Super tax concessions in the firing line

couple mad about losing super tax concessions

Tax concessions aimed at encouraging Australians to save for retirement could be on the chopping block as the government looks to increase government revenue.

It was billed as a way to encourage older Australians to save and to decrease reliance on the Age Pension.

But critics say generous tax concessions on super accounts in the accumulation phase have led to superannuation being used as a low-tax way to build wealth, rather than a method of saving for retirement.

Under the concession, those working and earning less than $250,000 per year can make extra contributions to their super account that would be taxed at a flat rate of 15 per cent, rather than the higher income tax rates this money would normally attract.

Read: Investment behemoth Vanguard to take on Aussie super funds

In a speech to the Australian Financial Review (AFR) Wealth and Super Summit, financial services minister Stephen Jones said the tax concession on super was costing the budget around $45 billion each year.

“If the objective of super is to provide a tax-preferred means for estate planning, you could say it is doing its job,” Mr Jones said.

“I celebrate success, but the concessional taxation of funds like these has a real cost to the budget that needs to be considered.”

To put this amount into perspective, the total amount spent on the Age Pension each year is around $53 billion.

Read: Australians expect superannuation shortfall

Mr Jones says there are 32 self-managed super funds containing more than $100 million in assets, with the biggest now sitting at more than $400 million.

He says Australia needs to have “one of the most important conversations” we’ve ever had around reforming superannuation by either removing the tax concessions, or capping super balances.

The super industry itself seems open to the idea of capping super balances at $5 million so the society-wide effects of the concessions are lessened.

The Association of Super Funds of Australia (ASFA) says this amount is well in excess of the $545,000 it recommends for a ‘comfortable retirement’.

Read: Super returns will rally after a bumpy year

AFSA’s figures show there are just 11,000 super accounts with balances higher than that and the cap would add around $1 billion to the Federal Budget.

But the federal Opposition has been quick to point out that Labor didn’t campaign on super reform, with Opposition finance spokesperson Stuart Robert labelling the proposal as the “ultimate definition of the politics of envy”.

“Unfortunately, Labor went to the election saying no changes to superannuation,” Mr Roberts said.

“The Treasurer said the super wars were done but here we find mere months later the Assistant Treasurer looking at every opportunity to whack anyone that’s done well.”

Would you support a cap on super balances? Or even a change to the tax rate? Let us know in the comments section below.

Written by Brad Lockyer

Brad has deep knowledge of retirement income, including Age Pension and other government entitlements, as well as health, money and lifestyle issues facing older Australians. Keen interests in current affairs, politics, sport and entertainment. Digital media professional with more than 10 years experience in the industry.

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  1. Seems like a moot discussion. While Labor went to the election saying no changes to superannuation, it also said it would lower energy costs. It broke one promise so why shouldn’t it break other ones, including the tax cuts for the wealthy.

    This is nothing more than another cash grab by the wealthy end of town to take more off the average Australian and use legal loopholes to avoid paying their share of tax.

  2. So let me guess. Those opposing a sensible limit on tax deductible superannuation contributions are the very wealthy who have been successfully using the superannuation system as yet another vehicle for dodging tax. Hmmm. Me thinks this looks a bit familiar!!

  3. Need to help the low income pay into superannuation. It doesn’t pay them good tax deduction to put money in super. Need more incentives.
    Anyone with balance under 1.5 mill taxed 15%. Anyone with higher than 1.5 mill pay 30%. I feel that would be fair.

  4. Labor is the party of envy politics. Anyone who has scrimped and saved to be self-sufficient deserves to be punished in their eyes. And it all comes down to higher taxes – always. I don’t necessarily disagree with a super cap but that cap still needs to be an incentive to save. Too low and why bother with super at all, too high and it defeats the object. ‘Life experience’ here suggests $1.5m. I would say that is too low if you consider aged care costs which are already close to $1m for those not able to be covered under medicare/centrelink. I would put the cap at $2.5 – 3m which would still be attractive for most people but would still benefit the treasury with additional tax revenue. Assuming of course that the tax rate would be in the region of 30% – still advantageous to higher earners but capturing more for the bottom line. And of course, the stage 3 tax cuts due 2024 would have to go ahead as already legislated.

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