1 million Australians to score direct superannuation boost

The Australian Tax Office has named the hotspots with the most unclaimed superannuation. Images: Getty

Australians have lost around $20.8 billion in superannuation, with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) now calling on savers to take steps to find their lost money. 

According to the ATO, there were more than 540,000 lost and unclaimed superannuation accounts last year, with $4.4 billion already reunited with their owners. 

Among them, a 68-year-old retired woman who scored a massive $1.5 million bonus directly paid to her, after she lost contact with the account.

“Another woman was previously reunited with over $600,000 of unclaimed super after losing her home in a bushfire. As she was over 65, we were able to pay that money directly to her and she is now able to use this money to rebuild her life.

“In this case, it wasn’t until the woman reached out to us that she realised she had so much super. That’s why it’s great that we can now start proactively reuniting people with their super that they might not know about.”

But $20.8 billion remains to be reunited. 

“Often people lose touch with their fund by simply changing jobs or moving home. It’s important to know that this doesn’t mean it’s lost forever, getting back in touch is easier than you think,” assistant commissioner Graham Whyte said.

Some suburbs have more unclaimed superannuation than others: 

These are the top 10 postcodes by the number and amount of lost superannuation, as of 30 June 2019

Do you live in one of these postcodes? Source: ATO

Whyte said new laws also mean that the ATO can proactively reunite lost and inactive super with Australians’ accounts, rather than waiting for savers to begin searching. 

Lost and inactive accounts are those defined as: 

  • Having less than $6,000;

  • Not having received any deposits in the last 16 months;

  • There is no insurance on the account; and

  • The account isn’t a defined benefit account or held in a self-managed super fund or small APRA account.

The law means funds need to report and send inactive low balance accounts to the ATO, which will then attempt to reunite those accounts with their owners, rather than sitting in a fund and losing money to fees. 

“In total, we’ve received over 2.3 million inactive low balance accounts from super funds, valued at approximately $2.16 billion,” Whyte said. 

Of that, around 841,000 accounts worth $1.38 billion have been connected to their owners. Within this, nearly 700,000 accounts worth $1.22 billion were sent to working Australians’ super accounts, while 157,000 accounts worth $161 million were sent directly to retired Australians’ bank accounts. 

“We will be continuing this work throughout November and into the future. We will let you know after we have reunited you with your super.

“We expect more than one million people will receive a direct payment.”

Do I have lost superannuation?

If you think you might have some lost super, the ATO suggests you update your bank account details to ensure any future payments find you. 

And, Whyte added, the ATO isn’t always able to find the correct account, in which case the funds remain with the ATO until the owner seeks them out. 

“That’s why I recommend using ATO online to check that you aren’t missing out on any lost or unclaimed super that’s being held by us or your super fund.”

Australians who believe they may be affected should call on their active superannuation fund to do a search, and also check myGov for lost super as money held by the ATO will lose future earnings. 

If the ATO is unable to connect lost accounts with active accounts, the money will be held by the ATO where they will earn interest benchmarked with the Consumer Price Index (1.6 per cent). That’s 4.5 per cent lower than the average industry super fund’s return. 

“These are good changes that will put more money back into the super nest eggs of thousands of workers – but it’s important Australians are aware they could miss out on extra earnings, if their old and forgotten accounts end up sitting with the ATO,” Industry Super Australia chief executive Bernie Dean said.

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