Tamsyn Parker

Money Editor for NZ Herald

A pot of gold over the ditch

Repatriated Kiwis who worked in Australia can soon tap into a $4b super fund.

Photo / Getty Images
Photo / Getty Images

New Zealanders who have worked in Australia could be able to tap into an estimated $4 billion superannuation pot of gold from July next year.

But an expert has warned that transferring it to your KiwiSaver scheme will need some careful consideration.

In September the Australian Government passed draft legislation to enable transtasman superannuation portability allowing Kiwis and Aussies to take their retirement savings with them when they cross the ditch.

Final legislation is expected to be passed this year with the law change due to kick in from July.

According to the Australian Tax Office there is around A$13 billion in "lost accounts", and KiwiSaver provider AXA says around $4 billion of it belongs to New Zealanders who have since returned home.

But David Milner, a director of Britannia Financial Services which helps people transfer their retirement savings from the UK to New Zealand, said there were pluses and minuses to bringing the money home from Australia.

"For a start there is a tax difference. If you leave it in Australia you will only be taxed at 15 per cent on its returns. If they transfer it to New Zealand the returns will be taxed at 28 per cent."

Milner said savers should look at what returns they are getting on their Australian superannuation scheme and the fees being charged.

"The fees being charged on Australian schemes might be smaller than New Zealand schemes because they are much bigger."

If savers planned to get an adviser involved in helping them to move the money over then they also needed to factor in that cost and potential fund exit and entry fees.

Milner said bringing the money back and having it all in one place could mean getting access to information such as investment returns much more easily.

"Rather than going back to Australia to see how it is performing you could contact your New Zealand KiwiSaver provider. While large Australian schemes might provide information online it could be harder to get information on a smaller scheme."

Milner said it was hard to know how long the transfers would take but it could be up to two months or longer.

"In the early stages it could be quite slow because the industry won't be geared up for it. It might take a year or two to settle down."

Bruce Kerr, chief executive of industry body Workplace Savings, said New Zealand providers still had some work to do before the transfer could take place.

KiwiSaver schemes would need to opt in to providing transtasman portability and set up the administration systems to handle the different rules associated with Australian superannuation savings.

Kerr said the process would involve Australian funds selling the investments, converting the money to NZ dollars and then transferring it to a KiwiSaver provider.

Selling out of investments could expose the money to market volatility but Kerr said there would also be a currency gain by bringing the money back to New Zealand.

Kerr said if the money was brought back to New Zealand it could be "massive for the industry".

"After five and a half years KiwiSaver is about to tick over to $13 billion, we are talking about the possibility of adding 30 per cent to that."

How to find the money

*Go to the Australian Tax Office website www.ato.gov.au

*Use the Superseeker online tool to look for your lost superannuation using your name, date of birth and tax file number

*If you don't know your tax file numbers fill out the "Searching for lost super" form and send it to PO Box 3578, Albury NSW 2640.

- NZ Herald

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