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6 stark superannuation policy differences

A federal election will be held by May 2019 with the Australian Labor Party (Labor) well ahead in the opinion polls. A change in government may result in amendments to superannuation laws after this financial year. To its credit, Labor has released a plethora of policies relating to financial services, including superannuation, negative gearing and capital gains tax. This allows voters ample time to consider the policies prior to casting their ballots.

What is Labor proposing for superannuation?

1. Non-concessional (after tax) contributions (NCCs)

Labor will reduce the annual non-concessional contribution cap to $75,000 from the current $100,000. Further, at present, a person can utilise the ‘bring-forward’ rule if they are under 65 years of age and make three years of non-concessional contributions in one year. For example, a person nearing retirement may want to sell an investment property. This person can theoretically contribute $300,000 (after tax), or $600,000 for a couple, into their superannuation.

Under a future Labor Government, the ‘bring-forward’ rule will allow a one-off (after-tax) contribution of $225,000 for an individual, or up to $450,000 for a couple.

The above only applies for people who have less than the Total Superannuation Balance cap of $1.6 million per person.

2. Tax deductions for personal superannuation contributions

Labor will abolish the tax deductibility for personal superannuation contributions.

At present, in order to claim a tax deduction for a personal superannuation contribution, a person’s total concessional contributions, including an employers’ compulsory superannuation guarantee contributions (currently 9.5%) must not exceed the annual $25,000 concessional cap.

The person must also provide a valid notice of intent to their superannuation fund and it must be acknowledged (in writing) by the fund.

For example, a person earning $90,000 will receive ($90,000 x 0.095) $8,550 from their employer as a superannuation guarantee contribution. Theoretically the person could contribute a personal after-tax contribution up to a further ($25,000 - $8,550) $16,450 and receive a tax deduction for it.

3. Catch-up concessional (before tax) measure

The Government introduced a scheme on 1 July 2018 that allows people with total superannuation balances below $500,000 to make catch-up concessional contributions. Labor has indicated that it will abolish this in order to tighten up concessions to the wealthy.

At present, any unused portion of the annual concessional cap of $25,000 can be carried forward for up to five years. Using the example above, a person earning $90,000 per annum would have an unused portion of $16,450 if no personal contributions were made. If this same person went on parental leave the following year (year 2) or left the workforce for a 12-month period, they could theoretically contribute ($16,450 + $25,000) $41,450 upon their return into their superannuation account.

4. High-income super contribution threshold

Labor will lower the high-income superannuation contribution threshold to $200,000 from the current $250,000. Exceeding the $200,000 threshold will trigger an additional 15% tax (or 30% total rate) imposed on amounts over the threshold and up to the total amount of concessional contributions that must not exceed the cap of $25,000.

Labor has indicated that this will impact less than 4% of taxpayers.

5. Phase out the $450 superannuation guarantee threshold

Labor will phase out the requirement for employees to earn more than $450 per month before employers are required to make superannuation contributions on their behalf. This will benefit those who work part-time, are in casual employment or work multiple low-paid jobs. The threshold will be reduced in $100 increments from 2020 and will cease to exist by 2024.

6. Superannuation guarantee (SG) to be paid on the Federal Government’s paid parental leave

Labor will legislate to pay the superannuation guarantee on the Federal Government’s paid parental leave scheme. At present, the paid parental leave scheme provides $719.35 per week for 18 weeks to those women who meet a work test and earn less than $150,000 per year. However, no superannuation contribution is currently paid on this leave.

A Labor government according to my calculations will add a superannuation contribution of ($719.35 x 0.095) $68.34 per week for 18 weeks to be paid directly to the person’s super fund or their employer who would make the contribution.

Policies which are not different

Not raise the age pension qualifying age to 70

One of the first initiatives announced by our new Prime Minister Scott Morrison was to abandon the Government’s plan to increase the pension age to 70.

Labor and the Government are now on a unity ticket when it comes to increasing the pension age incrementally in 6-monthly intervals up to 67 by 1 July 2023.

The superannuation guarantee (SG) rate will increase to 12%

At this stage, both Labor and the Government are publicly united in the planned incremental SG rate increases despite the Productivity Commissions’ recent counter recommendation. Labor has affirmed its desire to increase the SG rate as soon as practicable.

The SG rate is set to increase from 2021/22 at 0.5% per year until it reaches 12% by 2025/26.

