COVID-19 support leads adviser interest

The Government’s COVID-19 stimulus measures account for around half of all queries from advisers to BT’s Advice Technical team so far in this September quarter, as Australians navigate the transitional changes relating to the JobKeeper and JobSeeker policies.

Since July, the BT Advice Technical team have fielded over 2,000 queries from financial advisers. Since the market volatility began in March, the team have held 10 advice webinars on the Government’s COVID-19 economic response, as well as superannuation and tax advice strategies, each attracting 550 registrations on average.

Bryan Ashenden, BT’s Head of Financial Literacy and Advocacy, said: “At this time of the year, usually super and tax strategies dominate advice conversations, however, 2020 has been a year like no other. Overall advice queries have been evenly split between government assistance and super.”

The top 5 topics on advisers’ minds in this September quarter are:

1. JobSeeker and JobKeeper

Advisers are asking about the eligibility criteria for JobSeeker, for clients who have been employed in industries that have been most impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, such as travel and hospitality.

The JobSeeker unemployment benefit (including coronavirus supplement) will reduce from a maximum of approximately $1,100 to $800 per fortnight on 25 September (for a single person, with no children), while the JobKeeper wage subsidy is scheduled to fall from a fortnightly payment of $1,500 to $1,200 per eligible employee from 28 September.

2. Early release of super

Australians have made around 4.4 million applications to withdraw their superannuation early, under the Government’s early release of super scheme.

With increased focus from the Australian Taxation Office on ensuring only those who meet the eligibility requirements access their super under this measure, many advisers are calling BT’s Advice Technical team to discuss the qualification criteria. 

3. Superannuation contribution caps

The new measure to carry forward unused concessional contributions from the previous financial year has generated a large volume of queries.

A popular question is whether it’s necessary to notify the ATO of a client’s eligibility or intention to take advantage of the new measure.

Mr Ashenden explained that the larger cap is calculated automatically by the ATO, and there is no need to notify the ATO.

4. Rollovers

A non-COVID question that’s top of mind for advisers is the impact of rollovers on the amount of super a client can transfer and hold in tax-free retirement phase accounts. If the total value of a client’s pensions and annuities exceeds $1.6 million, they may have to pay excess transfer balance tax, plus will be required to reduce their balance.

Advisers are also asking about how rollovers are treated under the government’s income and assets tests for entitlement to the age pension.

5. HomeBuilder

Eligibility criteria for the $25,000 grants under HomeBuilder are also of interest for advisers whose clients were already considering undertaking major renovations or a new build, prior to the announcement of the policy.

More Information 

Lisa Parrett
Media Relations, BT
M: 0432 933 796