We are about to enter a period of substantial reform.
We have therefore prepared a brief ‘stock take’ of what the reform proposals look like as at the start of July 2016. In particular, we consider the proposals announced in the 3 May 2016 Federal Budget by the Liberal Government.
We also briefly compare these with the Labor Government’s proposals. Remember that these proposals are not yet law and the final form they take if they are introduced as law depends on a number of variables.
LIBERAL PARTY PROPOSALS – CHANGES THAT APPLY FROM 3 MAY 2016
The following change, if enacted, will apply from the date of the Budget announcement, being 7.30pm on 3 May 2016:
LIFETIME NON-CONCESSIONAL CONTRIBUTIONS CAP
A lifetime non-concessional contributions (‘NCC’) cap of $500,000 will apply. This lifetime cap will take into account all NCCs made on or after 1 July 2007. Contributions made before the Budget announcement, however, will not result in excess NCCs.
The most difficult aspect of the Liberal Party’s superannuation reform proposals is the practical retroactive application the lifetime cap by including almost 9 years (ie, 1 July 2007 to 3 May 2016 is around 3,230 days or just over 8.8 years).
Thus, people who have previously relied on the law during this 9 year period in making contributions to their superannuation funds may now have no or little lifetime NCC cap remaining. Despite this practical impact, the Liberal Party is firm (and correct) in its view that this proposal is not retrospective (from a strict legal perspective).
The Liberal Party takes the view that the lifetime cap is prospective as it only affects excess NCCs made after the Budget announcement. That is, if more than $500,000 was contributed prior to 3 May 2016, that amount is not required to be withdrawn from superannuation.
However, if someone who has contributed more than $500,000 after 3 May 2016 (including contributions made prior to that date), the excess must be removed from superannuation or will be subject to penalty tax. A special ATO release authority will issue allowing the removal of the excess.
The Liberal Party has stated that there may be transitional provisions implemented for superannuation trustees who entered into contractual arrangements prior to the Budget announcement and who intended to make additional NCCs to settle the contract.
The proposed lifetime NCC cap will replace the existing NCC caps of $180,000 each financial year (or $540,000 averaged over three years under the bring-forward provisions). The $500,000 NCC cap will be indexed to average weekly ordinary time earnings (‘AWOTE’). Further, this proposal does not alter contributions made to superannuation under the CGT cap.
For more information on the $500,000 lifetime NCC cap, click here.
CHANGES THAT APPLY FROM 1 JULY 2017
RETIREMENT TRANSFER BALANCE CAP
A balance cap of $1.6 million on the total amount of accumulated superannuation a member can transfer into the tax-free retirement phase will be introduced.
Currently, the earnings on assets supporting the trustee’s liability to pay a pension to a member are tax free without any maximum limit; this is known as the exempt current pension income (‘ECPI’) exemption. This proposed measure caps the ECPI of each member at $1.6 million of capital that can be used to commence a pension.
There will, however, be no restrictions placed on the subsequent earnings on the balance cap of $1.6 million. Therefore, the tax free status of the earnings derived from assets supporting a pension will not be limited.
Amounts in excess of the balance cap can be maintained in accumulation phase. Generally, earnings during the accumulation phase are taxed at 15%, with a 10% applying to net capital gains on assets held for more than 12 months after allowing for the 1/3rd CGT discount.
Members already in the retirement phase with balances above $1.6 million will be required to reduce their pension account balance to $1.6 million by 1 July 2017.
A tax on amounts that are transferred in excess of the $1.6 million cap (including earnings on these excess transferred amounts) will be applied, similar to the tax treatment that applies to excess NCCs.
Excess amounts will need to be transferred to accumulation phase or withdrawn, and tax paid on the associated earnings after allowing a 15 percent tax offset.
The balance cap remaining for a member seeking to commence more than one pension will be determined by apportionment. Broadly, this means that if a member only uses part of their balance cap, they can utilise the remaining balance cap and if the cap has been indexed, they obtain a proportionate increase to their remaining cap.
The $1.6 million balance cap will be indexed in $100,000 increments in line with CPI.
For more information on the $1.6 million balance cap, click here.
DIVISION 293 THRESHOLD
The threshold at which high income earners pay additional contributions tax will be lowered from $300,000 to $250,000 from 1 July 2017.
