Superannuation tax refund: 10 things you should know

NOTE: The Low Income Super Contribution for low-income earners is available until the 2016/2017 financial year (until 30 June 2017). Originally, the Coalition government planned to repeal the LISC after one year of operation, that is, it was expected to only apply for the 2012/2013 year. Due to parliamentary negotiations to secure passage of the repeal of the Mineral Resource Rent Tax, the government has extended the LISC for 4 more years. The LISC is now payable for the 2012/2013, 2013/2014, 2014/2015, 2015/2016 and 2016/2017 years only.

If you earn less than $37,000, and you, or your employer, makes concessional (before-tax) contributions to your super fund, you may get a refund of up to $500 a year for the contributions tax deducted from the super contributions.

This special contribution from the government, known as the Low Income Super Contribution (LISC), is payable for the 2012/2013, 2013/2014, 2014/2015, 2015/2016 and 2016/2017 years only.

1. What is the super tax refund?

The LISC is a repayment of the contributions tax paid on the concessional (before-tax) contributions. The LISC took effect from the 2012/2013 financial year, which means the contributions tax deducted from any concessional contributions made on or after 1 July 2012, will be potentially refundable. If you’re eligible, the LISC is paid into your super account.

2. Who is eligible?

You are eligible for the LISC, if you satisfy the following conditions:

  • you have concessional (before-tax) contributions made to a complying super fund by your employer, or yourself during the 2012/2013 year, or later financial years up to 30 June 2017
  • your ‘adjusted taxable income’ for the 2012/2013 year (or later financial years) is $37,000 or less. There are no plans to index the income threshold of $37,000, since it is linked to the marginal rate of income tax threshold.
  • you are not a temporary resident (according to the ATO, this means that you are not a holder of a temporary resident visa and note that New Zealand citizens in Australia are eligible for the LISC)
  • 10% or more of your ‘total income’ for the 2012/2013 year (or for later years) is sourced from business or employment (this condition was added very late in the day to reduce the number of Australians eligible for the LISC)
  • Your LISC entitlement is $20 or more.

3. What is adjusted taxable income?

Just to make it complicated, adjusted taxable income is a contrived definition to ensure that Australians don’t manipulate their financial circumstances to try to become eligible for the LISC. According to the ATO, ‘adjusted taxable income is:

  • your taxable income (what appears on your tax return)
  • adjusted fringe benefits amount (total reportable fringe benefits amount x 0.535)
  • tax-free government pensions or benefits (this does not include private tax-free super pensions)
  • reportable super contributions (that is, reportable employer super contributions – such as salary sacrifice contributions (but not SG contributions), and deductible personal super contributions)
  • total net investment loss (that is net investment loss from rental property investments, and net loss from other financial investments )
  • target foreign income (foreign income not already included in your tax return)
  • deductible child maintenance expenditure (child support payments).

4. How does it work?

The LISC process is supposed to work something like this:

  1. Your super fund must have your tax file number.
  2. You or your employer has to make a concessional contribution during the financial year. If you’re employed, that will automatically include your employer’s Superannuation Guarantee contributions. If you negotiate a salary sacrifice arrangement, then those contributions may also be eligible for the LISC, although note that those salary sacrifice contributions are counted back into your adjusted taxable income.
  3. If you lodge an income tax return, the ATO will use the information in your tax return to calculate your adjusted taxable income.
  4. If you don’t have to lodge a tax return, you still don’t have to do much. The ATO will work out your adjusted taxable income, and hence your eligibility, from other sources.
  5. The ATO has published more details on the process of eligibility and payment on the ATO website (click on this link: this link).

5. Can you give me an example of how it works?

The ATO has provided one example on how the LISC will work. The ATO extract is set out below:


Julie earns $36,000 a year as a child care assistant. In the 2012-13 financial year, Julie’s employer makes a 9% super guarantee contribution of $3,240 into her super fund. Julie lodges an income tax return which includes tax deductions of $1,000, resulting in an adjusted taxable income of $35,000 ($36,000 – $1,000). The table below shows how Julie worked out whether she was eligible for a LISC.

Under the LISC, Julie will receive a government super contribution of $486 (15% of $3,240).

How Julie worked out she was eligible for a LISC
Criteria met? Amount
Super fund has my tax file number? Yes
Made concessional super contributions? Yes $3,240
Had an adjusted taxable income of $37,000 or less? Yes $35,000
Received at least 10% of income from employment, business or a combination of both? Yes
Had not held a temporary resident visa during the year? Yes
Eligible for a LISC payment of more than $20 for the financial year? Yes

6. What do I need to do to ensure I receive the LISC?

You do not need to do anything in particular. According to the ATO, if you’re eligible and you lodge an income tax return for the 2012/2013 year (or later years), your LISC will be paid into your super account when the ATO has processed your tax return and also when the ATO has received information from your super fund about the level of contributions paid into your super account over the financial year.

If you don’t lodge a tax return, the ATO will work everything out from the super contributions information received from your super fund and from information the ATO collects from other sources and agencies.

7. How long do I have to wait before I receive the LISC?

The short answer is: a long time! According to the ATO, the process can take up to 14 months from the end of the financial year in which the super contribution was paid. When the LISC is paid into your account, the payment will appear on the member statement that your super fund sends you each year.

8. What if I have retired by the time the Government has paid the LISC?

If you have retired (and have reached your preservation age – currently 55 years) from the workforce, or you’re aged 65 or over (even when you’re still working), you can apply to have the LISC paid directly to you, rather than paid into your super account. The form to enable the direct payment of the LISC should be available on the ATO website.

9. Is there a minimum amount that I can receive?

If your LISC entitlement is less than $20, then you will not receive any LISC payment. For administrative efficiency and to reduce costs for the government and super funds, the government has decided that your entitlement must be $20 or more before you get paid LISC. The maximum amount of LISC that you can receive is $500.

10. Where can I find more information about the LISC?

You can find more information on the LISC by visiting the ATO website, in particular, this link. You may also want to check out your super fund’s website which may have information on how the LISC is going to operate.

IMPORTANT: SuperGuide does not provide financial advice. SuperGuide does not answer all questions posted in the comments section. SuperGuide may use your question or comment, or use questions from several readers, as the basis for an article topic that we publish on the SuperGuide website. We will not disclose names or personal information in these articles. Comments provided by readers that may include information relating to tax, superannuation or other rules cannot be relied upon as advice. SuperGuide does not verify the information provided within comments from readers. Readers need to seek independent advice about their personal circumstances.

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