Category: Media Releases

Labor’s excess dividend imputation credits Media Release – 27 March 2018








Labor’s reforms to excess dividend imputation credits will crack down on an unsustainable tax loophole that gives tax refunds to people who don’t pay income tax, while protecting pensioners and paying for better schools and hospitals.

Today, Labor is introducing a new Pensioner Guarantee – protecting pensioners from changes to excess dividend imputation credits.

The Pensioner Guarantee will protect pensioners who may otherwise be affected by this important reform.

Labor is cracking down on this tax loophole because it will soon cost the budget $8 billion a year.

Much of this goes to high-wealth individuals, with 80 per cent of the benefit accruing to the wealthiest 20 per cent of retirees. The top one per cent of self-managed superannuation funds received an average cash refund of more than $80,000 in 2014-15.

Labor does not think it is fair to spend $8 billion a year on a tax loophole that mainly benefits millionaires who don’t pay income tax – not when school standards are falling and hospital waiting lists are growing longer.

$8 billion a year is more than we spend on public hospitals or child care. It’s three times what we spend on the Australian Federal Police.

Labor will close this tax loophole to help pay for better schools, better hospitals and tax relief for working Australians – but we’ll protect pensioners with our Pensioner Guarantee.

We believe in a fair go for pensioners. We know they are struggling with the cost of living, especially with out of control power prices and Turnbull’s cuts to Medicare.

That’s why Labor is making sure pensioners will still be able to access cash refunds from excess dividend imputation credits.

The Pensioner Guarantee means pensioners and allowance recipients will be protected from the abolition of cash refunds for excess dividend imputation credits when the policy commences in July 2019.

Self-managed superannuation funds with at least one pensioner or allowance recipient before 28 March 2018 will also be exempt from the changes.

This means that every pensioner will still be able to benefit from cash refunds.

Labor has always protected pensioners – and we always will.

In contrast, the Liberals have cut the pension, increased the cost of living, and are trying to force Australians to work until they are 70.

Turnbull has:

  • cut the pension for 277,000 retirees;
  • kicked another 92,300 retirees off the pension altogether;
  • cut pension concessions that help pensioners with costs including rates and registration; and
  • is trying to cut the $365-a-year energy supplement for 400,000 pensioners.


Turnbull’s cuts will see more than $7 billion taken out of the pockets of Australia’s pensioners.

Turnbull has been the worst prime minister for Australia’s pensioners in living memory.

Labor’s policy is fair and responsible because it cracks down on an unaffordable tax loophole while protecting pensioners and paying for better schools and hospitals.

Mr Turnbull and his Liberals are protecting tax loopholes for millionaires, giving a $65 billion tax handout to multinationals, increases taxes for seven million working Australians, and cutting funding to local schools and hospitals. They are totally out of touch.

Labor’s policy will improve the budget position by $10.7 billion over the election forward estimates and $55.7 billion over the medium term.  This is a reduction of $700 million over the election forward estimates compared to the original announcement, and $3.3 billion over the medium term.

Part of this saving will be used to fund Labor’s Australian Investment Guarantee – delivering tax relief for businesses investing in Australia and in Australian jobs.

Labor’s policy has been fully costed by the independent Parliamentary Budget Office. The Parliamentary Budget Office’s costings are based on the current budget baseline, which includes the effect of the $1.6 million balance transfer cap.

More information on Labor’s policy can be found here.


Authorised by Noah Carroll ALP Canberra

Labor’s excess dividend imputation credits policy – “Pensioner Guarantee” – 27 March 2018




27 March 2018

Labor is cracking down on a loophole that gives tax refunds to people who have a lot of wealth but don’t pay any income tax.

This loophole will soon cost $8 billion a year- more than we spend on public schools, or child care. It’s three times what we spend on the Australian Federal Police.

Most of these funds go straight into the pockets of a few very wealthy people who are already very com fortable. In fact, 80 per cent of the benefit accrues to the wealthiest 20 per cent of retirees.

Labor believes that scarce taxpayer dollars can be better spent on improving schools and cutting hospital waiting lists – so that’s what we are doing.

Labor will close the loophole so that people who don’t pay income tax don’t get a tax refund – and spend the money on schools and hospitals instead.

Labor will introduce a new Pensioner Guarantee- protecting pensioners from Labor’s changes to excess dividend imputation credits.

History of imputation policy

The dividend imputation system was introduced by the Hawke-Keating Government to ensure that the profits of companies operating in Australia are only taxed once for Australian investors. Under this system, imputation credits were attached to dividends, equal to the value of any company tax paid on the company’s profits. These credits could then be used to reduce an individual’s tax liabilities. If someone didn’t have a tax liability, or if the tax liability was smaller than the imputation credits, the imputation credits went unused. No cash refunds were paid.

The Howard Government changed the dividend imputation laws to allow individuals and superannuation funds to claim cash refunds for any excess imputation credits that were not used to offset tax liabilities. That is, people paying no tax received a tax refund. The original purpose of dividend imputation was to reduce tax paid, but due to Howard’s change, individuals – many wealthy individuals – are getting a cash bonus.

Australia is the only country with fully refundable imputation credits, and one of only a few OECD countries that has a dividend imputation system. Refundable tax credits are an anomaly in the Australian tax system, as most tax concessions in Australia are non-refundable tax offsets.

Who is benefiting from excess imputation loopholes? 

The vast majority of working Australians do not receive cash refunds for excess imputation credits.

Analysis from the PBO shows that 92 per cent of taxpayers in Australia did not receive any cash refunds for excess imputation credits in their 2014-15 tax return.

Recipients of cash refunds are typically wealthier retirees who aren’t paying income tax. These are people who typically own their own home and also have other tax-free superannuation assets, and don’t pay tax on their superannuation income.

