Retirement income & tax

Posted on 3 December 2019
Retirement income & tax

MoneySmart
(ASIC)

Tax and retirement income streams

The amount of tax you will pay on your retirement income stream depends on the type of income stream, when you started it and what it was purchased with.

Here we explain how different retirement income streams are taxed and why it depends on whether they were bought with superannuation money.

  • How super income streams are taxed
  • How transition to retirement income streams are taxed
  • How income streams from defined benefit super funds are taxed
  • Different tax rules for non-super income streams and annuities

How super income streams are taxed

Super income streams are also known as pensions and annuities. They can be account-based pensions with no set time period or annuities that are fixed for a specific period of time.

Superannuation benefits are made up of two components, taxable and tax-free.

The taxable component is made up of:

  • Employer contributions
  • Salary sacrificed contributions
  • Personal contributions where a tax deduction was claimed

The tax-free component is made up of:

For people aged 60 and over

Benefits from a taxed super fund (i.e. most super funds) are tax-free.

For people aged 55 to 59

No tax is payable on the tax-free component of your income payment. The taxable component of your income payment will be added to your taxable income. It will be taxed at your marginal tax rate, less a tax offset equal to 15% of the taxable portion of the payment.

Work out your marginal tax rate.

income tax calculator

 

Benefits paid to people aged under 55

It is rare for people under age 55 to be able to access their super. Usually your super can only be accessed if you become permanently disabled. In this case, you will be taxed as if you are aged 55-59.

If you are accessing your super for reasons such as hardship, the rules are slightly different. The tax-free component of your income payment will be tax free. The taxable component of your income payment will be added to your taxable income and taxed at your marginal tax rate.

Members of government super funds

Some government super funds don't pay regular tax, and are known as 'untaxed funds'. If you are a member of an untaxed fund, you may be taxed when you take out your benefit. Ask your super fund for details.

How transition to retirement income streams are taxed

A transition to retirement income stream is a pension bought with super money while you are still working. You must have reached your preservation age.

Find out your preservation age.

super and pension age calculator

 

You are restricted to withdrawing a maximum of 10% of the balance each financial year and you are not allowed to withdraw lump sums.

These restrictions do not affect the tax treatment of the money you take out. The tax is the same as ordinary retirement income streams purchased with super money, based on your age.

Tax on transition to retirement pensions

Investment returns on TTR pensions are taxed at up to 15%, just as they are in a super accumulation account. More information about changes to super contribution limits, tax concessions and the amount that can be held in a retirement phase account can be found on the Australian Tax Office (ATO) website.

How income streams from defined benefit super funds are taxed

Defined benefit income streams usually come from an employer super fund or a government employee super scheme.

Calculating the tax-free portion of a defined benefit income stream is very complex. However, before you are eligible for your benefit, your fund will send you a statement which will set out exactly how much is taxable and how much is tax free.

Different tax rules for non-super income streams and annuities

An annuity is an income stream purchased with money outside the super system. It will pay you a fixed income for a defined period of time, regardless of how the markets are performing.

Income from annuities, less a deductible amount, will be taxed at your marginal tax rate. The deductible amount represents the amount of your original capital that is being returned to you with each pension payment.

Tax on retirement income streams can be a complex area and we recommend you seek help from a tax professional or financial adviser. For most people, income streams bought with super money will be tax free from age 60.

 

Posted in: News  

12 money tips for Christmas

Posted on 2 December 2019
12 money tips for Christmas

MoneySmart
(ASIC)

Save yourself this Christmas

If the festive season usually leaves you out of pocket and feeling like you spent more time and money battling the crowds than relaxing with friends and loved ones, why not simplify things this year?

Here are some quick and easy tips to help you enjoy the holiday season without breaking the bank.

1. Have a pre-Christmas cleanup

There's still time to bag some extra cash to boost your festive finances. Spend a few hours clearing out anything you no longer need around the house, like clothes, books, jewellery, furniture, music, or sporting equipment. You could sell these items online, hold a garage sale, or find a local buy-swap-sell.

