Retiree super discrimination

April 4th, 2013 No comments

Super discrimination.

The Australian social system is constructed in a way, where retirees just above the allowed income scale for a full old-age pension are punished by the means test of the pension, losing $0.50 for every dollar extra income, and if the combined income of a pensioner couple exceed approximately $50,000 per annum they may pay $0.30 in the dollar tax plus medicare levy.

Now consider the self-funded retiree couple with 2million $ worth of assets can have an income of $100,000 plus, and if the income is from a taxed fund, they will not have to pay a cent of tax, which would be close or above the full age pension.

Should their assets fall below $1,086,000, they can apply for a part age-pension. As the government provides a safety net of the basic age-pension for every person elligible, why provide such huge tax concessions for the top 10% of retirees?

Why doesn’t the government scrap the means test of the age-pension and scrap all tax concessions for super? Considering that the fund managers typically earn anywhere from a bare minimum of about $500,000 to several millions of dollars a year, as reported in the AFR 1’st of April under the heading “The great super grab” by John Kehoe, it is understandable that the super industry is up in arms against any changes to super by the government.
Who benefits mostly from super? Not the average wage or salary earner, but the fund managers and the people who can contribute $25,000 into super, but how many can do that?
Yours hawil

NO Australian government is willing to change the unfair social system, and any individual can hardly influence them enough to do so, yet the Unions, which are supposed to look after the average Joe Blow, only use their positions to further their own causes, always striving to get into politics and enjoy all the perks the politicians enjoy.
Then, there are other Associations which are supposed to represent the part=pensioners, like ACPSRO, (Australian Council of Public Service Retiree Organization) and its affiliated Associations, who also only look after the wealthiest of their members.

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Where are the leaders of Unions and the leaders of ACSPRO and its affiliated Associations?

March 29th, 2013 No comments

The AFR article “Call to scale back super tax breaks” 21’st March 2013 in which Mr.Ian Silk of Australian Super is reported as saying that the tax breaks for super are unsustainable, has really brought the super industry exponents out the woodwork.
In the AFR , Monday 1’st of April, Jennifer Hewett writes “Second grab for the piggy bank”, (whose piggy bank) the retirees with a million $ assets, or the managers of the retail super funds,
earning in excess of $500,000, managing workers super funds of less than $50,000.
The same day, on page 29, there is an article by John Kehoe, “The great super grab”
Another article in the same paper, Concerns grow over super tax rises” the disgruntled politicians have their gripes; I wonder how many of them sit on boards of industry super funds, earning a hefty remuneration on top of their parliamentary salaries.
The organizations which should be looking after the interests of workers with low super balances, like the Unions are surprisingly silent, because many of their leaders are sitting on boards of their members super funds.
The organizations representing retirees with modest defined super incomes, like ACPSRO (Australian Council of Public Sector Retiree Organisations) also do not seem to read the financial media, which will always go in to bat for super rich.
The Prime Minister Mr.Howard , in 2007 introduced the tax-free super for the over sixties and Gillard has backed off, of trying to reverse that decision, although as long as it stays in place, the cost to the government will rise exponentially and be unsustainable in the future. If the government abolishes the means test of the basic pension and all the tax concessions for super, what gripes should the owners of million dollar super assets have? The only gripe could be, that they could claim, that they benefit more from the tax concessions for super, than they would gain from receipt of the old-age pension, which after all would be taxable.
Hawil

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Letter to the Treasurer P.Wong

March 11th, 2013 No comments

To the
Hon.P Wong MP
PO Box 6237
Halifax Street
ADELAIDE SA 5000

12’th March 2013

Dear Ms.Wong.
In the AFR article “PM keeps superannuation tax-free for over -60s” 7.Feb 2013 you are quoted as saying: “the government would listen to all ideas”.
Here is what the government should look at very seriously.