Distributional analysis shows that:

  • 80 per cent of the benefit accrues to the wealthiest 20 per cent of retirees;
  • 90 per cent of all cash refunds to superannuation funds accrues to SMSFs (just 10 per cent go to APRA regulated funds) despite SMSFs accounting for less than 10 per cent of all superannuation members in Australia; and
  • The top 1 per cent of SMSFs receive a cash refund of $83,000 (on average) – an amount greater than the average full time salary (based on 2014-15 ATO data).


Working Australians typically go to work and pay their PAVG taxes and if they own shares they use imputation credits to offset their personal income tax liabilities.  That is, they  use imputation credits to pay less tax, but don’t receive a cash refund.

The Government has run a dishonest scare campaign on the impact of this policy-using ‘taxable income’ data to indicate that Labor’s policy was targeting people on very low incomes.

The fact is, taxable income data excludes income from retirement phase superannuation and a lot of the income people receive in retirement is ‘tax free’ because it comes out of retirement phase super funds. As a result, some Australians have low taxable income but actually have a high disposable income or are relatively wealthy.

Example – low taxable income

A self-funded retiree couple has a $3.2 million super balance, plus their own home, and $200,000 in Australian shares held outside super. Even after drawing $130,000 a year in superannuation income, and $15,000 a year in dividend income, they would report a combined taxable income of $15,000, and pay no income tax at all. 1

Analysis of Labor’s original imputation reforms by Industry Super Australia shows that 80 per cent of the savings from Labor’s reforms comes from the wealthiest 20 per cent of retirees.

Low wealth households typically don’t benefit from the current taxation arrangements – they have little capacity to accumulate the wealth needed to do so. The recent ABS Household and Income Wealth report indicates that low wealth retiree households receive virtually all (96 per cent) of their income from government pensions and allowances.

Labor will always look after pensioners 

Labor announced its dividend imputation reform to end tax loopholes that benefit wealthy Australians, freeing up taxpayer funds to invest in our schools and hospitals.

Forgoing $8 billion in tax revenue annually isn’t sustainable, and it isn’t fair. Ending this loophole is the right policy for the future .

Labor wants to responsibly invest in better schools and hospitals, and be able to provide tax relief for working and middle class Australians. These are our priorities.

But we believe in a fair go for Australia – we know a lot of pensioners are struggling with the cost of living, especially with higher power prices and the Liberal Government’s cuts to Medicare.

We’ve always said we’d look after pensioners, and that is why Labor is introducing a new Pensioner Guarantee – protecting pensioners from changes to excess dividend imputation credits.

Labor is making reasonable changes to ensure pensioners will still be able to access cash refunds from excess dividend imputation credits.

The Pensioner Guarantee means Australian government pensioners and allowance recipients will be protected from the abolition of cash refunds for excess dividend imputation credits when the policy commences in July 2019.

Under the Pensioner Guarantee:

  • Every recipient of an Australian Government pension or allowance with individual shareholdings will still be able to benefit from cash refunds. This includes individuals receiving the Age Pension, Disability Support Pension, Carer Payment, Parenting Payment, Newstart and Sickness
  • Self-managed Superannuation Funds with at least one pensioner or allowance recipient

before 28 March 2018 will be exempt from the changes.

These changes mean that every pensioner will be able to benefit from cash refunds. That’s the fair thing to do. There’s no reason for Mr Turnbull to oppose this policy. Labor’s policy will also continue to exempt:

  • ATO endorsed income tax exempt charities; and
  • Not-for-profit institutions (e.g. universities) with deductible gift recipient (DGR)

The policy will commence on 1 July 2019.

Labor will always be better for pensioners 

Labor will always be better for pensioners. The Liberal Government hasn’t missed an opportunity to come after pensioner benefits.

Right now they have legislation in the Parliament to:

  • Raise the pension age to 70 – meaning Australia would have the oldest age of comparable countries. In the first four years alone around 375,000 Australians will have to wait longer before they can access the pension. This is a $3.6 billion hit to the retirement income of Australians.
  • Axe the Energy Supplement to 2 million Australians, including around 400,000 age pensioners – a cut of $14.10 per fortnight to single pensioners or $365 a year. Couple pensioners will be $21.20 a fortnight worse off or around $550 a year worse
  • Make pensioners born overseas wait longer to get the Age Pension by increasing the residency requirements from 10 to 15
  • Abolish the pension supplement from pensioners who go overseas for more than six weeks, which will rip around $120 million from the pockets of

The Liberal Government has a long track record of attacking pensioners:

  • In the 2014 Budget they tried to cut pension indexation – a cut that would have meant pensioners would be forced to live on $80 a week less within ten years. This unfair cut would have ripped $23 billion from the pockets of pensioners in
  • In the 2014 Budget they cut $1 billion from pensioner concessions – support designed to help pensioners with the cost of
  • In the 2014 Budget they axed the $900 seniors supplement to self-funded retirees receiving the Commonwealth Seniors Health
  • In the 2014 Budget the Liberals tried to reset deeming rates thresholds – a cut that would have seen 500,000 part -pensioners made worse off.
  • In 2015 the Liberals did a deal with the Greens to cut the pension to around 370,000 pensioners by as much as $12,000 a year by changing the pension assets
  • In the 2016 Budget the Liberals tried to cut the pension to around 190,000 pensioners as part of a plan to limit overseas travel for pensioners to six


Labor will consult with the Australian Taxation Office, Treasury and tax experts on the implementation of this policy. Labor has already announced it would provide substantial new resources to the ATO to ensure its policies are implemented effectively.

Fiscal impact 

Labor’s policy has been fully costed by the independent Parliamentary Budget Office.

Labor’s policy will improve the budget position by $10.7 billion over the election forward estimates and $55.7 billion over the medium term. This is a $700 million decrease in revenue from the previously announced policy over the forward estimates, and $3.3 billion over the medium term.

2018-19 2019-20 2020-21 2021-22 Total
Total financial impact (UCB) -2 -1 5,200 5,500 10,697


1 Grattan Institute, u/news/the-reaI-story-of-labors-dividend-imputation-reforms/

Superannuation excerpt from the Australian Conservatives’ Policies

 Our Policies

Our policies are framed by our principles and developed in consultation with Australian Conservatives members.

