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Contributions caps and foreign super transfers

Section: 10.1

For individuals who are either migrating or returning to Australia, it may be possible to arrange the transfer of retirement benefits from an overseas fund to an Australian complying super fund even though actual withdrawal may be prohibited until retirement.

The overseas treatment of such a transfer should be investigated with a taxation consultant specialising in the relevant country's tax laws. The treatment of the transfer from an Australian taxation perspective is outlined below.

An Australian taxpayer may receive a super lump sum from a foreign super fund. A foreign super fund is a fund that is not an 'Australian super fund' and is a fund that is an indefinitely continuing provident, benefit, superannuation or retirement fund. Not all foreign retirement schemes satisfy the definition of a foreign super fund. If in doubt, guidance should be sought from the ATO.

Super lump sums transferred from overseas super funds into Australia are taxed in Australia at varying rates depending upon:

  • when the transfer is received in Australia (before or after six months of Australian residency)
  • whether your client makes an election regarding 'applicable fund earnings'
  • the non-concessional contributions caps, and
  • the age of your client in the financial year the transfer occurs (this will affect contributions caps and work test requirements).

Special rules apply for clients transferring superannuation between Australia and New Zealand under the trans-Tasman retirement savings portability.

Contributions caps and foreign super transfers


Transfer received by Australian super fund
Applicable fund earnings
(growth component)
Balance of transfer
Tax treatment Counts toward Tax treatment Counts toward
Within six months*
  • Not assessable to fund
  • Not assessable to individual
Non-concessional cap
  • Not assessable to fund
  • Not assessable to individual
Non-concessional cap
After six months* - no election
  • Not assessable to fund
  • Assessable to individual at MTR (Medicare levy may also apply)
Non-concessional cap
  • Not assessable to fund
  • Not assessable to individual
Non-concessional cap
After six months* - with election
  • Assessable to fund at 15%
  • Not assessable to individual
Does not count toward either non-concessional or concessional caps
  • Not assessable to fund
  • Not assessable to individual
Non-concessional cap

* Of the date the member becomes a tax resident of Australia.

Last modified: Tuesday, May 2, 2017