This is how the retirees are treated in Australia.
Retiree: 1)
Worked for 45 years and paid taxes, but did not accumulate enough assets to be completely independent of the age-pension. For every dollar of extra income for him and his wife above $6,500, the couple loses $0.50 of age pension, and if their income exceeds $45,000 per annum, the couple will pay tax of $0.315 in the dollar including medicare levy, leaving them with an income of $0.185 from every dollar extra income. For the defined benefit income a 10% tax-offset applies if paid from an Australian super fund, but not if the income comes from an overseas fund.
Retiree 2)
Has accumulated assets of $1.5million,mostly with huge tax concessions, and the assets are in a so-called taxed Self Managed Super Fund. To be very conservative, the assets are in a term deposit earning 7.0% income of $122,500 per annum and even if the retiree is single, he/she will not pay a cent of tax.
Now if the assets are in fully franked shares, like banks, and return $100,000 worth of franked dividends, he/she will again pay no tax on the dividend, and the government will send him/her a cheque of $30,000 for the franking credits.
Should the assets of these retirees fall below a certain level, they will be entitled to the age pension as anyone else, therefore why does the government provides the rich retirees with such huge tax concessions, while punishing the retirees at the lower income scale with the punitive means-test of the age pension?
Retiree 3)
Is an ex-politician or highly paid public servant, in receipt of a defined benefit pension of $100,000, on which he/she will have to pay tax, but he/she gets a 10% tax offset, which equals $10,000 after reaching retirement age, but before retiring, the public servant can establish a SMSF and contribute into it extra with tax concessions if the $25,000 total for under fifty and $50,000, if over fifty is not exceeded and in addition he/she can contribute $150,000 from after tax income, and the earnings from the SMSF will only attract 15% tax, and when the person reaches the age of 60 even the income will be completely tax-free for the SMSF.
Retiree’s 2) are well represented by the media and the super industry, as well as the Unions, and retiree’s 3) are represented by the government, and ironically by the leadership of various retiree Associations, like ACPSRO and its affiliated Associations, but who represents retiree’s 1) the part- pensioners who are being robbed of a decent standard of living in retirement by the means-test of the age pension.
What is the fairest solution; scrap the mean test of the age pension and scrap all tax concessions for super.
Will Gillard have the courage and scrap the tax concessions for super and the means test for the age pension. After all Howard introduced the tax-free super in one fell swoop.
Is there any other country which treats its citizens in such a discriminatory manner?
I would like to refer you to two recent articles;
1st) AFR ,Dec 8-9. 2012 by Brian Toohey, “Compulsory super makes little sense.
2nd)AFR 13.Feb 2013 by Alison Kahler, “Don’t put super over the nationa l good.
Recently there was a lot written about changes in super, which now seems to have disappeared, because the super industry and the Unions seem to be secure that the government will not make any drastic changes to the tax concessions for super.
Last year, a record number of Australians travelled to other countries, a drain on the Australian economy, and many of the travellers were probably self-funded retirees, who benefit enormously from the tax concessions for super.
Yours truly
Hawil

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Safety net of age pension

February 1st, 2013 No comments

Super changes
Now the government proposes some changes to the unsustainable tax concessions for super, and the super industry, the self funded retirees are all up in arms.
Will the government have the courage and abolish all tax concessions for super, abolish the means test of the age pension and the government can be in surplus immediately.
There is talk about tax on withdrawals over certain limits, but why would any retiree withdraw more than he/she needs from a SMSF which pays no tax on its earnings. Its a no-brainer.

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Treatment of three different retirees

January 11th, 2013 No comments

This is how different groups of current retirees are treated.