Prevent direct borrowing by superannuation funds

Labor will prohibit direct borrowing by superannuation funds on a prospective basis. This policy aims to reduce asset concentration risk in Australia’s SMSF sector.

Other financial services policy differences

Budget deficit levy – Labor will reinstate the Budget deficit repair levy of 2% for those earning over $180,000.

Reform dividend imputation – Labor will introduce a policy that stops cash refunds where excess franking credits exceed tax liabilities. An SMSF with at least one welfare pensioner as a member on 28 March 2018 will be exempt from the policy as part of the 'pensioner guarantee', as well as recipients of welfare pensions at any time.

Discretionary trust reform – Labor will introduce a minimum 30% tax rate for discretionary trust distributions. This is aimed at addressing tax minimisation and artificial income splitting.

Cap deductions for managing tax affairs – Labor will cap deductions for managing an individual’s tax affairs at $3,000.

These are current policies at the time of writing.

 

Adam Shultz is Executive Manager of Policy and Advocacy at Mine Super and a Labor Councillor for Lake Macquarie City Council. This article represents the personal views of the author and not those of his employer.

22 Comments
mr. auspicious
February 03, 2019

Adam - further to your comments posted 29 January,

One of the basic principles of self funded superannuation
is that that it is a low taxation vehicle for accumulating
retirement savings. Governments have provided certain
tax concessions, provided the smsf trustee complies with
stipulated superannuation laws which impose restrictions as to when the accumulated funds can be
accessed by beneficiaries.

During accumulation phase, the trustees of a complying
smsf are obliged to pay tax on the fund's assessed
taxable income. When a member notifies retirement,
only income earned by the fund's pension assets
is tax exempt ( currently this is capped at $ 1.6 million ).

Imputation credits, are not, as portrayed by Labor, a bonus for wealthy tax avoiders, but a fair and legitimate
process to preclude double taxation.
To elaborate, when any shareholder receives a fully
franked share dividend, the payment represents 70% of
the actual dividend entitlement, the balance having been
paid as ( corporate ) tax.

By any equitable standard, all individuals and legal
entities are entitled to receive full refund for tax already
paid. However, according to Labor, self funded retirees
who have adopted a smsf structure, and others not
granted exemption, will forfeit any cash refund entitlement.

In effect Labor has flagged the introduction of a wealth
tax. The selective introduction of this measure has been
described by a leading commentator as follows,

" never before in our history has any group of politicians
ever engaged in such blatant and unfair discrimination ".

Refer Robert Gottliebsen / " Bowen turns back on Tax "
article appeared in The Australian / 26-27 January

cheers.........

b0b555
January 26, 2019

Adam,

Re #2. Is Labor proposing to stop us salary sacrificing to super (i.e. pre-tax salary deductions) up to the concessional limit? Or is it just the payments we make directly and then claim as concessional?

Ron Fox
January 27, 2019

From the wording in the article I can see no other interpretation.

Adam Shultz
January 29, 2019

Hi Ron. As per Labor's National Platform the information provided indicates that Labor will remove the catch-up concessional contributions and tax deductibility for personal superannuation contributions introduced by the Coalition. Thanks, Adam.

Adam Shultz
January 29, 2019

Hi Bob. Thanks for the question. Labor have indicated that they will remove the tax deductibility for personal superannuation contributions introduced by the coalition. Labor have not released a policy to indicate that they would stop salary sacrificing arrangements. I hope that this clarifies your question. All the best, Adam.

mr.auspicious
January 25, 2019

The political classes can't resist tinkering with superannuation. Now Labor has released its superannuation " manifesto" which will significantly reduce, or totally void tax deductibility for designated
superannuation contributions. In effect, Labor is seeking
to actively discourage tax payers from utilising superannuation as a means of accumulating retirement savings. Ultimately there is the prospect this measure will inhibit the creation of capital within the economy and finally impact adversely on the country's standard of living overall. Such an outcome must be considered undesirable.

Labor's proposal to reform the dividend imputation
system signals the introduction of a wealth tax and
has attracted significant criticism which can be
summarised as follows - this proposal punishes a
subclass of savers ( notably SMSF retirees ) but not
industry and other finance industry funds who continue
to receive the full benefit from their franking credit
entitlements. It is clearly discriminatory fiscal policy,
selectively targeting individuals who seek financial
independence while in retirement. This " reform ''
undermines the principle of choice based on a level
playing field.

