Looming election ‘heads I lose, tails I lose’ for SMSFs
One Australian fund manager believes that despite the tough policies the Liberal government announced in the budget, superannuation policy under Labor could "easily be worse".
Instreet Investment managing director George Lucas said irrespective of which major party wins the election this weekend, both will be using superannuation tax concessions as a federal budget booster.
"Both major political parties will walk away from the election believing increased taxes for people with high superannuation balances (which mostly means people with SMSFs) will be a politically feasible way of tackling the budget deficit," Mr Lucas said.
He noted taxing superannuation at the higher end is typically "politically painless" and won the Liberal party plaudits from the many analysts and commentators in the community who see superannuation concessions as "fundamentally iniquitous".
Mr Lucas believes that this mentality will be no different under a Labor government, and could potentially be worse for SMSF investors.
"Up until recently, Labor policy was to tax superannuation earnings above $75,000, effectively targeting SMSFs. But now Labor has announced it will abandon its policy of taxing superannuation earnings and has (quietly) adopted the Liberal policy of changing concessional and non-concessional, right down to the extent of including the revenue savings in its forward fiscal estimates," Mr Lucas said.
"In other words, it’s letting the Liberals wear all the opprobrium in the run-up to the 2 July poll for this policy initiative – but will happily pick up the revenue it offers if it wins government," he said.
"When the number crunchers did the figures, the general consensus was the Labor’s policies would generate more income for the government’s coffers in a bull market when returns are high (the ballpark figure was about a six per cent return), while the Liberal’s policy would generate more revenue when returns are low," he added.
"Call me cynical, but it’s hard to see in the current low interest rate environment super funds generating returns in excess of six per cent. This particularly applies to SMSFs in the pension phase where the primary focus is on income, not capital growth.
"But if these scenarios under a Liberal or Labor government are enough to keep SMSF trustees awake at night, then try and imagine how much worse it will be if Labor wins the Treasury benches in coalition with the Greens.
"The Greens have made no bones about their strong opposition to the concessional nature of our superannuation system, seeing this as prime revenue source. Labor might protest but if it’s part of a package needed to form government than I suspect it would sign up, comfortable in the knowledge that SMSF trustees are not part of its natural constituency."