Retiree: 1)
Worked for 45 years and paid taxes, but did not accumulate enough assets to be completely independent of the age-pension. For every dollar of extra income for him and his wife above $6,500, the couple loses $0.50 of age pension, and if their income exceeds $45,000 per annum, the couple will pay tax of $0.315 in the dollar including medicare levy, leaving them with an income of $0.185 from every dollar extra income. For the defined benefit income a 10% tax-offset applies if paid from an Australian super fund, but not if the income comes from an overseas fund.
Retiree 2)
Has accumulated assets of $1.5million,mostly with huge tax concessions, and the assets are in a so-called taxed Self Managed Super Fund. To be very conservative, the assets are in a term deposit earning 7.0% income of $122,500 per annum and even if the retiree is single, he/she will not pay a cent of tax.
Now if the assets are in fully franked shares, like banks and return $100,000 worth of franked dividends, he/she will again pay no tax on the dividend, and the government will send him/her a cheque of $30,000 for the franking credits.
Retiree 3)
Is an ex-politician or highly paid public servant, in receipt of a defined benefit pension of $100,000, on which he/she will have to pay tax, but he/she gets a 10% tax offset, which equals %10,000 after reaching retirement age, but before retiring, the public servant can establish a SMSF and contribute into it extra with tax concessions if the $25,000 total for under fifty and $50,000, if over fifty is not exceeded and in addition he/she can contribute $150,000 from after tax income, and the earnings from the SMSF will only attract 15% tax, and when the person reaches the age of 60 even the income will be completely tax-free from the SMSF.
Retiree’s 2) are well represented by the media and the super industry and retiree’s 3) are represented by the government and ironically by the leadership of various retiree Associated, like ACPSRO and its affiliated Associations, but who represents retiree’s 1) who are robbed of a decent standard of living in retirement by the means-test of the age pension
What is the fairest solution; scrap the mean test of the age pension and scrap all tax concessions for super.

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ACPSRO on means test of age pension

January 1st, 2013 No comments

ACPSRO Australian Council of Public Sector Retiree Organisation.
On means-test of the age-pension
The means test of the age pension keeps, and will keep the retirees dependent on some age pension, and that is some 70% of retirees, close to poverty line, while retirees with incomes well above the age-pension entitlements enjoy tax concessions in excess of the age pension, if their income comes from a so-called taxed super fund, which accumulated the assets with huge tax concessions.
Tax-free super for over-60s remains in place
By Trish Power on December 16, 2012
Filed under: Accessing super, Retirement planning, Super & tax
Although there has been a lot of scaremongering in the media about the federal government clawing back promised tax concessions from superannuation fund members, this has not occurred. Tax-free super for over-60s remains in place – thank goodness!
Tax-free super has always been a feature of Australia’s retirement system but, before July 2007, you usually had to hire advisers and get involved in creative gymnastics to make it happen — not unlike what you still have to do to secure tax-free income when you retire before the age of 60. And before July 2007, how much super you could receive at concessional rates was limited.
Is this a fair social system? The majority of the retirees are kept as poor as possible, while rich retirees virtually swim in money.
The tax-free super was introduced by John Howard in 2007, but Trish Power writes that with financial know-how, it was even available then.
With the Labour government, one would think that it would rectify this unfair anomaly, but no such thing; because all the politicians and ex-politicians benefit from the tax-free super.
When Howard introduced the tax-free super for over sixties, if the income came from a taxed fund, he had to give the recipients of defined benefit super, also some benefit, which came in the form of the 10% tax-offset for their super income, but this was denied to recipients of super from overseas funds. At the same time, the means-test for the age pension was relaxed, by reducing the age pension for part-pensioners by only $0.40 of every dollar extra income instead of a reduction $0.50; but this only lasted for a short time, because when the government increased the pension for single pensioners, it reversed the previous change, by bringing the reduction for part-pensioner back to $0.50 in the dollar, thereby the increase of the pension for single pensioners was paid by the part-pensioner.
How can the government get away with this unfair treatment of part-pensioners by using the ‘meanest’ means test of the age pension, for which the majority of the pensioners paid taxes for at times 45 years or plus of their lives?
1. There are a number of Associations, mostly affiliated to ACPSRO
(Australian Council of Public Sector Retirees Association), of which SCOA, would probably be the largest, then the SA Superannuants, Defence Force Welfare Association, etc.
The majority of the members of these Associations are on super of $25-30k and are dependent on a part Centrelink pension, yet the leadership of these Associations did nothing when the tax-free super was introduced, or the reversal to the higher means test took place.
If these Associations would urge their members to vote against politicians who oppose the abolition of the means test of the age pension, the politicians would soon change their mind and start listening to their voters. The best example is the powerful American Rifle Association.
As long as the leadership of these Associations remain silent on this issues, they are tacitly approving the policies of the government and not truly representing the welfare of the majority of their members, and that is just not fair.