ANNUAL CONCESSIONAL CONTRIBUTIONS CAP WILL BE REDUCED TO $25,000
The annual concessional contributions (‘CC’) cap will be reduced to $25,000 each financial year (indexed in line with AWOTE).
ROLLING 5 YEAR CONCESSIONAL CONTRIBUTION CAP
Members with a superannuation balance of less than $500,000 will be permitted to make additional CCs where they have not reached their CCs cap in the prior five FYs. This will effectively equate to a rolling five year average CC cap of up to $125,000.
For example, if a member contributes $10,000 in FY2018, the member will effectively have a CC cap of $40,000 in FY 2019 (ie, $25,000 plus $15,000).
TAX DEDUCTION FOR PERSONAL SUPERANNUATION CONTRIBUTIONS
All members up to age 75 will be allowed to claim an income tax deduction for personal superannuation contributions up to their CC cap. This effectively allows all individuals, regardless of their employment circumstances, to make CCs up to the CC cap.
For example, if an employer makes superannuation contributions of $10,000 on behalf of an employee, the employee may make an additional $15,000 of personal CCs to superannuation, and claim a deduction for this amount (subject to having sufficient taxable income to offset the deduction).
For more information on personal deductions, click here
ABOLISHING THE WORK TEST FOR MEMBERS UNDER AGE 75
The current restrictions on people aged 65 to 74 from making superannuation contributions will be removed. In essence, this means that the work test requirements (ie, gainful employment for 40 hours in 30 consecutive days before a contribution can be made) will cease to apply for members under age 75.
For more information on the CC proposals, click here.
LOW INCOME SUPERANNUATION TAX OFFSET
A low income superannuation tax offset (LISTO) will be introduced to reduce tax on superannuation contributions for low income earners. Note that this announcement ensures that the Low Income Superannuation Contribution, which has been legislated to cease on 30 June 2017, will effectively continue to operate.
SPOUSE TAX OFFSET
The income threshold for the recipient spouse (whether married or de facto) of the low income spouse tax offset will be increased from $10,800 to $37,000. The contributing spouse may be entitled to a maximum tax offset up to $540 for contributions each financial year made on behalf of the recipient spouse.
TRANSITION TO RETIREMENT INCOME STREAMS
The tax exemption on earnings derived from assets supporting transition to retirement income streams (‘TRIS’) will be removed from 1 July 2017. Therefore, members who have reached preservation age, but not yet retired will be able to commence a TRIS (or continue to receive a TRIS), but the earnings will be taxed at the concessional rates that apply to amounts in the accumulation phase.
LUMP SUM ELECTION
It is proposed to remove the provision that allows individuals to treat certain superannuation income stream payments as lump sums for tax purposes under regulation 995-1.03 of the Income Tax Assessment Regulations 1997 (Cth). This measure will primarily affect members under age 60 in receipt of a TRIS.
The anti-detriment provision in respect of death benefits from superannuation will be removed from 1 July 2017.
LABOR PARTY PROPOSED SUPERANNUATION CHANGES
At this stage, the Labor Party has proposed the following two changes to superannuation if it wins the July 2016 election:
PENSION EXEMPTION LIMIT OF $75,000 P.A.
If elected, the Labor Party intends to reform the tax exemption for earnings on superannuation balances in pension phase that exceed $1.5 million. From 1 July 2017, future earnings on assets supporting income streams will be tax‑free up to $75,000 a year for each member, while earnings above the $75,000 threshold will be taxed at 15% that applies to earnings in the accumulation phase.
It is proposed, however, that assets acquired prior to 1 July 2017 will be grandfathered for capital gains tax purposes. In respect of future discounted gains (ie, capital gains entitled to the 1/3rd discount), the gain will be added to income earnt in any year and included in the $75,000.
DIVISION 293 THRESHOLD
The Labor Party also proposes to reduce the Division 293 threshold from $300,000 to $250,000.
LABOR PARTY’S POSITION
While the Labor Party has stated that it opposes the retrospective effect of certain Liberal Party proposals, Labor has not as yet formally adopted a position with regard to the Liberal Party proposals.
For more information on the Liberal Party v Labor Party pension proposals, click here.
The superannuation reforms will have wide ranging impact and are likely to take several years to finalise. Most people will have to adjust their superannuation planning, especially their SMSF succession planning, and are best positioned to do so if they monitor and keep on top of the changes. There are strategies that can be implemented ahead of these proposals becoming law and expert advice should be obtained as needed.