Super contributions work test exemption extended; spouse contributions age limit increased
The Budget confirmed the Treasurer’s announcement on 1 April 2019 that individuals aged 65 and 66 will be able to make voluntary superannuation contributions from 1 July 2020 (both concessional and non-concessional) without needing to meet the contributions work test. The age limit for making spouse contributions will also be increased from 69 to 74.
Super contributions work test
Currently, individuals aged 65–74 must work at least 40 hours in any 30-day period in the financial year in which the contributions are made (the “work test”) in order to make voluntary personal contributions.
The proposed extension of the work test exemption means that individuals aged 65 or 66 who don’t meet the work test – because they may only work one day a week or volunteer – will be able to make voluntary contributions to superannuation, giving them greater flexibility as they near retirement. Around 55,000 people aged 65 and 66 are expected to benefit from this reform in 2020–2021.
The Treasurer said the proposed change will align the work test with the eligibility for the Age Pension, which is scheduled to reach age 67 from 1 July 2023.
The tax law will also be amended to extend access to the bring-forward arrangements for non-concessional contributions to those aged 65 and 66. The bring-forward rules currently allows individuals aged less than 65 years to make three years’ worth of non-concessional contributions (which are generally capped at $100,000 a year) in a single year. This will be extended to those aged 65 and 66. Otherwise, the existing annual caps for concessional contributions and non-concessional contributions ($25,000 and $100,000 respectively) will continue to apply.
Spouse contributions age limit increase
The age limit for making spouse contributions will be increased from 69 to 74. Currently, those aged 70 and over cannot receive contributions made by another person on their behalf.
The proposed increased age limit for spouse contributions may enable more taxpayers to obtain a tax offset for spouse contributions from 1 July 2020. A tax offset is currently available up to $540 for a resident taxpayer in respect of eligible contributions made on behalf of their spouse. The spouse’s assessable income, reportable fringe benefits and reportable employer superannuation contributions must be less than $37,000 in total to obtain the maximum tax offset of $540, and less than $40,000 to obtain a partial tax offset. Of course, if the spouse in respect of whom the contribution is made is aged 67–74 from 1 July 2020, the spouse may still need to satisfy the requisite work test in order for the super fund to accept the contribution.
Exempt current pension income calculation to be simplified for super funds
Superannuation fund trustees with interests in both the accumulation and retirement phases during an income year will be allowed to choose their preferred method of calculating exempt current pension income (ECPI).
The Government will also remove a redundant requirement for superannuation funds to obtain an actuarial certificate when calculating ECPI using the proportionate method, where all members of the fund are fully in the retirement phase for all of the income year.
There are two methods to work out the ECPI for a complying superannuation fund:
- segregated method – the segregation of specific assets (segregated current pension assets) which are set aside to meet current pension liabilities; or
- proportionate method – a proportion of assessable income attributable to current pension liabilities is exempt.
Since 1 July 2017, SMSFs and small APRA funds (SAFs) are prevented from using the segregated method to determine their ECPI if there are any fund members in retirement phase with a total superannuation balance that exceeds $1.6 million on 30 June of the previous income year. Such SMSFs and SAFs with “disregarded small fund assets” are instead required to use the proportionate method. This is currently the case even if the fund’s only member interests are retirement phase superannuation income streams whereby an actuarial certificate will provide a 100% tax exemption for the income in any event.
Where a SMSF is 100% in pension phase for all or part of an income year, the ATO considers that all of the fund’s assets are “segregated current pension assets” and the fund cannot choose to use the alternative proportionate method. The ATO has previously acknowledged that this legal view is at odds with an industry practice whereby some SMSFs have used the proportionate method even if the fund was solely in pension phase. The ATO therefore granted an administrative concession whereby SMSF trustees did not face compliance action for 2016–2017 and prior years for ECPI calculations based on an industry practice. However, for 2017–2018 and later years, the ATO has expected funds that are 100% in pension phase to only use the segregated method.
Super insurance opt-in rule for low balances: delayed start date confirmed
The Government has confirmed that it will delay the start date to 1 October 2019 for ensuring insurance within superannuation is only offered on an opt-in basis for accounts with balances of less than $6,000 and new accounts belonging to members under age 25.
That delayed start day of 1 October 2019 was previously announced as part of the Treasury Laws Amendment (Putting Members’ Interests First) Bill 2019, which was introduced in the House of Reps on 20 February 2019. That Bill (currently before Parliament) proposes to amend the super law to prevent insurance within superannuation from being provided on an opt-out basis for account balances less than $6,000 and members under 25 years old (who begin to hold a new product on or after 1 October 2019).
Members will still be able to obtain insurance cover within their superannuation by electing to do so (ie opting in). The changes seek to prevent the erosion of super savings through inappropriate insurance premiums and duplicate cover.
The Putting Members’ Interests First Bill essentially re-introduced the Government’s policy proposal that was previously contained in the Treasury Laws Amendment (Protecting Your Superannuation Package) Bill 2018. That Bill received Royal Assent on 12 March 2019, after being passed with Greens’ amendments that removed aspects of the insurance opt-in rule for account balances less than $6,000 and members under 25. The Government agreed to those amendments in the Senate to ensure the prompt passage of the other measures in that Bill. As enacted, that Bill requires a trustee to stop providing insurance on an opt-out basis from 1 July 2019 to a member who has had a product that has been inactive for 16 months or more, unless the member has directed the trustee to continue providing insurance.
Disclaimer: This article is not advice and readers should not act solely on the basis of the material contained in this article. The Budget measures are only statements of proposed changes, and are not yet law. With an election expected to occur in May 2019, it is still uncertain whether these proposals will become law. Changes in legislation may occur quickly. We therefore recommend that formal advice be sought before acting in any of the areas identified in this article.