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Committee backs $3m super tax cap for fairer retirement system

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By Keeli Cambourne
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3 minute read

The final draft of the $3 million super tax legislation remains unchanged and will include the taxing of unrealised gains and no indexation.

Despite submissions from various industry bodies, associations, and individuals highlighting the unintended consequences of certain key measures in the bill, the Economics Legislative Committee’s report on the Treasury Laws Amendment (Better Targeted Superannuation Concessions and Other Measures) Bill 2023 [Provisions] and Superannuation (Better Targeted Superannuation Concessions) Imposition Bill 2023 [Provisions] [May 2024] remained unchanged from previous drafts, and it is now slated to proceed to the lower house for consideration.

The 106-page report said the committee welcomes the measures in the bill and that they will “improve the superannuation system and modernise various Treasury laws to support better outcomes”.

The committee strongly supports the reforms to superannuation tax concessions that will ensure they are fairer, more sustainable, and better targeted,” it stated.

Without appropriate targeting, superannuation tax concessions disproportionately benefit Australians with very large TSBs at a significant cost to the federal budget,” it continued, adding that these changes are consistent with the original intent of the superannuation system, to provide all Australians with a sustainable and comfortable income in their retirement”.

It noted “the minimal impact that these changes will have to the majority of superannuants”, citing that the changes would apply to only 80,000, or approximately 0.5 per cent, of all superannuation account holders.

The committee acknowledged the various opinions expressed by inquiry participants regarding the indexation of the $3 million threshold. However, it maintained that it is appropriate for the Parliament to be responsible for setting this threshold, which is a common feature of the tax system”.

On the taxation of unrealised capital gains, the committee stated it understands views shared by inquiry participants but believes, on the balance of evidence, that the approach taken in the bill is “designed to be applied consistently across all superannuation funds in a sector-neutral way, making it the most appropriate way to reduce compliance burden and costs to funds and their members”.

“The committee also highlights evidence that the taxation of unrealised capital gains is not unknown to the Australian tax system,” it stated.

It continued that measures in the bill provide taxpayers with 84 days to meet tax liability, considerably longer than the standard 21-day period, and that interest charged on outstanding division 296 tax debts will be lower than the general rate for unpaid debts.

In response to concerns that the taxation of unrealised capital gains may present difficulties for account holders with a high proportion of illiquid assets, the committee said there is evidence that all superannuation trustees have an obligation to keep sufficient liquidity within their account to meet their APRA obligations.

Speaking at the Australian Wealth Management Summit last week, shadow finance minister Jane Hume expressed deep concern over Labor’s proposed policies, which she believes would further disadvantage individual investors.

A key point of contention for Hume is Labor’s plan to double the tax rate on superannuation funds with balances exceeding $3 million, which she said is a clear example of Labor targeting investors.

“A compulsory superannuation system does not mean a compulsory payment to fund managers,” the senator said, adding that the Coalition opposes Labor’s tax “on principle”.

“Prior to the 2022 election, both Anthony Albanese and Stephen Jones said it would not change superannuation settings, yet this backflip made less than a year after the election promise is a significant move of the goalposts for Australian retirees,” Hume said.

“We oppose it for its consequences for younger Australians.”

Moreover, Hume criticised Labor’s proposed taxation of unrealised capital gains, labelling it as unprecedented and likely to deter investment in certain asset classes.