Superannuation reform changes: what you need to know and do before 1 July 2017

The new superannuation tax laws substantially commence from 1 July 2017. Many of the measures require careful consideration for super fund members, trustees and their advisers. This includes a number matters that need to be considered prior to 1 July 2017, including:

  • Transfer balance cap for members who will have more than $1.6 million in pension accounts in retirement phase (including defined benefit pensions) – action will need to be taken before 1 July 2017 under the transfer balance cap measure to commute such pensions back to accumulation phase so that pension accounts do not exceed $1.6 million to ensure they do not incur excess transfer balance tax. A minute is being drafted to address this issue.
  • Death benefit pensions – will be subject to the $1.6 million transfer balance cap (with a modified cap for child pensions) with any excess being required to be cashed out of the superannuation system. From 1 July 2017, whether a pension is auto-reversionary on death, has more significance.
  • Transition to Retirement Income Streams (TRIS) – consider the ongoing appropriateness of transition to retirement income streams and whether they should be continued or commuted post 30 June 2017. Some members may be in a position to convert their TRIS to a pension account in retirement phase if they have retired or satisfied a condition of release with a nil cashing restriction.
  • Elections for transitional CGT relief (cost base reset) – there are different applications of the relief depending on whether the fund has used the segregated method or the proportionate method – this will need to be considered. Availability for funds that have used the segregated method will require action prior to 1 July 2017. However, a decision for funds that have applied the proportionate method may be deferred up to the date of the lodgment of the fund’s FY2017 tax return.
  • Valuations – consider whether it is prudent to obtain new or updated valuations to support any CGT relief elections (cost base reset) and the balance of any transfer balance accounts.
  • Defined benefit pensions – will generally be counted for the purposes of the transfer balance by the application of a special value for a lifetime pension, life expectancy and marked linked pension to the annualised first retirement phase pension payment following 30 June 2017, and generally 50% of a member’s annual defined benefit pensions that exceed $100,000 will be taxed at marginal tax rates.
  • Non-concessional contributions cap of nil for members with more than $1.6 million in total superannuation benefits across all funds (including defined benefits) – applies for each financial year commencing on 1 July 2017 with the total superannuation benefits measured at 30 June of the immediately preceding year. Considering liquidity issues for self-managed superannuation funds affected by a member’s inability to make further non-concessional contributions from 1 July 2017 will be important.
  • Non-concessional contributions cap for members with less than $1.6 million in benefits – the non-concessional contributions cap will reduce from 1 July 2017 to $100,000 ($300,000 bring-forward rule). However, the current cap of $180,000 or $540,000 under the bring-forward rule remains available until 30 June 2017.
  • The concessional contributions cap– the concessional contributions cap will reduce to $25,000 from 1 July 2017. However, the current cap of $30,000 (or $35,000 for members aged 49+ at the end of the previous financial year) will be available until 30 June 2017.
  • Tax deductibility available for contributions made by employees – from 1 July 2017, the 10% rule for tax deductibility of member contributions is removed and it may not be necessary for employees to maintain salary-sacrifice arrangements (but check availability for public sector funds and some corporate defined benefit funds).
  • Different measurements – the $1.6 million transfer balance cap (relevant for determining an excess transfer balance of pensions in retirement phase) is measured differently from the $1.6 million total superannuation balance measure (which is relevant for the non-concessional contributions cap).