Who can make tax-deductible super contributions?

Note: From 1 July 2017, the Coalition government intends to allow all individuals under the age of 75 to claim tax deductions for persona super contributions, subject to the concessional contributions cap, and taking account of previously-made super contributions for a financial year. Such a measure will assist Australians who may be partly self-employed and partly employed, or individuals who work for employers who don’t accommodate salary sacrificing. For the 2015/2016 and 2016/2017 financial years however, the rules explained in this article continue to apply.

Generally speaking, you can make two types of super contributions: non-concessional (after-tax) contributions and concessional (before-tax) contributions. Concessional contributions can also include tax-deductible super contributions, where an individual claims a deduction.

For the 2016/2017 year, that is, from 1 July 2016 to 30 June 2017, an eligible individual can make concessional contributions of up to $30,000 a year if aged 48 years or under on 30 June 2016, and up to $35,000 for the year if aged 49 years or over on 30 June 2016. (For the general rules applicable to concessional contributions see SuperGuide article Super concessional (before-tax) contributions: 2016/2017 survival guide )

For the 2015/2016 year, that is, from 1 July 2015 to 30 June 2016, an eligible individual can make concessional contributions of up to $30,000 a year if aged 48 years or under on 30 June 2015, and up to $35,000 for the year if aged 49 years or over on 30 June 2015. (For the general rules applicable to concessional contributions see SuperGuide article Super concessional (before-tax) contributions: 2016/2017 survival guide).

Note: From 1 July 2017 (subject to legislation), the Coalition intends to cut the concessional contributions cap to $25,000 for Australians of all ages. The ALP has not yet indicated whether it supports this proposed change, but in the past, the ALP has also cut the concessional cap, and expressed an intention to further reduce the concessional cap. The plans to cut the concessional cap don’t affect the caps for the 2015/2016 or 2016/2017 financial years.

Important: Although this article does not deal with non-concessional contributions, it is necessary to note important changes, and cuts, to the non-concessional (after-tax) contributions cap. For more information on the changes to the non-concessional cap, see SuperGuide article New $100,000 cap: Cut to non-concessional contributions cap.

Am I eligible to make tax-deductible super contributions?

If you’re self-employed (or substantially self-employed) or you’re not employed, you can claim a tax deduction for your super contributions, which means these super contributions are treated as concessional contributions. An individual under the age of 18 however can only claim a tax deduction for super contributions when his or her income comes from gainful employment, such as carrying on a business.

If you’re an employee, in nearly all circumstances you cannot claim a tax deduction for making a super contribution, although you can get a similar tax benefit by making salary sacrifice contributions.

Note: For the 2015/2016 year and 2016/2017 year, if you’re an employee and you can satisfy the 10% income test rule (more on this later), then you may be able to claim a tax deduction for a super contribution, even as an employee.

The rules for claiming tax deductions on super contributions can be complex depending on the type of work that you do, and whether you hold down other jobs.

I have attempted to simplify the tax-deductibility rules into categories of individuals, but I suggest you also confirm your ability to claim a tax deduction with the Australian Taxation Office. Here goes: You can claim a tax deduction for super contributions if you fall into one of the following categories:

  • Self-employed. You’re self-employed and you’re not working under a contract principally for your labour.
  • Not employed. You’re not employed; for example, you’re a full-time investor or looking after children.
  • 10% income test rule. You receive part of your income as an employee but less than 10% per cent of your assessable income plus salary sacrifice contributions plus reportable fringe benefits are attributable to employment as an employee. The 10% test sounds fairly complicated but if you’re employed, and also self-employed, then you can work out step-by-step work if you’re eligible to claim a tax deduction for your super contributions. Note that employment income includes reportable employer super contributions, such as salary sacrifice contributions, but doesn’t include Superannuation Guarantee contributions. Assessable income is gross income before any deductions are allowed, and includes salary and wages, dividends, interest distributions from partnerships or trusts, business income (including personal services income), rent, foreign source income, net capital gains and a few other items. Reportable employer super contributions (such as salary sacrifice contributions) are also added back to assessable income when working out whether an individual satisfies the 10% test – the employment income divided by total income must be less than 10% for an individual to claim a tax deduction for his or her own super contributions. From 1 July 2017, the Coalition intends to remove the 10% rule, while the ALP has not yet indicated whether it supports removing this rule. We also explain the 10% income test rule in the SuperGuide article Tax-deductible super contributions: Meeting the 10% income test.

