Bottrell Financial Planning Newsletter – April 2023

April 2023

Welcome to our April newsletter and, as the days are getting shorter, there’s definitely a bit of a nip in the air.

Share markets in Australia and overseas have rallied to end the month in a better position as the global banking system steadies itself and there are expectations of a tempering in rate rises. The ASX200 finished the month at about the same point it started after suffering a slump mid-month. In Australia, the gains have come largely from the mining sector and the strength of US markets.

Employment remains the economy’s good news story with the jobless rate still at a low 3.5% in February and job vacancies almost double what they were three years ago before the start of the pandemic.

Inflation is slowly coming down from its peak of 8.4% in December 22. The consumer price index (CPI) recorded a fall to 7.4% in January then 6.8% in February. The most significant contributors to rising prices remain housing, food and non-alcoholic beverages and fuel prices.

Buoyed by the CPI figures, the Australian dollar consolidated at near 67 cents against the US dollar after falls of 7% since February.

Falling residential property prices have caused a drop in household wealth, which decreased for the third consecutive quarter. Household wealth is now $14.4 trillion, as at the December quarter 2022, that’s 3% lower than a year ago.

Time to refinance? Considerations for mortgage holders & businesses

With the cost of living continuing to rise, it can feel increasingly hard to make ends meet in terms of your personal finances, and it can also be challenging running a business in an inflationary environment. One way of combatting inflation is to reduce the escalating cost of borrowing by reviewing your current arrangements.

A new record has been set for refinancing, with more than $19.5 billion of loans changing lenders in late 2022.; If you’re feeling like it’s time you reviewed your borrowing arrangements – either from a personal or business perspective, here are a few things to consider.

Tips for mortgage holders

With rates on the rise, it makes sense to shop around for the best deal. That could mean replacing your existing home loan with another loan from either your current lender or a different financial institution.

If you are refinancing with your current lender, the process can be simpler

as your lender already has all your information and it can be easier to renegotiate than switch to a different provider. You may also incur lower or fewer fees by sticking with your current lender, but this will vary according

to providers and loans. External refinancing is generally a little more complex but gives you the opportunity to compare providers.

Things to consider when comparing providers and loans include:

Interest rates

Seeking out a lower interest rate is usually the first thing on people’s minds when they review loans and providers. But it’s important to weigh up other factors as well.

Timing

Fixed rate and introductory period loans can be lower to start with but generally revert to a standard variable rate after

a predetermined period so it can make sense to review your situation before the fixed rate ends.

Loan term and payment frequency

Adjusting your loan term and home loan repayments could potentially save you money over the life of the loan.

Access to more loan features

Features such as an offset facility or splitting your loan may be appealing.

Some lenders also offer cashback deals, although it is important to weigh up what the loan offers rather than be swayed by the promise of a cash give away.

Tips for small businesses

For businesses it also might be time to review your borrowing arrangements.

If you have a loan and your financial situation and credit score have improved over the course of your loan repayments, you might also be in a position to take advantage of a lower rate and more favourable terms than your current loan.

Some things to consider as a business include:

Consolidating existing debts

If you have multiple debts incurring high interest repayments it can also be beneficial to combine them into one loan at a lower rate.

Changing the loan amount or the term of the loan

It’s common for businesses to refinance to take advantage of the equity built up in their business and that may mean increasing their borrowings. If expenses are increasing or you are seeking greater cashflow you can refinance your loan amount

to be repaid over a longer term and decrease your monthly repayments.

Removing a secured asset

If your home or another personal asset is being used as collateral for your loan and your business is now in a position to borrow without it, you may wish to consider switching from a secured to an unsecured loan.

There are also other ways of accessing finance as a business, including having an overdraft or invoice finance where money is loaned against unpaid invoices, that you may wish to explore.

It’s important to evaluate each method of borrowing or accessing finance and review your situation on a regular basis to ensure your arrangements suit your needs and that you are not paying too much in the way of fees and interest.

If you are considering changing providers to seek a better deal, make sure you weigh up all the pros and cons of making the switch and the various deals on offer.

Illegal Early SMSF on ATO’s radar

Since the Albanese Government announced its intention to double the tax on investment earnings for super account balances over $3 million, there has been lots of talk about taking money out of self managed superannuation funds (SMSFs) to avoid the tax hikes.

As SMSF trustees have more control of their super assets compared to those invested in a large superannuation fund, accessing your money, and moving it out of the super system can sound like an attractive idea.

But as good as it might sound, gaining early access to your super savings is illegal and it is an activity the Australian Taxation Office is increasingly keen to stamp out.

Trustee disqualifications rise

According to ATO assistant commissioner Justin Micale, nearly 300 SMSF trustees have been disqualified for illegally accessing their retirement savings in the first half of 2022-23, more than in the entire 2021-22 financial year. The ATO crackdown has seen $2 million in administrative penalties issued and an additional $4 million in tax collected_i

Illegal early release is one of the major areas of focus for the ATO’s SMSF enforcement team. “We are seeing an increasing number of trustees taking advantage of their direct access to their superannuation bank account and they are using these savings to pay for items such as business debts, holidays, renovations and new cars,” Micale told an SMSF industry conference.ii

In an attempt to stamp out early access, the ATO is checking funds that fail to lodge annual returns, while SMSF auditors are being encouraged to report SMSF loans or breaches of the payment standards – even if the money is repaid to the fund.

Legally accessing your retirement savings

The ATO scrutiny is part of a broader campaign to remind SMSF trustees of their responsibility to ensure if they access their super early, they do it within the super laws.

Generally, you can only access your super when you reach your preservation age and retire, or turn 65 even if you are still working. For anyone born after 30 June 1964, the preservation age is age 60.

To access your super legally, you must satisfy a condition of release. There are only very limited circumstances where you can legally access your super early and the eligibility requirements often relate to specific expenses or terminal illness.

It is illegal to access your super for any reason other than when it is allowed by the superannuation law.

Illegal early access schemes

Currently, a spate of illegal early access schemes are encouraging trustees to withdraw their super early to pay for personal expenses such as credit card debt, holidays, or buying property.

According to the ATO, promoters of these schemes usually charge high fees and commissions and request identity documents. This often leads to identity theft (which involves using your personal details to commit fraud or other crimes) and can take years to clear up. Your super savings could even be stolen.

The best way to protect yourself from illegal access schemes is to halt any involvement with a scheme or the person approaching you. Do not sign any documents or provide your personal details and contact the ATO immediately.

Protecting your SMSF

Keeping your fund details updated with the ATO is one of the best ways to help reduce the risk of fraud and illegal access to your SMSF.

Trustees should ensure their SMSF’s membership details are recorded correctly and the ATO is notified of any changes. This includes details such as the fund’s bank account, electronic service address, trustees, members and contact details.

Regular updates ensure that, when someone initiates a rollover request from an SMSF the ATO’s SMSF Verification System (SVS) can verify the fund and member details. If the receiving SMSF does not have a ‘registered’ or ‘complying’ status, it won’t be able to receive the rollover.

To further reduce the risk of fraud, the ATO sends trustees emails and text alerts when changes are supplied about key details relating to a fund. If you need help understanding the super and tax rules governing your SMSF, call our office today.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bottrell Wealth
Bottrell Wealth are expert financial planners, with a vast array of experience with businesses of all shapes and sizes. Our knowledge extends past financial planning into, accounting, taxation, marketing and recruitment. With over 20 years dealing with businesses and individuals, Bottrell Wealth can help you reach your goals!

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