Last ( but not least ) Labor proposes to reinstate the
Budget Repair Levy ( formerly known as the Temporary
Budget Repair Levy ). The original levy which operated
from 2014 - 2017 represented a funds injection needed
to alleviate the impact of a massive budget deficit.
This scenario was created by Labor when last in
government. Now it appears the levy will become a permanent fiscal measure - presumably budget deficits,
frequently a product of budget underfunding, will
also resume.
Shorten and Bowen must be confident they will receive
a mandate to resume where they left off in 2013. In
reality they may be getting ahead of themselves when
the electorate finally realises Labor's legacy amounts to little more than white elephant infrastructure (NBN),
numerous costly policy failures and a well deserved
record of fiscal irresponsibility.

Meanwhile, the LCP are yet to announce their policy.
Perhaps they are sufficiently astute to resist any
temptation to fix something that's not already in need
of repair !!

Adam Shultz
January 29, 2019

Thanks for your contribution Mr Auspicious. Labor have released their policies long before an election and regardless of whether you agree with particular policies or not, it is to be commended that they are upfront with their agenda and priorities that they will pursue in Government.

As for the refunding of dividend imputation credits I believe Labor have been very clear that they see the current situation as unsustainable in the future. Bowen has been quoted as stating that, "In 2014-15, $5.9 billion was spend on refunding dividend imputation credits. In the same year the commonwealth government spent less than this on public schools at $5.2 billion."

Bowen also states that, "Industry funds are treated the same way as retail and bank funds. And all these funds pay tax. Allowing them to use franking to offset that tax is a fundamental principle of avoiding double taxation. In fact, it is tax refunds to non-taxpaying SMSFs and individuals which is the anomaly in our tax system. No other element of our personal income tax system involves refundable credits. None."

Please refer to the article titled Non-taxpaying SMSFs a 'system anomaly' for further information. The link is provided below.

https://www.smsfadviser.com/news/17289-non-tax-paying-smsfs-a-system-anomaly-says-bowen?utm_source=SMSF%20Adviser&utm_campaign=29_01_19&utm_medium=email&utm_content=2

All the best, Adam.

Allan
January 30, 2019

So, higher income earners on a 30 percent plus tax rate will continue to receive the full benefit of franking credits as a 30 percent offset against their personal income tax rate, while genuine low income earners (not just retirees mind) will become liable for an up to 30 percent flat rate of tax on their fully franked dividends. For someone earning less than the tax free threshold of $18200, this is approximately equivalent to the overall average (not marginal) income tax rate paid by someone earning $180000 a year.

A family breadwinner earning $200000 while mum takes care of home responsibilities not only takes home almost $14000 less after tax dollars than a (for example) childless couple earning $100000 each, but will also become liable for another 2 percent ($4000) in quite likely permanent so-called "Budget Repair Levy".

What does it matter if Labor release policy early or at any time, if that policy is poorly constructed and unfairly discriminates against many of the very folk Labor would profess to represent? Particularly given that Mr Bowen has already made strong remarks which suggest he has no interest in negotiating or listening to sound reasoning. So why exactly should Labor "be commended that they are upfront with their agenda and priorities that they will pursue in Government"?

Adam Shultz
January 30, 2019

Hi Allan. Thanks for your input. The 2018/19 income tax rates provide that those earning between $37,001-$90,000 have a marginal tax rate (MTR) of 32.5%, $90,001-$180,000 MTR of 37% and those earning $180,000+ have a MTR of 45%. The reality is that genuine low income earners (not just retirees) as you describe them don't have significant share portfolios. If you don't pay tax, you can't expect a tax refund (on investment or other income). Note that Labor's policy is to exempt full and part-time pensioners, as well as every pensioner in receipt of a pension from a SMSF as at 28 March 2018.

In relation to your question "what does it matter if Labor release policy early... and why should they be commended that they are upfront with their agenda." I made this statement as Labor have put forward a comprehensive policy manifesto that constituents can consider well prior to casting their ballots at the next election. This is somewhat different to the approach taken by the current Government in relation to the transfer balance cap of $1.6m which commenced in 2017.
All the best, Adam.

Allan
January 31, 2019

While I appreciate your response Adam, it doesn't really address the issues I outlined. You have not addressed how it is fair that a single income family on $200000 not only take home almost $14000 less in after tax dollars than a two income family on $100000 each, but also become liable for the 2 percent budget repair levy.