We will update policies as they are developed and announced, and our latest policy-based initiatives can be seen in our News section.


Lower, simpler, fairer taxes and deregulation

We will restore confidence and certainty in the superannuation system to ensure those who have worked hard to achieve financial self-sufficiency will not be disadvantaged by government decisions.

Source (click on link):

Super changes tipped to enter lower house next week

Tuesday, 01 November 2016

With Parliament expected to consider superannuation reforms as early as next week, one trustee lobby group has
urged the government to slow down the pace of its reforms and take time to carefully consider the legislation.
SMSF Owners’ Alliance (SMSFOA) executive director Duncan Fairweather says the draft legislation should be
referred to parliamentary committees for review.

Mr Fairweather said submissions should be taken from Australians whose retirement savings will be affected,
the associations that represent them and superannuation experts.
“The government’s consultation on the draft legislation released so far has been hasty with just a few working
days allowed for comments on three tranches of complex new law,” he said.

Mr Fairweather added that the legislation introduces a new definition for superannuation, new structural
concepts, new rules on contributions and new tax applications.

“They are the most significant changes to superannuation in a decade since the reforms Peter Costello made in
2006,” he said.

“They will have an impact not just on the 4 per cent the government says will be directly affected now, but on
many more who are in mid-career and aiming for a financially independent retirement.”

Mr Fairweather said the Senate especially needs to consider whether it is prepared to pass tax law with
retrospective effective when it has been reluctant to do so in the past.

“The changes take many pages of legislation to explain. There is a risk of unintended consequences if the
legislation is rushed,” he warned.

As well as giving Parliament the opportunity to give proper consideration to the new superannuation laws, the
government should consider extending the start date of the legislation.

“Superannuation fund trustees, including the trustees for half a million self-managed funds, face important
decisions. Their financial advisers, accountants, lawyers and auditors will have to quickly get across the detail of
the legislation. That’s not to mention the task of modifying systems that faces the major funds and the ATO,”

Mr Fairweather said.
We appreciate there will be a revenue cost if the start date is pushed back. However, it is important to make
sure the new law will be workable and that Australians are given reasonable time to understand what the law
means to them.

The $1.6 million transfer balance cap explained

By William Fettes (, Lawyer, DBA Lawyers, Bryce Figot (, Director, DBA Lawyers and Daniel Butler, Director, DBA Lawyers (


The Department of Treasury on 27 September 2016 released the second tranche of exposure draft legislation and explanatory material in relation to the Federal Government’s proposed superannuation reforms.

These materials provide long-awaited detail on the workings of the $1.6 million transfer balance cap measure. This article explains some key take-away points about this measure.

The transfer balance cap and transfer balance account

Broadly, the $1.6 million balance cap measure is a limit imposed on the total amount that a member can transfer into a tax-free pension phase account from 1 July 2017.

The general transfer balance cap is $1.6 million for the 2017-18 financial year subject to indexation (see below for further information on the indexation rules).

An individual’s personal transfer balance cap is linked to the general transfer balance cap. All fund members who are in receipt of a pension on 1 July 2017 will have a personal balance cap of $1.6 million established at that time. Otherwise, a fund member’s personal balance cap comes into existence when they first become entitled to a pension. An individual’s personal transfer balance cap is equal to the general balance cap for the relevant financial year in which their personal balance cap commenced.

Usage of personal cap space will be determined by the total value of superannuation assets supporting existing pension liabilities for a member on 1 July 2017, as well as the capital value of any pensions commenced or received by a member from 1 July 2017 onwards.

A member’s available cap capacity over time is subject to a system of debits and credits recorded in a ‘transfer balance account’, which is a kind of ledger whereby amounts transferred into pension phase are credited to the account and amounts commuted or rolled-over are debited from the account.

Earnings and capital growth on assets supporting pension liabilities are ignored when applying the personal transfer balance cap. Thus, a member’s personal balance cap may grow beyond the $1.6 million cap due to earnings and growth without resulting in an excess. As such, a taxpayer who allocates growth or higher yielding assets to their balance cap will generally be better off if their pension assets appreciate in value. However, note the limitations with regards to the segregation method discussed below.

Any amounts in excess of a member’s personal transfer balance cap can continue to be maintained in their accumulation account in the superannuation system. Thus, members with superannuation account balances greater than $1.6 million can maintain up to $1.6 million in pension phase and retain any additional balance in accumulation phase.

What counts as a credit?

The following items count as a credit towards an individual’s transfer balance account and thereby their personal transfer balance cap:

  • the value of all assets supporting pension liabilities in respect of a member on 30 June 2017;
  • the capital value of new pensions commenced from 1 July 2017;
  • the capital value of reversionary pensions at the time the individual becomes entitled to them (subject to modified balance cap rules for reversionary pensions to children); and
  • notional earnings that accrue on excess transfer balance amounts.

As can be seen from the above list, death benefit pensions count towards to the recipient’s personal transfer balance cap.

The inclusion of death benefit pensions as part of the reversionary beneficiary’s transfer balance cap is in accordance with DBA Lawyers’ prediction in our 1 August 2016 newsfeed article. This aspect will have a significant impact on the succession plans of all fund members who collectively with their spouse have more than $1.6 million in superannuation.

Fortunately, there is an important concession. An excess will only occur as a result of a death benefit pension six months from the date that the reversionary beneficiary becomes entitled to receive the pension. This means there is a grace period for reversionary beneficiaries to commute their pension interest(s) to stay within their personal transfer balance cap without triggering any excess. The exposure draft explanatory memorandum (‘EM’) explains the six month period as follows:

This gives the new beneficiary sufficient time to adjust their affairs following the death of a relative before any consequences – for example, a breach of their transfer balance cap – arise.

Typically, a surviving spouse suffers years of grieving following the loss of a spouse but only has a six month period to make a decision on a reversionary pension if that results in an excess of their personal transfer balance cap.

