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Super guarantee frozen

Over the past week, the government has confirmed its decision to freeze the compulsory superannuation guarantee at 9.5% for the next seven years. It will rise to 10% in 2021 and then increase incrementally before plateauing at 12% in 2025. Previous to this, the superannuation guarantee was planned to reach 12% by the 2019/20 financial year.

In light of these changes, individuals may have to reconsider their approach to superannuation if they want to maintain their current retirement plans. If it is possible for you in your current circumstances, you may want to consider salary sacrificing into your super. This is also known as making concessional, or before tax, contributions. The advantage of salary sacrificing into superannuation is that it will be taxed at the low rate of 15% (as long as it is below the concessional contributions cap), which for most people is far less than their marginal tax rate. Even salary sacrificing as little as $10 a week into your superannuation can go a long way in counteracting the impact of the frozen superannuation guarantee.

Posted on 8 September '14, under super. No Comments.

Potential delay for superannuation increases

Currently, there are plans to increase the level of compulsory superannuation contributions, paid by employers, from the current rate of 9.5% of salary to 12%. The increases, as currently planned, would occur in 0.5% increments over the next five years.

However, due to pressure on the budget, the government wants to delay the first 0.5% increase for three years. This is because the significant tax concessions that are offered on superannuation contributions place an additional burden on government revenues. Treasurer Joe Hockey is proposing that the increases should be introduced at the discretion of the Treasurer, without the need to consult parliament.

The new provision, which has yet to be presented to the senate, would not allow any scheduled increases to be delayed by over four years and would also not allow the Treasurer to decrease the rate of compulsory contributions.

Posted on 2 September '14, under super. No Comments.

Advantages of an SMSF

For most Australians, superannuation is one of their most important assets, usually only coming second to the family home. Superannuation is a great way to plan for your retirement, offering you a lot of tax breaks and ensuring that you are putting money aside for the future you want.

However, it can be unsettling when you do not know exactly where and how this crucial asset is being invested. It is natural to want to have more control over your super, and to understand exactly where your money is invested.

Unfortunately, many industry, retail and corporate funds can be very vague in letting you know where your money is, for example simply saying ‘Australian shares’. Additionally, the choice of risk categories offered to members are often not specific enough to fully reflect your individual investment needs.

Starting an SMSF is not just about choice, but also control. You can create a more sophisticated investment strategy that is perfectly aligned with your risk appetite, ensuring that your money is doing precisely what you want it to do.

Recently, it has become possible for SMSFs to borrow money in order to purchase property. This means that when members reach pension age, they will be able to take control of the property, something that is not possible in other types of funds.

SMSF members also have a greater degree of control over the tax liabilities of their superannuation, and there are many effective tax minimisation strategies available to SMSFs.

There are also some advantages that are specific to business owners. Under some specific circumstances, your SMSF can even  purchase your business premises, and the business can, in turn, lease the property from the SMSF.

Posted on 25 August '14, under super. No Comments.

Finding your lost super

Many Australians have superannuation that they have lost track of over the years. The ATO estimates that the total amount of lost super in Australia adds up to billions of dollars.

If you have ever changed your name or address it is possible that you have chunks of super that you’ve completely forgotten about. The same is true for super accumulated in a part-time or casual job, particularly if it was a long time ago.

If you think that you might have some lost super, you should track it down as soon as possible. By splitting your super between funds, you are most likely paying unnecessarily high fees.

Finding your lost super is easy with the ATO’s online SuperSeeker tool. You can also use the ATO app to do a quick search to determine whether or not you do have lost super. To do this, you will need to provide your name, date of birth and tax file number (TFN).

Posted on 18 August '14, under super. No Comments.

Things to consider before starting a SMSF

There are a lot of advantages to having a self-managed superannuation fund (SMSF). Increased flexibility and control over your savings are the most obvious benefits, with many SMSF trustees and members appreciating the ability to make their own investment decisions. Other advantages include the possibility of investing in a property, the ability to manage administrative costs, and, in some cases, tax breaks.

However, there are also a lot of responsibilities associated with running a SMSF, and it is not necessarily an advisable choice for everyone. Here are some things to consider if you are interested in starting an SMSF:

-To justify the costs associated with running a SMSF, you should have a relatively sizeable amount, or be anticipating a rapid accumulation of funds. The ATO suggests having a minimum of $200 000, however this is often debated amongst industry representatives.

