Category: Features

We remind Scott Morrison of his broken “tax-free super” promises

Email dated 16 July 2016 from Save Our Super to Treasurer Scott Morrison in lead up to the Liberal Federal Parliamentary Party meeting to be held on Monday 18 July 2016:

Dear Mr Morrison,

I write to you in your capacity as the Treasurer in the second Turnbull L/NP Coalition Government.

This email relates to the superannuation issue. Therefore, if possible, would you please read it before the Liberal Federal Parliamentary Party meeting to be held in Parliament House, Canberra next Monday 18 July 2016. It may go a long way to explain the anger and dismay felt by many Liberal Party/National Party members and conservative supporters of the L/NP Coalition. I am one of many.

I am a Melbourne QC. I live in Kelly O’Dwyer’s electorate of Higgins in Victoria.

Also, I am the founder of Save Our Super; see: http://saveoursuper.org.au . A brief biography of my background can be found on that website under “Our People”.

Save Our Super is an organisation I formed as a consequence of the Government’s current superannuation policies. Those policies were announced by you on 3 May 2016, when you delivered Budget 2016 on behalf of the first Turnbull L/NP Coalition Government.

It is no understatement to say that those policies were sprung on the Australian public without notice or any real consultation. They were not “evidence-based” public policies by any reasonable use of that term.

Moreover, they were, and remain, in direct contradiction to that which you had told the Australian public on many occasions prior to you delivering Budget 2016.

You made at least 12 “tax-free superannuation” promises in May-June 2015, and in your Address on 18 February 2016 to the Self-Managed Superannuation Funds National Conference in Adelaide. You gave that Address less than three months before you delivered Budget 2016 on behalf of the L/NP Coalition Government.

We have posted them on Save Our Super’s website; (see under the tab “Scott Morrison’s tax-free super” for the source; and see under the category  “Quotes” for the full Address and source).

I have set them out below for your convenience.

You are the one most likely to be accepted by the Governor-General as the Treasurer in the second L/NP Coalition Turnbull Government in about a week’s time.

We believe you should be reminded of your broken promises, at least for the purpose of the forthcoming Liberal Federal Parliamentary Party meeting to be held in Parliament House, Canberra next Monday 18 July 2016.

Scott Morrison’s 12 tax-free superannuation promises : May to June 2015

3AW – 19 June 2015

MINISTER MORRISON: Well we do want to encourage everyone … to be saving for their retirement and particularly when you are drawing down on that when you are retired we don’t want to tax you like Chris Bowen does.

2GB – 25 May 2015

My own view is that the superannuation system, for example, meant I don’t want to tax people more when they’re basically investing for their own future… That’s why I think Chris Bowen’s idea, …of …taxing superannuation incomes, is a bad idea, I don’t support it…

Question Time – 25 May 2015

And when they get into their retirement, we are going to make sure that their hard-earned savings in their superannuation will not be the subject of the tax slug that those opposite want to impose, … Those opposite see it as a tax nest—a tax nest for those to plunder.

The shadow minister earlier referred to ‘trousering’. The ‘trouser bandit’ sits over there because he, together with the shadow Treasurer, wants to come after the hard-earned superannuation savings…

What we will do for them is: we will not tax them like the ‘trouser bandit’ opposite.

3AW – 18 May 2015

It’s the Labor Party who wants to tax superannuation, not the Liberal Party, particularly the incomes of superannuants and I think that’s a fairly stark contrast that’s emerging.

Doorstop – 8 May 2015

The Government has made it crystal clear that we have no interest in increasing taxes on superannuation either now or in the future.

… unlike Labor, we are not coming after people’s superannuation…

Press Conference – 7 May 2015

MINISTER MORRISON: What we are not going to do is we are not going to tax those savings, like Bill Shorten wants to do. That is the difference, we will not tax your super, Bill Shorten will.

MINISTER MORRISON: Yes, and there are other taxation arrangements that apply to superannuation already and we are not going to increase those taxes as the Labor Party does and nothing we have done with the Greens has in any way changed the Government’s position on not taxing your super. We will not tax your super.

