual limit but the limit is approximately 4 times higher than the concessional contribution limit. Also, there is the capacity to make three years worth of contributions in the one year, however, this means that no further contributions can be made for the next 2 years.

Downsizer Contributions

If you have reached the eligible age, you may be able to contribute funds from the proceeds of the sale of your home into your superannuation fund. This type of contributions is on top of your concessional and non-concessional annual limits. You must satisfy a range of criteria to be eligible to make the contribution, the main one being that the home must be in Australia and have been owned by you or your spouse for at lease 10 years and the disposal must be exempt or partly exempt from capital gains tax.

Age limits and tests

When you are planning your superannuation contributions as you are getting closer to retirement, keep in mind that there are a range of rules that you need to consider. There is no age restriction on your super fund accepting mandated employer contributions. However there are criteria that need to be met for other contributions. A super fund can only accept non-mandated contributions (salary sacrifice, personal contributions, downsizer contributions for example) which are received on or before the day that is 28 days after the end of the month in which the member turns 75. For the 2021-202 financial year super funds can accept non-mandated contribution for members between the ages of 67 and 75 only if they have met the work test (worked at least 40 hours within 30 consecutive days in that financial year) but for future years, the work test has been removed for contributions for members under 75.

Getting money out of super

Transition to Retirement Pension

One strategy to get access to your super money before you retire is called a Transition to Retirement strategy. This just meant that a person who had reached their preservation age (anywhere from 55 upwards depending on your year of birth) could start a pension.  Previously this used to be a great tax saving device because the investment earnings on the assets used to support the pension weren’t taxable but now the investment earnings will be taxable in the fund at 15% so the tax effectiveness of starting a transition to retirement pension may be lessened depending on the taxpayers individual circumstances.

Retirement & starting a pension

The superannuation laws impose a number of requirements allowing you to access your superannuation money. If you are over 60 and you retire there are no restrictions on the form in which you can take your benefits out of super. You could start a pension or take a lump sum.  This is quite a complex area and we suggest you talk to your super fund if you have an industry or super fund or speak to your accountant or financial planner if you have an SMSF.

Limits to pension accounts

There is a maximum amount you can have in a tax free super pension account and this is called a transfer balance cap (TBC). Penalty tax rates will apply to any pension amounts greater than the maximum amount. This amount is subject to periodic indexation. This is a highly complex topic but it is important to be aware so that you and your accountant and financial planner can manage your TBC as you move from the accumulation phase to retirement.

Despite the application of the transfer balance capt there is no restriction on the amount that you can have in accumulation phase which is only taxed at 15%. Superannuation is and at least for the time being, will continue to be a concessionally taxed environment and a logical place to grow your wealth for retirement.

How we can help

There are many superannuation rules to consider.

Our expert tax accountants would be happy to speak or meet with you to discuss your situation. We’ll take the time to understand your circumstances and provide advice that maximises your financial position.

Contact us now.

This article is for general information purposes only and has not been prepared with reference to the circumstances of any particular person. You should seek your own independent financial, legal and taxation advice before making any decision in relation to the material in this article.