News / Sep 22, 2021

The Simple Guide to Excess Concessional Contributions

Mark Phillips
excess concessional contributions
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Excess concessional contributions (ECCs) to your SMSF can negatively affect your overall tax position.

This article will outline some of the workings of the ECC system.

However, tax and superannuation laws are complex, and small details are easy to miss. You might want to get professional advice about how to navigate it.

What Are Excess Concessional Contributions?

Concessional contributions are contributions that are claimed as a tax deduction either by an employer or the member personally and are then taxed at 15% after they reach your fund.

You are only allowed a certain amount of concessional contributions each year. The limit or “cap” from July 2021 is $27,500, up from the previous limit of $25,000.  

Higher amounts are excess concessional contributions.

Sometimes you have a higher limit because you can carry forward unused contribution limits from previous years, provided you have a Total Super Balance of less than $500,000.

For example, let’s assume you contributed just $20,000 in 2020 and the full $25,000 in 2021. You could then add the $5,000 from 2020 to your 2022 limit. This means your cap for 2022 will be $32,500 ($27,500 + $5,000). 

How Do Tax Concessions Work On SMSF Contributions?

SMSF contributions come from three primary sources:

  • Superannuation guarantee (SG) 
  • Salary sacrifice, and
  • Personal funds

There can be other sources, such as a spouse, family member, or friend if the rules of your SMSF allow them.

The SG contributions are from your employer and represent 10% of your normal salary.

You can choose to contribute more than 10%, in the form of a salary sacrifice. Some of the salary due to you can be paid into your super fund rather than your bank account. You could also decide to pay other amounts, such as your annual bonus, to the fund.

The third method is to pay an amount into the super fund from personal funds. You must inform the tax office that you will be claiming a tax deduction when you submit your annual tax return.

According to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), you are eligible for this tax deduction if you receive the funds from any of the following sources:

  • Salary and wages
  • A personal business (self-employed contractors or freelancers)
  • Investments (including interest, dividends, rent, and capital gains)
  • Government pensions or allowances
  • Another super fund
  • Distributions from partnerships or trusts
  • A foreign source

If you are older than 67 and want to contribute to your fund, you will have to prove that you worked for a minimum number of hours in the year (the work test).

There are significant benefits to you from concessional contributions.

  • In the first place, you are adding to your wealth accumulation in a tax-effective environment. These amounts and any investment income that may accrue are taxed at the concessional rate of 15%.  
  •  Secondly, you may be able to reduce the assessable income in your name, so you will pay less income tax.

You can also add funds to build your fund and not claim tax deductions. These are non-concessional contributions. The non-concessional contributions cap for the 2021–22 financial year is $110,000.

This is all the good news.

However, there is a downside that could wipe out the benefits if you are not alert – or have an excellent financial advisor! 

What Are ECC, SIC, And GIC Penalties For Excess Concessional Contributions?

Concessional contributions have limits, and there are tax implications for overstepping them.

Concessional Contributions Cap

There are several limits or caps to the amounts you can contribute to your super fund.

  • The concessional contributions cap is $27,500 per year
  • The non-concessional contributions cap is $110,000 per year

The ATO determines whether you have exceeded your concessional contributions caps by comparing the information provided by your SMSF and your personal tax return.

Excess concessional contributions will be added to your assessable income and taxed at your marginal tax rate (less the tax offset of 15% already paid).

You may also have to pay extra tax.     

Extra Tax Liabilities and Penalties

The first extra tax is the excess concessional contributions charge (ECC charge) for making a late tax payment.

  • It is payable because you would have paid a higher rate at the time if you had not claimed the tax deduction.
  • The penalty is for the number of days between 1 July (the start of the new FY) and the day before your income tax was due for that financial year. That date is provided in your notice of income tax assessment (NOA).
  • The rate is whatever the base interest rate is for each day (as published by the Australian Reserve Bank) plus 3%. The amount is compounded daily.
  • If the tax office makes an ECC charge determination, you will receive an amended notice of assessment (ANOA), and you have 21 days to make payment.

The second penalty is a shortfall interest charge (SIC). This is also a late payment tax and covers the 21 days between the ANOA and the due date for the ECC charge payment.

If you miss the cut-off dates for the ECC charge or the SIC, you can pay an additional general interest charge (GIC).

There are some very intricate details about the exact amounts to pay and even whether you must pay them at all. Please get advice from a tax expert on this.

For example, technically, the ECC charge is a “liability” rather than a penalty and cannot be claimed as a deduction for income tax purposes. The SIC and GIC, on the other hand, can be claimed.