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Safety net of age pension

November 22nd, 2012 1 comment

Safety net of age pension.

The Australian government provides a financial safety net for any person above certain age and other qualification, in the form of the basic age-pension, which it means tests for both income and assets, yet it provides very generous tax concessions for people of considerable assets or income, which now equal the cost of the age-pension.
Would it not be more sensible and fairer for the government to abolish the means test of the age pension and abolish the tax concessions for super.

This is what the select committee had to say about the means test of the age pension.
As mentioned in the “Select Committee on Superannuation” report of 2003, Australia is the only OECD country which has a means test for the basic pension, and it is mean.

The Report’s recommendation for a review of the employment-superannuation nexus errs on the side of caution. This caution is well justified since it opens up a much broader debate on the structure of Australia’s retirement income system, including proposals for a universal pension than that originally envisaged in the terms-of-reference. The fiscal impact of widening the spread of tax concessions is also unclear.

Why does the Australian government persist with the unfair treatment of the retirees, punishing the lower income ones with the means test of the age pension, while giving the rich retirees huge tax concessions?

I have put this question to numerous politicians, from all the parties and independents, yet none has so far given me a reasonable answer, to what I consider a reasonable question.

Why can all the politicians just ignore my question? Because I seem to be the only one asking it.

Who gives the politicians security that this unfair social treatment of the majority of age pensioners will not affect their chances of re-election at next election: It is organizations which should protect the interests of the age pensioners on low incomes, like COTA( Council on the aging), ACOSS, Australian Council on Social Service, ACPSRO,Australian Council Public Service Retirees Organization and its affiliated Associations, which are opposing a Universal Age Pension and are therefore endorsing the governments policy which keeps low income pensioners poor, yet almost seventy per cent of their members are on moderate incomes and are greatly affected by the means test of the age pension, while the rich pensioners are gallivanting all over the world, spending money outside the country which should be spent in Australia to support local businesses; Gerry Harvey must have missed his opportunity in broadcasting this.

The other influential group which tacitly supports the government, to keep the lower income earners and pensioners poor, are the Australian Union bosses, many of which sit on Superannuation Funds boards, earning incomes of $500,000, as is the case of David Atkin of industry superannuation fund, Cbus.

Then there are retirement scheme operators, which never miss an opportunity to remind the government to raise the compulsory super contribution to 12%;
Ms.Reynolds chief executive of the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees was reported as saying,” The move to 12 per cent needs to go ahead regardless”. Pauline Vamos also never misses an opportunity to promote the raise of super contributions to 12per cent.

It is not hard to see, for whose benefit the compulsory super was introduced; the super industry, union bosses, who earn large fees or union bosses who collect nice incomes for sitting on boards of industry super funds.

The SMSF’ owners are also very pleased with the large tax concessions for super, and should their income in retirement fall below a certain level, they can and will always avail themselves of the age pension.

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Tax reform submission

October 18th, 2012 No comments

Dr Ken Henry
Treasury
Langton Crescent
ParkesACT 2600

20’th Nov.2008
Submission for the tax Review

In the last four decades all the tax-changes have been for the benefit of the top 20% of the population.
e.g.
1)Death Duty abolished in the 1970’s
2)Estate Duty abolished 1979
3)Gift Duty abolished 1979
4) Probate abolished in the 1970-1980’s in all states
5)Huge tax concessions for super.
6) Last but not least, now tax-free super for the over sixties, if paid from a taxed super fund.
7)Tax rates have progressively been reduced
8)Dividend imputation introduced. When the company pays 30% tax and the shareholders receive the imputation credit, it is almost a zero numbers game, eg: company pays tax and the Government returns most, if not all back, to the shareholders.
How many countries have Dividend imputation?
The UK has recently abolished it.

