Excess transfer balance determinations now being issued by ATO
21 September 2018
The ATO determines whether a taxpayer has exceeded the transfer balance limit of $1.6m and if a taxpayer has exceeded the $1.6m limit, the ATO must issue an excess transfer balance determination (ETB determination) to the taxpayer. An ETB determination means the taxpayer has too much super in pension phase.
The ETB determination will specify the amount the taxpayer has to transfer out of pension phase and the date by which this has to be achieved. If the taxpayer does not comply with the ETB determination - this could be because an insufficient amount has been transferred from pension phase (or none at all) or that the transfer has occurred after the due date - then penalties will be imposed on the taxpayer and the ATO may cause sufficient pension balance to be transferred out of pension phase by directing the superannuation trustee to take the necessary action.
As the ATO is now issuing ETB determinations, what action must be taken by the taxpayer if they were to receive a determination?
Step 1 – Don’t ignore the determination
To ignore the determination and do nothing is the worst response.
The taxpayer will have to take some action – whether to review the accuracy of the determination or accept that the determination is accurate and to undertake the necessary commutation action.
Some points to remember:
• you cannot object (well you can, but more correctly you cannot apply the objection and review procedures of the tax system) to the issue of an ETB determination;
• increasing your pension drawdown rate or making a one-off large pension payment does not solve the underlying issue; and
• even if the ETB determination is based upon incorrect information – only the trustee that provided the incorrect information in the first place can correct this information; your strenuous objections are irrelevant.
Step 2 – Review the accuracy of the determination
It could be that incorrect information has been provided to the ATO. The taxpayer should use the myGov website and their login details to review the TBAR amounts which have been reported. Another possibility is that a commutation of pension has not been reported.
For instance, if a pension has been transferred from fund A to fund B then the pension payable by fund A has been fully commuted, a lump sum has been paid to fund B and a new pension has been issued by fund B. In this case, fund A would have issued a TBAR credit when the pension commenced (or its value as at 1 July 2017 if the pension commenced before 1 July 2017) and should have reported a TBAR debit when the pension was commuted while fund B should have reported a TBAR credit when the new pension was issued. If the TBAR debit from fund A has not been reported then the pension balance has been double counted which could give rise to an excess transfer balance.
If there has been an error in a TBAR then the issuing trustee must reverse that TBAR and issue a corrected TBAR. Importantly, the ATO has no power to correct or disregard a TBAR. Only the issuing trustee can correct it by reversing the incorrect TBAR and issuing a correct TBAR.
If a TBAR debit has not been reported then it must be immediately reported. If the ATO is advised that the excess is due to an unreported TBAR debit, it is likely that the ATO will suspend any corrective action to permit the TBAR debit to be reported.
Step 3 – Commute the excess by the due date
An excess over $1.6m of a transfer balance account can only be "corrected" by having a TBAR debit equal to the excess. This means commuting (in part or in full) one or more pensions.
The ETB determination will specify the dollar value which has to be commuted and also the date by which the commutation must be effected.
Increasing pension payments or making a one-off additional pension payment will not solve the issue as these actions do not generate a TBAR debit.
Only commuting the pension will generate a TBAR debit.
If there is no error in the ETB determination then the only (rational) response is to undertake the commutation and ensure that the trustee which issued the pension submits a TBAR in respect of the commutation as soon as possible.
The taxpayer can choose which pension is to be commuted.
Doing nothing will only cause the ATO to effect a mandatory commutation of whichever pension the ATO chooses (and at greater transaction cost to the taxpayer).