Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Super-sized issues: 2016 National Superannuation Conference

It has been a supercharged year for superannuation. And we’re only just past the halfway mark. Post-Budget, post-election and a post-mortem of Turnbull's lifetime $500,000 limit on post-tax super contributions later; superannuation is still the talk of town. Join us at The Tax Institute’s 2016 National Superannuation Conference in August to hear about all the changes. By that stage, our (super) slim majority government might have even begun to guide us through reform… 


Superannuation has been a bit of a regular on the political red carpet recently. Stepping out in its $2 trillion outfit, it has been labelled by many as the culprit of the Turnbull government’s election misfortune. Superannuation changes announced on Budget night – in particular, the lifetime $500,000 limit on post-tax super contributions – have managed to rock the confidence of Australians and cause a civil war within the Coalition.

Just over a week out from the election, it seems the government is still hung up on super. Bad joke aside, this $2 trillion industry is anything but a laughing matter. Malcolm Turnbull might have claimed victory after Opposition Leader Bill Shorten conceded defeat but his mandate to tighten tax concessions and cap the total amount that people can have in their retirement accounts faces a hostile future. Who knows what the government will decide, but one thing’s for sure – superannuation will continue to figure prominently in almost every government consultation in relation to the economy, the financial system and tax reform.

Invested in super

It’s clear from this year’s knife-edge election that superannuation dominates Australia’s financial services industry. Large funds and self-managed super funds (SMSFs) contribute to billions of dollars in assets. The size of the industry is forecasted to grow, affecting the strategies and day-to-day operations of regulators and practitioners from the tax, legal, accounting and financial services fields. SMSFs alone continue to be the fastest growing segment of the superannuation industry and with the rise of technology, the sky really is the limit for the future.

With a raft of new proposals and the Australian economy deeply invested in super, it’s no surprise that these measures are the cause of divisive debates. How does this confused state of play affect Australians?

For investors and superannuants, the political and legislative limbo hinders confidence. For advisers, it makes it difficult to provide advice to their clients. It is likely that even with a majority government, implementation of superannuation measures will likely be delayed in the absence of legislation.

Super-sized issues

Super-sized super issues will continue to plague the Coalition. The government’s mandate is likely now to be centred on Budget repair rather than Budget implementation.

The main pain points from the Budget that advisers should look out for include (amongst other measures) the $1.6 million cap on the total amount of super that can be transferred into a tax-free retirement account, the reduction of the annual cap on concessional contributions to $25,000 for everyone and the Div 293 tax income threshold reduction from $300,000 to $250,000.

But perhaps the most controversial of the changes is the lifetime $500,000 cap on non-concessional super contributions (NCC), which took effect on Budget night itself. Backdated to 1 July 2007, some argue the measures are prospective, some argue that they are retrospective. More divisiveness and more uncertainty…

Advisers advising… what exactly?

So what’s next? How will the superannuation concessions announced on Budget night play out? Which policies will actually see light of day? How will changes affect investors, retirees and tax specialists?

This year’s National Superannuation Conference really has come at a pivotal time. Sessions are designed to cover issues related to large super funds as well as to SMSFs. Experts from both sides will tie in existing superannuation issues with new considerations arising out of proposed tax changes. Delegates practising in large funds as well as SMSFs can expect to hear the latest on how the outcome of the election will impact their practice.

Tax reform: are we there yet?


With all the political uncertainty going on, tax reform continues to be high on all major parties’ agendas to ensure the superannuation system is sustainable by reducing the extent it can be used for tax minimisation and estate planning. Chris Richardson (Deloitte Access Economics) will kick this year’s program off with the golden question about tax reform: are we there yet?

Drilling down to large funds, James O’Halloran, Deputy Commissioner, Superannuation (ATO) will shed light on the ATO’s perspective on present issues for large superannuation funds in both member taxes and reporting obligations and income tax. As a contrast, Kasey Macfarlane, Assistant Commissioner, SMSFs (ATO) will provide an update on present issues for SMSFs, including ATO insights and perspectives about key aspects of SMSF regulation and tax administration.

Current tax issues relating to defined benefit funds will be presented by Shayne Carter, CTA (Deloitte) and Phil Broderick, CTA (Sladen Legal) will speak on SMSFs, dividend stripping and dividend washing arrangements – issues that have been on the ATO’s radar in recent years.

The current state of play for both concessional and non-concessional contributions will also be discussed by Jemma Sanderson, CTA (Cooper Partners), who will address the issue of excess contributions. Brad Ivens (EY) and Philip Witherow, CTA (CBus) will also draw from the current climate and state of affairs to discuss emerging issues in superannuation due to other tax-related developments, such as the new AMIT regime and BEPs.

Stephen Callahan (KPMG) and John Edstein (REST) will also host a trustee/director workshop in light of ATO guidance on tax risk management roles and responsibilities of directors versus management.

This year’s conference will also showcase sessions with an international flavour. Roy Berg (Moodys Gartner Tax Law LLP) and Marsha-Laine Dungog (Moodys Gartner Tax Law LLP) will speak on current trends in the US tax treatment of Australian superannuation funds and its implications for US citizens and Australian residents with US tax reporting obligations will be explored. 

   

All up, a supercharged program! (Pun completely intended)

Like it or not, super big changes are on the way for superannuation. It has certainly been a volatile year. Tax and financial advisers are left with more questions than answers as everything hangs in limbo whilst policies are shelved as quickly as they were made. Join us and all the high calibre speakers at The Tax Institute’s 2016 National Superannuation Conference to find out more.

The 2016 National Superannuation Conference takes place 25-26 August at Crown Conference Hall, Melbourne. Including 12 CPD hours, choose from 12 sessions over two days and two streams (Large Fund and Self-Managed Superannuation Funds). The conference has been accredited by the SMSF Association and the Financial Planners Association. Find out more.