The re-contribution strategy works by cashing out an amount of a member’s superannuation balance, and then re-contributing the amount into the superannuation fund as non-concessional contributions.
When any amounts are drawn from superannuation they are generally split into two components: the taxable component and the tax-free component. However, if the lump sum is paid from an unfunded defined benefit scheme or the lump sum amount includes an insured death benefit, there may also be a taxable component or an untaxed element.
The tax-free component is not subject to tax, and the taxable component may be taxed depending on the recipient’s age and how the payment is made – i.e. lump sum or income stream.
The tax-free and taxable components must be paid out on a proportional basis. So the amounts re-contributed as non-concessional are added to the tax-free component, thus increasing the tax-free amounts when they are finally paid from the fund.
What are the tips and traps around the strategy?
Under 60 and commencing retirement income stream
Under age 60, a retirement income stream will be added to your taxable income (the income stream is paid with a 15 per cent tax offset) so if your income from all sources exceeds $37,000 (where the marginal rate jumps to 30 per cent) you will be subject to tax on the income stream. By increasing the tax-free component of your income stream amount you will reduce the tax payable on this amount, which in turn increases your after-tax income.
Reducing tax on death benefits paid to non-death-benefit dependents
Death benefit lump sums paid to non-death-benefit dependents (for example, adult children), will generally be subject to tax in varying degrees in the hands of the beneficiary. By increasing the tax-free component of the member’s balance now, the amount that is ultimately received by the death benefit recipient will be tax-free in the same proportions.
One partner has attained age pension age
In some cases, re-contributions can also be used to increase Centrelink entitlements. By withdrawing a lump sum from the partner’s superannuation fund who has attained age pension age and contributing to the younger spouse’s member account, Centrelink entitlements may be increased since the member balance for the non-age pension spouse will not be counted towards the assets or income tests.
Maximising tax-free components where one partner is over 60
Where one partner is over 60 and can receive the retirement income stream tax-free – and the younger partner has satisfied a condition of release – withdrawing from the younger partner’s member balance and contributing to the older partner’s member balance before commencing a retirement income stream will mean the income stream received by the partner over 60 will be tax-free.
Satisfying a condition of release
The member needs to satisfy a condition of release in order to draw the lump sum. This means they must have either reached preservation age and have retired – and the trustee is reasonably satisfied that the member never intends to work full time again – or they have turned 60.
Exceeding the lump-sum tax-free threshold
If the member is under 60 but over 55 and withdraws the amount as a lump sum, care needs to be taken that the taxable component withdrawn does not attract tax.
For the 2015-16 financial year:
Up to $195,000 is tax-free, with the balance of the taxed component taxed at a maximum of 15 per cent plus Medicare levy. For those under 55 the entire amount is taxed at 20 per cent.
Where there is a taxable component of untaxed element, different rates apply again.
If the member is over 60, the first $1.395 million (untaxed plan cap) is taxed at 15 per cent with the balance taxed at 45 per cent.
Where the member is between 55 and 60, the first $195,000 is tax-free, between $195,000 and $1,395 million at 30 per cent, and the balance at 45 per cent.
For those under 55, the first $1.395 million is taxed at 30 per cent and the balance taxed at 45 per cent.
Lump sums are treated as assessable income
While the low cap amount up to $195,000 is tax-free, the amount is still counted towards a member’s thresholds for certain benefits such as the Family Tax Payment, government co-contribution and any other benefits or arrangements that take income into account rather than taxable income.
Exceeding non-concessional contribution limits
The re-contribution strategy needs to be considered in conjunction with any other planning strategies to ensure the non-concessional contributions in total for any year do not exceed the relevant caps.
Conflict with anti-detriment strategy
The strategy could potentially be in conflict with an amount available under the anti-detriment strategy. However, this may only be an issue if the member dies with a substantial superannuation balance. It is worth educating the member of this potential loss of benefit to any death benefit beneficiaries who may be able to access an anti-detriment payment.
Liquidity in the fund
The fund needs to have sufficient liquidity in order to pay out any lump-sum benefits. If assets need to be sold to free up cash to make a lump-sum payment, consideration of possible capital gains tax implications is needed.
Michele Purvis, director, UAS Financial