[Skiing and snowfields, c. 1930s, by Sam Hood

That’s what the locked out generations may well name Self Manged Super Funds in time. With all the talk about superannuation reform coming out of Canberra, we thought it timely to ask why the latest in speculative subsidies isn’t under review?

The ability to buy residential real estate with a capital gains exemption via a SMSF came in around 2010, just as the FHOG’s (first home owner grants) were being wound back. Policy makers must be commended for being more direct in their subsidy this time – giving it straight to those who are over 55 and have $200K in super savings. The FHOG was not such a direct subsidy – whilst the money was given to first home owners, the added purchasing capacity meant that it was the sellers who benefited from the new higher selling price.

As if negative gearing wasn’t enough of a boomer subsidy (totaling $33 billion in write offs since 1993), young people will be wondering if there is a place on this earth for them once the extent of SMSF subsidies mounts. Will the electorate connect the dots between the decade long housing crisis and another tax handout to those who already own property, the tax free status of residential (and commercial) property investment for SMSF’s in their pension phase?

In terms of stability, to have $400bn in SMSF’s and probably half that into property is risk personified. The Melbourne apartment glut has certainly benefited. Such a war chest equates to 363,000 properties (at the average $550K) being snavelled up by those who already own 47% of housing wealth.

Swan tried to reform this loophole pre the MYEFO but the lobbyists must have shredded him with another threat of a marginal seats campaign (a la the miners, pokies & taxi licence owners in Vic). Is that you saying “Relax – it’s just rent seekers maintaining barriers to entry to underwrite the Veil and Aspen ski trips of those in the know”?

When the MYEFO was announced, the AFR wrote in an article headlined SMSF’s dodge Swan’s budget bullet:

Mr Swan appeared to have self-managed super funds in his sights, particularly those that own property….

Later in the article, we see how lobbyists turned it around:

Overturning a draft ruling made by the Tax Office last year, the government announced that the pension of a person who dies will only cease to be a pension when all the death benefits are paid to beneficiaries.

This means that the savings of a person who dies will remain in the pension phase until all the assets have been transferred or sold – without being subject to capital gains or income tax.

Brad Eppingstall, (RSM Bird Cameron) said “This change to the tax law will make the investment by an SMSF in property more attractive,” he said.

“The concern with investing in property under the draft ruling was that there was potential for significant capital gains tax to be payable on the death of a member, especially where the property had been owned for an extended period of time with significant increase in the value of the property.”

In terms of the real estate 4 ransom mentality, this means that beneficiaries can hold a property empty until they get their desired price.

Is it any wonder that SMSF’s have been growing at such an exponential rate?