Autumn 2024

After a summer of quite extreme weather in many places around Australia, we can hopefully look forward to the cooler, calmer weather that Autumn brings.

While economic bright spots can be found in Australia right now, there are also some less than stellar results.

On the positive, inflation has remained at a two-year low giving some commentators confidence of a rate cut in the coming months. CPI was steady at 3.4% in the 12 months to January. In other good news, business capital investment rose in the December quarter to be 7.9% higher than it was 12 months before and average weekly earnings rose by 4.5% or $81 per week.

It has been a mixed report for retail, with a 1.1% increase in sales for January but that wasn’t enough to make up for the 2.1% loss in December.The Australian dollar remains in the doldrums, weakening below 65.2 US cents after reaching a high of 69.48 near the end of 2023.

Australian shares were up by just over 1% for the month after a shaky start thanks to worries over US interest rates and China. US stocks edged higher during February with the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average reaching record highs during the month. February was dominated by news of the massive profit report by artificial intelligence chipmaker Nvidia, which had a massive effect on markets across the world.

Understanding the new $3m super tax

Understanding the new $3m super tax

The much-debated tax on superannuation balances over $3 million is inching closer and those who may be affected should ensure they have considered the implications.

Although it is not yet law, the Division 296 tax should be taken into account when it comes to investment strategy and planning, particularly in relation to any end-of-financial-year contributions into super.

Tax for higher account balances

The new tax follows a Federal Government announcement it intended to reduce the tax concessions provided to super fund members with account balances exceeding $3 million.

Once the legislation passes through Parliament and receives Royal Assent, Division 296 will take effect from 1 July 2025. Division 296 legislation imposes an additional 15 per cent tax (on top of the existing 15 per cent) on investment earnings of a super account where your total super balance exceeds $3 million at the end of the financial year.i

The extra 15 per cent is only applied to the amount that exceeds $3 million.

Given the complexity of the new rules, it is important to seek professional advice so you can make informed decisions.

How the new rules work

A crucial part of the new legislation is the Adjusted Total Super Balance (ATSB), which determines whether you sit above or below the $3 million threshold.

When assessing your ATSB, the ATO will consider the market value of assets regardless of whether or not this value has been realised, creating a significant impact if your super fund holds property or speculative assets. The legislation also introduces a new formula for calculating your ATSB for Division 296 purposes.

The legislation outlines how deemed earnings will be apportioned and taxed, based on the amount of your account balance over the $3 million threshold.

Negative earnings in a year where your balance is greater than $3 million may be carried forward to a future financial year to reduce Division 296 liabilities. If you are liable for Division 296 tax, you can choose to pay the liability personally or request payment from your super fund.

Strategic rethink may be needed

For many fund members, superannuation remains an attractive investment strategy due to its favourable tax treatment.ii

But those with higher account balances need to understand the potential effect of the Division 296 tax. For example, given the new rules, you may need to consider whether high-growth assets should automatically be held inside super.

Holding long-term investments that may be more difficult to liquidate, such as property, within super may be less attractive in some cases, because the new rules create the potential to be taxed on a gain that is never realised. This could occur where the value of an asset increases during a financial year but drops in value by the time it is actually sold.

For some, holding commercial property assets (such as your business premises) within your SMSF may be less attractive.

It will also be important to balance asset protection against tax effectiveness. For some people, the asset protection provided by the super system may outweigh the tax benefits of other investment vehicles, such as a family trust.

Division 296 will require more frequent and detailed asset valuations, so you will need to balance this administrative burden with the tax benefits of super.

Estate planning implications

Your estate planning will also need to be revisited once Division 296 is law.

The tax rules for super death benefits are complex and should be carefully reviewed to ensure you don’t leave an unnecessary tax bill for your beneficiaries.

If you still have many years to go before retirement and hold high-growth assets in your fund, you will need to closely monitor your super balance.

If you want to learn more about how Division 296 tax could affect your super savings, contact our office today.

i https://treasury.gov.au/sites/default/files/2023-09/c2023-443986-em.pdf
ii
https://www.ato.gov.au/individuals-and-families/super-for-individuals-and-families/super/growing-and-keeping-track-of-your-super/caps-limits-and-tax-on-super-contributions/understanding-concessional-and-non-concessional-contributions

Outsmart your biases: using investor psychology to your advantage

Outsmart your biases: using investor psychology to your advantage

When it comes to decision making, we don’t always get it right. It is human nature to fall for several behavioural traps when making everyday decisions and also when trying to predict the future. Even the smartest people can succumb to their own biases when forming judgements and making choices.

While it’s unrealistic to expect to never again make a bad decision, we can of course recognise and anticipate possible biases so we can make informed decisions. This knowledge helps us to better understand how our mind works so we can use this information to our advantage for our next financial decisions, investments and life choices.

Here are a few of the most common behavioural biases (and therefore traps) to be aware of and tips for how to overcome them.

Loss aversion

This bias is ruled by fear, as you are focused on what you can lose rather than what you can gain. Mark Twain posed the example of a cat who jumps on a hot stove once and never will again, even though the stove would be cold and potentially contain food later, as a way to illustrate loss aversion.

Overcoming this bias requires confidence and pragmatism, as often the fear and expectation of loss is greater than the loss itself. It can help to lower the cost of failure (for example, if you are investing) and increase the likelihood of success to feel more assured when making decisions.