The changes to the tax rules for super-pensions from taxed super for the over sixties must be really the icing on the cake.
Much of accumulated super assets have been accumulated with generous tax concessions, and at times no tax was paid in the accumulating stages; due to dividend imputations, negative gearing, etc.
Is there any country which has such generous provisions for the very rich?
As almost 78% of the people over the pension age receive some part of Centrelink pension, this people pay the highest tax rate, namely 40% in loss of Centrelink pension, plus marginal tax rate, if income is above the tax threshold.

The loss of Centrelink pension has increased from $0.40 in the dollar to $0.50 since this submission was made; e.g. the part-pensioners will pay for the recent increase of the age pension.

What should be the first priority in changing the tax system:
1) Abolish all tax concessions for super and abolish the compulsory super contributions, increase the wages by the amount of the compulsory super, because the super was only granted to the workers to forfeit any wage increase at the time of introduction.
2) Abolish all the means-testing of the age pension, but retain the tax offsets for seniors. The reason for the tax offsets is, that the aged are not able do certain tasks which a person of younger age can do and have to pay for that. The means test of the age pension is the meanest in the whole developed world. The Government just uses it to keep the pensioners just above the poverty, with no chance of the pensioners improving their conditions.
3)
Introduce a Universal Age Pension for all people over the age of 65; the savings on tax concessions will compensate for the extra cost of the UAP, and even provide for an increase in the pension, because currently the cost of the tax concessions equals or exceeds the total cost of the age pension.
4) Consider raising the tax rate for the extremely high incomes; how can anybody justify to keep more than half of at times grossly exaggerated income of millions? And with the generous tax treatment of super, the overpaid fat-cats are further benefiting from the generosity of our tax laws.
5) This is an extract from an article in the Australian Financial Review:

In the AFR article “ Super tax breaks favours the few” on the 30.Jan.2009 written by John Breush, John Freebairn economist of the Melbourne University was reported as saying, “It’s an incredibly inequitable system”.
Furthermore he stated “It’s wonderful for people like me but it’s not a good deal for someone who is on the 15 per cent or lower tax rate, which is quite a slab of the workforce”.

In the book “Unemployment forever or a Support Income System and Work For All”, by Allan McDonald, on page 142 (h) it is stated: Any means tested welfare system requires extensive and complex state control and regulation. Australia is slowly but surely moving towards the ultimate outcome of a means tested social welfare system-state control over finances, the savings, and the labours of the poorest in the community.

Have the politicians of Australia the know-how and will to change the tax and social system to be more egalitarian, or was the late Professor A.J.Marshall right when he wrote, as quoted in the book “Equality and Authority” by S Encel on page212: “Most Australian politicians, he wrote, aspire to parliamentary seats ‘to better their salary, to inflate their egos and feather their nests’.

John Pilger in his book “The new rulers of the world” wrote on page 175: Like Britain and the US, Australia is a single ideology state with two competing factions, discernible largely by the personalities of their politicians. The difference between Howard’s conservative coalition and the opposition Labor Party is that Howards policies are not veiled. The Labor governments of the 1980s and early 1990s oversaw the greatest distribution of wealth in the country’s history: from bottom to top. They were Thatcherite and Reganite in all but name. Indeed, Tony Blair described then Prime Minister Paul Keating as his
‘inspiration’.

Will the same even worse? shift in wealth from bottom to top happen under the current Labor Government or will it be worse?

Considering the current financial turmoil, with the possible large increase of unemployment, it can become much worse.
The main reason for that, is, that currently the house mortgages for the owner occupiers are usually based on two incomes, so the risk of loosing a job is doubled.
Furthermore if one partner loses his/her job, and the other retains his/hers, due to the means test, the couple falls onto one income, which will not be enough to keep up the mortgage payments.

In most European countries if one partner becomes unemployed, he/ she will receive 66% of the income for the next 6month, and this will cushion the risk to a certain level.
It is surprising that neither the media nor any politician has brought this problem to the attention of the Australian people.

As there is over a trillion $ of cash at the disposal of some clever investors sitting there, and waiting for the time, when there is so called “financial blood in the street” they will be ready to pounce, and that will be the greatest shift of wealth, again from bottom to top.
Lets hope the Australian politicians do everything at their disposal to prevent it from occurring.

