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What is superannuation?

Superannuation is a way of saving for your retirement. Both you and your employer can make contributions that accumulate over time andsuper this money is then invested in shares, government bonds, property, or other appropriate investments.                                 

On retirement, or after disability or death you then receive the money (less charges and taxes) as regular periodic payments (ie, a pension), a lump sum payment, or a combination of both.

Employers must contribute to an employee’s superannuation fund. This is called the Superannuation Guarantee, which came into operation on July 1, 1992.

The amount of the contribution is 9 per cent of an employee’s wages (excluding overtime, leave loading and fringe benefits).

Some employees are left out. The Superannuation Guarantee (Administration) Act says that employers do not have to pay the Superannuation Guarantee in certain circumstances.

Some of the exceptions are:
• employees earning less than $450 per month;
• employees under the age of 18 who work 30 hours per week or less;
• employees over 70 years of age;
• anyone paid to do domestic or private work for 30 hours per week or less.

Can the employer pay more?

An employer can make payments above the compulsory superannuation guarantee as:
• a reward for a worker’s performance;
• a type of co-payment, where the employer’s contribution increases in line with the employees voluntary contribution; or
• a ‘salary-sacrifice’ – this is where the employer makes a contribution that would otherwise be paid as salary.

Note, there are limits to the amount of salary sacrifice that can be made in a financial year.

If you want your employer to pay more, you should get advice from a financial advisor, but keep in mind that employers are limited in the amount that can be claimed as a deduction for superannuation contributions made for a particular employee.

Check with your superannuation fund or the Australian Tax Office to find out what these limits are – they change each year.  www.ato.gov.au

Should I contribute too?

If you have money left over after your weekly expenses, and you want to save for the future, you may want to consider making superannuation contributions as compared to other forms of investment.

Note, there are aged base limits that affect whether or not you can contribute to superannuation – for details, see the Australian Taxation Office web site.

Some of the advantages are:
• generally, you pay less tax on interest from superannuation savings than bank interest;
• with a ‘salary sacrifice’ the superannuation contribution is taken straight out of your wages, so you are not tempted to use it for purposes other than savings.

There are limits to the amount that you can “salary sacrifice”;
• the interest on superannuation savings is ‘compounded’, that is, interest earned by the superannuation fund is added to the total investment, so the interest earns more interest.

The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority estimates that a sum of money ‘compounded’ at 7 per cent a year will double in value in ten years; and
• you may be able to access the benefits of the low income super rebate and low income spouse rebate.
• you may be able to access financial incentives offered by the Government such as the co-contribution scheme. Under this scheme Government will contribute up to $1500 (depending on your income) when you contribute to your fund.

Check the Australian Taxation Office web site for details.

Ultimately, the pros and cons of contributing to superannuation is something you should get advice about.

What are the tax advantages?

The maximum tax rate for your employer’s contribution is 15 per cent.

The income you earn through the fund’s investments is also taxed at a maximum 15 per cent rate.

Salary sacrifice contributions will be taxed at 15 per cent.

Once you reach 60 you can withdraw your superannuation as a lump sum or income stream tax free.

There are also tax advantages if you contribute to your spouse/de facto’s super fund. The set off depends on their income. Check the Tax Office for details.

What laws apply?

The main laws that apply to superannuation are the:
• Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Act and Regulations (regulates most private superannuation funds);
• Superannuation Guarantee (Administration) Act and Regulations (tells employers the minimum contribution they must pay);
• Income Tax Assessment Act,.

The jargon

Accumulation funds – money is invested and the final benefit depends on the total contributions, plus earnings of the fund.

Annuity – like a pension. You receive regular periodic payments for either fixed amount of time or until you die.

Benefit – the money paid to you out of the superannuation fund or held on your behalf within the fund.

Contribution – the money paid into the superannuation fund by either you or your employer.

Defined benefit funds – the final benefit is paid on the basis of a specific formula, so the employer carries the risk if the growth of the fund does not cover the benefit.

Lump sum – money received in a single payment.

Preserved – money that you cannot withdraw from your fund until retirement or certain other events, eg reaching a certain age and leaving employment either temporarily or permanently. This includes money paid by your employer, interest earned on that money or contributions paid by a self-employed person which have been claimed as a tax deduction and any undeducted contributions you make after 1 July, 1999.

Rollover – transferring money from one fund to another.

Unrestricted or non- preserved amount – money that can be paid to you at any time form your superannuation fund

Rights to information

You are entitled to certain information from your superannuation fund. This includes:
• a member statement which shows the amount of your benefit at the start and end of the relevant period, the amount that is preserved and contact details (generally provided annually);
• a fund report which shows the fund’s financial position (generally provided annually);
• notification of changes that affect you, e.g. a change to the superannuation fund’s rules; and
• a statement that shows your benefit, including death benefits when you leave.

Source  :  www.news.com.au

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A team of Google engineers from Australia has unveiled a prototype replacement for standard email that abandons the reliance on the chronological sorting and stacking of messages which has been the hallmark of one of the internet’s first and still most popular applications.

Christened Google Wave, the new feature was given its first public viewing in San Francisco earlier this morning Australian time at Google’s annual developers’ conference.

“I think you will see a form of interaction that you would not have previously imagined,” Google co-found Sergey Brin told a post-launch press conference.

Wave – which began life as a project codenamed Walkabout – is a combination of email and instant messaging and document-, maps- image- and video-sharing all housed under one roof.

Much like a conference call, it also allows for conversations between more than two people to happen simultaneous.

And because it all happens inside a web browser, there is no special software to download or plug-in – which means it can be used from any computer or internet-enabled mobile phone.

“Our communication space is very fragmented today. We have a million different tools for different things with lots of different kinds of overlaps,” said Lars Rassmussen, a senior software engineer with Google Australia

“The most natural way to try and solve that problem is to take all those different tools and try to make them smaller and fit into a single package and maybe integrate them across the boundaries.”

Wave is being released so that the developers – independent software creators – can help iron out the remaining bugs and cook-up a swag of new uses for the service and the platform upon which it is based ahead of a public release later this year.

But Wave is more than just another of Google’s ubiquitous free web services. It’s also a protocol – meaning that it is going after email’s mantle as the predominant internet communications tool.

And despite the recent growth of web-based email services like Hotmail and Gmail, most of the world’s email runs through Microsoft’s Outlook client.

And to encourage organisations to catch the Wave, Google is offering it up as an open source protocol, meaning that anyone – even a competitor – can box it up and host it on their servers.

Wave is the creation of Danish brothers Lars and Jens Rasmussen, who together with Australian Noel Gordon and Stephen Ma – founded and later sold what became known as Google Maps to Google for an undisclosed sum in 2005.

Lars has worked for Google and lived in Australia since the sale and enticed Jens to leave Google’s headquarters near join him in 2007.

The pair and the Wave team – who have been given the full backing of Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page – have been working on the project out of Google’s offices in Sydney.

Stephen Hutcheon is attending the San Francisco conference as a guest of Google.

Source: www.watoday.com.au

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