Insurance for Self Managed Super Funds (SMSFs)
SMSF Insurance – Summary of Pros and Cons
Advantages of having insurance in a SMSF:
- Provides insurance protection for members
- Tax effective vs personal ownership
- Cashflow benefits of using accumulated funds in super to pay premiums
Disadvantages of having insurance in a SMSF:
- Premiums can be higher than group insurance rates
- Tax is payable on some Life insurance and TPD benefits
- Contributions to pay insurance premiums count towards Super Cap
- Using existing funds to pay premiums reduces retirement balances
- Restrictions on the features and benefits available
Insurance policies a SMSF can purchase:
- Life insurance
- TPD insurance with an Any Occupation definition
- Standard Income Protection insurance policies
Insurance policies a SMSF cannot purchase:
- TPD insurance with an Own Occupation definition
- Trauma insurance
- Comprehensive Income Protection insurance policies
How do I buy insurance for my SMSF?
All of the Life insurance and TPD (Any Occupation) insurance policies quoted on our website are available to be purchased in a SMSF version (some benefits are excluded and definitions altered to meet superannuation legislation requirements). Many of the “Standard” Income Protection policies quoted on our website can also be purchased in a SMSF version (again some benefits and definitions are changed to meet superannuation legislation requirements). The premiums are generally the same whether the policy is to be owned by you or your SMSF.
You will be asked during the application process who will own the policy. Where the SMSF is to own the insurance policy then the individual trustees of the SMSF (or the trustee company if applicable) will be listed as the policy owners “as trustee for” the superannuation fund and the premiums will be paid from the fund’s account. In the event of a claim the insurance company will pay the benefit directly to the SMSF so there will be no beneficiaries nominated under the policy. If you wish to influence how the funds will be distributed by the SMSF trustees on your death you will need to ensure that you have a valid beneficiary nomination registered with your SMSF.
To view SMSF insurance quotes and apply online go to Compare Quotes. If you would like to speak with one of our advisers to discuss SMSF insurance for your particular circumstances please go to Get Advice.
Why should I have insurance within my SMSF?
The number of Self-Managed Super Funds (SMSFs) in Australia has been growing strongly. The ATO reported in its March 2018 report that there were 595,840 SMSFs in Australia with 1,124,258 members and $712 Billion in assets. In August 2012 as part of its move towards “Stronger Super” the government introduced superannuation regulations requiring trustees of SMSFs to consider the insurance needs of their members.
As a result SMSF trustees have a legislative obligation to consider whether to take out insurance cover for each of their members and review this annually. In meeting this requirement the Trustees should consider the personal circumstances of each of the members of the fund including their income, assets and liabilities, any existing insurance cover they have and how they or their family would be impacted by their death and disability. Also it may be relevant to consider how the insurance could be used by the fund to extinguish liabilities or otherwise avoid having to dispose of a large asset to pay a benefit to a member.
This insurance strategy needs to be documented at least annually in the SMSF investment strategy or in the minutes of a trustee meeting. There are penalties which will apply if the trustees fail to address insurance in their SMSF.
Insurance should be an important consideration when deciding whether or not to set up a SMSF. There may be reasons why members would be better off retaining their existing insurance covers (super and non super) rather than taking out new insurance policies within their SMSF. Therefore, before cancelling any existing insurance policies or closing any super accounts which include insurance cover, the availability and cost of insurance cover through a SMSF should be established.
Below we consider some of the pros and cons of a SMSF purchasing insurance policies for its members.
Advantages of having insurance owned by your SMSF:
- Protection of members
Where a SMSF member is still working and accumulating wealth their death or disablement is likely to have a devastating effect on their family, particularly if they have debts and dependant children. In this case there is a strong need for Life insurance and TPD insurance which will provide a lump sum payment should this happen. For members who are retired with sufficient funds in their super fund to provide for their dependants in the event of their death or disablement this insurance will be less important.
- Tax effectiveness
For SMSF members it can be tax effective for their super fund to purchase Life and TPD insurance policies on their behalf rather than purchase them personally. The funds which the SMSF uses to pay the premiums are tax advantaged funds i.e. the contributions have only been taxed at the 15% super contribution rate. To purchase the policies personally the members would have to use after tax dollars.
If the insurance premiums are paid from existing funds in the SMSF the members will not have to find the cashflow to fund the premium payments each year. However if these payments will have an unacceptable impact on the member’s retirement balance the member should be encouraged to increase their superannuation contributions to compensate.
