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How to keep access to all your franking credits under Labor

franking credit refunds

If you are a self-funded retiree with a self-managed super fund, chances are you are nervous about Labor’s policy to remove the refund of excess franking credits. But there is a way to keep all your franking credits.

You could switch partially or fully from an SMSF to an industry fund and set up an account-based pension. You would continue to get the franking credit benefit, which is worth 1% to 1.5%.

How does this work? While SMSFs and some retail funds are firmly in the firing line of Labor’s policy, industry funds have a different structure and most won’t lose any franking credits.

What this means is that the dilemma affects a certain sort of super fund but not others.

SMSFs have a small pool of assets and in the pension phase typically don’t have enough tax liabilities to offset any excess imputation credits.

But industry super funds do.

They typically pool their members’ savings, mixing the pre-retiree money with retiree money. For example, both types of members could be in the balanced investment option. Because the fund as an entity pays tax, individual members won’t be affected by the proposal.

An industry super fund lines up the tax liability with the franking credits at the end of the year and makes any adjustments for members. As long as there are enough tax liabilities to absorb the franking credits, none are lost.

Take AustralianSuper, Australia’s biggest fund with more than $140 billion of retirement savings from more than 2.2 million members from around 280,000 employers.

It won’t be affected by Labor’s changes and its members will continue to receive the franking credits. This is the same for many other industry funds.

The large amount of assets are pooled and the fund, rather than the individuals, pays tax.

Quite a few super funds – such as AustralianSuper, QSuper, CareSuper, Hostplus, Media Super and Cbus – offer direct investments, including the top 300 listed Australian shares, dozens of exchange traded funds and term deposits.

These investments are similar to many that are used by SMSFs. Often they have loaded up their exposure to high-dividend-paying Australian shares to receive an income (including franking credits).

There is some debate as to whether the member-direct options are free from Labor’s proposal to remove excess franking credits, with some industry funds saying the full impact won’t be clear until more details emerge of how the policy will be applied.

But there is a chance that even these options are part of the overall fund and won’t lose their franking credits.

Of course, everyone has different circumstances, particularly when it comes to tax, and you need to seek advice before you move from an SMSF to an industry fund.

Written by Susan Hely

Susan Hely

Susan has been a finance journalist for more than 30 years, beginning at the Australian Financial Review before moving to the Sydney Morning Herald. She edited a superannuation magazine, Superfunds, for the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia, and writes regularly on superannuation and managed funds. She’s also author of the best-selling book Women and Money.

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  1. That won’t work in all cases. If you have franked dividends from direct share investments and you are too old to make super contributions, the franking credits are lost, assuming your income is below the tax threshold.

    If it is legislated as designed, I will lose my franking credits entirely. I do not qualify for the age pension because of the asset test, but my assets are insufficient to earn as much as the pension. The only option is to spend to reduce my assets so that I qualify for maybe a part pension. Then I will be able to claim the franking credits. Labor fails to recognise it is creating a new poverty trap with this appalling retiree tax.

    Maybe Labor won’t get elected. If they are elected, maybe this policy won’t get through the Senate or at least will be drastically altered.

    • Wrong Andyb, if you were not a pensioner March 2018, then you will never qualify for franking credit refunds.

      • Actually Richard that March 2018 criteria applies only to members of a SMSF. AndyB is talking about losing franking credits on his personally held shares and obtaining a partial age pension anytime in the future would enable him to claim the franking credit refunds at that point.

  2. This just shows the total inequity of the Labor proposal. Have your investments in a SMSF entirely in pension phase and lose all your franking credits, have them in an industryfund with plenty of other members in accumulation phase and you get to keep them. What happen to the principle of horizontal equity? Oh that’s right, it got taken away by Labor as a handout to their union masters.

  3. If I am poor but own some share, say Telstra, but earn less than tax free threshold, I lose my credits.
    If I am poor but own some share, say Telstra, but earn modest wage say $40,000, I lose most of my credits.
    If I am a wealthy high wage/salary earner, I get 100% refunded.
    If I am SMSF retiree in pension phase, I lose 100% of my credits.
    If I qualify as a pension after March 2018, I lose 100% of my credits.

    Who could possible devise such a scheme that favours the rich?

    Surely not a Labor government?

  4. Whatever happened to equality? Why should people who have chosen to hold an SMSF to save for their retirement lose their franking credits, & those who hold their super in an Industry Fund still be entitled to receive franking credits into their superannuation balance?? If this Policy comes in, it is going to cause those with an SMSF, just over the threshold or close too it, think well “may as well spend up on lots of holidays, buy a nicer house” and go on the pension. The government is not rewarding those that have worked hard, saved for their retirement, paid taxes all their working lives!! They are taking away, what we have worked hard for & entitled to. Instead of taking it away from those who possibly don’t deserve to have hand outs, or are younger and quite capable of doing any sort of work. Save money by starting “work for the dole”. And stop wasting so much of our money on their Political Campaign’s, everyday for weeks, I have had at least 3 automated Political phone calls & mail. Ridiculous!!!

    • Jane, equality? Surely you realise how ridiculous you sound. You want a tax refund on tax you don’t pay. What a Rort. Franking credits – welfare for the self-entitled. We spend more on your Rort than on funding for public schools. Shame.

  5. In regard to horizontal equity, In all scenarios there is no tax refund as a result of franking credits, only the reducing of the tax liability to $0.

    The franking credit scheme has been generous to all who can afford shares.

    • That’s not what horizontal equity means in my view Jane. The intention, since 2000, is that share dividends (including the franking credits) are taxed at the taxpayer’s marginal rate. This sees some taxpayers pay additional tax, where their marginal rate is higher than 30%. Others receive a partial refund of tax where their marginal rate is less than 30%. Where a taxpayer’s total earnings, including share dividends AND including the franking credits amounts to a total that is less than the threshold for paying tax, the marginal rate is zero and franking credits are refunded because it turns out that tax is not due.

      • AndyB
        I believe that you have summed the different scenarios correctly.
        My wife and I are both self-funded retirees and earn less than the taxable threshold, including our share dividends, and are able to claim the franking credits each year up until now.
        This helps us to remain self-funded and not to have to burden the government with any pension payments.
        I hope that Labor has dug itself a hole with this one.

  6. So sell down the shares in the SMSF. The rest of us who have conventional super face a declining balance over time. Your SMSF shares are already in a tax sheltered vehicle specifically to provide for retirement but have the view that the capital can’t be touched. Super of any form wasn’t designed as a method of capital preservation or as legacy planning. You are wingeing about a tax refund on tax you haven’t paid. You want all the retirement funding risk to be carried by someone else which just makes you selfish and self entitled. Sell your shares to fund your retirement rather than expecting company tax normally used to fund the country redirected to support you.

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