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Over the coming weeks, around 12 million working Australians will start receiving extra cash in their pay packets as a result of changes to personal income tax brackets announced by the federal government.


Over the coming weeks, around 12 million working Australians will start receiving extra cash in their pay packets.
It's an artificial pay rise that's largely come about from changes to personal income tax brackets that were announced by the federal government in the 6 October budget.
By lifting tax bracket thresholds, more Australians will now be paying less overall tax.
As shown in the table below, most individuals will receive a tax cut of between $1,060 and $2,745 per year, depending on their taxable income. The individual tax savings equate to between about $20 and almost $53 per week more in after-tax cash income.
And because the start of the new tax scale has been backdated to 1 July this year, workers also will receive a one-off lump sum amount for the higher income tax rates paid since the beginning of this financial year after they lodge their 2020-21 annual tax return.
Working couples, of course, will receive a double benefit in terms of more combined weekly income and two backdated lump sum payments.

Tax relief by taxable income, 2020-21 compared with 2017-18 2017-18 2020-21

2017-18 2020-21
Taxable income $ Tax liability $ Tax liability $ Change in tax $ Change in tax %
40,000 4,947 3,887 -1,060 -21.4
60,000 12,147 9,987 -2,160 -17.8
80,000 19,147 16,987 -2,160 -11.3
100,000 26,632 24,187 -2,445 -9.2
120,000 34,432 31,687 -2,745 -8.0
140,000 42,232 39,667 -2,565 -6.1
160,000 50,032 47,467 -2,565 -5.1
180,000 57,832 55,267 -2,565 -4.4
200,000 67,232 64,667 -2,565 -3.8

Source: Commonwealth Government. Actual outcomes for individuals and households may differ.

In announcing its tax changes, the government noted the measures will support Australia's economic recovery by giving individuals and families more immediate money to spend on what they need.
Yet, depending on personal circumstances, it also may be worthwhile considering whether some or all of the new tax windfall can be used as part of a longer-term wealth building strategy.

A tax cut compounding strategy

Scientist Albert Einstein famously described compound interest as “the eighth wonder of the world”.
Why? Einstein rightly calculated that any savings balance will grow significantly over time when interest payments are added. As an initial balance increases, so does the size of the interest payments made because they are applied to the higher savings balance amount.
As such, even a small weekly deposit amount will steadily add up over time when combined with compounding investment returns on the growing savings balance.
As noted above, a person on a taxable income of $40,000 per year will now be receiving an extra $1,060 a year in take-home pay as a result of the government's announced tax changes. This works out to $20.40 per week. Someone on a taxable income of $120,000 will receive an extra $52.79 per week.
The table below incorporates the announced tax savings and shows how regular deposits can add up over time with the benefit of compounding returns.
The numbers are based on a hypothetical starting balance of $5,000 and are calculated using an annual return of 8 per cent.
This largely matches the 7.9 per cent actual annualised total return from the top 300 companies listed on the Australian share market over the last 10 years.
To simulate the effect of compound interest, the total return assumes than an investor had reinvested all of the company dividends that were paid since 2010 back into the Australian share market.
This would have been possible using either an Australian share market managed fund or exchange traded fund (ETF) offering a dividend reinvestment program (DRP) option. In this way, whenever dividend distributions are paid, they are converted into additional fund units.

Using the tax savings to achieve compound growth

Extra cash per year Extra cash per week (rounded) Total deposits Total interest earned Total savings
$1,060 $20 $10,400 $11,554 $26,954
$2,160 $42 $21,840 $17,554 $44,394
$2,445 $47 $24,440 $18,918 $48,358
$2,565 $49 $25,480 $19,464 $49,944
$2,745 $53 $27,560 $20,555 $53,115

Source: Vanguard.

The annualised 8 per cent return number used in the calculations is for illustration purposes only. Past investment performance should never be seen as an indicator of future performance.
However, the long-term positive effect of compound growth would still apply on lower annualised returns.

