Date posted: 01/03/2023

Superannuation policy in Australia is becoming like trying to shoot a moving target flying in circles over shifting goalposts

How on earth can we expect Australians to invest in their superannuation now when the rules keep changing every few years? Who knows what the rules will be when they finally are coming to retirement age?

These are the key questions being posed today by Chartered Accountants ANZ in response to the yet another round of proposed changes to the taxation treatment of superannuation in this country.

Currently earnings on money invested in your superannuation account is taxed at 15 per cent, while under changes announced today the amount will rise to 30 per cent for balances over $3 million.

It is proposed the changes would take effect from July 1, 2025, and that they would impact about 0.5 per cent of Australians, and that they would raise about $2 billion in tax over the four years to 2029.

While the objective of bringing more equity to the superannuation system is not disputed by CA ANZ, the fairness of a large attack on a relatively small number of people who followed the rules is.

Having proposed an objective of super to add to the existing one already in legislation, and having commenced a consultation period just last week, more changes have been announced today.

“The target of these changes is a relatively small number of people who played by the rules which the government at the time set and kept for about 20 years between the late 1980s and 2006 against the advice of the industry,” said Tony Negline, Chartered Accountants ANZ Superannuation and Financial Services Leader.

“Investing in superannuation in this country is like trying to shoot a moving target flying in circles over shifting goal posts.

“The lead time is good as the changes will come into force after the next Federal Election, but it is still a major impact proposed on a small number of people who haven’t done anything wrong – they played by the rules and now the rules have changed."

Here are just a few of the key changes to the way that superannuation is taxed over the past years:

  • Up until 2007 there were no limits placed on the amount of money you could invest in superannuation, while attracting a tax rate of just 15 per cent.
  • In 2007 the rules changed, with limits placed on how much you could put into your superannuation account while attracting the favourable tax rate, but it was made tax free when you retired.
  • In 2016, a new $1.6 million limit was placed on how much after-tax money you could deposit into superannuation.
  • Then in 2017, the amount of tax you pay when you invest in super changed, with a new threshold introduced (you now had to pay 30 per cent not 15 per cent tax if you earned more than $250,000 instead of $300,000).
  • In 2021 the threshold for how much you can put into superannuation was increased from $1.6 million to $1.7 million 

There are also significant questions about potential unintended consequences which could flow from the decision.

  • What do we do about people with multiple accounts? I have one million in five accounts. Can I choose?
  • Does it apply to unfunded superannuation? If not, why not?
  • What distortions will it cause over the next three years? Moving money to safer accounts?
  • What impact will it have on divorce settlements for example?
  • Capital gains in super are now taxed at 10%. How will they be taxed under this new policy?  

“How can we ask people to invest in super now when you won’t know what rules will apply by the time people will need to access their money?” Mr Negline said.

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