Government considers super breaks for downsizers to improve affordability

Government considers super breaks for downsizers to improve affordability
Government considers super breaks for downsizers to improve affordability

The government is considering incentivising downsizing for retirees to improve housing affordability for the young, with retirees who sell off their family home likely to be offered exemptions from new limits to be placed on superannuation.

Although it is unlikely the sale proceeds will also be quarantined from the age pension assets test, The Australian Financial Review reported, citing sources.

The government has considered exemptions to both the $1.6 million cap on a super retirement fund and the non-concessional amount that can be contributed annually, if the top-up is coming from the sale of a large family home, it said.

Treasurer Scott Morrison will deliver the budget on May 9. The likely May budget package was first floated two years ago by Scott Morrison when he was social services minister, as reported by Property Observer recently.

It is hoped breaking down a few barriers will encourage older Australians to down­size homes, thereby releasing more stock to the market and also unlocking billions in capital.

While the move aims to help improve housing affordability, as promised by the government, by freeing up more stock for young families, it also hopes to help shore up the Coalition's support among its so-called base, which is still fuming over $6 billion in cuts to superannuation tax concessions contained in last year's budget, the AFR reported.

Some people are so cranky that over the weekend it emerged that Melbourne businessmen, led by Jack Hammond, QC, and John McMurrick, a former MP, were advocating a challenge to the preselection of Minister for Revenue and Financial Services Kelly O'Dwyer and replacing her with Tony Abbott's former chief of staff, Peta Credlin.

Credlin said she was not interested and O'Dwyer said she was not afraid of a challenge.

The amount of super people have does affect their eligibility for an age pension. Under the budget proposal, if an age pensioner wants to downsize and top up their super, they could do so but lose some or all of their pension.

Those to be targeted by the government policy are pretty much self-funded retirees who don't receive a pension and would be encouraged to sell their home by being able to bolster their retirement income.

Under the super changes which come into effect on July 1, a retirement account, on which the earnings are tax free, will be capped at $1.6 million. Any excess must remain in an accumulation account which will continue to be taxed at the concessional rate of 15 per cent.

Also under the changes, people aged under 65 can contribute a maximum of $100,000 a year in non-concessional contributions to their super until the $1.6 million cap is reached.

Those aged over 65 can contribute $100,000 a year in non-concessional contributions but only if they meet a work test of having done 40 hours work over 30 consecutive days.

It is believed exemptions to both the $1.6 million cap and the $100,000 non-concessional contributions cap are being considered in the event of lump sum contributions from the proceeds of downsizing. It is unclear whether some or all of the proceeds from downsizing could be used to bolster super.

Labor was the first to propose such a policy. When last in government, it announced a trial scheme in which up to $200,000 in sale proceeds would be exempt from the pension assets test. The trial was scrapped when Tony Abbott won government.

Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen was quoted by the AFR as saying that Labor still favoured the idea and would consider whatever the government put in the budget.

"Labor has supported measures to make it easier for seniors to downsize their housing without penalising them. That's why Jenny Macklin had a pilot program in the 2013 Budget to work on exactly that – a pilot program scrapped by the Liberal Party in 2013," he said.

"If the government wants to help older Australians downsize their home, why did they abolish a Labor program that did exactly that. We're receptive of similar measures subject to our normal policy processes and ensuring the government doesn't botch their implementation."

The Property Council of Australia supports exempting downsizers from the pension assets test, but only for people aged 75 and older to prevent a free for all among retirees.

"We have to reduce transaction costs which lock people into homes that don't suit them and are a big drag on the economy," said council chief executive Ken Morrison.

"As well, pensioners are discouraged from downsizing because of the way the pension assets test is configured. Some small changes to the downsizing rules could see tens of thousands of family homes enter the market."

Superannuation Federal Budget

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