Did you know that more than $16 billion dollars is sitting in 6 million lost super accounts (and ATO-held super accounts) waiting for Australians to claim the super cash?
If you’re one of the many Aussies with one or more lost accounts then you better act quickly. The federal government has changed the super rules, which means that your ‘lost’ super account could be transferred to the ATO without your consent.
If it turns out that the ATO has your super savings, you can still retrieve them, but the longer the ATO has your super, you longer you will miss out on investment returns (more on this later in the article).
If you change jobs regularly or you have had part-time jobs while at school or university, then it is highly likely that you have more than one super account. On average, every working Australian has three super accounts potentially costing them thousands of dollars over a working life. With very little effort, you can boost your main super account by potentially thousands of dollars by tracking down your lost super.
If you have more than one super account then you are paying more than one set of fees on your retirement savings. By combining super accounts you can save tens of thousands of dollars in fees over your working life.
An extra incentive for finding your super accounts, is, if you don’t track down your lost super, it could end up in the bank account of the federal government – bye bye super!
Finding your super accounts
Don’t worry if you haven’t kept track of your multiple accounts. It’s never too late (you can get it back from the ATO if it has already been transferred), but you must locate your super accounts before you can combine them into one super account.
Your super fund/s sends you a statement each year reporting your account balance and fund returns. If you’re not receiving these statements and/or don’t know which super funds that you belong to, then you have access to plenty of services to help you find your lost accounts, and increase your super benefits instantly.
Step 1: Use MyGov
You can use the ATO’s MyGov service to see details of all of your super accounts. You must register for a login, which can also give you access to other government services such as Centrelink. The MyGov service even offers a consolidation service, for your super funds, assuming they have a full record of each of your super accounts. For more information see SuperGuide article Coping with myGov: Why the government wants you to go online.
Step 2: Use SuperSeeker
Use the ATO’s SuperSeeker service which searches the Lost Members Register and other ATO records, such as ATO-held super accounts and unclaimed super money, for your lost super accounts: see this link. You can also use the phone service (13 28 65).
Step 3: Try AUSfund
Try AUSfund which looks after the lost super of millions of Australians for some of the largest super funds in Australia. If they have your super, they will find it for free. See this link.
Step 4: Ask your super fund for help
Ask your current super fund if they offer a service for finding your lost super.
Step 5: Ask your previous employers for information
Ask your previous employers for the names of the super funds that they paid super contributions to, that is, those super funds that received contributions on your behalf.
Consolidate super accounts
You can make a few thousand dollars without working too hard, by locating the details of your super accounts, and starting the process of combining your many accounts into one super fund.
Check that the super account you plan to keep charges reasonable fees. Paying an additional 1% in fees over a 30-year period can reduce your final super benefit by up to 20%. For information on what the different types of funds charge in fees see SuperGuide articles Comparing super funds: 10 fees and charges you need to know about and Super fees: Top 10 cheapest funds in Australia.
Check whether the super funds that you choose to leave also charge exit fees. You may decide to wait until exit fees no longer apply.
What type of lost super benefits can be transferred to the ATO?
Your super fund reports you as a lost member to the ATO if the super fund:
- Uncontactable member. Has not been able to contact you, and it has not received any contributions or rollover amounts for you in the past 12 months (uncontactable member), or
- Inactive member. Has not received a contribution or rollover into your super account within the last 5 years, and you have been a member of the super fund for longer than 2 years (inactive member), or
- Existing lost member. Received your super money after being transferred from another fund as a lost member account and no new address has been found (existing lost member).
In the three circumstances listed above, the ATO maintains a register of reported lost members but your super fund may still retain your super money, except in two specific circumstances set out below.
Super funds are required to pay certain lost accounts as unclaimed superannuation money to the ATO. Since 1 July 2010, super funds have been required to pay certain categories of unclaimed superannuation money to the ATO.
Super funds MUST pay unclaimed superannuation money to the ATO where an account is held by a lost member and:
- the lost super account has a balance of less than $6,000 (small lost member accounts), OR
- the super fund has not received an amount in respect of the member within the past 12 months and the fund, given the information reasonably available, is satisfied that it will never be possible to pay an amount to the member (insoluble lost member accounts).
Individuals can reclaim their money from the ATO at any time and, can use MyGov, and SuperSeeker to search for unclaimed super.
Note: Since January 2017, the small lost member account threshold increased to $6,000, from the previous $4,000 (which applied from 1 January 2016 until 31 December 2016). Note also that from December 2012 until 31 December 2015, the threshold was $2,000, and before December 2012, the threshold was only $200.
Important: Super funds must also pay super accounts to the ATO as unclaimed superannuation money when:
- a member is aged 65 or older and the super fund has not received an amount on behalf of the member for more than 2 years, and the super fund has not been able to contact the member after the end of a period of five years, after making reasonable efforts to do so.
- a member dies, and there is a benefit immediately payable for the member, and the super fund has not received an amount on behalf of the member for more than 2 years, and the super fund is unable to locate the person entitled to the deceased member’s benefit.
- a non-member spouse, is entitled to be paid an amount from the super account as a result of a payment split and the super fund is unable to locate the spouse entitled to receive the benefit after making reasonable efforts and after a reasonable period has passed
- former temporary resident is the owner of the super account.