Trustees cautioned on popular pension strategies

A number of older pension strategies have regained popularity among SMSF practitioners, but key aspects of them are not being properly understood, warns an industry consultant.

Miller Super Solutions founder Tim Miller said SMSF practitioners are identifying older strategies and re-visiting them but do not necessarily understand the rules behind them.

“I can see some of these commutation strategies, [for example], creating problems for transition to retirement pensions, primarily because people will inevitably go over their maximums by virtue of not knowing that they’ve actually already used their unrestricted non-preserved [benefits],” said Mr Miller.

“Or they didn’t have as much unrestricted non-preserved as they thought they might have. So I can certainly see that as an issue.”

Mr Miller is one of several practitioners who say lack of clarity or a lack of understanding about how this strategy works can be especially problematic if the practitioner is still using a legacy administration system.

“If the [practitioner] isn’t dealing with a real-time processing environment, then they may be incorrectly identifying components that are no longer there and putting their clients into a troubled position,” he said.

Some of these pension strategies have regained practitioners' attention, according to Mr Miller, because the past couple of years have been quiet for the strategies in legislative terms – other than for a few minor changes.

“This whole concept of taking lump sums from transition to retirement pensions when you’ve got unrestricted non-preserved benefits is something that’s been in the legislation from day one, but because there’s been a few minor changes people have identified this strategy and it’s become popular or a little more mainstream [again],” he said.

Mr Miller noted that the ATO commissioner said earlier in the year the ATO would be focusing on pensions and pension-related issues.

“So, going under the minimum or over the maximum is going to be problematic for people,” he said.

 

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