Important announcements from the 2018 budget regarding superannuation which may affect you.

SMSF member limit to increase from four to six

The Budget confirmed that the maximum number of allowable members in new and existing self managed superannuation funds (SMSFs) and small APRA funds will be expanded from four to six members from 1 July 2019. This measure was originally flagged on 27 April 2018 by the Minister for Revenue and Financial Services, Kelly O’Dwyer.

The proposed increase to the maximum number of SMSF members seeks to provide greater flexibility for large families to jointly manage retirement savings. Given the growth in the sector to date, Ms O’Dwyer said the measure will ensure SMSFs remain compelling retirement savings vehicle. The Government is expected to ask the ATO to work with industry on the design and implementation of this measure. It is not expected to have a revenue impact.

Extra SMSF members to provide flexibility

Currently, s 17A(1)(a) of the Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Act 1993 (SIS Act) requires an SMSF to have fewer than five members. In addition, each member must be a trustee of the fund (or a director of the corporate trustee). This seeks to ensure that all members are fully involved and equally responsible for fund decisions and investments.

The Government’s proposal to allow up to six SMSF members may assist those with larger families to implement intergenerational solutions for managing long-term, capital intensive investments, such as commercial property and business real property. For example, allowing an extra two members provides an opportunity to improve a fund’s cash flow by using the contributions of the younger members to make pension payments to the members in retirement phase, without needing to sell a long-term investment.

As each member must be a trustee of the fund, a decision to add extra members should not be taken lightly as it can add complexity to the fund’s management and investment strategy. A change to the membership of an SMSF will alter the trustee arrangements which can impact who controls the fund in the event of a dispute. This is especially relevant in the event of the death of a member, as the surviving trustees have considerable discretion as to the payment of the deceased’s super benefits (subject to any binding death benefit nomination).

Labor’s dividend imputation policy

Allowing up to six SMSF members may assist some SMSFs to implement strategies to guard against Labor’s proposal to end cash refunds of excess franking credits from 1 July 2019. SMSFs in tax-exempt pension phase are expected to feel the brunt of Labor’s proposal, although an exemption was subsequently announced for SMSFs with at least one Government pensioner or allowance recipient before 28 March 2018.

To avoid wasting non-refundable franking credits, Labor’s proposal would create an incentive for SMSFs in pension phase to add additional accumulation phase members (eg adult children) who could effectively make some use of the excess franking credits within the fund. That is, the excess franking credits would be used to absorb some of the 15% contributions tax in relation to the accumulation members. For example, the proposal to increase the maximum number of SMSF members from four to six would enable a typical two-member fund in pension phase to admit up to four adult children as members. If those adult children are making concessional contributions up to the maximum of $25,000 per year, the fund could use the excess franking credits to offset up to $15,000 (four x $25,000 x 15%) in contributions tax each year for the adult children.

This strategy would essentially replicate, to the extent possible, the position of large APRA funds under Labor’s policy. APRA funds typically have more contributing members and diverse income sources (beyond franked dividends) that can usually fully absorb the franking credits.

As already noted, a decision to add additional members to an SMSF may add complexity to the management and control of the fund. This would require professional advice for the specific circumstances of the fund and its members.

Superannuation work test exemption for contributions by recent retirees

The Government will introduce an exemption from the work test for voluntary superannuation contributions by individuals aged 65–74 with superannuation balances below $300,000 in the first year that they do not meet the work test requirements.

Currently, the work test in reg 7.04 of the Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Regulations 1994 (SIS Regulations) restricts the ability to make voluntary superannuation contributions for those aged 65–74 to individuals who self-report as working a minimum of 40 hours in any 30-day period in the financial year. The measure will give recent retirees additional flexibilities to get their financial affairs in order in transition to retirement. It will apply from 1 July 2019.

SMSF audit cycle of three years for funds with good compliance history

The annual audit requirement for SMSFs will be extend to a three-yearly cycle for funds with a history of good record-keeping and compliance.

The measure will apply to SMSF trustees that have a history of three consecutive years of clear audit reports and that have lodged the fund’s annual returns in a timely manner.

This measure will start on 1 July 2019. The Government said it will undertake consultation to ensure a smooth implementation.

Super fees to be capped at 3% for small accounts, exit fees banned

Passive fees charged by superannuation funds will be capped at 3% for small accounts with balances below $6,000, while exit fees will be banned for all superannuation accounts from 1 July 2019. These measures form part of the Government’s Protecting Your Super Package.

The Minister for Revenue and Financial Services, Kelly O’Dwyer, said there were around 9.5 million super account with a balance less than $6,000 in 2015–2016. To avoid these small accounts from being eroded, the Government will cap the administration and investment fees at 3% annually, Ms O’Dwyer said.

The Government will also ban exit fees on all superannuation accounts. Exit fees of around $37 million were charged to members in 2015–2016 to simply close an account with a super fund. The proposed ban on exit fees will also benefit members looking to rollover their super accounts to a different fund, or who hold multiple accounts and see exit fees as a barrier to consolidating accounts

Superannuation insurance opt-in rule for younger and low-balance members

The Government will change the insurance arrangements for certain cohorts of superannuation members from 1 July 2019. Under the proposed changes, insurance within superannuation will move from a default framework to be offered on an opt-in basis for:

  • members with low balances of less than $6,000;
  • members under the age of 25 years; and
  • members with inactive accounts that have not received a contribution in 13 months.

These changes seek to protect the retirement savings of young people and those with low balances by ensuring their superannuation is not unnecessarily eroded by premiums on insurance policies they do not need or are not aware of. The Minister for Revenue and Financial Services, Kelly O’Dwyer, said around 5 million individuals will have the opportunity to save an estimated $3 billion in insurance premiums by choosing to opt-in to this cover, rather than paying for it by default.

The changes also seek to reduce the incidence of duplicated cover so that individuals are not paying for multiple insurance policies, which they may not be able to claim on in any event. Importantly, these changes will not prevent anyone who wants insurance from being able to obtain it. That is, low balance, young, and inactive members will still be able to opt in to insurance cover within super.

In addition, the Government said it will consult publicly on ways in which the current policy settings could be improved to better balance the priorities of retirement savings and insurance cover within super.

The changes will take effect on 1 July 2019. Affected superannuants will have a period of 14 months to decide whether they will opt-in to their existing cover or allow it to switch off