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2016/17 Federal Budget

A Spotlight on Superannuation

Published May 3, 2016

The Federal Treasurer, Mr Scott Morrison, handed down his first Budget (the government's third) at 7.30pm on 3 May 2016. The Budget sets out the government's economic plan to ensure Australia continues to successfully transition from the mining investment boom to a stronger, more diversified new economy. It does this by: (1) introducing a 10-year enterprise tax plan, (2) fixing problems in the tax system, and (3) ensuring that the government lives within its means.

The full Budget papers are available at www.budget.gov.au and the Treasury ministers' media releases are available at ministers.treasury.gov.au.

The budget certainly delivered some not so great news for superannuation.  In this report we will just focus in on the impacts for superannuation.

  •  The threshold at which high income earners pay additional contributions tax will be lowered to $250,000 from 1 July 2017. The annual cap on concessional superannuation contributions will also be reduced to $25,000.
  • The tax exemption on earnings of assets supporting Transition to Retirement Income Streams will be removed from 1 July 2017.
  • A lifetime non-concessional contributions cap of $500,000 will be introduced.
  • The current restrictions on people aged 65 to 74 making superannuation contributions for their retirement will be removed from 1 July 2017.
  • Individuals with a superannuation balance less than $500,000 will be allowed to make additional concessional contributions where they have not reached their concessional contributions cap in previous years, with effect from 1 July 2017.
  • From 1 July 2017 all individuals up to age 75 will be allowed to claim an income tax deduction for personal superannuation contributions.
  • A low income superannuation tax offset (LISTO) will be introduced to reduce tax on superannuation contributions for low income earners from 1 July 2017.
  • The income threshold for the receiving spouse (whether married or de facto) of the low income spouse tax offset will be increased to $37,000 from 1 July 2017.
  • A balance cap of $1.6m on the total amount of accumulated superannuation an individual can transfer into the tax-free retirement phase will be introduced from 1 July 2017.
  • The anti-detriment provision in respect of death benefits from superannuation will be removed from 1 July 2017.
Div 293 Tax Income Threshold Reduced

The Div 293 threshold (the point at which high income earners pay addition contributions tax) will be lowered from $300,000 to $250,000 from 1 July 2017. The annual cap on concessional superannuation contributions will also be reduced to $25,000 (currently $30,000 under age 50; $35,000 for ages 50 and over).

Reducing the Div 293 tax income threshold will limit the effective tax concessions provided to high income individuals. Capping concessional contributions at $25,000 per year will still allow individuals to accumulate significant amounts of tax advantaged concessional superannuation.

The lower Div 293 income threshold will also apply to members of defined benefits schemes and constitutionally protected funds currently covered by the tax. Existing exemptions (such as state higher level office holders and commonwealth judges) for Div 293 tax will be maintained.

From 1 July 2017, the government will include notional (estimated) and actual employer contributions in the concessional contributions cap for members of unfunded defined benefits schemes and constitutionally protected funds. Members of these funds will have opportunities to salary sacrifice commensurate with members of accumulation funds. For individuals who were members of a funded defined benefits scheme as at 12 May 2009, the existing grandfathering arrangements will continue.

Source: Budget Paper No 2, p 28–29.

Tax Exemption on Earnings Supporting Income Streams Removed

The tax exemption on earnings of assets supporting Transition to Retirement Income Streams (TRISs) will be removed from 1 July 2017 (ie income streams of individuals over preservation age but not retired).

A rule that allows individuals to treat certain superannuation income stream payments as lump sums for tax purposes will also be removed.

These changes will ensure that TRISs remain fit for purpose, are not accessed primarily for their tax advantage, and still meet the objective of supporting people who want to remain in the workforce.

Source: Budget Paper No 2, p 30.

Lifetime Cap for Non-Concessional Superannuation Contributions

A lifetime non-concessional contributions cap of $500,000 will be introduced. To ensure maximum effectiveness, the lifetime cap will take into account all non-concessional contributions made on or after 1 July 2007, from which time the ATO has reliable contributions records, and will commence at 7.30 pm (AEST) on 3 May 2016.

The lifetime non-concessional cap will replace the existing annual caps which allow annual non-concessional contributions of up to $180,000 per year (or $540,000 every three years for individuals aged under 65).

Contributions made before commencement cannot result in an excess. However, excess contributions made after commencement will need to be removed or be subject to penalty tax.

After-tax contributions made into defined benefits accounts and constitutionally protected funds will be included in an individual’s lifetime non-concessional cap. If a member of a defined benefits fund exceeds their lifetime cap, ongoing contributions to the defined benefits account can continue but the member will be required to remove, on an annual basis, an equivalent amount (including proxy earnings) from any accumulation account they hold. The amount that could be removed from any accumulation accounts will be limited to the amount of non-concessional contributions made into those accounts since 1 July 2007. Contributions made to a defined benefits account will not be required to be removed. The government will consult to ensure broadly commensurate and equitable treatment of individuals for whom no amount of post 1 July 2007 non-concessional contributions are available to be removed.

The measure which will be available to all Australians up to age 74 will provide support for the majority of Australians who make non-concessional contributions well below $500,000 and flexibility around when they choose to contribute to their superannuation.

Source: Budget Paper No 2, p 27.

