November 10, 2023 | 7 min read
Summary: If you’re looking for ways to potentially increase your retirement savings while reducing tax, carry forward (catch-up) contributions could be a good option.
If you’ve had time out of work raising kids or for other lifestyle reasons, or you haven’t had the money to boost your super until now, you could take advantage of carry forward super contributions (also known as catch-up contributions).
If you’re eligible, the Australian government allows you to catch up on your super contributions by adding in more than the annual limit, so you can enjoy life after work without worrying about money.
In this article, we look at what carry forward contributions are, the rules surrounding them and how you could benefit.
Carry forward contributions, also known as catch-up contributions, fall under concessional (before-tax) contributions. Concessional contributions include:
There is an annual cap for concessional contributions which is currently $27,500 (2023/24 financial year). If eligible, you can contribute more than $27,500 this financial year by using any unused concessional contributions caps from the previous five financial years (dating back to 2018/19).
Making additional before-tax contributions can be a tax-effective way to boost your retirement savings.
Super contributions are taxed at 15% (up to an additional 15% tax may apply to higher income earners) which is often a lot lower than most peoples’ marginal tax rate (rate of tax you pay on your personal income) which can be up to a maximum of 47% including the Medicare levy.
Any earnings you receive on your contributions once they are in your super account are also only taxed at up to 15%.
Here’s a few examples of how carry forward super contributions could benefit you.
John, a 50-year-old with a total super balance under $500,000. He receives a bonus at work and decides to use the bonus to make additional concessional contributions to super including unused amounts from the previous five financial years.
This not only helps him save more for retirement but also reduces his taxable income and tax liability for the year.
Mark took a career break in his early 30s to care for his children. When he returned to work, he wanted to catch up on his super contributions.
The carry-forward rule allowed him to use the unused cap from up to five previous years when he wasn't working. He did this by making regular salary sacrifice contributions through his employer which helped him rebuild his super balance more quickly as well as providing additional personal income tax savings.
Lisa, who is in her late 50s, is planning to retire in a few years. She realises her super balance is not as high as she'd like it to be.
Carry forward contributions enable her to decrease her tax and increase her super savings in the final years before retirement, giving her a better lifestyle in retirement. She does this by making salary sacrifice contributions through her employer.
To make a carry forward super contribution, there are specific conditions you need to meet:
Eligibility criteria for super contributions, including carry forward super contributions, can change over time. It's essential to check with the Australian Taxation Office or consult a financial adviser for the most up-to-date information.
Check your previous 30 June total super balance with the ATO. This is available via the MyGov website. You want to ensure your total super balance is under $500,000 as at the previous 30 June.
Once you login to your account, you can also use MyGov to work out the amount of unused concessional contributions cap that is available.
Keep in mind that carry forward contributions are part of the concessional contributions cap, which includes employer contributions (such as super guarantee) and personal contributions that you claim as a tax deduction. When determining the amount of unused concessional contributions cap that is available for the current financial year, consider any future concessional contributions you intend to make.
It’s also important to remember that you can’t access your super until you meet a condition of release, such as reaching preservation age—generally age 60—and you’re retired.
Super bring forward rules relate to after-tax contributions, allowing you to contribute more into super in a shorter period. Under these rules, you can bring forward up to two years' worth of non-concessional (after-tax) contributions.
The annual non-concessional contributions cap is $110,000 for the 2023/24 financial year. However, using the bring forward rule, you could contribute up to $330,000 in 2023/24 (if eligible).
If your total super balance is less than the general transfer balance cap of $1.9 million, you may be eligible to make non-concessional (after-tax) contributions. Depending on your total super balance you may be able to use the bring forward rule.
Carry forward super contributions are for before-tax contributions, enabling you to make up for past years where you may not have utilised all your concessional contributions cap. Generally, concessional contributions reduce your personal taxable income and tax payable.
How do I determine my carry-forward contributions for the current financial year?
Carry forward contributions are in addition to the current financial year’s concessional contributions cap ($27,500 for 2023/24). Your carry forward contributions or unused concessional contributions cap for the previous five years, can be obtained from the ATO using MyGov. Check that the information in MyGov is consistent with what you believe has occurred.
Do I need to notify my super fund to make carry-forward contributions?
If you intend to claim a tax deduction for personal contributions, you must lodge a valid notice of intent with your super fund. Strict timing requirements apply. However, you don’t have to notify your super fund that you intend to use carry-forward contributions.
Can I make catch-up contributions at any time during the financial year?
Generally, you can make carry forward contributions at any time during the financial year, however:
What are the tax benefits of carry forward contributions?
Carry-forward contributions can help to reduce your taxable income for the year in which you make them. This can result in potential tax savings, especially if you're in a higher tax bracket.
Take our 2-minute check to see how your super compares to other Australians.
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This article has been prepared by NULIS Nominees (Australia) Limited ABN 80 008 515 633 AFSL 236465 (NULIS) as trustee of the MLC Super Fund ABN 70 732 426 024. NULIS is part of the Insignia Financial group of companies comprising Insignia Financial Ltd ABN 49 100 103 722 and its related bodies corporate (‘Insignia Financial Group’). The information in this article is current as at November 2023 and may be subject to change. This information may constitute general advice. The information in this article is general in nature and does not take into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. You should consider obtaining independent advice before making any financial decisions based on this information. It is recommended that you consider the relevant Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) and Target Market Determination (TMD) before you make any decisions about your superannuation. You can obtain the latest copy of the PDS (or other disclosure documents) and TMD by calling us on 132 652 or by searching for the applicable product at mlc.com.au. You should not rely on this article to determine your personal tax obligations. Please consult a registered tax agent for this purpose. Opinions constitute our judgement at the time of issue. The case study examples (if any) provided in this article have been included for illustrative purposes only and should not be relied upon for decision making. Subject to terms implied by law and which cannot be excluded, neither NULIS nor any member of the Insignia Financial Group accept responsibility for any loss or liability incurred by you in respect of any error, omission or misrepresentation in the information in this communication.