-If you want to manage your own super, you should have a relatively robust understanding of finance and the confidence to make your own investment decisions.

-Managing your own super fund is generally a time-consuming endeavour. There are a lot of compliance issues you need to be aware of, and you also need to ensure that you remain abreast of any current changes to legislation.

Posted on 30 July '14, under super. No Comments.

Renovating a property owned by your SMSF

While an SMSF may borrow money to purchase a property using a limited recourse borrowing agreement (LRBA), there are strict regulations surrounding the use of borrowed funds to renovate and improve properties. While you may be able to purchase an older property and renovate it using borrowed money, you are restricted from ‘improving’ the property, for example by building an additional storey or adding a swimming pool. If you are unsure as to whether the changes you have planned would be considered an ‘improvement’, it is advisable to seek the advice of the ATO.

You are, however, permitted to improve a property using funds from other sources, typically the accumulated contributions to the fund. For this reason, if making improvements to the property is central to your investment strategy, you need to ensure that your fund has sufficient cash flow to see these changes through.

Here are some other tips for renovating a property owned by your SMSF:

-All of the materials must be purchased in the SMSF name, even if you are carrying out the renovations yourself

-You may not be paid for any work you complete unless you are a professional tradesman who offers the same services to the public

-you may not live in the property at any stage, even if you are renovating it yourself

Posted on 25 July '14, under super. No Comments.

Australians paying too much in superannuation fees

It has been revealed that Australian superannuation fees are amongst the highest in the world. Many leading economists, including Treasury director David Gruen, are making a call for fees to be reduced, in line with national interests and an aging population.

Cumulatively, superannuation fees cost Australians approximately $20 million per annum. This represents about 1% of GDP and equates to an average of $726 per person each year. Our superannuation fees are three times higher than their British equivalents.

Recent research, conducted by the Grattan Institute, estimates that by halving super fees, funds would be, on average, 15% bigger by the time they reach pension phase.

According to the Grattan Institute, an indication that the Australian superannuation industry is insufficiently competitive lies in the fact that there has been no reduction in fees as superannuation savings have soared. Theoretically, it should not cost significantly more to run a fund managing $1 billion than it should to run a fund managing $100 million.

Posted on 8 July '14, under super. No Comments.

Changes to self managed super funds in 2014

From July 2014 there will be a new range of penalties that will apply to SMSF trustees in breach of superannuation rules. Currently, the only significant financial penalty that has applied to non-compliant SMSF trustees is the penalty tax that allows the ATO to confiscate half of your assets.

However, from July11 2014 the ATO will be able to impose a range of financial, administrative and educational penalties. One feature of the new regulations will prohibit trustees from paying fines from their SMSF assets. As an SMSF trustee, it is your responsibility to make sure that you are aware of all changes to legislation.

Posted on 20 June '14, under super. No Comments.

Changes to non-concessional super contributions

Non-concessional contributions to superannuation are contributions that are made from your income after tax. In the 2013-14 financial year the cap on non-concessional super contributions was $150 000, with contributions exceeding this being taxed at 46.5%. As non-concessional contributions to super have already been taxed this meant that contributions exceeding the cap were potentially being taxed at 93%.

Many Australians over the age of 60 were making substantial contributions to their super in order to take advantage of the tax breaks and accidentally exceed the cap.

In the 2014-2015 financial year, the cap on non-concessional super contributions will be raised to $180 000. The government has also announced that it will lift the non-concessional contributions tax. Individuals may withdraw their excess contributions, along with any earnings, and have these taxed at their usual marginal tax rate. This will apply to excess contributions made after 1 July 2013.

Further details of the plan have not yet been decided, as the government is consulting with the superannuation industry.

Posted on 6 June '14, under super. No Comments.

Temporary Budget Repair Levy

The Government has introduced a three-year Temporary Budget Repair Levy on individuals who have a taxable income in excess of $180,000.

The levy is payable at a rate of 2 per cent of each dollar of a taxpayer’s annual taxable income over $180,000. No levy is payable where the taxpayer has a taxable income of $180,000 or less.

The levy will apply from 1 July 2014 and apply to the 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17 financial years. It is expected to raise around $3 billion.

The introduction of this levy means that individuals with taxable incomes exceeding $180,000, and who are liable for the Medicare levy surcharge, will be subject to the top marginal rate of 50.5 per cent of income.

Non residents are also expected to bear the burden of the Temporary Budget Repair Levy.

Posted on 30 May '14, under super. No Comments.

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