Potential drawbacks with having insurance in your SMSF:
- Cost and Pre-existing Health Conditions
If you are switching your superannuation balance from an existing superannuation fund to your SMSF you should check whether it is possible to maintain your existing insurance benefits by leaving a token balance in your existing fund. The insurance premiums offered by large superannuation funds are group rates and are likely to be cheaper than the individual policies your SMSF can purchase. This is particularly the case if you suffer from any health conditions which may result in exclusions or premium loadings being applied to your SMSF policies. Large super funds sometimes offer minimum levels of cover without medical underwriting and while this amount of cover may not be sufficient in itself it can be used as a base which is topped up with cover in your SMSF
- Super cap limits
From 1 July 2017 tax advantaged or concessional contributions to super are limited to $25,000 per annum. If you increase super contributions to your SMSF to cover your insurance premium payments you need to remember that this increase will count towards this limit. If this results in you exceeding the concessional limit you will be charged a penalty tax on any excess.
- Reduced Investment Balance
If you do not increase your super contributions to cover the insurance premiums being deducted by your SMSF then the premiums will reduce the investment balance you would otherwise have available to earn a return for your retirement.
- Tax payable
Tax can be payable on Life insurance and TPD insurance payouts from super under certain circumstances. To find out more read below the sections on Life insurance and TPD insurance
- When Full Featured Cover is Required
Unfortunately superannuation legislation restricts the cover a SMSF can purchase. This means that trauma insurance, Own Occupation TPD and comprehensive income protection cover are not available to be purchased. Also the SMSF versions of life and TPD (Any Occupation) and standard income protection policies miss out on some of the benefits and features offered by the equivalent policies outside of super. However there is a way to access these additional benefits by “Superlinking” the extra benefits and paying a small part of the premium personally. To find out more read below or Contact Us.
What types of insurances can be purchased by a SMSF?:
On 1 July 2014 regulations were introduced requiring that all new insurance policies issued to SMSFs be consistent with the Superannuation Industry (Supervision) regulations (SIS) conditions of release which are death, terminal illness, total and permanent disablement and temporary incapacity.
As a result Own Occupation TPD,Trauma and Comprehensive Income Protection policies can no longer be purchased by SMSFs. This change was introduced because if a member suffered a trauma condition (such as a heart attack, cancer or stroke) or an Own Occupation disability (as opposed to Any Occupation disability) or received a specific injury benefit under an income protection policy then these benefits may not have been able to be paid to the member. Although the insurer paid the benefit to the SMSF the trustees could have been unable to pass this on to the member if a condition of release was not met and the funds could have become “trapped” in the fund.
Although Life, TPD (Any Occupation) and Standard Income Protection policies can still be purchased by SMSFs the cover will still have some restrictions compared to the same cover purchased outside super and also there are tax and other considerations which need to be taken into account.
SMSF Life Insurance:
Life insurance policies can be purchased by a SMSF for the members of the Fund and the premiums will be deductible expenses to the Fund. The following needs to be considered:
- Core benefits only
The SMSF version of the life insurance policy will usually only cover the core benefits of death and terminal illness. Ancillary benefits such as funeral advancement, grief counselling, financial planning and accommodation benefit will usually not be available. Also the terminal illness definition will be modified to conform with the SIS definition e.g. two doctors, not one, will be required to confirm the condition.
When a SMSF owns a Life insurance policy the insurance company will pay the proceeds of the policy directly to the fund. The trustees then have the discretion to decide on the distribution of the funds. It is therefore important for each member to lodge either a non-binding or binding (which has to be witnessed and renewed every three years to remain valid) nomination in order to direct the remaining trustees as to how to distribute the proceeds of the insurance policy.
- Tax Payable
Unlike Life insurance policies outside super where the payout to beneficiaries is tax free, Life insurance payouts from super funds can be subject to tax under certain circumstances. If a beneficiary is over eighteen and not the member’s spouse they will have to pay tax on the amount they receive. This could mean that adult children could be taxed at rates of up to 32% on the amounts they receive. This can be dealt with by either increasing the amount of cover to compensate for the tax payable or by transferring the cover out of the super fund when children turn eighteen.
SMSF Total and Permanent Disablement (TPD) Insurance:
Any Occupation TPD insurance policies can be purchased by a SMSF for the members of the Fund and the premiums will usually be deductible expenses to the Fund. The following needs to be considered:
- Any Occupation TPD
“Any Occupation” TPD most closely mirrors the definition of TPD under superannuation legislation and means that you must be unlikely due to sickness or injury to ever work again in any occupation you are suited to by training, experience or education. However when a SMSF purchases TPD cover there will also be an overriding requirement that the policy satisfies the SIS definition of Permanent Incapacity. This means that claims for lesser disabilities, such as a partial payment for loss of one limb or sight in one eye, which might be paid under non super policies will not be allowed where the policy is owned by a SMSF.
