New Zealanders who have worked in Australia are believed to be the owners of perhaps up to a quarter of the $18 billion in "lost" super.
Reports by colleagues at Fairfax Media in New Zealand highlight the hurdles Kiwis can face in getting their lost super repatriated to New Zealand. The Australian and New Zealand governments recently concluded an agreement that is supposed to make transferring superannuation savings between the two countries seamless. The new rules concerning retirement savings portability came into effect on July 1.
But Kiwis contacting the Australian Taxation Office, which has responsibility for lost super, are being told they cannot transfer their savings directly to KiwiSaver, which is New Zealand's national superannuation scheme. They have to first transfer the lost super into an Australian superannuation fund and then have it transferred to KiwiSaver. The catch-22 is that Australian superannuation funds are not generally allowed to open accounts for those living outside Australia.
To further complicate matters, according to the reports from across the Tasman, Kiwis in New Zealand who have super in an Australian fund and want it transferred to KiwiSaver are often told by Australian funds that they must have an Australian-registered solicitor witness a statutory declaration before the money can be moved. Failing that, they can go to the Australian High Commission in Wellington or consulate general in Auckland.
New Zealand authorities are now talking with Australian authorities to resolve the issues.
Anyone who works in Australia is likely to have some super because employers are required to pay super to their employees in most cases. There are about 650,000 New Zealand citizens living in Australia. That is about 15 per cent of the population of New Zealand. And there is a lot of movement of Kiwis back and forth between the two countries. But far fewer Australians move permanently to New Zealand. That means the transfers are more likely to be from Australian super funds to New Zealand's KiwiSaver. That is raising the suspicion across the ditch that some Australian superannuation funds are not being fully
co-operative because they want to hinder outflows of money from their funds.
Adding credence to this suspicion is that some Australian super funds have a history of being tardy in transferring money to other Australian super funds. That prompted the Australian government, a few years ago, to get tougher on the funds and impose shorter time periods within which they must complete transfers.
Until a solution is found, Kiwis thinking of returning to New Zealand should probably transfer lost super to their Australian fund and then to KiwiSaver while still in Australia. However, there are still likely to be some funds with hurdles in place that make it difficult to transfer super overseas.
To check if you have lost super, try the ATO's SuperSeeker search tool at ato.gov.au/superseeker or phone 13 28 65.
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