What counts as a debit?

A member’s transfer balance account is debited when they commute (partially or fully) the capital of a pension. When a commutation occurs, the debit entry to the transfer balance account is equal to the amount commuted. Accordingly, it is possible for an individual’s transfer balance account to have a negative balance if their debits exceed their credits. For example, a full commutation of a pension where the assets supporting that pension have grown from $1.6 million to $1.7 million will result in a transfer balance account of negative $100,000.

Ordinary pension payments do not count as debit entries for the purposes of the transfer balance account. Proposed legislative amendments will ensure that partial commutations do not count towards prescribed minimum pension payments. This proposal may also impact a member with an account-based pension electing to convert an amount to a lump sum for claiming their low rate cap.

In addition to the above recognised debits, relief will be available in relation to certain events where an individual loses some or all of the value of assets that are held in pension phase. The proposed relief concerns family law payment splits, fraud and void transactions under the Bankruptcy Act 1966 (Cth). In these circumstances, an individual will be able to apply to the ATO for relief so that their transfer balance account can be debited to restore their personal transfer balance cap, eg, if a member is defrauded of their super savings and the perpetrator is convicted, then a debit (or restoration) can be made to their transfer balance account.

At this stage, there is no relief proposed in relation to a major economic downturn eroding the value of fund assets held in pension phase. Therefore, if another global financial crisis were to occur, any adverse economic effects on the assets supporting pensions could substantially impair a member’s personal transfer balance cap.

Excess personal transfer balance cap

Individuals who exceed their personal transfer balance cap will have their superannuation income streams commuted (in full or in part) back into accumulation phase and notional earnings (see below) on the excess will be subject to an excess transfer balance tax.

Notional earnings accrue on excess transfer balances based on the general interest charge. Notional earnings accrue daily until the breach is rectified and are generally credited towards an individual’s transfer balance account (subject to a transfer balance determination being made by the Commissioner).

The draft EM provides the following example of an excess transfer balance (refer to example 1.14):

On 1 July 2017, Rebecca commences a superannuation income stream of $1 million from the superannuation fund her employer contributed to (Master Superannuation Fund). On 1 October 2017, Rebecca also commences a $1 million superannuation income stream in her SMSF, Bec’s Super Fund.

On 1 July 2017, Rebecca’s transfer balance account is $1 million. On 1 October 2017, Rebecca’s transfer balance is credited with a further $1 million bringing her transfer balance account to $2 million. This means that Rebecca has an excess transfer balance of $400,000.

On 15 October 2017, the Commissioner issues an excess transfer balance determination to Rebecca setting out a crystallised reduction amount of $401,414 (excess of $400,000 plus 14 days of notional earnings). Included with the determination is a default commutation authority which lets Rebecca know that if she does not make an election within 60 days of the determination date the Commissioner will issue a commutation authority to Bec’s Super Fund requiring the trustee to commute her $1 million superannuation income stream by $401,414.

As can be seen from the above example, there is some flexibility built into the system for proactive rectification where an excess transfer balance occurs.

An excess transfer balance tax is payable on the accrued notional earnings of the excess amount to neutralise any benefit received from having excess capital in the tax-free retirement phase. The excess transfer balance tax is assessed for the financial year in which a member breaches their transfer balance cap. The excess transfer balance tax is 15% on notional earnings for the first breach and 30% for second and subsequent breaches.

Indexation of the balance cap

The transfer balance cap is indexed in increments of $100,000 on an annual basis in line with the Consumer Price Index.

A person’s eligibility to receive indexation increases in relation to their personal transfer balance cap is subject to a proportioning formula based on the highest balance of the member’s transfer balance account compared to the member’s personal balance cap.

The proportioning formula as applied to an example increase of $100,000 is as follows:

(Personal transfer balance cap – highest transfer balance) x $100,000
Personal transfer balance cap


An example of how the proportioning formula applies in practice is set out below.


John commences a pension with an account balance of $800,000 in FY2017-18. At that time, he has used 50% of his $1.6 million personal transfer balance cap.

If the general transfer balance cap is indexed to $1.7 million in 2019-20, John’s personal transfer balance cap is increased by $50,000 because he is only eligible to take 50% of the $100,000 increase. Accordingly, John can now commence a pension with capital of $850,000 without breaching his personal transfer balance cap.

The above answer does not change if John partially commutes his pension prior to the indexation increase, as the formula is based on John’s highest transfer balance (ie, $800,000).

A member who has exhausted or exceeded their personal transfer balance cap will not be eligible for any cap indexation.

CGT relief

The draft legislation also provides CGT relief which broadly enables the cost base of assets reallocated from pension to accumulation phase to be refreshed to comply with the transfer balance cap or the new transition to retirement income stream arrangements. The draft EM states:

Complying superannuation funds will now be able to reset the cost base of assets that are reallocated from the retirement phase to the accumulation phase prior to 1 July 2017.

Where these assets are already partially supporting accounts in the accumulation phase, tax will be paid on this proportion of the capital gain made to 1 July 2017. This tax may be deferred until the asset is sold, for up to 10 years.

Segregated assets

Broadly, an SMSF trustee can elect to obtain CGT relief to reset the cost base of a segregated asset to its market value provided the asset ceases to be a segregated asset prior to 1 July 2017. The market value is determined ‘just before’ the time the asset ceased being a segregated current pension asset.

Typically, an asset would cease to be segregated by being transferred from pension to accumulation phase. However, it appears that an asset could also cease being segregated by being treated as an unsegregated asset (with an associated actuarial report).

It is important to note, however, that the segregation method will not be available to SMSFs and small APRA funds, with at least one member in pension mode who has a total superannuation fund balance of over $1.6 million (in all funds). This limits planning opportunities that may otherwise be available to SMSFs under the segregation method.