They say that one person's trash is another's treasure so, as well as pocketing a few extra dollars, you might just end up making someone else's Christmas extra special.

2. Make a list and check it twice

Make lists of the things you need to buy and the food you need to prepare for the festive season. Having lists will help you plan your spending and keep you on track.

  • Presents - Make a list of who you're buying for, what you want to get them, and how much money you're prepared to spend on each person.
  • Entertainment supplies - List the food and drinks you'll need, and how much you can spend. Buy in advance where possible to take advantage of specials, especially if items can be frozen or have a long shelf life.
  • Travel plans - Whether you're flying or driving, there are ways to save on holiday travel costs. List all your costs like flights, accommodation, travel insurance, airport transfers and petrol. Shop around for deals as early as you can, to avoid paying a premium for last-minute bookings or peak season increases. If you're going on a driving holiday, work out which day is cheapest to fill up on petrol, and do it the week before Christmas.

3. Track your spending

Keeping track of your festive spending is the best way to avoid going over your budget this Christmas.

Use an app, write it down, or keep track through your online banking.

4. Be cluey about Christmas credit

If you don't have the cash to pay for your Christmas goodies up-front, you might be tempted to use your credit card, or use a buy now pay later service. Although these are convenient ways to get the things you need now, that convenience can cost you dearly if you find yourself still saddled with Christmas debt well into 2020.

Before you sign up to a buy now pay later service, make sure you understand what the terms and conditions are, how much your repayments will be, and when they are due.

5. Personalise your cards and wrapping

Most people throw away their Christmas cards once the festivities are over, which is just like throwing money in the bin.

This year, instead of spending your hard-earned cash on shop-bought cards that will only end up in the recycling bin, why not send your family and friends Christmas greetings they will want to keep? You could:

  • use a favourite photo to create a personalised photo card
  • if you have kids, give them some paper and get them to draw or paint pictures that you can use to create special cards
  • record a video message on your smartphone or iPad and email it to your family and friends
  • write a letter to your loved ones instead of sending a card. This is a great way to tell them how much they mean to you, or thank them for something special they might have done for you this year.

Rethink your wrapping by buying brown paper and string, or just use plain coloured paper to wrap your presents. Then you'll avoid pricey Christmas wrapping and can use the excess during the year to wrap other gifts.

6. Be a scrooge online

If you're Christmas shopping online, look for ways to save every cent you can. Before you start, do a web search for discount or coupon codes that you can use at the checkout. Look in the sales sections of retailers' websites to see what's on offer.

If you know what items you are looking for, search for them online instead of just going to one retailer's website. You might find it much cheaper somewhere else.

Search online auction websites where you can 'bid' for items, including supplies you need for Christmas Day. Make sure you include any shipping costs when you are comparing prices. The cost of some items can blow out once you add shipping, meaning it might be better to simply go to a store to get the item. Or look for items or shopping days that have free shipping.

Things are often much cheaper online than in a store, but you do need to take extra precautions when shopping online.

7. Get social with Christmas shopping

If you follow your favourite brands and retailers on social media, you may be able to get exclusive discounts through these social channels. Their newsletters may also alert you to sales and deals.

There are also discount or deal apps that you can use to find bargains that you can use as Christmas gifts.

Before you buy any deal or discount, always check the terms and conditions to make sure you know what you are getting and make sure the website is legitimate. See the ACCC's SCAMwatch website for tips on how to pick an online shopping scam.