A superannuation angle

Investing the new tax savings directly is one option, but individuals also may want to consider channelling their higher after-tax income into their superannuation account.
It's now possible to make after-tax payments into a superannuation fund, up to the annual allowable $25,000 concessional limit, and then claim a 15 per cent tax refund deduction in the next year's tax return.
That's because superannuation payments are generally paid from one's salary using pre-tax income, and are concessionally taxed at 15 per cent.
In a practical sense, what that means is that individuals can use the new tax cuts to claim an additional 15 per cent deduction by directing their after-tax income into superannuation.
Done over an extended period of time, such a strategy will have the same benefits of compounding returns as someone investing outside of superannuation, but have the extra benefit of being able to claim a tax deduction – which also could be reinvested.
How the new tax cuts are spent, or invested, is absolutely an individual choice – and probably a joint decision for most couples.
Used as part of a disciplined, low cost and diversified long-term investment strategy, however, the benefits of making regular deposits and leveraging compounding returns are clear.
Before making any investment decision, it may be worthwhile to consult with a licensed financial adviser.
Tony Kaye
Senior Personal Finance Writer
04 Nov, 2020


Trustees must ensure any purchase from a related party is not a proxy for a loan or financial assistance to avoid breaching their obligations.



SMSF trustees making purchases of business real property from a related party for inclusion in their fund need to ensure the transaction is not a proxy for a loan to a member to avoid breaching trustee obligations, a technical expert has warned.

Colonial First State head of technical services Craig Day said SMSF trustees could make certain purchases from a related party, but any transaction had to be carried out at market value and without any obligations attached.

“There is a need to watch out for financial assistance because a fund is prohibited from lending money or providing any form of financial assistance to a member or a relative of a member,” Day said during a session on the use of lumpy assets in an SMSF at the recent Tax Institute National Superannuation Online Conference.

“Financial assistance includes a wide range of circumstances and can include any security, obligation or lien over fund assets that provides financial assistance to a member where it relies upon assets of the fund.”

He said it did not matter if the assets of the SMSF were impacted or not, but rather as soon as a member, or a relative of a member, relies on the assets to get financial assistance it was a breach of section 65 of the Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Act.

Any form of financing arrangements would also create a breach as an SMSF member cannot provide any sort of assistance that would constitute or look like the provision of finance to a member or a relative of a member, he said.

“An example that has been given of this is where a member owns commercial property and sells it into their SMSF, and uses the capital released to invest into their business and then later arranges to buy the business real property back off the fund in the way that would constitute the repayment of a loan,” he said.

“Most people would never do this because of the transaction costs involved, but if someone is desperate for investment, but can’t get a bank loan, then you do see these types of arrangements, and it is financial assistance and it breaches section 65.”



Jason Spits
October 26, 2020



Data only just released by the Australian Tax Office, detailing the asset allocations for all SMSFs in the quarter to the end of June, shows there was still a large investment weighting at that time towards cash and term deposits.


From its COVID-inspired low point in late March, the Australian share market – as measured by the performance of the S&P/ASX 300 Index – has surged more than 40 per cent.
It's an impressive rebound in such a short period of time, delivering strong returns to equity investors, especially to those who have broad exposure to the Australian share market through low-cost index-tracking exchange traded funds (ETF) and managed funds.
But it seems many of Australia's roughly 600,000 self-managed super funds (SMSFs), covering more than 1.1 million members, have failed to capitalise on the share market's robust growth.
Data only just released by the Australian Tax Office, detailing the asset allocations for all SMSFs in the quarter to the end of June, shows there was still a large investment weighting at that time towards cash and term deposits.
In fact, cash still remains the second-biggest holding for SMSFs behind ASX-listed shares.
At 30 June 2020 SMSF trustees were holding around $191.5 billion in Australian shares and $156.3 billion in cash, representing 26.1 per cent and 21.3 per cent respectively of the $705.4 billion in total SMSF assets.
Total SMSF cash holdings were largely unchanged on the March quarter number of $156.6 billion.
While the value of holdings in Australian shares at the end of June was actually up considerably on the $165.3 billion total value at the end of the March quarter, that's largely explained by the 16.5 per cent rise on the local share market between 1 April and 30 June.
By contrast, the average returns from term deposit accounts were below 1 per cent in the June quarter, and remain so.