ABC AM – 5 May 2015

…what is not fair is if you save for your retirement and you create yourself a superannuation nest egg and the Government then comes along and taxes that income; which is what Labor are proposing to do.

ABC RN – 5 May 2015

We don’t think that people who have done that should be punished with higher taxes, Bill Shorten does, and so does Chris Bowen and I think that’s a stark difference between the Government and the Opposition on these issues.

3AW – 1 May 2015

The Government does not support Labor’s proposal to tax superannuants more on the income they have generated for their retirement.”

Australians “… spooked out of… their [superannuation] investment” – Scott Morrison

Treasurer Scott Morrison, 18 February 2016

“One of our key drivers when contemplating potential superannuation reforms is stability and certainty, especially in the retirement phase. That is good for people who are looking 30 years down the track and saying is superannuation a good idea for me? If they are going to change the rules at the other end when you are going to be living off it then it is understandable that they might get spooked out of that as an appropriate channel for their investment. That is why I fear that the approach of taxing in that retirement phase penalises Australians who have put money into superannuation under the current rules – under the deal that they thought was there. It may not be technical retrospectivity but it certainly feels that way. It is effective retrospectivity, the tax technicians and superannuation tax technicians may say differently.”

In light of the above, how can the public trust anything you say in future, let alone superannuants and those who advise others regarding superannuation?

As to the latter, see Jim Brownlee’s letter set out below; (see under “Letters to Save Our Super”, and Save Our Super’s Disclosure).

“Government Destroys Financial Adviser’s Trust in Superannuation

26 June 2016

I have been an ASIC-registered Financial Adviser for more than three decades. Over that time, I have provided my clients with retirement-planning advice. I have promoted the Government’s (both Liberal and Labor) carrot and stick message of (1), the increased long-term vulnerability of the aged-pension and, (2), tax concessions specifically structured to encourage self-funding superannuation retirement savings.

ASIC requires me to give my clients a Statement of Advice (“SoA”). It sets out the Government’s superannuation tax incentives. Those tax incentives underpin my SoA’s recommendations. They are crucial to the client’s decision. I am invariably asked “What happens if the Government changes things?”. UntiI now, I have always answered: “In my long-term experience, Governments have always ‘grandfathered-in’ protection for existing arrangements.”  

But Treasurer Scott Morrison, in his May 2016 Budget, changed all that.

Last year, before that Budget, he said to the Australian people:

“The Government has made it crystal clear that we have no interest in increasing taxes on superannuation either now or in the future.

… unlike Labor, we are not coming after people’s superannuation…”

Not only did the Government not do what the Treasurer promised, they did precisely what the Treasurer promised that the Government would not do.

The Government came after people’s superannuation and announced proposed increased taxes on superannuation.

Furthermore, the Treasurer added insult to injury. He announced those increased taxes without also announcing that Australians who had acted in good faith and saved for their retirement under the then existing rules, would have their superannuation savings protected by grandfathering.

What am I supposed to tell my clients now, when they ask me, as they will, “What happens if the Government changes things?

Am I now to say, “Well, I remember the Liberal Government’s May 2016 Budget. I wouldn’t put my savings into superannuation because you can’t trust the Government not to change the rules, and not protect your savings by grandfathering the existing rules”.

Jim Brownlee

Authorised Financial Adviser Representative.

Berwick, Victoria”

Please let me know your view of the Government’s current superannuation policies and the outcome of the meeting next Monday, 18 July 2016. I intend to publish this email and any replies I receive on Save Our Super’s website.

If you wish to raise with me any aspects of the Government’s current superannuation policies, or any suggested changes to those policies, I am only too happy to discuss them with you.

Please feel free to contact me on 0400 — — or by email on jack.hammond@saveoursuper.org.au

Regards,

Jack Hammond QC

http://saveoursuper.org.au

jack.hammond@saveoursuper.org.au

Kelly O’Dwyer: Who you stand up for on super depends on where you sit in Parliament!