8. Master the art of Christmas gift hacking

There's a lot of pressure to spend up big on gifts at this time of year, but pricey presents aren't necessarily the way to go. Here are some ways you can show you care, while keeping a lid on your spending:

  • Agree on a spending limit -Suggest to your loved ones that you set a limit on how much you will spend on gifts for each other to keep your budgets under control
  • Kids only - Talk to the other adults in your extended family about only buying presents for the kids this year, rather than for the adults
  • DIY vouchers - We often remember the things people do for us rather than the presents they give us. Consider giving redeemable vouchers for tasks like babysitting, massages, picnics, homemade dinners or even housework.
  • Savvy sales - Take advantage of sales throughout the year to nab some bargains and store them away for Christmas. But, even in December there are bargains to be had. You can also check out any clearance outlets near you, or sign up to their newsletters so that you'll be in the know when they have a sale.
  • Compare offers -Some stores match or beat competitors' deals, so compare their offers and take all the details with you when you go into the store. Don't be afraid to ask for a discount you might just get a Christmas miracle!
  • Second-hand bargains - Op shops, antique stores and second-hand bookshops can be a treasure trove for the thrifty Christmas shopper. If you're prepared to spend the time looking through their stock, you can often find good quality items at a fraction of the price you'd pay at big name stores.

9. Shop like you're Santa

Santa is always well-prepared and does his shopping on time, so why don't you? If you are going to shop in-store, consider these rules-of-thumb to reduce Christmas shopping stress and limit the temptation to over spend:

  • Set a time limit on your shopping - Get in, get it done and get out so you aren't tempted to spend more than you want to.
  • Shop at odd hours -Take advantage of extended trading hours and go when it's less crowded so you can choose carefully without having to jostle for space.
  • Buy less expensive stuff first - If you buy larger and more costly items first you can lose perspective on what is a good price, so set your budget, buy small first, and then tackle the big stuff so you stick to your gift budget.
  • Pre-pay - If you buy online, check if there's an option to pick up in-store. You'll save on freight, skip any lines, and there will be less temptation to buy more.
  • Limit your shopping locations - Only go to shops that you need to visit so you don't get distracted and impulse buy.

10. Give to those less fortunate

Spread the Christmas cheer by giving to those who are doing it tough. Consider donating to a charity on someone else's behalf and give this to them as a gift. As well as money, many charities also accept household items, clothes and groceries at Christmas, or you could volunteer your time to help them out.

11. Lighten your load on Christmas Day

The costs of entertaining can skyrocket at this time of year. But, with some simple planning, both you and your wallet can enjoy the fruits of your labour. Here are some ways to lighten the Christmas load:

  • Share the catering - Even if you're hosting Christmas Day lunch or dinner, there's no need to shoulder all the work yourself. Ask others to bring nibblies, drinks, salads or desserts.
  • Buy only what you need - It can be easy to overestimate how much food you'll need at Christmas, only to end up throwing some away or eating leftovers for days.
  • Switch supermarkets - Make a list of the groceries you need for Christmas, then take advantage of the competition between supermarkets by checking out the advertised specials and stocking up. Don't buy everything at the same shop if you can get it cheaper elsewhere. You might even get better deals at your local butcher or fruit shop.
  • Use loyalty credits - If you belong to a supermarket loyalty scheme that builds up credit after you've spent a certain amount, check if you can use the credit to get a discount on your Christmas grocery shop.

Read our article on simple ways to save money for more tips on cutting costs at the supermarket.

12. Plan for next Christmas

Once this Christmas is done and dusted, start planning ahead for next year! Here are some ideas to make sure you are set up for next Christmas:

  • Start saving now - Open a high interest savings account in January and contribute a small amount to it every payday. Saving $20 per week will add up to over $1,000 in a year's time. Use ASIC's MoneySmart's savings goals calculator to see how much you'll need to save each pay to reach your Christmas savings goal.
  • Shop the sales - Shop for presents throughout the year, especially during sales. This will spread your costs and make them more manageable.
  • Layby - Pre-plan larger gifts and layby them a few months ahead so you can pay them off over time.

 

Posted in: News  

Tax, record keeping, tips and a case study

Posted on 28 November 2019
Tax, record keeping, tips and a case study

MoneySmart
(ASIC)

Good record-keeping is essential for any business. It helps you manage your cash flow, keeps you organised, helps you meet your tax responsibilities and most of all, it lets you know how your business is going.

The four requirements from the ATO are that record-keeping must:

  • explain all transactions
  • be in writing
  • be in English
  • be kept for five years (although some records need to be kept longer)

If you're unsure about the records you need to keep, the ATO has a Record keeping evaluation tool that can help you.

