Navigating SMSF Contribution Caps: Avoid Excess Taxes

Understanding SMSF contribution caps is vital to avoid excess taxes. This overview highlights the critical aspects of concessional and non-concessional limits and offers solutions for potential over-contributions.

The rules around making some types of super contributions have been relaxed in recent years, so it’s worth exploring the different opportunities available to you before making a large contribution.i

What are contribution caps?

Given the tax-effective environment of Australia’s super system, there are annual limits on how much you can contribute each financial year.

The two main types of contributions are concessional (before-tax) and non-concessional (after-tax) contributions.

Concessional contributions include employer Super Guarantee contributions, salary sacrifice and personal tax-deductible contributions, with the general contributions cap for 2023-24 being $27,500. In some situations, you may be permitted to contribute more if you have unused cap amounts from previous financial years.

If you’re a SMSF member, you may be able to make a concessional contribution in one financial year and have it count towards your concessional cap in the following financial year.

Non-concessional contributions cap

If you use after-tax money to make a super contribution, this is classes as a non-concessional contribution and there is no tax payable when the contribution is paid into your super account.

The general non-concessional contributions cap in 2023-24 is $110,000 provided you meet all the eligibility criteria, such as your Total Super Balance being below your personal limit. Your personal cap may be different.

If you’re age 55 or older, the once-only downsizer contribution cap is $300,000 per person ($600,000 for a couple). These contributions from the sale of your main residence don’t count towards your annual non-concessional cap.

Exceeding your contribution caps

There are different rules for super contributions that exceed the annual caps, depending on the type of contribution.

If you go over the annual concessional cap, your contribution is counted as personal assessable income and taxed at your marginal tax rate, with a 15 per cent tax offset to reflect the tax already paid by your super fund. Your increased assessable income may also affect any Medicare levy, Centrelink benefits and child support obligations.

The excess contributions can be withdrawn from your super fund, but if you choose not to withdraw them, the excess is counted towards your non-concessional contributions cap.

If you don’t or can’t elect to release excess contributions, you could end up paying up to 94 per cent in tax.ii

Exceed your non-concessional cap

Contributions exceeding your annual non-concessional (after-tax) cap are taxed at 45 per cent plus the 2 per cent Medicare levy. This is in addition to the tax already paid on this money.

Before the ATO applies this tax, you are given the opportunity to withdraw the excess non-concessional contributions, plus a notional amount to reflect the investment earnings.

You pay tax on the notional earnings just like personal income, less a 15 per cent offset.

Withdrawing excess contributions

Like most things to do with tax and super, the process for withdrawing excess contributions is fiddly.

If you have an excess concessional contribution, the ATO sends you a determination letter with details of what you need to do, plus an income tax notice of assessment.

You have 60 days to decide whether to have the excess concessional contribution refunded by the super fund and tax deducted by the ATO, or to pay the tax personally and leave the contribution in your account.

Refunding excess non-concessional contributions

For excess non-concessional contributions, the ATO assumes you wish to have your excess contributions and notional earnings refunded in order to avoid paying 47 per cent on them.

The default process is the ATO automatically issues a release authority to your fund and directs it to deduct the additional tax owing and return the leftover amount to you.

If you wish to nominate a specific fund from which the refund should be paid, or leave the excess in your account and pay the tax personally, you must make an election within 60 days of the initial notice.

Call us today to assess how the super contribution caps may affect you.

i https://www.ato.gov.au/individuals-and-families/super-for-individuals-and-families/super/growing-and-keeping-track-of-your-super/caps-limits-and-tax-on-super-contributions/restrictions-on-voluntary-contributions
ii https://www.ato.gov.au/individuals-and-families/super-for-individuals-and-families/super/growing-and-keeping-track-of-your-super/caps-limits-and-tax-on-super-contributions/concessional-contributions-cap

This article is intended as an information source only and to provide general information only. The comments, examples, words and extracts from legislation and other sources in this publication do not constitute legal advice, financial or tax advice and should not be relied upon as such. All readers should seek advice from a professional adviser regarding the application of any of the comments in this article to their particular situation.