Unsegregated or proportionate assets

Broadly, where an asset is supporting a pension liability using the unsegregated or proportionate method, an SMSF trustee can elect to obtain CGT relief to reset the cost base of an asset to its market value on 1 July 2017 subject to the following requirements:

  • the fund must calculate a notional gain on the proportion of the asset that is effectively attributable to the accumulation phase as at 30 June 2017;
  • if not deferred, the fund must add this notional gain to its net capital gain (or loss) for FY2017 which effectively crystallises the tax liability that would have arisen if that asset had been sold in FY2017;
  • however, an SMSF trustee can elect to defer the notional gain for up to 10 years (ie, up to 1 July 2027) unless a realisation event occurs earlier than 1 July 2027; and
  • if a realisation event does not occur by 1 July 2027, the cost base of the relevant asset will revert to its original cost base.

If the relevant asset is sold before 1 July 2027, the deferred notional gain is added to any further net capital gain (or adjusted against any net capital loss) made on a realisation event such as the ultimate sale of that asset. This further notional gain is calculated based on the higher cost base determined as at 30 June 2017 (being the market value of that asset at 30 June 2017 with any further adjustments to that asset’s cost base since 30 June 2017).

Thus, an SMSF trustee may elect to reset the cost base of an asset. This election may be applied on an asset by asset basis as some may prefer not to reset the cost base of all eligible assets to market value, eg, a particular asset’s market value may be lower than its cost base and a cost base reset in that context could result in a greater future capital gain. Further, this election can be made in the SMSF’s FY2017 annual return and does not need to be made prior to 1 July 2017 (as is the case for a CGT reset for a segregated asset as discussed above).

The net capital gain attributable to the accumulation interest that is not exempt under the exempt current pension income provisions is taxed at 15% subject to the 1/3 CGT discount available for assets held for more than 12 months. Refer to examples 1.45, 1.46 and 1.47 in the draft EM.

Although the prospect of resetting the cost base of current pension assets may be attractive in the lead up to 1 July 2017, paragraph 1.226 of the draft EM reminds SMSF trustees not to overlook the general anti-avoidance provisions in part IVA of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936 (Cth). This paragraph of the EM states:

The CGT relief arrangements are only intended to support movements of assets and balances necessary to support the transfer balance cap and changes to the TRIS. It would be otherwise inappropriate for a fund to wash assets to obtain CGT relief or to use the relief to reduce the income tax payable on existing assets supporting the accumulation phase. Schemes designed to maximise an entity’s CGT relief or to minimise the CGT gains of existing assets in accumulation phase may be subject to the general anti-avoidance rules in Part IVA …

Naturally, the impact of the CGT reset provisions will need to be carefully considered as there are numerous strategies that will unfold under the draft proposals.


The proposed $1.6 million transfer balance cap measure involves substantial changes to Australia’s superannuation system, especially the tracking of each member’s personal balance cap. The balance cap proposal will reduce the tax effectiveness of pensions due to the new cap and have a major impact on succession planning strategies giving rise to substantially more tax payable overall in respect of death.

In particular, many couples will not like the fact that their deceased spouse’s reversionary pension gets ‘retested’ to a surviving spouse where the surviving spouse is subject to only their own $1.6 million personal balance cap. The Government has seen that raising extra tax revenue is preferred rather than allowing a deceased spouse’s pension that would have already been tested within their personal transfer balance cap to revert to a surviving spouse. We see this as a major issue that is likely to arise in submissions.

Note that the above commentary is a general summary only based on exposure draft legislation and explanatory material that is subject to change. For full details, see

Related articles

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This article is for general information only and should not be relied upon without first seeking advice from an appropriately qualified professional.

Note: DBA Lawyers hold SMSF CPD training at venues all around. For more details or to register, visit or call 03 9092 9400.

For more information regarding how DBA Lawyers can assist in your SMSF practice, visit


4 October 2016

Institute of Public Affairs’ submission to Treasury – lodged 16 September 2016

From the desk of Brett Hogan, Director of Researchipalogo

16th September 2016

Superannuation Tax Reform
Retirement Income Policy Division
The Treasury
Langton Crescent


Dear Sir / Madam.
On behalf of the Institute of Public Affairs, please find enclosed this submission on the
Exposure Draft of the Australian Government’s:

  • Superannuation (Objective) Bill 2016;
  • Treasury Laws Amendment (Fair and Sustainable Superannuation) Bill 2016; and
  • Treasury Laws Amendment (Fair and Sustainable Superannuation) Regulation 2016.

Given the limited time available for consultation, this submission will take the form of a letter
and concentrate on the proposed new objective of the superannuation system.

1. Introduction and Budgetary Context
Superannuation lies at the heart of important national policy questions about taxes, spending,
personal responsibility and the role of government.

Almost a quarter of a century after the introduction of compulsory superannuation, four out
of five Australians do not have enough savings to fully fund their retirement.

Yet rather than identify new ways to encourage all Australians to put more money into their
retirement accounts, the bipartisan approach of national policy makers is to treat the $2
trillion worth of private superannuation funds as just another source of taxation revenue.

The Institute of Public Affairs considers that for all the talk of ‘fairness’ and desire to rein in
so-called ‘tax concessions,’ it is out-of-control government spending and the desire to
increase taxation revenue that is driving these changes.

Australian Government spending has increased 1 from $271 billion per year in 2007-08 or
23.1% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), to $445 billion in 2016-17 or 25.8% of GDP.

1 Australian Government, Budget Paper No.1:Budget Strategy and Outlook 2016-17, p 10-5

In 2019-20, spending is expected to pass $500 billion for the first time. So while it took 107
years for federal government spending to reach $271 billion it will take only another twelve
years to reach $500 billion and according to trend a total of only fourteen years to double it to
$542 billion.

Additionally, sometime shortly after 30 June 2017, Australian Government Gross Debt is
expected to pass $500 billion for the first time. Gross debt on 30 June 2007 was only $53.2
billion. 2

The Government should not seek to resolve these imbalances by raising taxes to ‘chase
spending,’ as former Treasurer Peter Costello was recently quoted as saying. 3

2. Recent Proposed Changes
On Budget Night, 3 May 2016, the Australian Government announced a swathe of new
changes to the taxation and regulatory treatment of superannuation, designed to raise $2.9
billion net over four years.

