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How to catch out an illegal super scheme

When a super scheme seems too good to be true, it often is. Many illegal super schemes are operating in Australia, so it is crucial to understand the characteristics of such schemes.

A popular illegal scheme is one whereby an individual is enticed by being told they can access their super early to pay off a credit card debt, go on a holiday, buy a car and so on. Generally, such schemes are illegal as superannuation can only be accessed early by meeting a condition of release.

Those promoting such schemes usually:
– Encourage individuals to transfer super from an existing super fund to an SMSF to access super before they are legally entitled to;
– Target those under financial pressure or who do not understand the super laws;
– Claim you can use your super for anything you want;
– Charge high fees and commissions, and risk losing some or all of the individuals super to them.

Unfortunately, participating in these schemes subject the affected individual to identity theft from the promoter of the scheme. Identity theft is when someone uses another person’s details to commit fraud or other crimes.

Individuals need to be aware that super is usually only accessible once the preservation age is reached and they stop working. The preservation age is currently 55 years old for those born before 1 July 1960 and 60 years old for those born after 30 June 1964.

Superannuation can only be accessed early in special circumstances such as severe financial hardship and for specific medical conditions. There are severe penalties for illegally accessing your super early.

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News

Expert advice on early superannuation access as a result of COVID-19

April 2, 2020

Under the coronavirus stimulus package released and revised by the Australian Federal Government on 22 March 2020, individuals in financial trouble due to the negative economic impacts of COVID-19 will be able to access their superannuation funds early. However, while the option is available, it is recommended that individuals only consider withdrawing from their super in the case of absolute emergencies and treat it as a last resort.

With the new rules on superannuation, workers whose incomes are reduced by at least 20% due to the COVID-19 outbreak are allowed to take $10,000 out of their super for the 2019-20 financial year and another $10,000 for 2020-21. Individuals will also not need to pay tax on any withdrawn amounts and existing welfare payments will not be affected either.

While the introduced early access to superannuation funds may be inviting for newly unemployed workers, it is important to consider whether the temporary relief is necessary and worth foregoing super funds available for long term investment. For example, even when accounting for Australia’s slowing economy in the coming years, $10,000 is predicted to be worth over $65,000 in another 30 years.

Especially for younger workers who are less likely to have access to other savings, the choice to give up future savings for current comfort is a difficult one. Experts instead are recommending Australians to apply for the other payments and benefits made available to vulnerable Australians through the coronavirus stimulus package, such as added $550 fortnightly supplements to Australians on JobSeeker payments and other welfare recipients and pensioners.

Experts also predict that the Australian Government will introduce more stimuli for increased cash flow in the Australian economy and more payments for unemployed, struggling and vulnerable Australians in the case of COVID-19 becoming more of a serious economic issue. Hence, withdrawing funds from your superannuation account should be considered a last resort and not for the sake of unnecessary temporary relief.

In addition to being allowed early access into individual super funds, superannuation minimum drawdown rates will also be temporarily reduced by 50% for account-based pensions and others similar until 2021.

The Government has also reduced the upper and lower social security deeming rates by a further 0.25 percentage points, with upper at 2.25% and lower at 0.25% which will come into effect on 1 May 2020.