Yours truly
W.Hawil

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E-mail correspondence with SA Superannuants committee members.

September 18th, 2012 No comments

Hi Ray and Peter.
Here is my response to Ray’s e-mail.
Regards Willi.

Hello Willi,
Peter Fleming has forwarded me an e-mail he got from you on 6 September.
I have read something written by Richard Dennis that seems to match your e-mail. It says that people with high incomes have been able to reduce their tax to a huge extent by making salary sacrifice superannuation contributions. In this way a very big percentage of the tax savings being made through the superannuation system is flowing to a small percentage of the population (those with high incomes).
The article accused the government of cowardice for allowing this but the current Government has put a brake on this with its cap of $25,000 p.a. on concessional contributions. If the current Government holds the line on this, and a replacement government does so as well, then no-one will be able to amass multi-million dollar superannuation assets through contributions that are taxed at only 15%. I hope this turns out to be the case but I won’t be betting on it.

How many people can afford to salary sacrifice $25,000 into super?
What about the $150,000 a person with the assets can put into super every year, the earnings on this only attracts 15% while in accumulation stage.

In my opinion the best thing that ever happened to working people in Australia was the superannuation guarantee. Before the superannuation guarantee most people with incomes around or below the average reached retirement with very low levels of private financial resources and lived on a full age pension plus just a bit more. There are now many more people earning modest incomes during their working lives who are getting to retirement with private financial resources that see them being better off than before, thanks largely to the superannuation guarantee.

You mean they are forced to save a little bit, yet if anyone is prudent on low income and paying off a mortgage the money would be more beneficial to them, and the workers had to forfeit wage rises in favour of super.

Your e-mail suggests that the Association ought to be critical of the three pillar policy. Speaking only for myself, and not necessarily for the committee, I say this is a good policy and all it needs is for limits to apply to the level of private savings a person can accumulate through concessionally- taxed contributions. So I would say to any government – continue with the three pillar policy but set limits on the tax advantage it provides (the current government is trying to do this). If people are not satisfied with these limits and want to put away more super I would say make them do it through contributions made from after-tax income.

I,am sure that the government is well aware of the view ACPSRO and its affiliated Associations have on the whole social system, and many other organizations like COTA, ACOSS,etc. act in a similar manner, so I,am wasting my time to fight the government on this issue.
I assume your dissatisfaction with the three pillar policy is based mainly on the fact that the age pension pillar is means-tested. In my opinion a means-tested age pension is sound policy just as a policy that restricts superannuation tax breaks for high income people is sound policy. The severity of the means testing for the age pension and the severity of taxation of superannuation contributions are things that people can argue about, in good faith, without one side being completely right and the other being completely wrong. It seems reasonable to me for people with low private means(income) to get more age pension and pay less tax than people with high private means (incomes). I think this makes for a fair and humane society.

Recently the Chief Justice retired from office on a super of $260,000 per annum, for which he will get a 10% tax-offset, which is $26,000, almost as much as a pensioner couple gets a year, besides he could have half a million or more in a SMSF, whose earnings would be completely tax free; now would he be better off if he received the full age pension, but loose all the tax concessions? And there would be many in the same financial position.When I think about how retirement income policy affects people getting Super SA pensions I always remember that our personal contributions would, at best, have provided about one quarter of the pension. So a $30,000 p.a. pension, without the employer contribution, would be a $7500 p.a. pension. A person, or a couple, with $7500 private income and a full age pension would be much worse off than they are with the $30,000 Super SA pension and a means-tested part age pension. On this basis it seems to me that the three pillar policy works well for most Super SA people including those with average and smaller pensions.

Here is an extract from a select committee, of which Penny Wong was a member:
As mentioned in the “Select Committee on Superannuation” report of 2003, Australia is the only OECD country which has a means test for the basic pension, and it is mean.
Cheers,
Ray

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Protected: The rotten systems.

August 23rd, 2012 Enter your password to view comments.

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