From 1 July 2017 we have a $1.6million limit per person on the amount of savings that can be moved into the tax-free retirement phase of superannuation.
This means retirees who have balances in excess of $1.6million will likely now have both a retirement phase pension and a non-retirement phase accumulation account in superannuation unless they withdrew the excess from the superannuation system altogether.
For SMSF retirees this may be the first time since first moving into retirement that their fund has had an accumulation interest. It may also be the first time the fund has had a mix of pension and accumulation balances.
Here are 10 things you need to think about when running an SMSF that is not solely in retirement phase due to the transfer balance cap.
1. Separate accounts need to be maintained for pension and accumulation
Where a member has both pension and accumulation accounts in the SMSF the trustee must not only allocate fund income on a fair and reasonable basis between them and other members in the fund, but they now need to keep track of an accumulation account and a pension account for the member and allocate income and expenses in a fair and reasonable manner between those accounts. This does not mean the trustee needs to allocate specific assets to belong to each member or/and account, indeed from a tax perspective the trustee is not allowed to segregate assets.
2. Income earned on fund assets will not be 100% exempt from tax
The SMSF is likely to have disregarded small fund assets and as such be required to use the proportionate method to claim ECPI. This means that an actuarial certificate is required prior to completing the SMSF annual return. The actuarial exempt income proportion will identify what proportion of the fund’s assessable income will be exempt from income tax.
A fund has disregarded small fund assets where it has a retirement phase account in an income year and so is eligible to claim ECPI, however at the prior 30 June any member in the SMSF had a total super balance in excess of $1.6million. This total super balance includes accumulation and retirement phase accounts both in the SMSF and elsewhere in superannuation.
3. The fund may be eligible to claim a tax deduction on some fund expenses
General fund expenses that must be apportioned can only be claimed as a deduction in the annual return to the extent they were incurred in producing assessable income. Now the SMSF has an accumulation interest it is likely to have assessable income and so the trustee may be eligible to claim part of those expenses as a deduction to offset taxable income in the annual return. A common industry approach is to use (1 – actuarial exempt income proportion) as the deductibility proportion. Tax Ruling 93/17 also provides another method and further information on apportioning expenses.
4. Capital losses can be carried forward
Capital gains and losses on assets solely supporting retirement phase income streams are disregarded. This means gains are exempt from tax but also that capital losses cannot be carried forward to offset future capital gains. Where an SMSF with an accumulation interest realises a capital loss, that is first offset against any current year capital gains, and if the result is a net loss this can be carried forward to future years to offset against future gains.
5. Minimum drawdown requirements will be based only on the 1 July pension balances not accumulation balances
Balances in accumulation phase do not have a minimum drawdown requirement like a pension. These interests have different rules. Only the pension interest needs to pay a minimum pension.
6. Strategic thinking is required when taking benefit payments from the fund
When a payment is taken from the SMSF the trustee will need to identify what interest the withdrawal was taken from for the member, pension or accumulation. There are pros and cons to each option:
- A minimum payment must be made from each pension as a pension payment in order to meet the legal requirements of having an income stream eligible for an exemption from income tax. So at least one payment in the year needs to be a pension payment and the total of all pension payments must be enough to meet the minimum payment standards.
- Where a member wishes to draw above their minimum requirement in a year then they should consider taking that additional amount as a lump sum from their accumulation interest. This means a larger balance stays in the tax-free retirement phase, reducing the SMSFs future tax bills. For members under age 60 lump sums paid up to the lifetime low rate cap ($205,000 for 2018-19) are tax free.
- Payments can also be taken as a lump sum payment from a retirement phase pension. This payment does not count towards minimum pension requirement and is treated as a lump sum for tax purposes. Lump sums paid from pension accounts will be debited form the individual’s transfer balance account, meaning more room under the $1.6m cap if needed in the future (e.g. receiving a death benefit income stream). Lump sums paid from retirement phase pension must be reported under the transfer balance account reporting requirements.
7. You don’t need to have separate SMSFs for pension and accumulation accounts
Individuals can have an accumulation interest as well as one or more pension interests in the same SMSF. There is no requirement for an SMSF to have only retirement phase or only accumulation phase accounts. If a second SMSF is established to hold assets supporting the accumulation interest separate from the SMSF holding assets supporting pension interests then remember that this does not remove the requirement of the SMSF in retirement phase of obtaining an actuarial certificate where the member’s balance causes the fund to have disregarded small fund assets. Also note that the ATO have stated they will be on the lookout for trustees using two SMSFs to implement strategies which look to systematically circumnavigate the transfer balance cap in order to realise capital gains on assets tax free.
8. The tax free and taxable components of accumulation interests are constantly changing and not set at commencement like a pension
Where a member is under age 60 the tax free and taxable component of the interest is particularly important, as any benefit payments made will be deemed to have a tax free and taxable component in the same proportions to the interest from which it was paid. A pension interest’s tax components are determined at the commencement of the income stream and do not change over time. An accumulation interest’s tax components do change over time. The tax free component will be a fixed dollar amount and the ‘remainder’ of the interest is the taxable component and will change over time as market value of assets change and earnings or contributions are allocated to the account. The tax-free component is generally made up of non-concessional contributions made to the fund on which tax has already been paid. Concessional contributions and earnings in superannuation have been concessionally taxed and form part of the taxable component of the interest.
When a payment is made from superannuation to a member under age 60 the taxable portion of the payment will generally be assessable income to the member.
9. Consider opportunities to even up retirement phase balances to reduce taxable accumulation interests in the fund
Each member in the SMSF has the lifetime transfer balance cap of $1.6million. Where one member has a large balance which exceeded the $1.6million cap resulting in an accumulation interest in the SMSF, but the other member has a balance in retirement phase under $1.6million consider whether there is an opportunity to move some of those accumulation assets into retirement phase for the other member. The member would need to be eligible to make/receive contributions and consideration needs to be given to whether it is appropriate for the first member to give up their entitlement to those assets e.g. as part of the other member’s interest those monies would be payable to their beneficiaries on death not those of the original member. But for some couples looking to maximise exempt income in their SMSF this may be a strategy to help maximise the value of superannuation in retirement phase . Care is needed to ensure you don’t fall foul of the complicated contributions and transfer balance cap rules.
10. Accumulation accounts will still form part of your superannuation death benefit but cannot be taken as a reversionary income stream
An accumulation account is a separate interest to any retirement phase pension in the SMSF. As such, a separate superannuation death benefit will be payable when a member passes away and can be documented as such so that the accumulation interest is to be paid to a different beneficiary to the retirement phase pension if so desired upon death.
However, an accumulation interest can only be taken by your beneficiaries as a death benefit income stream or lump sum. It will not form part of a reversionary income stream, even if the pension from which the accumulation balance was commuted was a reversionary pension. The beneficiary will also not have the 12 month grace period under the transfer balance cap rules like that received from reversionary income streams. The beneficiary will need to decide as soon as practicable whether to take the death benefit as a lump sum and withdraw it from super, or/and as a death benefit income stream subject to their own transfer balance cap.