Harmonising Contribution Rules for People Aged 65 to 74

The current restrictions on people aged 65 to 74 from making superannuation contributions for their retirement will be removed from 1 July 2017. People under the age of 75 will no longer have to satisfy a work test and will be able to receive contributions from their spouse.

Currently, there are minimum work requirements for Australians aged 65 to 74 who want to make voluntary superannuation contributions. Restrictions also apply to the bring-forward of non-concessional contributions. In addition, spouses aged over 70 cannot receive contributions.

The government will remove these restrictions and instead apply the same contribution acceptance rules for all individuals aged up to 75 from 1 July 2017. The measure will allow people aged 65 to 74 to increase their retirement savings, especially from sources that may not have been available to them before retirement, including from downsizing their home.

Source: Budget Paper No 2, p 24–25.

Catch-up Concessional Superannuation Contributions

Individuals with a superannuation balance less than $500,000 will be allowed to make additional concessional contributions where they have not reached their concessional contributions cap in previous years, with effect from 1 July 2017. Amounts are carried forward on a rolling basis for a period of five consecutive years, and only unused amounts accrued from 1 July 2017 can be carried forward.

The measure will allow people with lower contributions, interrupted work patterns or irregular capacity to make contributions, eg women or carers, to make “catch-up” payments to boost their superannuation savings. It will also apply to members of defined benefit schemes, with consultation undertaken to minimise additional compliance impact for these schemes.

Source: Budget Paper No 2, p 24.

Restrictions on Personal Superannuation Contribution Deductions Eased

From 1 July 2017 all individuals up to age 75 will be allowed to claim an income tax deduction for personal superannuation contributions.

This effectively allows all individuals, regardless of their employment circumstances, to make concessional superannuation contributions up to the concessional cap. Individuals who are partially self-employed and partially wage and salary earners, and individuals whose employers do not offer salary sacrifice arrangements will benefit from these changed arrangements.

Individuals that are members of certain prescribed funds would not be entitled to deduct contributions to those schemes.

Prescribed funds will include all untaxed funds, all commonwealth defined benefits schemes, and any state, territory or corporate defined benefits schemes that choose to be prescribed.

Source: Budget Paper No 2, p 30.

Low Income Superannuation Tax Offset Introduced

A low income superannuation tax offset (LISTO) will be introduced to reduce tax on superannuation contributions for low income earners from 1 July 2017.

The LISTO will provide a non-refundable tax offset to superannuation funds, based on the tax paid on concessional contributions made on behalf of low income earners, up to a cap of $500. The LISTO will apply to members with adjusted taxable income up to $37,000 that have had a concessional contribution made on their behalf.

The measure will effectively avoid the situation in which low income earners would pay more tax on savings placed into superannuation than on income earned outside of superannuation.

Source: Budget Paper No 2, p 28.

Low Income Spouse Tax Offset Threshold Increased

The income threshold for the receiving spouse (whether married or de facto) of the low income spouse tax offset will be increased from $10,800 to $37,000 from 1 July 2017.

The measure will improve the superannuation balances of low income spouses by extending the current spouse tax offset to assist more families to support each other in accumulating superannuation. The low income spouse tax offset provides up to $540 per annum for the contributing spouse and builds on the government’s co-contribution and superannuation splitting policies to boost retirement savings, particularly for women.

Source: Budget Paper No 2, p 25.

Superannuation Transfer Balance Cap Introduced

A balance cap of $1.6m on the total amount of accumulated superannuation an individual can transfer into the tax-free retirement phase will be introduced from 1 July 2017. Subsequent earnings on these balances will not be restricted. This will limit the extent to which the tax-free benefits of retirement phase accounts can be used by high wealth individuals.

Where an individual accumulates amounts in excess of $1.6m, they will be able to maintain this excess amount in an accumulation phase account (where earnings will be taxed at the concessional rate of 15%). Members already in the retirement phase with balances above $1.6m will be required to reduce their retirement balance to $1.6m by 1 July 2017. Excess balances for these members may be converted to superannuation accumulation phase accounts.

A tax on amounts that are transferred in excess of the $1.6m cap (including earnings on these excess transferred amounts) will be applied, similar to the tax treatment that applies to excess non-concessional contributions.

The amount of cap space remaining for a member seeking to make more than one transfer into a retirement phase account will be determined by apportionment. Commensurate treatment for members of defined benefits schemes will be achieved through changes to the tax arrangements for pension amounts over $100,000 from 1 July 2017. Consultation will be undertaken on the implementation of this measure for members of both accumulation and defined benefits schemes.

Source: Budget Paper No 2, p 25–26.

Anti-Detriment Death Benefit Provision Removed

The anti-detriment provision in respect of death benefits from superannuation will be removed from 1 July 2017.

The anti-detriment provision can effectively result in a refund of a member’s lifetime superannuation contributions tax payments into an estate, where the beneficiary is the dependant of the member (spouse, former spouse or child). Currently, this provision is inconsistently applied by superannuation funds.

Removing the anti-detriment provision will better align the treatment of lump sum death benefits across all superannuation funds and the treatment of bequests outside of superannuation. Lump sum death benefits to dependants will remain tax free.

Source: Budget Paper No 2, p 29.

Mari Ashted

Mari's passion for superannuation and retirement planning is topped only by her love for her husband, Darran, and two young children, Emily & Tom.