Super fees may slow take-up

AUSTRALIAN employee superannuation coverage has doubled since the 1984-85 financial year to a current level of 90 per cent of full-time long-term employees.

Ernst & Young principal and head of superannuation services Michelle Saunders says the figure for the total workforce, including those self-employed, is now 87 per cent.

But despite attractive tax concessions, only 40 per cent of Australia’s self-employed have a separate superannuation fund.

This could partly be due to the super surcharge and excessive benefit charge, Ms Saunders says.

Employers are required by law to deposit employee superannuation benefits into a fund at least quarterly.

Smaller businesses and some of the professions are the most likely to offer employees a choice of where their superannuation benefits are deposited.

The types of funds available include corporate (such as the Elders Futuris Master Super Fund), industry (Westscheme), public sector (West State Super and Gold State Super), and retail (Sealcorp’s Asgard and FlexiPlan).

Investors often talk of superannuation with a certain degree of angst, however.

If not about the poor returns – if any – in the past two years, the talk will often turn to a comparison of despised fees.

Large accounting and advisory firms such as Pricewaterhouse-Coopers and Ernst & Young specialise in all superannuation issues, as do consultants including NSP Buck and William Mercer.

Life companies such as AMP and BT offer advice as well as products.

Australia has various regulatory and supervisory organisations responsible for overseeing the superannuation industry.

The Australian Prudential Regu-lation Authority (APRA) has a super funds supervisory role, and helps funds trustees with management and compliance issues.

The Australian Tax Office (ATO) has a similar role with self-managed super funds, which are increasing in popularity.

Ms Saunders says there are now 250,000 of these funds in Australia, with assets over $100 billion.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) is the regulatory body for super funds disclosure and market conduct issues. The Federal Government is in the process of making changes to Australia’s superannuation laws to improve safety in superannuation investment.

The reforms include APRA licensing for all superannuation trustees for funds it regulates, and the mandatory reporting of auditor and actuary information to APRA at the same time the trustee receives this.

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