(21 Mar 2013)  House of Representatives Hansard
Ms O’DWYER (Higgins) (10:40) [whilst in Opposition to the Gillard Labor Government]:

I rise today to speak on the Superannuation Legislation Amendment (Reform of Self Managed Superannuation Funds Supervisory Levy Arrangements) Bill 2013. We have heard a number of speeches in this place as to the import of this bill, but let me recount that the bill amends the Superannuation (Self Managed Superannuation Funds) Supervisory Levy Imposition Act 1991 to increase the maximum levy payable by a trustee of a self-managed superannuation fund for an income year from $191 to $259 from the 2013-14 financial year. It brings forward the liability to pay the levy during the income year instead of the current requirement to pay some months after the year ends, when the SMSF lodges its returns.

Whilst the government made the announcement in the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook last year that it would increase the levy from around $191 to $259, the implementation and timing is such that these changes will in fact result in a total levy being paid in the 2012-13 year of $321 and a total levy in the 2014-15 year of $388. We on this side understand that levies do need to be recovered on a cost-recovery basis. We respect that attitude, we respect that that is a responsible way to manage the budget and, in that statement, we do not oppose this bill.

However, it has been clear from the evidence presented to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services that there is a suggestion that the amounts and levies being charged on self-managed super funds are over and above what would be considered cost recovery.

Evidence was presented to the committee by the Self-Managed Superannuation Professionals’ Association of Australia that there was no justification provided, no evidence presented, by the government that this was in fact cost recovery. They said in evidence to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services:

As we alluded to previously, the increased costs have been around changes from the Stronger Super package. We have seen those in the 2011-12 budget papers and again in the 2012-13 papers, but, in contrast, in the recent 2012-13 MYEFO papers, there was no justification or reasons given accompanying the increase in the levy.

This was indeed curious, and members asked questions of the ATO. They asked questions regarding the increase and the bring-forward provisions of the bill. The ATO were asked the specific question:

Who proposed this increase in the levy? Was it the tax office or the government?

The ATO’s response was:

I think it is best to take that one on notice. My recollection—but my memory sometimes fails—is that on this occasion the discussion was probably initiated by Treasury, but I may be mistaken.

We are not convinced that this cost increase was one that did not come directly from the government. In fact, the government has a very strong track record of ripping money out of the superannuation sector. Over five years it has ripped more than $8 billion out of the superannuation sector.

I wanted to talk in the time available today about the changes that the government has made to superannuation and how it is having a very direct and significant impact on those people who are doing the right thing—trying to save for their future and be self-reliant. It is critical that people have confidence in our superannuation system and, when people invest their hard earned money, they need certainty—certainty around how that money will be taxed going in and how it will be taxed coming out. They need certainty around the contributions that they can make. They need to know that there will not be continued fiddles with the superannuation system.

This government has in fact made more than 23 fiddles with the superannuation system. That is almost four changes every year, and that is the very opposite of certainty. Some of those changes include: the reduction of the rate at which the government superannuation co-contribution is paid from 1 July 2009 and 30 June 2014; a limit on concessional contributions, reduced from $50,000 per annum to $25,000 per annum; matching the rate for government superannuation co-contributions to be reduced from $1 to 50c, with the maximum benefit also to be reduced from $1,000 to $500; the maximum incomes threshold also proposed to fall from $61,920 to $46,920; and the indexation of concessional contribution caps proposed to be paused for one year in 2013-14 at $25,000 for individuals under the age of 50 and $50,000 for individuals aged 50 and over. That is not to mention, of course, the penalties that have been applied to those people who many have inadvertently breached the ever-moving caps that the government seems to change at every opportunity.

There are significant penalties that go towards ensuring that those people will not see the benefit of the hard earned money they have contributed to their superannuation savings to ensure that they can live the life that they would like to live in retirement. How does the provision to introduce another levy on self-managed super funds incentivise investment in our superannuation system? How does this provide more certainty? The answer is that it does not, and we have already heard from the Prime Minister that she intends to make yet further changes to superannuation. In her Press Club address earlier in the year she flagged that there will be more changes in the budget around the tax arrangements to do with superannuation.

