In February 2019, a number of laws were passed through Parliament that will see changes to superannuation in the coming year. They are overall positive and may signal the end of super balances being eroded by unnecessary fees. The changes are due to commence from 1 July 2019.
These reforms join other recent changes first proposed in the 2018/19 Federal Budget.
The changes include:
Accounts classified as low balance (those that have less than $6,000) will have their fees capped at 3% to assist in preventing them being eroded by fees. This may see fees reduce for some fund members.
All super fund exit fees will be banned. According to the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA), super members lost approximately $52 million in exit fees in 2016/17 alone.
An account will be classified as inactive if, over a 16-month period, either no contributions have been received or the member has not otherwise engaged with the account by, for example, requesting a change to their investment strategy or insurance coverage.
From 1 July 2019, regardless of the balance of an account, insurance will be cancelled on it if it has been classified as inactive.
Superannuation accounts which have not received a contribution for 16 months and have balances below $6,000 are known as inactive low balance accounts. These will be transferred to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), who will attempt to auto-consolidate the amounts into the member’s active account, if they have one and if the combined balance will be greater than $6,000.
If the ATO cannot auto-consolidate a balance into a member’s active account, the balance will remain with the ATO until it can be validly claimed.
If you are out of the workforce for 16 months and not making contributions to your account, you can inform your super fund that you want your super balance to remain in the fund.
These accounts will be consolidated on 31 October 2019.
If you have multiple accounts, you can currently seek to consolidate your super.
Retirees can work more
The Pension Work Bonus will increase to $300 per fortnight, from $250. This allows pensioners to earn up to $300 each fortnight without reducing their Age Pension payments. This measure also applies to self-employed members.
Tackling unpaid super
The ATO can now apply for court-ordered penalties for employers who defy directions to make compulsory contributions on behalf of their employees.
From 1 July 2019, the Single Touch Payroll system will also be extended to all employers, meaning the ATO will have up-to-date information on how much super employers owe to their workers.
Although this is a welcome development, Industry Super Australia (ISA) has long advocated that super be required to be paid to employees’ accounts at the same time as their wages are paid. Currently, employers can advise their workers in payslips how much super they will receive but hold on to these funds before making a consolidated contribution as rarely as once every four months.
Allowing retirees to make voluntary contributions in the first year of retirement
From 1 July 2019, retirees aged between 65 and 74 with a superannuation balance below $300,000 will be allowed to make voluntary super contributions for the first year that they no longer meet the work test requirements.
Pension Loan Scheme
The Pension Loan Scheme has been expanded to allow aged pensioners to boost their income with a loan from the government against the equity in their home. This means that for singles, they can receive $11,799 per year, and for couples, $17,787 per year, paid in fortnightly payments to supplement existing income. These payments are a loan with the government and attract interest. They need to be repaid from the sale proceeds of your house or at other key events.
Merging of the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal and other financial complaint services into a single complaints Authority
On 1 November 2018, the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) began operating. Having absorbed the former Superannuation Complaints Tribunal, the Financial Ombudsman Service, and the Credit and Investment Ombudsman, AFCA is now a one-stop shop for complaints requiring external dispute resolution regarding financial services, including superannuation.
Click to see the proposed changes which have not yet been legislated.
Click to see pension changes.