While most of these changes are not the subject of this consultation, the Institute of Public
Affairs would like to formally put on the public record its opposition to:

  • reducing the threshold for the 30% contributions tax from $300,000 per year to
    $250,000 per year;
  • reducing the pre-tax contributions limits from $30,000 and $35,000 to $25,000 per
  • limiting the amount of money that can be transferred into a retirement account to $1.6
    million; and
  • introducing a new $500,000 lifetime post-tax contributions limit backdated to 2007
    (subsequently replaced on 15 September 2016 with a $100,000 per year limit).

Restrictions on the amount of money that can be transferred into, or remain within, retirement
accounts, undermine the ability of the system to provide comfortable retirement incomes.

3. Primary Objective of Superannuation
In his Budget Speech on 3 May, the Treasurer said that “becoming financially independent in
retirement, free of welfare support, is one of life’s great challenges and achievements.” 4

The Institute of Public Affairs wholeheartedly agrees.

However, notwithstanding this philosophically sound statement, the Treasurer that evening
issued a joint Media Release with then Assistant Treasurer Kelly O’Dwyer to announce that

2 Ibid. p 10-13 3 The Australian, “Peter Costello’s Blast: Liberal Party Lacks Clear Vision,” 10 September 2016,, Viewed 16 September 2016
4 Hon. Scott Morrison MP, 2016 Budget Speech,,
Viewed 16 September 2016

the Government would “enshrine in law that the objective for superannuation is to provide
income in retirement to substitute or supplement the Age Pension.” 5

Tellingly, this Release also noted that the proposed objective “has been an important anchor
for the development of the superannuation changes included in the Budget.”

According to sections 4 and 5 of the Exposure Draft 6 of the Superannuation (Objective) Bill
2016, in fact the Government is proposing that this is now to be the ‘primary objective’ of the
superannuation system.

Section 6 states that any subsequent legislation relating to superannuation that is introduced
to Parliament must include “an assessment of whether the Bill is compatible with the primary
objective of the superannuation system.”

Contained within the Exposure Draft Explanatory Materials 7 for the two Draft Bills is a set
of five proposed so-called ‘subsidiary objectives,’ which are worth highlighting:

  • facilitate consumption smoothing over the course of an individual’s life;
  • manage risks in retirement;
  • be invested in the best interests of superannuation fund members;
  • alleviate fiscal pressures on government from the retirement system; and
  • be simple, efficient and provide safeguards.

While the Government appears to have adopted the primary and subsidiary objectives from
the Final Report of the 2014 Financial System Inquiry (FSI),8 it is noteworthy that the FSI
actually made six subsidiary objective recommendations, with the Government choosing to
leave out that the system:

  • be fully funded from savings.

In referring to this objective in its Final Report, the FSI said that:

“A fully funded system, as opposed to an unfunded system, is important for sustainability and
stability. The system is designed to be predominantly funded by savings from working life
income and investment earnings, where superannuation fund members in general have claims
on all assets in the fund.”

Concepts such as facilitating consumption smoothing, investing in the best interests of
members and managing risks in retirement, let alone that the system be fully funded from
savings, actually make a lot more sense than the proposed primary objective ‘to substitute or
supplement the Age Pension.’

5 Hon. Scott Morrison MP & Hon. Kelly O’Dwyer MP Joint Media Release, “A More Sustainable Superannuation System,”
3 May 2016,, Viewed 16 September 2016
6 Superannuation (Objective) Bill 2016 Exposure Draft,,
Viewed 16 September 2016
7 Exposure Draft Explanatory Materials,, Viewed 16 September 2016
8 Commonwealth of Australia, Financial System Inquiry Final Report, November 2014,, Viewed 16 September 2016

Yet it is the proposed primary objective that will be reference point for the superannuation
system, and against which all subsequent proposals for change will be judged.

It is of the gravest concern that maximising personal income in retirement is not deemed to be
the primary, or even a subsidiary, objective of the system.

The OECD has found 9 that the net pension replacement rate for average income earners in
Australia is only 58 per cent (53.4 per cent for women) when the generally accepted benchmark is 70 or 80 per cent.

Australia’s 2014 National Commission of Audit reported that 10 the proportion of retirees on
a full or part pension was expected to remain at around 80 per cent over the next three

According to the Government’s own Budget Papers, 11 the cost of ‘Income Support for
Seniors’ was $43.2 billion in 2015-16 and is projected to reach $51.8 billion just four years

Superannuation initiatives that are implemented under the auspices of the proposed primary
objective are unlikely to help middle-income earners to significantly boost their income in
retirement or to allow large numbers of Australians to move off the full or part Age Pension.

Instead of proposing that the goal of the superannuation system is merely to take the place of
or top up the Age Pension, the aim should be to maximise the retirement incomes of all
Australians, and reduce dependence on welfare payments.

To this end, the Institute of Public Affairs would like to offer an alternative Primary
Objective for the superannuation system:

“The objective of the superannuation system is to ensure that as many Australians as
possible take personal responsibility for funding their own retirement. The Age Pension
provides a safety net for those who are unable to provide for themselves in retirement.”

The Institute of Public Affairs is happy to support the adoption of all six of the FSI’s
subsidiary objectives, if the primary objective is so amended.

Given that a bad objective is worse than no objective at all, the second-best option would be
to make no change.

9 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Pensions at a Glance 2015,, Viewed 16 September 2016
10 Australian Government, National Commission of Audit 2014, Chapter 7.1: Age Pension,, Viewed 16 September 2016
11 Australian Government, Budget Paper No.1:Budget Strategy and Outlook 2016-17, p 5-26

4. Timing of this Consultation
It is disappointing that the Government has allowed only nine days between the release of the
draft legislation (Wednesday 7 September) and the close of submissions (Friday 16

We note that the formal consultation period on proposed changes to the Working Holiday
Maker Visa Scheme (also known as the Backpacker Tax) ran from mid-August to mid-
September, which would have assisted that review to receive over 1,700 submissions. 12

Considering the important retirement incomes, taxation, welfare and social policy issues that
are involved here, a longer period would have resulted in additional, and more detailed,

5. Segregating Consultation on the Objectives from Substantive Proposals
We also question segregating public consultation on the proposed new superannuation system
objective from the arguably more contentious tax increases and contributions limits.

