The Australian Government has recently passed what it is calling the ‘most comprehensive suite of superannuation reforms in a decade.’
The reforms include the introduction of a $1.6 million transfer balance cap, which places a limit on the amount an individual can transfer into the tax- free earnings retirement phase and the introduction of the Low Income Superannuation Tax Offset, which is expected to boost the retirement incomes of around 3.1 million low-income earners.
Under the confirmed changes, which will come into effect 1 July 2017, the cap on concessional (before- tax) contributions will be decreased from $30,000 (for those under the age of 50) or $35,000 (for those aged 50 years old and over) to the flat rate of $25,000 per year.
From 1 July 2018, individuals with less than $500,000 in their superannuation accounts will also be allowed to make ‘catch-up’ concessional contributions. This is designed to help those with broken work patterns – many of whom are women – better save for their retirement. Previously, this option did not exist for those who had left the workforce.
The tax rate of 15 per cent on concessional contributions for those who earn up to $300,000 and 30 per cent for those who earn income above that amount has also been changed. The new income threshold at which the higher tax rate will start will be $250,000.
The overall changes to concessional contributions are designed to level the playing field and provide more Australians with the opportunity to make full use of their concessional contributions cap.
The new annual cap for non-concessional (after-tax) contributions will be reduced from $180,000 to $100,000, and a new lifetime cap of $1.6 million will be introduced. Individuals under the age of 65 will be able to bring-forward three years of contributions.
The tax offset for spouse contributions will be allowed where the spouse’s annual income is less than $40,000. Previously, this offset was only allowed where the recipient’s income was less than $13,800.
After 1 July 2017, the tax-free transfer limit for a fund in pension phase will change to $1.6 million for each member. Earnings will also be tax-free for those with pension balances of up to $1.6 million. Any balances above $1.6 million will need to be withdrawn or returned to the accumulation phase. If returned to the accumulation phase the earnings will be subject to 15 per cent tax.
The removal of the ‘10 per cent rule’ will also help ensure a level playing field for access to superannuation tax concessions irrespective of a person’s employment situation. According to the Government, this will be of particular help to contractors who also draw income from salary and wages.