Also, the 2018-2019 income tax rates you have listed don't alter the intrinsic unfairness of the proposed cancellation of imputation credit refunds policy . My point was that the impact of not returning the excess tax paid via imputation to a genuine low income earner is that they are subject to about the same average tax rate, not marginal tax rate, as that paid overall by an income earner on $180000. Therefore a person earning $18000 in franked dividends would incur about the same tax liability percentage-wise as a top marginal rate taxpayer on ten times as much at $180000. And why? Simply because that income is earnt from fully franked dividends. Even a single dollar of earnings will effectively be taxed at 30 percent flat.

Another person could earn $18200 from an investment property owned outright and pay no tax on the earnings. Ditto for interest earnings of 3% on $600000 sitting in the bank, and so on. The tax paid to the ATO via imputation is nothing more than tax prepaid prior to a proper assessment of the overall tax liability of the individual. This is not a "tax refund" as you put it. It is a return of tax which is overpaid. Try telling a small business person paying PAYG instalments up front that they will have that tax confiscated at the end of the financial year irrespective of their final actual income.

The supposed "reality" that genuine low income earners don't have "significant share portfolios" is somewhat self-evident, as otherwise they would be higher income earners. that aside, in keeping with basic sound financial advice issued to young people trying to get ahead, i personally know a few who only have low overall incomes, but have invested a modest amount in listed investment companies on the ASX which pay franked dividends. Your argument sounds suspiciously similar to Joe Hockey's poor people don't drive much faux pas. The dollar amount isn't really relevant when we are discussing the percentages. I can assure you that a regressive 30 percent flat tax rate is very significant to the low income earner.

Surely a key tenet of robustly designed tax policy should be to capture as many individual circumstances as possible in a fair and equitable manner. In this too Labors franking policy fails by making certain arbitrary exemptions for some while ignoring many others of lesser wealth, based on a line in the sand. For all the years of planning and saving for retirement, is fairness and equity really served by saying if you start a SMSF pension one day you retain the full franking benefits, but a few days later you lose it all.
But even disregarding this illogical stance, it isn't as though other fairer universal alternatives don't exist, such as charging a low but universal income tax on all retirement earnings while maintaining the current fair dividend imputation system.

My point on early release of policy was that it really matters little given that Labor have been seen as a shoo-in to win the next election for some time now, and Mr Bowen has made it quite clear that has no intention of altering his franking policy. Nothing to be "commended" about an elected representative who refuses to listen to sound reasoning.

Let me be clear. The franking changes as proposed will have next to no impact on me. I have no particular political leaning, and am an enthusiastic supporter of some of Labors other more sensible proposals. But I will not endorse poorly formulated, political expedient policy which is sold using inaccurate and socially divisive rhetoric.
I am interested in robust, logical policy which does not add yet more complexity to already complex tax law.

And I would still like a response on the one income plus budget repair levy versus two incomes scenario noted above.

Regards, Allan

Adam Shultz
February 01, 2019

Hi Allan. Thanks for the questions and a request for a response. The aim of the article is to highlight the policy differences and where both major parties are united on superannuation policy. The article doesn't purport to advocate for fairness and equality of the tax system (that would be a good topic for another article). As for your question in relation to a single income of $200K vs two incomes of $100K and the higher tax rate attributed to the single income, this is a fundamental principle of a progressive income tax system. Kind regards, Adam.

Allan
February 01, 2019

So Adam,

You work for an Industry Super Fund which will continue to reap the benefits of franked dividend refunds for even very wealthy members, unlike many SMSF owners under Labors proposed policy (note, I do not have any interest in an SMSF).

You are also a Labor Councillor. So what do you think the odds are that you are likely to offer an objective opinion on the policies as proposed? Genuine question.

It is my belief that good policy should include consideration of "fairness and equality" as a matter of course. I would have thought these things should be integral, and that any policy proposed should be defensible with maths and hard cold facts rather than ideology.

So let's take my question about the proposed Budget Repair Levy a step further. We all know that a common household with either one or two working adults benefits from the joint efforts of both parties. The benefits of the earnings are rarely if ever quarantined for the exclusive enjoyment of the individual. So setting aside fairness and equality for a moment, how in any reasonable person's reckoning does it make sense that a single income earner in a household earning $200000 while the partner performs home duties, takes home about $133000 after tax and will be liable for about $4000 in Budget repair Levy, while couple earning $199999 each a year take home about double that at $266000 after tax, and do not become liable as a household for the Budget Repair Levy.