Overconfidence

On the flipside, overconfidence can cause bad decision making as it means you’ll take greater risks. Facets of this bias include an illusion of control, planning fallacy (such as underestimating how long a project will take) and positive illusions.

This type of bias is often linked to people with high self-evaluations, however anyone can fall into the trap of overconfidence. To avoid it, consider the consequences of the decision and explore all possibilities rather than just the best case scenario. Be open to feedback and advice from others to help balance overconfidence and to give you more options to consider.

Groupthink

Groupthink is where you are influenced by the ideas of others in order to reach a consensus in a group situation – this is also called the bandwagon effect. Something might not sit well with you but rather than voicing your feelings and being at odds with the group, you go along with it.

It is easy to get swept along with group consensus but there are ways you can minimise groupthink. Encouraging conversation and debate allows differing ideas and opinions to be considered – in a group scenario this enables everyone to have their voices heard.

Even when making a decision by yourself you can still be swayed by the opinions of others, so don’t let these overpower your instincts. Think critically and have confidence in your own analysis.

The primacy/recency effect

This bias is part of the serial-position effect: why we can often remember the first and last items in a series the most clearly (and forget what comes in the middle). The primacy and recency effect are intertwined for this reason, and they are often used by teachers, speakers, lawyers and advertising, in order to make their message most impactful.

Awareness of this effect can help you understand why you’re likely not using all information presented in your decision making, but only the first and last messages. Keep a record of all information to get a more accurate picture of the situation. It also helps to do your research so you won’t just be influenced by the message from one source either.

These are just some of the biases that impact our decision making, from the day-to-day to the bigger life decisions. Having a trusted adviser in your corner can help improve your financial decision making, by providing market research together with considered advice through an external, unemotional lens. In fact recent findings from Russell Investments found one significant benefit of an advisers is they prevent clients from making silly behavioural mistakes.i

We can offer guidance to help you overcome your biases and make better choices, so don’t hesitate to get in touch today.

i https://russellinvestments.com/au/blog/5-key-ways-advisers-deliver

Sowing the seeds of succession

Sowing the seeds of succession

Succession planning can be difficult at the best of times without dealing with the added pressures farmers need to face including droughts, fires and floods.

And that’s why it is even more important to plan early and get it right when you are on the land. You are not just dealing with a business, but invariably also with a home.

Some 99 per cent of the 135,000 farms in Australia are family owned with the average age of farmers being 52.i It is believed that farmers are five times more likely than other Australians to be working beyond the age of 65. There are a variety of reasons for this, from a reluctance to relinquish control, to a lack of family willing to take over the reins and financial necessity.

Given the physicality of farming, it would seem to make a lot more sense to start thinking about succession planning well before that stage.

Often such planning is put into the too hard basket because there are so many variables to consider. But this will not solve the problem, so it’s better to get good advice and get it early.

Start talking

The first thing you need to do is open the doors of communication. Arrange a time to talk with your family to discuss:

  • Who wants to inherit and work on the farm and who wants to leave the property

  • Whether they agree each child should be treated equally or accept that the one inheriting the farm should receive preferential treatment

  • How everybody feels about splitting the property between siblings, or

  • The way forward if none of your children wants to stay on the land.

These are all considerations that need to be addressed and revisited over time to ensure they meet with everybody’s wishes.

If just one of the children wants to remain on the property, will they need to find the finance to pay out the other siblings? If so, then the next decision is how that finance will be found.

Perhaps the answer is to transfer the property before you die. If that is the case, then where will you live in retirement and what will be your source of income once you retire? Again, you need to examine the options. Perhaps you may receive an ongoing income from the property, or maybe find income from other investments. Importantly, you also need to revisit these options over time to ensure they still work for you.

One danger of not having a succession plan and working well beyond your best years, is that you can run the farm into the ground and make it a far less attractive property to sell.

Structure your plans

There are so many questions to ask and what is right for one family, may not be right for another.

But once you determine how you want to move forward, you then need to examine the best structures to put in place to make the process as efficient as possible. Some of the key advice you may need is on tax, trusts and land ownership and the intersection of all three.

Tax is particularly important as you want to avoid or at least minimise capital gains tax (CGT).

If you are 55 years of age or more and retiring and have owned your property for at least 15 years, then you may qualify for the small business 15-year CGT exemption on your entire capital gains. Other concessions may apply if you don’t qualify the 15-year exemption.

For couples where the family farm is held in their own name, perhaps you might want to consider a joint tenancy agreement as it leads to automatic transfer of ownership if one dies.

Or you might consider putting the farm into a family trust or perhaps holding it as an asset in your self-managed super fund. There are so many what-ifs to consider when it comes to rural properties. If you want to discuss how to move forward on your estate and succession planning and what will work best for you, then give us a call.

i https://www2.deloitte.com/au/en/pages/consumer-business/articles/succession-family-farm.html

Super Focus Pty Ltd (ABN 48 200 213 405) Corporate Authorised Representative of CMT Financial Services Pty Ltd (ABN 61 162 109 373) Australian Financial Services Licence No. 434 377
This advice may not be suitable to you because it contains general advice that has not been tailored to your personal circumstances. Please seek personal financial advice prior to acting on this information. Investment Performance: Past performance is not a reliable guide to future returns as future returns may differ from and be more or less volatile than past returns.