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Salary sacrifice - an easy and clever way to boost your super

Your guide to salary sacrificing

Is it the odd name that leads people to think that it is all a bit too hard? Or is it maybe a perception that you need to be a high income earner to take advantage of it?

Whatever the reason, the truth is that salary sacrificing is actually quite a simple, accessible and effective way for many working Australians to save on tax while boosting their super nest egg.

All it takes is a little initiative to make an arrangement with your employer to alter your salary package so that some of your pre-tax income is diverted into your super rather than being taken as taxable income in the hand. This creates both a genuine savings on income tax and a welcome shot in the arm to your super.

It’s a particularly useful strategy for those who are entering the latter stages of their working lives when children have perhaps flown the coup and there is more income to be able to stack their super.

It’s simpler than you think

The basic premise of salary sacrificing is to channel some of your pre-tax income toward your super, rather than taking it as income. Money flowing to your super is taxed at a maximum rate of 15%, compared to tax on your income which (depending on your level of income) can be as high as 47%. While there is a drop in take home pay, this is more than compensated by an overall reduction in the total tax you pay and a significant boost to your retirement savings.

Here’s an example to illustrate how it can work:

  No salary sacrifice With salary sacrifice
Total package $80,000 $80,000
Super Guarantee contribution $7,600 $7,600
Salary $72,400 $72,400
Salary sacrifice $0 $4,000
Taxable income $72,400 $68,400
Income tax payable $16,525 $15,145
Take home pay $55,875 $53,255
Total super contribution $7,600 $11,600
Super contribution tax $1,140 $1,740
Net super contribution $6,460 $9,860
Total net salary and net super contribution $62,335 $63,115
Net improvement in overall position $780

*Calculations for income tax and Super Guarantee Contribution are based on 2018/19 tax year and include Medicare levy. Calculation does not take into account the Low and middle income tax offset.

In this example take home pay is reduced, but when it is combined with the amount going toward building your super the net overall improvement in your position is $780, after all taxes are taken into consideration. But, don’t forget, once your money goes into super, it generally needs to stay there until you reach your preservation age and retire from employment.

Take the initiative

While your employer is no better or worse off as a result of you salary sacrificing into your super, it is not something that they will usually actively promote or suggest to you and you should seek advice from a financial planner before making the decision to salary sacrifice.

Once you decide a salary sacrifice strategy is right for your financial situation, the steps to initiate it are quite straightforward. Firstly, you simply approach your payroll officer to make sure they are happy to enter the arrangement. You then simply decide how much you would like to salary sacrifice and complete a salary sacrifice agreement, which is submitted to your payroll officer to authorise them to divert your requested amount to the super fund you choose. The form will usually be available through the fund into which you want to have the contributions paid.

If your employer is unwilling or unable to arrange salary sacrifice contributions for you, the other option is to make personal super contributions from your after-tax income and claim a tax deduction in your tax return.

Part of your overall strategy

Salary sacrificing is one way of accelerating your super tax effectively, but it should always be done as part of an overall retirement savings strategy. It is best to seek advice from a qualified financial planner to make sure that salary sacrificing is appropriate for you and to determine how much you should be allocating toward your super through such an arrangement.

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