Other factors that can lead to additional tax

You may not have been aware of some of these things, but you could pay additional tax because of them:

  • Excess concessional contributions are counted towards your non-concessional contributions cap.
  • Division 293 tax might apply to you if you earn over $250,000 per year. This is an additional 15% tax charged to high-income earners – so you will pay 30% and not 15%.
  • If you have more than one super fund, all the contributions are combined and count towards your cap for the year.  
  • You are allowed to split your contribution with your spouse. But you are still responsible for the tax on the whole amount.
  • If your employer pays insurance contributions or amounts due on termination of service, they are added to the total.
  • Concessional contributions count towards the taxable component of your super fund. They might also attract death benefits tax.

What To Do If You Have Exceeded Your Contributions Caps

Luckily, you have some options after the ATO has issued an excess concessional contributions determination. You have 60 days to decide what to do. 

1. Leave the excess in the fund

The first option is to leave the additional amount in the super fund and pay the marginal tax and penalties from your own money.

  • If you choose this, the excess concessional contribution will be added to your non-concessional contribution.
  • Just be careful here. If this amount pushes beyond the non-concessional limit, you might be faced with full tax there too. The ATO warns that you could end up paying 94% in tax!

2. Release the excess from the fund

The second option is to release excess concessional contributions from your fund.

  • You can withdraw up to 85% of the original amount (the amount left after 15% has been paid in tax).
  • Alternatively, you may choose to withdraw only the amount needed to help you pay for the additional tax. If you do not use the complete 85%, whatever you leave will be added to your non-concessional amount.
  • The withdrawal amount will be added to your assessable income and taxed at your marginal tax rate, less the 15% already paid.

Again, you need to exercise caution (and get tax advice). The additional amounts to your assessable income can push you into the pay-as-you-go (PAYG) system or alter your current PAYG instalments.

The ATO will issue a release authority to your SMSF to pay the amount over to them. They will deduct the tax debt, the excess concessional contributions charge, and any other Australian Government debts and return the balance to you.

The SMSF deed must have a provision to accommodate this type of payment, so it’s essential to check before you request a release.

Once you notify the ATO of which option you are choosing, you cannot change your mind.

How To Avoid Excess Contributions

The best way to avoid getting into an excess concessional contributions charge position is to keep track of your limits and what has been paid into the SMSF from whatever source.

Timing of payments is critical, as the contributions count during the year that the super fund receives them. So, for example, if your employer pays your SG or salary sacrifice for June on 1 July (the start of the new tax year), it will count for that year.

Know what is counted as a concessional contribution. For example,

  • Employer contributions such as insurance premiums or super administration fees paid on your behalf are added to your contribution cap.
  • If you have made a personal contribution to the fund and claimed a tax benefit, the tax deduction is included as a concessional contribution. This one is easy to miss!

Stop making contributions if you know they will push you beyond the cap.

  • You can delay making a personal contribution till a later date.
  • You can apply for a shortfall exemption certificate, requesting your employer to suspend SG contributions. Remember to check on the impact of such a move on your personal tax, including PAYG.

Suppose there are special circumstances that have led to the excess concessional contributions. In that case, the ATO may consider a special determination to disregard some of the contributions or allocate them to another year.

How SMSF Engine Can Help With SMSF Contributions

There are complex timing and tax implications associated with your contributions to an SMSF. Engaging a tax expert and maintaining accurate records would seem to be advisable.

The SMSF Engine is 100% Australian-based and has a team of specialised tax accountants with many years of experience. We offer a Daily and a Daily Plus service, with all fund transactions being reconciled every day. Member balances, contribution limits, and pension limits will be kept in check. Issues can be addressed immediately or before they happen and errors avoided.

A particular benefit of this service is that the data is stored in the cloud so all fund stakeholders can access the same, up-to-date information – and it is available 24/7. 

Key Takeaways

Concessional contributions to your SMSF grow your savings in a tax-effective manner and help to reduce your personal tax liability.

However, you can get it wrong and end up with excess concessional contributions beyond the annual caps. This can attract extra tax in the form of an excess concessional contributions charge and SIC and GIC penalties and upset your current PAYG status. You can also push past your non-concessional cap and incur higher taxes there too.

Keeping track of the details of the tax and superannuation laws for multiple scenarios can be tricky and is ideally best left to the experts to manage on your behalf. If you are interested in assessing the suitability of SMSF Engine to assist you with managing the tax and administration related to SMSF contributions, get in touch with us today.

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