The ATO's website has extensive information on what you can and can not claim, and when you can claim it. Talk to your accountant about what deductions you can claim from your business, as they will be best placed to provide you with specific advice for your situation.

A few tax tips to remember is that you:

  • can not claim deductions for private or domestic expenses, or any costs relating to entertainment or fines.  There are specific options available for sole traders and how you can claim business expenses.
  • can claim operational expenses, such as wages, advertising, and stationery supplies, in the financial year that you incur them. The ATO has an extensive list of these items, including information specific to small businesses.
  • can claim on the depreciation of assets, including motor vehicles, machinery and equipment, furniture and capital assets such as buildings over a longer period of time.  Check out the Simplified depreciation rules from the ATO for more information.
  • must keep copies of your bank and credit statements. If your bank provides these electronically, you can save them as a PDF for future reference.
  • can only claim a percentage of costs for an asset you use for both personal and business purposes, for example, an electronic device that you use for managing business email and banking, but also use it for personal social media or to read books in the evening.

Case study: Alex

Alex is a 22-year-old fully qualified hairdresser and beautician who has been running a salon from the front room of her home for the past eight months. She's been struggling to make ends meet as she's had to spend quite a lot of money on equipment and supplies to set up her salon, as well as advertising to get the word out there.

There hasn't been much time for Alex to organise any of her paperwork in between answering the phone, fulfilling appointments, cleaning the salon and replenishing supplies. She only takes cash for the work she does and has been paying cash for her equipment and supplies, she has no electronic record of her transactions.

Alex struggles with paperwork but she does have an ABN. She hasn't registered for GST as she doesn't expect her income to be very high. When the ATO contacts her about lodging her first Instalment Activity Statement, she doesn't know where to start. A friend puts her onto a local accountant for help.

Alex finds out that she should have been keeping a record of all her business income and keeping receipts for all her purchases so she can deduct them against her income. Otherwise, she has no way to show what her taxable income is so the ATO can work out how much tax she needs to pay.

Alex's accountant shows her how to fill in a simple Excel spreadsheet at the end of every day, detailing her income and any business expenses. Alex also now knows she needs to get a receipt for all business purchases and keep them as proof that they are business expenses. She can use the spreadsheet to help her to complete her Instalment Activity Statement each quarter, and it tells her how profitable her business is.

Posted in: News  

Insurance through super

Posted on 22 November 2019
Insurance through super

MoneySmart
(ASIC)

Super cover

Most super funds offer life insurance for their members. If you're reviewing your life insurance, check what cover you have through your super fund so you can compare it with other options.

Here we explain what types of life insurance you can get through your super and the pros and cons of this type of insurance.

  • What types of life insurance are offered by super funds?
  • Why get life insurance through your super?
  • How to check the insurance you have through super
  • Claiming on insurance through super

What types of life insurance are offered by super funds?

Super funds typically have three types of insurance for members:

  • Death cover (also known as life insurance) - is part of the benefit your beneficiaries receive when you die, either as a lump sum or as an income stream.
  • Total and permanent disability (TPD) cover - pays you a benefit if you become seriously disabled and are unlikely to ever work again.
  • Income protection (IP) cover - pays you an income stream for a specified period if you can't work due to temporary disability or illness.

Your employer's default super fund will generally provide you with death and TPD cover. This basic cover may be available without health checks. You can usually increase, decrease, or cancel your default insurance cover.

Your super fund's website will have a product disclosure statement (PDS) which explains the insurer they use and details of the cover available.

Like other insurance policies, you will pay insurance premiums. If your insurance is through your super fund, the premiums are deducted from your super account balance.

Cancellation of insurance on inactive and low balance accounts

Super funds will cancel insurance on:

  • inactive accounts that haven't received contributions for at least 16 months
  • accounts with balances less than $6,000 from 1 April 2020.

Your fund will contact you if your insurance is about to end.