Where is the recognition of the unpaid work performed by the stay at home parent (who will, not unreasonably, generally not be entitled to welfare support due to their partner's status as a high income earner).

This scenario is manifestly inequitable no matter which way you look at it. If Labor are sincere about wanting to address inequality, then they need to put some serious effort in to policy creation, rather than hollow lip-service and divisive sloganeering. Right now, Mr Shorten and Mr Bowen are playing on the ignorance of the wider public in respect of these issues, and in the process hurting many of the people they should be helping. The other side of politics is no better in their own way.

Both parties need to stop treating people like fools, do some real work on sound policy that will benefit all,and stop putting the furthering of their political careers ahead of the interests of the country.

Perhaps then people can start to view politicians in a less cynical light.

Adam Shultz
February 03, 2019

Thanks for the feedback Allan. In answer to your question, the article doesn’t seek to provide an opinion on any of the policies. The article simply outlines the differences and similarities in superannuation policy among the parties at this time. All the best, Adam.

Allan
February 04, 2019

Which of course, Adam, is why I have sought your opinion via the remarks accompanying the article.

Max Deak
January 25, 2019

Budget Deficit Repair Levy ?? Is this where the taxpayers earning more that $180,000 per year pay 2% extra tax to fix the problems created by the last Labor government?
How rude can Labor be and expect taxpayers to keep funding their mistakes?

Adam Shultz
January 25, 2019

Thanks you for the question Max. Labor have indicated that they will reinstate the Budget deficit Repair levy of 2% for those taxpayers with taxable income in excess of $180,000. It is proposed that this measure will remain in place until the budget is back in surplus. All the best, Adam.

Neil
January 24, 2019

Regarding Labor's policy for removal of tax deductions for personal super contributions (#2 above), is this across the board or just a return to Pre 1 July 2017 where members were only eligible to claim an income tax deduction for personal super contributions if they satisfied the test that no more than 10 per cent of earnings were from employee-like activities? Surely Labor isn't proposing the self-employed no longer will get a deduction for their super contributions?

Adam Shultz
January 25, 2019

Hi Neil. Thank you for the question. Labor have indicated that they will remove the tax deductibility for personal superannuation contributions introduced by the coalition. All the best, Adam.

Andrew Ramsay
January 24, 2019

I commend Labor for releasing its policies well before the upcoming Federal election but I think it is a fallacy for any political party to argue that if it wins Government that it has a "mandate" for all of its policies.

Typically Australian voters have to choose between LNP & Labor and irrespective of their choice it's inevitable that individual voters will disagree with some of the policies of their preferred choice. Even at the aggregate level, voters might elect a party to Government because they agree with more of its key policies than those of the alternative party but they may be overwhelming opposed to some of the particular policies advanced by that successful party. Not all policies get the same attention or weighting when voters decide who to support. For the winner to then claim a mandate for everything it has proposed is misleading at best.

This lack of a genuine mandate may well apply to some of Labor's superannuation policies which is why the Senate would be within its rights to reject them if the majority of senators disagree with the policy. Personally I hope the Senate would reject some of the proposals, such as ending tax deductibility for personal contributions and catch-up concessional contributions.

Adam Shultz
January 25, 2019

Thanks for your feedback and insights Andrew. The Senate post the Federal election in 2019 will be interesting. The likes of Pauline Hanson (One Nation), Cory Bernardi (Australian Conservatives), Rex Patrick and Stirling Griff (Central Alliance - Xenophon) aren't up for reelection until 2022. The reality is that all Government's have to negotiate legislation through the Senate. In recent memory, the only Government who had control of the Senate was Howard's in 2004. Please find a link to an article below. https://www.theage.com.au/national/howard-wins-control-of-senate-20041029-gdyvvp.html

DV
January 24, 2019

Very interesting newsletter from Cuffelinks. I especially liked the clear laid out differences in policies about superannuation. Why can’t the coalition make hay from these? I’m sure that the majority do not realise how they will be impacted.

Adam Shultz
January 25, 2019

Thanks for your feedback on the article DV. At present, the government is severely hampered by political infighting and the public have switched off. Disunity is death in politics, may it be (Abbott, Turnbull, Morrison) or (Rudd, Gillard, Rudd). All the best, Adam.

 

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