Small SMSFs have even more cash

The stubbornly high percentage of SMSF assets in low-yielding cash is even more evident in the ATO's data breakdown of asset distributions by fund size.
Its latest data has only recently been extracted, but relates to the 2018-19 financial year.
It shows that, on average, super funds with $1 million to $2 million had around 30 per cent of their total assets in Australian listed shares, and 23 per cent in cash and term deposits.
The next-largest holdings in this subset were unlisted trusts (10 per cent) and non-residential real property (8 per cent).
SMSFs with $500,000 to $1 million were holding around 25 per cent in listed shares and 24 per cent in cash.
Interestingly, the numbers started turning the other way in smaller SMSFs. Those with between $200,000 and $500,000 in assets were holding around 23 per cent in listed Australian shares and an even larger 29 per cent in cash.
The smaller the amount of assets, the higher amount of cash.
For SMSFs between $100,000 and $200,000, the average holdings were 23 per cent in Australian-listed shares and 42 per cent in cash. And, for funds holding between $50,000 and $100,000 in super assets, the numbers were 23 per cent in Australian-listed shares and 45 per cent in cash.

Lack of diversification

Another observation from the ATO's data is that many SMSFs are generally not well diversified into other major asset classes, including international equities and fixed interest.
Unlisted trusts, which by and large represent unitised unlisted property securities, are third-highest in terms of total SMSF assets, accounting for around $86 billion of capital (11.7 per cent).
Commercial properties account for more than $73 billion in SMSF assets.
Overseas shares, which accounted for $7.7 billion of total SMSF assets at the end of June, rank outside of the top 10.
The table below shows the top 10 holdings represent almost 100 per cent of the assets held by SMSFs.

Top 10 SMSF Asset Allocations at 30 June 2020

Asset class Amount ($m) % of total SMSF assets
Listed shares 191,464 26.1
Cash and term deposits 156,278 21.3
Unlisted trusts 85,752 11.7
Non-residential real property 73,493 10.0
Limited recourse borrowing arrangements 50,234 6.8
Listed trusts 43,330 5.9
Residential real property 39,100 5.3
Other managed investments 37,700 5.1
Other assets 19,352 2.6
Debt securities 11,525 1.6
Total 708,228 96.4

Source: Australian Tax Office


The ATO's crackdown on SMSF strategies

The overweighting by SMSF trustees into Australian shares, cash and illiquid assets such as property has been on the ATO's radar for some time.
In late February the SMSF regulator released new guidance for trustees around what should be detailed in their fund's written investment strategy.
The ATO specifically wants to know from trustees how the asset allocations they make from their super fund assets supports their investment approach towards achieving their retirement goals.
For funds with too much asset concentration risk, trustees must justify their lack of diversification and how they believe this will achieve their overall goals.

Taking a broader view

While share markets have rebounded since March, ongoing uncertainty over COVID, the US election and other situations will ensure equity markets remain volatile over the short-to-medium term.
At the same time record low interest rates will ensure ongoing poor yields from cash holdings, meaning those with large cash balances needing to generate income may need to consider other types of investment assets.
Diversification to offset risks across different asset classes is one of the key elements of every investment strategy.
The latest ATO asset allocation data once again illustrates that many SMSF trustees should be taking a broader investment approach.
It may be prudent for some SMSFs trustees, especially those with large cash balances earning near-zero per cent returns, to consider consulting a licensed financial adviser to discuss their investment strategy.

Tony Kaye
20 Oct, 2020



Australian banks this month started the largest ever customer contact program in the industry's history.



The mammoth program involves banks contacting more than 900,000 borrowers who have needed to defer making payments on their loans as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among them are hundreds of thousands of home loan borrowers around the nation with owner-occupied and investment property mortgages.

The first stage of this contact program coincides with the initial wave of six-month loan payment deferrals coming to an end, and will involve the assessment of around 80,000 mortgages by the end of September.

A further 180,000 customers with deferred mortgages will be contacted before the end of October, and the program will continue as the banks work through their customer lists to determine whether further payment deferrals are required.

In short, lenders are seeking to mitigate their potential loan defaults.

Tighter loan serviceability guidelines

But there's a lot more going on behind the lending scenes than immediately meets the eye.

Some of this is directly related to COVID-19, but there also have been developments that follow recent regulatory updates in responsible lending guidelines.

Following the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry, at the end of last year the Australian Securities and Investments Commission updated its guidelines for how it expects lenders to deal with borrowing applications.

Those updates are still filtering through the lending system.

In its detailed guidelines, ASIC outlines that lenders should specifically be noting whether there are “foreseeable reductions” to the amount or frequency of a loan applicant's income.