I hear the very deep and real concerns from constituents, who raise this matter with me in a very heartfelt way and who are desperate to know what faces them in retirement. Let me read into Hansard the letter that I received from Glen. He says this:

I am writing—desperately—about the noise on taxation of Superannuation/ Pensions. My wife and I are just recently retired. I am 67 and have worked to the end. We had planned for retirement—foregoing much else to fund our superannuation. And we are totally self-funded. This was long term planning and was done deliberately not to be a burden on the Government and to enjoy some financial freedom. Although the amount we have accumulated in Super may look large, it is frightening to watch how long it is going to have to last while supporting our planned lifestyle. To be candid, the current ‘noise’ is terrifying us.—

And this noise is of course coming from the government.

We had planned everything a long time ago based on Peter Costello’s initiatives and have taken advantage of every new government adjustment while relying on the promises. We are asking you — maybe that should be pleading — to lend you weight to preventing changes for those of us who are now self-funded in retirement without any possibility of re-entering the workforce.

Let me read from what Angela sent me:

As I am facing retirement myself in the not too distant future I am deeply concerned about the proposal to tax the income of self-funded retirees in the name of addressing structural problems within the budget. The only structural problem that I can identify is the reckless and wasteful spending that has occurred over the last six years. Like many self-funded retirees, I have worked, saved and salary sacrificed in order to build-up enough superannuation to ensure that I could enjoy a reasonably comfortable retirement for as long as possible. With the exception of a small minority of wealthy people most self-funded retirees are not ‘wealthy’ and should not be the subject of an unfair tax impost. Apart from the activities of this government, inflation and rises in the cost of living pose the greatest threat to the financial security of self-funded retirees who are living on a fixed income. Many of them run out of money after a short period of time and qualify for a pension. For example, 10 years ago $500,000 was considered adequate for a couple to retire on. Today, financial advisers are recommending that a couple would require at least $1 million in superannuation in order to retire comfortably. It has been estimated that $1 million in superannuation will deliver an annual income of approximately $55,000-$65,000. This might seem to be a reasonable income today however in ten years time an annual income of $55,000-$65,000 may be insufficient. To give you an example, when I started working 40 years ago, I earned the grand total of $35.00 per week. Today, $35.00 might buy you a weekly zone 1 train ticket, if you are lucky.
I am concerned that self-funded retirees are viewed as a soft target by this government and their hard-earned superannuation savings are considered to be a honey-pot ripe for the picking. Any adverse changes will make superannuation an unattractive investment option for working people with the result that fewer people will be motivated to work and save towards independence in retirement. That defeats the purpose of having a superannuation scheme in the first place.

I say to Angela: I could not have put it any better myself. Finally, let me tell you what Daryl has said:

Why is it that in this country we continue to penalise hard work, sacrifice and the occasional success?
…   …   …
I am in my late 50s and therefore approaching retirement age. I have planned for my retirement, sacrificed and worked hard to save for my retirement so I will not have to rely on government handouts. I am therefore increasingly concerned that the incumbent government … continues to covet superannuation with growing evidence that superannuation and superannuation savings could be targeted as soon as the May budget. This is of immense concern for those who have planned carefully, been thrifty and worked damn hard to build a reasonable fund balance. In some respects, one must question whether it was all worth it, or whether sacrifice, responsible savings and thrift should have given way to a more extravagant lifestyle in years past.

We on this side have given an undertaking not to muck around with superannuation, as this government continues to do. We understand the importance of certainty when people are sacrificing and saving for their retirement. We understand the importance of good and responsible economic management so that the government does not have to put its hand in the pockets of the retirement savings of Australians. It is quite, quite wrong. That is why we will stand up for all Australians who want to work hard, create opportunities for their families and be rewarded for their efforts. They should not be penalised.

This government has an awful lot to learn, and, come 14 September, the voices of those people who have been penalised will be heard.

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