- Superlinking Own Occupation TPD
If your SMSF has members who are highly paid or perform highly specialised occupations they may prefer to have an “Own Occupation” definition of TPD insurance where a benefit is paid if you are unable due to sickness or injury to ever work again in your own occupation (usually the occupation you are currently performing). Under this definition the insurer will pay a benefit if you are permanently unable to perform your own occupation, even though you may be able to perform the duties of another lower paid job. For example a surgeon who injures his hand may not be able to operate again but he could be a GP at a considerably lower income.Normally this would mean that if members wanted Own Occupation TPD they would need to purchase the policy outside of the SMSF. However innovation by insurers has led to the introduction of “superlinked” policies where a super fund owned Any Occupation TPD policy can be linked to an Own Occupation TPD policy owned outside of super resulting in only a small amount of premium required to be paid personally by the individual. If this is of interest please ask one of our advisers to structure a policy for your SMSF by completing your details at Get Advice.
- Tax Payable
Unlike a TPD policy held outside super where the insurance payout is tax free, a TPD payout from a superannuation fund is subject to tax under the lump sum superannuation payment rules. A tax rate of 22% will be applied to the taxable portion of the payout. How much will be taxed will depend on the member’s years of service and how long they have to retirement. As a general rule the larger the service days and the closer to retirement the higher the amount which will be taxed. To compensate for this tax a higher amount of TPD cover may need to be taken out than if the policy was held personally.
SMSF Income Protection insurance:
Income protection insurance will provide your members with a monthly payment if they are unable to work temporarily due to sickness or accident. The following needs to be considered.
There is no real tax advantage to members of having their Income Protection insurance policies owned by their SMSF. If they own their policy personally they will be able to claim a full tax deduction for the premium i.e. they will receive a refund equivalent to the marginal tax rate paid on the premium. Therefore no tax is payable which is the same result as where the SMSF pays the premium and claims this as an expense.However it may still be attractive for SMSF members to have their income protection policy owned by their SMSF so that the accumulated funds in the SMSF can be used to pay the premium and not their own private cashflow.
- Only Standard cover available
Following 1st July 2014 only “standard” Income Protection insurance policies are able to be purchased by SMSFs and these must comply with the conditions for temporary disability payments under superannuation legislation. While policies purchased by a SMSF will provide cover where a member is unable to work at all due to sickness or injury, they will not be able to offer the additional features and benefits which policies outside of super can, such as:
- Hours Definition of Total Disability
- Income Definition of Total Disability
- Partial disability from day one
- Specific injuries benefit
- Trauma benefit
- Nursing care
- Housekeeper care
- Family support benefit
- Rehabilitation cost reimbursement
- Travel costs reimbursement
In addition a member may not be able to claim under their policy while unemployed, unlike under policies held outside super. Benefit payments may also be offset for any sick leave payments received.
Again innovation by some insurers has enabled clients to still be able to access the benefits of a Comprehensive policy while the majority of the premium is paid through their SMSF. This is achieved by “superlinking” Standard and Plus policies – a Standard policy, which is super compliant, is owned and paid for by the super fund and the “extra” benefits associated with a Plus policy are owned and paid for by the member outside of super. If you have a member who is interested in having the benefits of a comprehensive Income Protection insurance policy but wants their SMSF to pay for the bulk of the premium please provide your details to one of our advisers at Get Advice and they will structure this cost effectively for them.
- Agreed Value Policies
Most insurers do not offer Agreed Value for SMSF income protection policies only Indemnity cover. Agreed Value Income Protection insurance policies are attractive to professionals and self-employed individuals who have income which can fluctuate from year to year. This is because once an insurer has issued a guaranteed Agreed Value policy they will pay the monthly benefit on the policy schedule regardless of what your income is at claim time. This contrasts with indemnity cover which may pay you less if your income has dropped since you took out your policy.Where Agreed Value policies are available for SMSFs the protection they offer against income fluctuations is limited as the insurer cannot pay more than 100% of predisability earnings due to superannuation legislation restrictions. Self-employed members and those who may have breaks in employment (such as women taking maternity leave) may therefore be better off with Agreed Value income protection policies outside of super.
This is a complicated area and the above information is of a general nature only. For details on your personal situation you should seek professional advice. Please contact one of our advisers at Get Advice.