While we understand that the discussions that had been taking place within the Liberal and
National Parties may have delayed formal public consultation on the substantive proposals,
given that the whole package was developed and initially announced at the same time, the
Government should have delayed consultation on the objective as well.

6. Future Changes
If the objective of the nation’s superannuation system is merely to provide income in
retirement to substitute or supplement the Age Pension, then the taxation and regulatory
proposals announced in the 2016 Budget and amended on 15 September are only the beginning.

Once the principle has been established that superannuation taxes can be increased to pay for
government spending, that all major parties have voted for it, and that it doesn’t even
contradict the objectives of the system, then there will be no stopping future governments.

Kind regards,
Brett Hogan
Director of Research

12 Australian Government, Department of Agriculture and Water Resources website, “Working Holiday Maker Visa Review,”, Viewed 16 September 2016

Treasurer sees sense on non-concessional super cap

logosoa15 September 2016

The Treasurer’s decision to scrap the $500,000 lifetime non-concessional cap is sensible.

In our view it was never necessary in the first place.

If an upper limit is set on tax-free superannuation accounts it shouldn’t matter how and when the limit is reached.

So the new, reduced non-concessional cap of $100,000 a year is also unnecessary. If an overall account balance cap is set then annual concessional contribution limits are not needed. Conversely, with contribution limits in place (the new cap on non-concessional contributions and the reduced concessional cap) there’s no need to have an overall $1.6 million retirement account balance cap at all. Having both contribution and balance caps adds unnecessary complexity to a system for which simplicity is one of the government’s stated objectives.

However, scrapping the retrospective lifetime $500,000 cap on non-concessional contributions will remove a headache for many people whose retirement savings plans were disrupted by the budget announcement. They will now be able to plan ahead with more confidence.

It is unfortunate that it comes at the cost of withdrawing the budget measures to harmonise contribution rules for people aged 65 to 74, including getting rid of the work test.

The Treasurer’s decision comes after widespread expressions of concern from self-managed fund members, many of whom have been in touch with Coalition members and senators, and representations from SMSF Owners and others.

The scrapping of a major plank of the superannuation changes announced in the May budget confirms our view that the changes were not well thought through at the time. They were driven by revenue needs rather than what is best for the superannuation system.

There are still many unanswered questions about how the $1.6 million cap will work in practice and it may be several weeks before the Government releases further draft legislation that will hopefully answer such questions.

If a cap on tax-free account balances is thought necessary at all, the limit should be doubled.

Research undertaken by Professor Ron Bewley, former head of the School of Economics at UNSW, concludes that an upper limit of $3.2m is necessary to provide an income sufficient to last throughout retirement.


Changes to superannuation have far-reaching and long lasting effects on people and should only be contemplated after extensive consultation. The truncation of the Tax White Paper process, the rushed consultation on the objective of superannuation, the unexpected budget changes and this latest announcement fell short of the principles of good policy making on superannuation which for most Australians is their most significant investment outside the family home and the key to a comfortable retirement.

SMSFOA Contact:
Duncan Fairweather
Executive Director
SMSF Owners’ Alliance
0412 256 200

Superannuation changes will condemn middle class to the pension

 ipalogoMedia Release

Simon Breheny and Brett Hogan

The Turnbull Government’s proposed superannuation changes will condemn middle-income Australians to the Age Pension, according to a research paper released today by free market think tank the Institute of Public Affairs.

The paper, Strangling the Goose with the Golden Egg – Why We Need to Cut Superannuation Taxes on Middle Australia, which was written by Rebecca Weisser in collaboration with Henry Ergas, highlights how the government’s desperation for new sources of revenue to fund its spending habits is undermining the integrity of Australia’s retirement incomes system.

“Currently, middle class Australians can only expect income in retirement equal to 58% of their pre-retirement earnings, compared to nearly 90% for low income earners,” said Mr Simon Breheny, Director of Policy at the Institute of Public Affairs.

“The poor have the pension, the rich have alternative investments and the middle class will miss out again. The objective of the superannuation system should be for people to maintain their living standards in retirement, not imply that they should be grateful to be tied to the Age Pension,” Mr Breheny said.

The paper’s recommendations include moving to abolish taxes on contributions and earnings and instead taxing end-benefits in retirement at an individual’s marginal income tax rate, prioritising the reduction of fees and charges, and facilitating the purchase of private, defined benefit pensions for those who wish to purchase them.

“The compulsory superannuation guarantee will not help, given that the proportion of retirees on a full or part pension will remain at around 80 per cent over the next three decades according to the recent National Commission of Audit,” said Brett Hogan, Director of Research at the Institute of Public Affairs.

“Instead of citing ‘fairness’ to criticise people who attempt to provide for themselves, policy makers should acknowledge that private funds put aside for retirement represent deferred consumption, so flat and low superannuation taxes on contributions and earnings for everyone is actually good public policy,” Mr Hogan said.

A copy of Strangling the Goose with the Golden Egg is available here.

For media and comment: Simon Breheny, Director of Policy, Institute of Public Affairs, on 0400 967 382, or at, or Rebecca Weisser on 0438 645 562, or Henry Ergas on 0419 239 710.

For media coordination, please contact Evan Mulholland, IPA Media and Communications Manager, on 0405 140 780, or at

How to destroy superannuation – just ask Grattan

Last November 2015, the SMSF Owners’ Alliance, put out a media release regarding the Grattan Institute’s attitude to superannuation. In view of Grace Collier’s article in the Weekend Australian (20-21 August 2016, page 22) “Leftie think tank behind super grab – Why should Coalition policy be based on the Grattan Institute’s recommendations?”, Save Our Super thinks it is timely to revisit the SMSF Owners’ Alliance media release.

