Macquarie head of technical services David Barrett says prior to the super reforms, the standard strategy used by financial advisers was to transfer the client’s assets into a transition to retirement pension, once they reached the preservation age, to reduce the tax on earnings from 15 per cent to zero.
Mr Barrett said while this strategy will likely disappear from the industry given the changes to super, there are some strategies involving TRIS that remain relevant for certain clients, and there may even be emerging opportunities where TRIS can be useful.
There is a more involved strategy with TTR pensions that involves starting a TTR pension to create extra cash flow, he said. The extra cash flow can be used to increase the level of concessional contributions that an individual is currently making, where they are not otherwise able to afford to increase their concessional contributions from their SG level of whatever they are currently contributing at.
“This may be still a viable strategy. If a super fund member receives pension payments after the age of 60 from a TTR pension, those payments are tax-free,” Mr Barrett said.
“Making a concessional contribution which is taxed at 15 cents can effectively reduce the tax on their assessable income at their marginal tax rate.”
Mr Barrett said the ATO announced in 2005 in media release NAT 2005/66 that it would not apply Part IVA anti-avoidance measures where a taxpayer simply commences a TTR pension and makes a salary sacrifice contribution to superannuation (i.e. concessional contributions).
“It will be interesting to see if the ATO changes its view with the changes to the taxation of TTR pensions from 1 July 2017,” he said.
SMSF practitioners should be aware that the strategy is limited by the $25,000 concessional contribution cap.
It could be effective, however, for someone who has fluctuating income from month to month such as a small business owner or someone who receives commission-based remuneration, he said.
“The regularity of income from a transition to retirement pension could be useful in that context.”
One of the newer strategies that could also be used is where a trustee starts a pension, draws down the maximum annual payment of 10 per cent of the account balance and uses that maximum to make a contribution to their spouse’s super fund.
“This might become an even more popular strategy given that we soon have thresholds being introduced, such as the $1.6 million pension cap form 1 July 2017 and $500,000 total superannuation balance cap on the ability to carry forward unused concessional contribution capacities from the 2018-19 year,” Mr Barrett said.