It's been a little over a year since the dual changes of the pension transfer balance cap and the reduction of tax concessions for transition to retirement pensions were implemented by the government. Recent research has indicated that these changes has achieved their policy outcome by making almost 25% of previously tax-free SMSF assets lose their status and become taxable.
To recap, a pension transfer balance cap of $1.6m applied from 1 July 2017 to limit the total amount of accumulated superannuation that can be transferred to the retirement phase, where the earnings on assets are tax-exempt. The transfer balance cap is indexed but adjustments are unlikely to occur until at least 2023-24.
The ATO uses the concept of a transfer balance account to track each person's net pension amounts against their transfer balance cap. Where an individual's transfer balance accounts exceed their transfer balance cap, the ATO will issue a determination requiring the excess amount to be removed from retirement phase.
In addition, these excess transfer balance amounts are subject to tax, initially at 15% but increasing to 30% for breaches in subsequent years.
Similarly, the tax exemption on earnings for pension assets supporting Transition to Retirement Income Streams (TRISs), also known as transition to retirement pensions (TTRs) was removed from 1 July 2017. From that date, earnings from assets supporting TRISs were taxed at 15% instead of 0%. TRISs have traditionally been used by individuals who have reached their preservation age but do not want to retire.
According to recent research, at June 2018, one year after the sweeping superannuation changes came in, SMSF asset value in accumulation phase was approximately $422bn. This was a 90% increase from March 2017 (before the changes) when asset value in accumulation was around $222bn.
Based on simple modelling (not taking into account of contributions tax, deductible expenses, and rebates), assuming a modest return of 5% on assets for the 2018 income year, this increase of SMSF asset value in accumulation phase would result in $3.2bn worth of tax on SMSF earnings. This equates to a $1.5bn increase from the 2017 year.
However, it's not all doom and gloom for the SMSF sector after the changes, one ray of sunshine in the research is that the changes have led to new strategies being implemented which significantly improved gender imbalance in SMSF assets and balances. Two of the most notable strategies used include:
contributions splitting which involve a member of an accumulation fund splitting superannuation contributions with his or her spouse to equalise their total superannuation balances to counter the $1.6m transfer balance cap.
recontributions strategy which involve withdrawal and recontributions to a spouse's superannuation account to equalise total superannuation balances up to $1.6m each (subject to the non-concessional contributions limits).
Are you affected?
Is your fund affected by this? Talk to us today, we may have a strategy to help you reduce the taxable proportion of your SMSF assets. Alternatively, if you're thinking of commencing a TRIS we can help you navigate the tricky laws around this area and make sure you get the maximum benefit from your hard-earned superannuation.