25 November 2015


An $11,000 cap on concessional contributions, as proposed by the Grattan lnstitute, would confine superannuation to being merely a substitute for the age pension rather than a vehicle for increasing savings for individuals and the nation.
This narrow approach defeats the purpose of superannuation. lf people can only save enough for retirement to be a bit better off than the pension then, rationally, they will spend their retirement savings as fast as they can and go on the pension. Where is the incentive to save more and be financially independent?
This is not the way to grow Australia’s retirement savings and give everyone the chance to live comfortably at a level related to their pre-retirement income, a concept known to economists as the ‘reasonable replacement rate’. This is generally accepted to be around two-thirds of pre-retirement income.

Grattan’s plan would throttle retirement savings and condemn millions of Australians to spend the last years of their lives in genteel poverty. Grattan quotes ASFA’s estimate that a retired couple need super savings of $640,000 for an “affluent lifestyle”. At a 5% return, that would give couples an income of $32,000 – hardly affluent.
It doesn’t allow for unexpected costs, such as surgery, house repairs or other necessities, that will run down fund balances. Nor does it allow for the likely high costs of care at the end of life which will have to be met by the taxpayer if people can’t afford to pay for themselves from their retirement savings.

As the Financial System Inquiry (FSl) noted, the biggest fear older people have is that their savings will not last all their lives. We suspect that Grattan really doesn’t like the idea of superannuation at all and would prefer everyone to be on the taxpayer funded age pension. Remember that when Labor announced their policy to tax super earnings above $75,000, Grattan said the limit should be $20,000 – about the same as the age pension. So in their view any income from savings above the age pension level should be taxed.

Superannuation is not a welfare system. lt is a retirement savings system that delivers important social and economic benefits to the nation. Grattan doesn’t see this distinction and seems to regard superannuation as a social engineering tool like the welfare system.
lf Grattan gets their way, Australia’s savings pool will be drained. There will be less money going into superannuation, less investment and fewer jobs – not least in the superannuation ‘industry’ itself. The corporations that back Grattan should think about this.

The Grattan Report repeats a couple of well-worn fallacies.
First, that the majority of superannuation tax concessions go to high income earners. Yes, they do, but high income earners pay proportionally more in income tax than they receive in concessions.
Grattan, and others, should acknowledge that higher income earners pay more tax. The Government’s ‘Better Tax’ website points out that the one third of taxpayers on incomes above $80,000 pay two thirds of income tax while the two thirds of taxpayers on incomes below $80,000 pay one third. ATO stats show that the top 20% of income earners pay 64% of income tax collected.

Second, Grattan comes up with a $25 billion cost to the budget of superannuation tax concessions. At least this is different to the usual $32 billion claim and moving in the right direction but it is just as flaky. As the Parliamentary Tax & Revenue Committee has been hearing, these numbers are not valid and even Treasury doesn’t stand by them.

Besides, mismanagement of the budget is not a reason to cut back on incentives for retirement savings. Governments need to get their real spending under control.

SMSF Owners believe the superannuation system is generally working well but can be improved. One way is to change the taxation of contributions. lnstead of everyone paying the same flat tax on contributions, there should be a flat (equal) tax benefit for everyone in the form of a rebate for super contributions keyed off an individual’s marginal income tax rate. This is the concept advanced in the Henry tax review five years ago, supported in principle by SMSF Owners in our Tax White Paper submissions and recently advocated by Deloitte Access Economics.

On our proposal, adjusting the front end taxation of contributions would allow the removal of taxes on fund earnings without affecting government revenue and boost tax-free retirement incomes so Australians can afford a comfortable and care free retirement. This would inspire Australians to save as much as they can, not as much as Grattan thinks they should.

lf there are to be changes made to the taxation of superannuation then they should be considered in the context of the whole tax system, including Australia’s highly progressive income tax rates. This is the outcome we are expecting from the current White Paper process which should deliver lower, simpler and fairer taxes for everyone.

Duncan Fairweather
Executive Director

SMSF Owners


IPA Media Release Logo

Institute of Public Affairs | Australia’s leading free market think tank

12 July 2016 (sic)


The Turnbull government should cut government spending or delay the introduction of its proposed company tax cuts instead of increasing taxes on superannuation says Dr Mikayla Novak, Senior Research Fellow at free market think tank the Institute of Public Affairs.
Dr Novak was responding to media reports that the Turnbull government was considering modifying its controversial superannuation tax increases.

“The superannuation tax increases are projected to raise a net total of $2.9 billion over the next four years.

There are many alternative ways of financing this amount, including:

  1. Means-testing the child-care rebate and tightening eligibility for Family Tax Benefit Part B
  2. Reducing expenditure across all government departments by one-fifth of one percent
  3. Delaying the company tax cut by 3 years and reducing corporate welfare spending”


2016-17 $m 2017-18 $m 2018-19 $m 2019-20 $m Total $m
Middle-class welfare reforms
Means-test Child Care Rebate 250 250 250 250 1,000
Tighten eligibility for FTB B 500 500 500 500 2,000
Reduce cost of government by 0.2% 723 739 776 804 3,042
Other measures
Delay company tax cut by 3 years 400 500 800 1,700
Reduce corporate welfare spending 427 317 237 208 1,189

Some of these proposals were outlined in Dr Novak’s research paper ‘Making Welfare Sustainable-Targeting welfare to those who need it most’  published in November last year.

“Company tax cuts should not be paid for by increasing taxes on retirement income.”

“The superannuation changes announced in the 2016 Budget do more to damage confidence in the
retirement income system than they are worth in dollar value.”

“The government is right to be concerned about its credit rating, but the most important step in the path to budget repair is to get control of spending, ” Dr Novak said.

For media and comment:
Mikayla Novak, Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Public Affairs, or 0448 276 376.

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