If you want to keep the insurance, you must tell your super fund or make a contribution to that account. You may want to keep your insurance if you don't have any through another fund or insurer and you have a particular need for it (e.g. you have children or other dependants or work in a dangerous job).

Insurance for people under 25

From 1 April 2020, insurance will not be provided if you're a new super fund member aged under 25 unless you:

  • write to your fund to request insurance through your super
  • work in a dangerous job your super fund will give you the option to cancel this cover if you don't want it.

Why get life insurance through your super?

There are benefits in getting your life insurance through super:

  • It's often cheaper because super funds purchase insurance policies in bulk
  • You can get the cover you need for you and your family, even if money is tight
  • It's easy to manage because premiums are automatically deducted
  • Some funds automatically accept you for cover without requiring a health check
  • You can usually choose the amount you want to be covered for

However, you also need to be aware that:

  • Limited cover - The types of insurance, and level of cover, may be limited. Cover is not tailored to your circumstances and exclusions may apply. If you want more insurance, you can apply to increase your cover and a medical may be required. If you want a different type of cover, you may need to get this outside super. Check the PDS carefully.
  • Not portable -  If you change super funds; have an extended absence from your employer; your employer's super contributions stop or your account balance drops below a certain amount, your cover may cease and you could end up with no insurance. Always read the information sent to you by your super fund as they may be alerting you to changes to your cover.
  • Slower to pay - There can be delays in receiving benefits as the insurer pays the benefit to the fund first, who then distributes it to you or your beneficiaries.
  • Who gets paid - If you do not make a binding beneficiary nomination, or your fund does not offer binding nominations, the super trustee will decide who gets your benefits when you die, although your nomination will be taken into consideration.
  • Ends at around age 65 - Life insurance coverage through super ends when you reach a certain age (usually 65 or 70). Policies outside of super may cover you for longer.
  • Reduces super balance - The cost of insurance premiums are deducted from your super balance, reducing the money available for your retirement.
  • Multiple super accounts - If you have more than one super account, you may be paying premiums on multiple insurance policies. This could reduce your retirement money, especially where you can only claim on one policy. Find out if you are able to claim on more than one policy, and consider which policy you might cancel. Even if you can claim on more than one policy, consider whether you need more than one policy or whether you can get enought insurance through one fund.
  • Premiums may increase when you change jobs - Even if you stay with the same super fund when you leave your employer, you may be moved to the personal division of that fund which could increase your premiums for the same cover. Some funds default members as smokers or blue-collar workers when they move between divisions of funds, which could significantly increase premiums, and further reduce your retirement money. Check your annual statement to see how you have been classified, and contact your fund if you think the incorrect classification has been given to you.

You may opt for some cover through your super fund, and some cover directly from a life insurer, depending on the cost and the type of cover you need.

Check your life insurance cover before changing super funds

Before switching or consolidating super funds, make sure you can get the death, TPD or income protection cover you want, in your chosen fund. Be particularly careful if you have a pre-existing medical condition or are aged 60 or over, as you may not be able to get insurance again without health checks. Seek financial advice if you are unsure.

How to check the insurance you have through super

To find out what life insurance you have with your super, either call your super fund, check your annual super statement or access your super account online to check:

  • what type of insurance cover you have
  • how much cover you have, and
  • how much you are paying for the cover.

You should also find out how your super fund is calculating your insurance premiums. For example, if your super fund has classified you as a smoker or blue collar worker, and these risk characteristics aren't relevant to you, you could be paying more for your insurance than you need to.

You may need to call your super fund to check how you've been classified as your annual statement may not provide this detail.

What if you have no insurance through super?

If you discover that you have no insurance through your super fund, and you think you should have cover, call your super fund to find out why and discuss your options.

Claiming on insurance through super

There are some important things you need to know if you're making an insurance claim through super.

Making a claim

To make a claim for insurance through your super fund you will typically need to submit a claim form. If you die, your estate or dependants should contact the super fund to find out how to claim death benefits.

Most super funds provide claim forms on their websites or you can call them and ask them to send you one.