What the regulator means is that it wants lenders to pay particular attention to older borrower applicants who are at an age where the loan they are seeking would mature beyond their retirement age.

ASIC recommends that lenders should be proactively asking these applicants how they intend to pay off their loan.

“For example, if a consumer is approaching retirement, and will still be making repayments on the credit product after their expected retirement age, you will need to determine whether this event is likely to change their income, and information about the amount that is expected to be available,” ASIC states.

“And, if the income is of a kind that has a known end date which will occur during the term of the loan…you should have regard to the effect that change to income is likely to have on the consumer's overall financial situation.”

These are general lending guidelines, however what's changed in recent months is that some lenders have strengthened their loan serviceability criteria – especially in relation to home loans.

They've done this by instructing their internal loan managers and external mortgage brokers to ask borrowers approaching retirement age to document their actual loan exit strategy, including the age they intend to stop working.

One large bank has recently issued instructions that if a loan applicant is aged over 55 or intends to retire in the next 10 years, their application will need to include:

  1. “At least one co-applicant under the age of 55 or within 10 years of their intended retirement with “sufficient income to service the home loan at drawdown.
  2. “Evidence of financial assets worth at least 100 per cent of the loan limit; or
  3. “Evidence of a plan to downsize an owner-occupied home (with at least $200,000 in available equity at drawdown) once the applicant retires.”

Loan exit strategies to consider

ASIC's responsible lending guidelines state that borrowers should preferably be able to meet their payment obligations from income rather than from the sale of assets.

But the regulator recognises that may not always be possible post retirement, and that asset sales may be required to extinguish a loan.

One important point to note is that most lenders are unlikely to consider the future sale of your principal place of residence as an acceptable loan exit strategy.

However, the intended future sale of an investment property, or being able to gain access to equity in a property through an equity release facility such as a reverse mortgage, are likely to be considered as viable exit plans.

Other assets that lenders will take into account when assessing pre-retirement loan applications are superannuation (if it is sufficient to pay off the loan balance), and investments outside of super such as shares.

On the income level, lenders will consider any plans to continue earning income on a casual of part-time basis, rental income derived from investment property, and dividend income from shares.

The key for those close to retirement who may be contemplating borrowing money for a property or other investment purposes is to be prepared to answer some hard questions during the application process.

Having a well-defined loan exit strategy has become a much more important part of the lending process for older Australians.



Tony Kaye
Personal Finance Writer
15 September 2020



With the work test changes for over-65s opening up opportunities for recontribution strategies, clients may be able to even up balances and adopt tax strategies for estate planning, particularly once the bring-forward measure is passed, says a technical expert.



At the end of June, regulations came into force allowing people aged 65 and 66 to make voluntary concessional and non-concessional contributions without meeting the work test, and allow people up to age 75 to receive spouse contributions.

The other measure to allow people aged 65 and 66 to make up to three years of non-concessional contributions under the bring-forward rule is yet to be passed by the Senate.

SuperConcepts SMSF technical specialist Anthony Cullen explained that while the age at which the work test starts to apply has increased to 67, the conditions of release have remained at age 65 which opens up opportunities for recontribution strategies, particularly if the bring-forward measure is passed.

Speaking in a SuperConcepts podcast, Mr Cullen said this may enable clients to even out balances between members which could help them to maximise their transfer balance cap.

“[For example], if you’ve got a couple and let’s say the wife has $2 million and the husband only has $1 million, potentially there’s an opportunity for the wife who reaches age 65 to draw money out of her fund, after meeting that condition of release, and potentially make a contribution to her spouse,” he said.

“By the time they get to the point where they want to start a pension, hopefully both of them are closer to that $1.6 million transfer balance cap.”

Recontribution strategies could also be effective, he said, as an estate planning and “future-proofing” tool.

“The government is always tinkering with superannuation, so we never know what’s going to happen with the law, so if we have an opportunity to take out predominantly taxable components from our fund and then recontribute them as tax-free components, that may provide some future-proofing against legislative changes,” he said.

“From an estate planning point of view, when your money gets to the point where it’s flowing through to your adult children, your adult children will be paying a death tax on the taxable components, and so, if we can change those taxable components while we’re alive to tax-free components that your children will not be paying tax on, then that provides some estate planning opportunities.”



Miranda Brownlee
25 September 2020


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