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Switzer SMSF blog

Next financial year, big changes are on their way to super – with the tax-free nature of parts of the super system to be limited.

The government has changed the way that superannuation pensions, and transition to retirement pensions (TRIPs), are treated.

Effective from July 1, 2017, the government has placed a $1.6 million cap on the amount of superannuation that you can keep in, or transfer to, a super pension account – where the tax rate on earnings is zero.

These changes apply to self-managed super funds (SMSFs) as well as other kinds of super funds.

The cap, known as the transfer balance cap, will apply to all Australians: those who are already receiving superannuation pensions, and those starting pensions on or after July 1, 2017.

The changes became law in November. SMSF members who are immediately affected, and those planning for retirement, need to be aware of how the new rules will affect their financial plans.

If an SMSF member has more than $1.6 million in pension phase, then they have two options:
•Move the excess super savings into an accumulation account, where investment earnings will be taxed at 15 per cent, or
•Withdraw the excess amount (that is, above $1.6 million) from the super system.

Any excess held in pension phase on or after July 1, 2017 will incur a tax penalty, with earnings taxed at 15 per cent. 

In theory, the individual cap means that a couple running an SMSF could potentially retain $3.2 million in pension-phase assets. There may be scope to split assets, to bring the higher-balance member of a couple under the $1.6 million cap. 

Transition-to-retirement pensions (TRIPs) have had their tax exemption removed. TRIPs have been popular because they have enabled people who have reached their preservation age to gain access to their super in the form of a pension, while continuing to work, and continuing to make super contributions.

They can work full-time, part-time or even casually while using a TRIP.

In the TRIP structure, you contribute part of your salary to your SMSF (where it is generally taxed at a maximum of 15 per cent, rather than at your marginal tax rate). You then move your super money into the TRIP pension and use the pension income to supplement your reduced salary. The tax-effectiveness of the pension helps to lower your overall personal tax liability.

However, from 1 July 2017, the earnings on assets financing a TRIP will no longer be exempt from tax. 

Also, it will no longer be possible to treat an income payment from a TRIP as a lump sum withdrawal and access the tax-free low-rate cap of $195,000. Lump sum withdrawals will still be possible, but they will not count as meeting the minimum payment standard. 

Because TRIP users will have to pay tax on the earnings from 1 July 2017, it means that they will need to keep additional cash to pay any tax on the earnings. (They will also receive less franking credit refunds, as they will only get back half the credits in future.) This extra cash should be earning as much as possible. 

Despite these changes, TRIP’s are still a viable strategy and are still beneficial depending on your circumstances. Cash is an integral part of the TRIP strategy and it’s important that you look to maximise your returns, especially in the face of reduced tax benefits. 

RaboDirect offers a range of savings accounts that will allow you to execute your pension strategy whilst maximising your returns. As an example; the RaboDirect Notice Saver pays a high rate in exchange for advance notice of any withdrawals – perfect for a TRIP with a regular pension payment schedule.

This is the third and final article in this series, we trust that you’ve found it helpful. Remember that no matter how the rules change you should always be looking to maximise your returns including in the cash component of your portfolio. Don’t let your cash laze around in a transaction account and be sure to take advantage of the different (government guaranteed) cash products available in the market.


This article originally appeared in Switzer Daily. Switzer Daily is a business, finance and political commentary website founded by Peter Switzer. Their website has been designed to cut through the clutter that exists in business and financial media and provide their readers with the information they require to make the right decisions in relation to their shares, superannuation, property, business, career, bank account, family and life.View the original article on Switzer Daily.

Disclaimer: The views expressed, and any advice given, in the above article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of RaboDirect. We recommend that you seek professional advice before making any decisions relating to the matters discussed in the article.


Note: Have you noticed a change in our name? That’s because we recently changed from RaboDirect to Rabobank. Of course, you will continue to experience our great service and award winning savings products under the Rabobank name, however you may see mentions of RaboDirect in our blogs published prior to April 2019. If you have any questions please reach out to our Online Savings team.
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