When you make your claim, you may be asked to provide documentation that proves your condition, including medical reports. There may be waiting periods in some cases.

Some funds will allocate you a claims officer to be your point of contact if you have any questions during the claims process.

Unhappy with your super fund's claims process?

If you're unhappy with the claims process or unhappy because your claim is not accepted, complain to the super fund using its formal complaints process. Your super fund's website should have details about how to complain. If not call and ask about the process, or look in the product disclosure statement.

If you're not satisfied with the outcome, take your complaint to the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA). AFCA will generally not consider the matter unless you have used the superannuation fund's internal complaint process first.

AFCA replaced the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal (SCT) on 1 November 2018. Complaints lodged with the SCT before this date will still be dealt with by the SCT.

You do not need a lawyer to complain to your fund or to AFCA. Of course, you may find it helpful to use a lawyer or other professional adviser if you think the benefits outweigh the fees.

Industry Code of Practice

An Insurance in Superannuation Voluntary Code of Practice started on 1 July 2018 to improve the consumer experience of insurance in superannuation. If your fund's trustee agrees to comply with the Code, you should get better disclosure and claim and complaints handling. Your fund trustee should notify you if it is complying with the Code. You can check this on your fund's website.

To decide if insurance through super is right for you, work out how much cover you need, whether your super fund will offer you this cover, and compare the costs and conditions with other insurance providers.

 

Posted in: News  

Many Australians want financial advice

Posted on 21 November 2019
Many Australians want financial advice

Money and Life
(Financial Planning Association of Australia)

A new ASIC report offers key insights into consumer perceptions of financial advice. Find out how to get off to the right start with your financial planning experience.

In an independent research study commissioned by ASIC, more than 2,000 Australians were asked about their beliefs and perceptions about financial advice as well as their experiences of receiving advice. The Financial advice: What consumers really think report, published in August 2019, shares findings from an online survey of 2,545 participants as well as group and one-on-one discussions. It presents a picture of a profession that Australians feel they need, but has some way to go in developing a sense of trust and value among consumers.

Many Australians want financial advice

According to the report, demand for financial advice among those surveyed is high. 41% said they planned to seek financial advice in the future. And nearly twice as many 79% acknowledged that 'Financial Advisers have expertise in financial matters I do not have'. These figures clearly demonstrate a recognised need for informed and professional advice among those surveyed.

In the 2017 Live the Dream survey and research report, the Financial Planning Association found that more than half of Australians (54%) saw financial freedom and independence as vital in their ability to 'live the dream.' So it's no wonder financial advice is on the to-do list of so many Australians.

Trust and perceived cost are barriers

But when it comes to actually seeking financial advice, a fair number never follow through on their intentions. The ASIC report found that 20% of respondents had thought about getting financial advice in the last 12 months, but hadn't gone ahead.

So just what is standing in the way of Australians taking steps to get professional advice on their finances? Figures from the report suggest that affordability, trust, and value are three significant barriers stopping Australians from meeting with a financial planner. 35% consider financial advice to be too expensive, 18% do not see the value in seeing a financial planner and 19% don't trust financial planners. For others it may simply be a case of not knowing where to start with the whole process of getting advice. In group discussions and interviews, people said they found it difficult to know how to find a financial planner and that they're getting quality advice.

Finding the right financial planner

Based on the experiences of people interviewed and surveyed for the ASIC report, asking around for a referral is often a good method of approach for finding a trusted financial planner.

But what if you don't know anyone who's had experience with financial advice? Many people may not encounter someone in their circle of friends or family who has been advised by a financial planner. If you do find yourself narrowing down your options based on your own research, there are tips from the ASIC report to guide you. In ranking the attributes they considered most important in choosing a financial planner, the following four scored highest with survey participants:

  • Level of experience
  • Reputation
  • They talk to me in a way I can understand
  • They take the time to understand me and my goals

These findings tally with FPA research from 2017, which found the most common criteria for selecting a planner were trust, comfort, rapport, impartiality, tailored recommendations and reputation.

Posted in: News  
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