Common traps flagged with excess determinations
With the ATO now issuing excess transfer balance determinations, an industry lawyer has provided clarity on some of the more confusing aspects involved in dealing with these determinations.
In an online update, Townsends special counsel for superannuation Michael Hallinan reminded SMSF practitioners that where taxpayers exceed their $1.6 million transfer balance limit, the ATO must issue an excess transfer balance determination (ETB) to the taxpayer.
“The ETB determination will specify the amount the taxpayer has to transfer out of pension phase and the date by which this has to be achieved,” said Mr Hallinan.
“If the taxpayer does not comply with the ETB determination, then penalties will be imposed on the taxpayer and the ATO may cause sufficient pension balance to be transferred out of pension phase by directing the superannuation trustee to take the necessary action.”
Dealing with the determination
Mr Hallinan warns that choosing to ignore the determination is the worst response.
“The taxpayer will have to take some action – whether to review the accuracy of the determination or accept that the determination is accurate and to undertake the necessary commutation action,” he said.
It is important that SMSF clients are aware that increasing their pension drawdown rate or making a one-off large pension payment will not solve the underlying issue.
He also explained that even if the ETB determination is based upon incorrect information, only the trustee that provided the incorrect information in the first place can correct this information.
Reviewing the determination
Where a client has provided incorrect information to the ATO, he said, they should use the MyGov website and their login details to review the TBAR amounts that have been reported.
Another possibility is that a commutation of pension has not been reported, he added.
“For instance, if a pension has been transferred from fund A to fund B, then the pension payable by fund A has been fully commuted, a lump sum has been paid to fund B and a new pension has been issued by fund B,” he explained.
“In this case, fund A would have issued a TBAR credit when the pension commenced or its value as at 1 July 2017 if the pension commenced before 1 July 2017, and should have reported a TBAR debit when the pension was commuted while fund B should have reported a TBAR credit when the new pension was issued. If the TBAR debit from fund A has not been reported, then the pension balance has been double counted, which could give rise to an excess transfer balance.”
If there has been an error in a TBAR, said Mr Hallinan, then the issuing trustee must reverse that TBAR and issue a corrected TBAR.
“Importantly, the ATO has no power to correct or disregard a TBAR. Only the issuing trustee can correct it by reversing the incorrect TBAR and issuing a correct TBAR,” he said.
“If a TBAR debit has not been reported, then it must be immediately reported. If the ATO is advised that the excess is due to an unreported TBAR debit, it is likely that the ATO will suspend any corrective action to permit the TBAR debit to be reported.”
Taking action by the due date
An excess over $1.6 million of a transfer balance account can only be corrected by having a TBAR debit equal to the excess. This means commuting in part or in full, one or more pensions, said Mr Hallinan.
“The ETB determination will specify the dollar value which has to be commuted and also the date by which the commutation must be effected,” he said.
“Only commuting the pension will generate a TBAR debit.”
If there is no error in the ETB determination, he said, then the only response is to undertake the commutation and ensure that the trustee that issued the pension submits a TBAR in respect of the commutation as soon as possible.
“Doing nothing will only cause the ATO to effect a mandatory commutation of whichever pension the ATO chooses and at greater transaction cost to the taxpayer,” he said.
Miranda Brownlee is the deputy editor of SMSF Adviser, which is the leading source of news, strategy and educational content for professionals working in the SMSF sector.
Since joining the team in 2014, Miranda has been responsible for breaking some of the biggest superannuation stories in Australia, and has reported extensively on technical strategy and legislative updates. Miranda has also directed SMSF Adviser's print publication for several years.
Miranda also has broad business and financial services reporting experience, having written for titles including Investor Daily, ifa and Accountants Daily.