Note: Tax-deductible super contributions and other concessional contributions are subject to 15% tax within a super fund (and 30% tax for Australians earnings more than $300,000 – see next para)), which means that claiming a tax deduction for super contributions may not be tax effective if you pay less than 15 cents in the dollar tax on your income. Note that some self-employed individuals may be eligible for a refund of the 15% contributions tax paid on super contributions (for more information see SuperGuide article Super tax refund for lower-income earners to extend beyond June 2017).

If you’re a high-income earner: If your ‘income for surcharge purposes’ is more than $300,000 a year, then your concessional contributions will be subject to an additional 15% tax, known as Division 293 tax. From 1 July 2017, the extra tax will apply to more Australians: if your ‘income for surcharge purposes’ is more than $250,000, your super account will also be hit with extra tax. For more information on this extra tax, see SuperGuide article Double contributions tax for more high-income earners.

Important: If you plan to claim a tax deduction for a super contribution, you must notify your super fund in writing before you lodge your tax return for the financial year, or by the end of the financial year following the year the contribution was made, whichever is earlier. You can find out more about the form that you must use to notify your super fund by checking out the SuperGuide article Concessional contributions: What form do I use to claim a tax deduction?


  1. Hi Trish,

    I was just curious are ETPs (& payments for annual and long service leave) included and employment income in the 10% employment test? I was terminated from my job in July 2013 – was paid out an ETP, accrued long service leave – commenced my own business in August 2013. I am wanting to claim a personal super deduction for FY2014.

  2. Hi Trish,

    I have lodge a DASP (Departed Australia Superannuation Payment) . I have received my payment and noticed that it has been taxed at 35%.

    I was wondering if i can actually claim this back? And would i have to wait until the end of the financial year? ( Just because already have lodged a tax return prior to lodging a DASP).

    Kind regards,

  3. Sufei Zhou says:

    Q. I am full-time investor with share ,My income from share dividend . I have never made super contributions in my life. Am I eligible to make super contributions, and can I claim a tax deduction for those super contributions?

  4. Dear Trish,
    I have a problem in that I made what I believed was an appropriately tax deductible super contribution of $30,000 in June of this year. I also notified my fund with the correct form.
    Nearly all (95%) of my $101,000 income is of a personal services nature (medical field practice), thus part of the “Income/Loss from a Business” line on my E-Tax return.
    When I attempt to lodge my 2010/11 return online, the system says that my deductions for super & charitible contributions exceed my income (warning V-82).
    Therefore, the E-Tax architecture does not recognise my business income as being of a personal services nature.
    Am I doing something wrong, as I’ve re-read the ATO’s guidelines and it seems to me that I am allowed to deduct the special super contribution I made?
    Thank you very much.

  5. Trish,

    I am employed as an Expat in the Oil and Gas Industry presently working offshore in India. I intend contributing 50k to my Australian Managed Super Fund as a concessional contribution. ( I am 52 ) I do not qualify for any tax credits for the 2010 tax year so will be liable for 100% tax in Australia at the maximum tax rate. I am confussed over the 10% rule and my situation since the Tax changes made to section 23AG. ( Foreign Employment Income ) I am an Australian Resident for tax purposes.

  6. Handyman says:

    For the current financial year (2009-2010), I am presently on government benefits while re-training for new career. Will begin paid work from July 2010 onwards. In the first few months of the financial year, I was paid $10K as a part-time Handyman (self-employed using my "labour"). In short, this is excess of 10% of my taxable income (assuming $12K govt. allowance income + $8K investment income). I would like to contribute a $3K top-up to one of my super funds prior to 30 June.
    Would this $10K handyman income be considered as an "employee income", thus making it ineligible for me to claim a tax-deductible concessional contribution? Or should this be done as a non-concessional contribution to get that $1K co-contribution from Aust Govt?
    In any case, I'm liable for 15% tax regardless on how I contribute $3K or so (as a super contribution tax or on my assessable income!).

  7. Hi Trish,

    Is it possible for you to elaborate on the “not working under a contract principally for your labour” statement. I have an ABN, and have a registered business name to run as a sole trader however I tend to perform long term “business consultancy” contracts (3-6 months) for various clients. I therefore want to pay my own super and obtain the benefits of the deductions as I’m not getting any contributions from an employer.

    Thanks in advance for your assistance, great website BTW 🙂


  8. Trish,

    I am about to make a capital gain of about $200,000. My marginal tax rate is 30% and I am an employee and 43 years old.

    I want to contribute the equivalent of the capital gains tax component to my super, which is not self managed, so I save some money for the long run?

    Is this a non-concessional super contribution and thus I can claim it all as a tax deduction or do I need to contribute an amount that when 15% is taxed and charges taken out it is the same as the Capital Gain Tax due to contribution tax?

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