Downsizing your home? Understanding the downsizer contribution

Downsizing the family home is often part of the longer-term financial plans for many older Australians. But did you know that you could consider investing the proceeds of the sale of your family home to your super – depending on your age and circumstances – as a downsizer contribution?

What is a downsizer contribution?

If you’re aged 65 years or older^ you may be eligible to make a downsizer contribution of up to $300,000 to a complying super fund (all BT superannuation funds will accept eligible downsizer contributions, unless you are in a defined benefit fund), from the proceeds of the sale of your primary residence, which is owned for 10 years or more.

A downsizer contribution doesn’t count towards any of the contribution caps – and can still be made even if a person has total super savings greater than $1.7 million, or if they do not meet the work test requirements. It is a once-off option and doesn’t apply to the sale of any residences in the future.

Your spouse, provided they are also aged 65 years or older^, can also make downsizer contributions to their own super, of up to $300,000 from the same proceeds, even if they are not an owner of the property. To do this, the sale price is key, as your couple contributions cannot be more than the total sale price of the property.

The benefits of the downsizer contribution

No work test requirements

There is no requirement to meet a work test or work test exemption for this contribution, which makes it ideal for those aged between 67 and 74. It is even more appealing if you are aged 75 or over, as outside of this opportunity, you can no longer make voluntary contributions.

Contribution caps don’t apply

It doesn’t matter how much you already have in your super – the total super savings test (must be $1.7 million or less to make after-tax contributions) doesn’t apply for downsizer contributions.

May be more tax-efficient

The downsizer contribution is an after-tax contribution, so no tax is paid on the way in. And because you are over 65^, it is returned tax free when you withdraw the funds in the future.

You don’t have to buy a new home

The money you make from the sale doesn’t have to be used to purchase a new home, and there is no need to move to something smaller or cheaper. If it involves the sale of a previous principal residence (that is now an investment property), there is actually no need to move at all.

Who is eligible?

In addition to the age 65^ threshold, there are a number of other important criteria to be met.

  1. You must sell a property that is located in Australia, and you must have owned the property for at least 10 years.

  2. When you sell that property, you need to be eligible for some form of exemption from capital gains tax (CGT) on the sale of the property under the “main residence” provision. Basically, this means the property needs to be your principal place of residence for at least some time during its ownership.

    If you purchased the property before 20 September 1985 (so that CGT doesn’t even apply), you still need it to have been your principal place of residence at some stage during ownership.

    Keep in mind, it also doesn’t matter if the exemption from CGT is a full or partial exemption, which means the property could have been an investment at some stage during your ownership of it.

What a downsizer contribution could look like

Here are some hypothetical examples of how downsizer contributions could work in different situations.

Example 1:

Martin and Sharon are both aged in their 70s, own their home jointly and have lived in it for 25 years.

They sell their home on 1 August 2021 for $550,000 and the settlement date is 13 September 2021. They are exempt from capital gains tax (due to the home having been their primary residence).

Under the downsizer contribution measure, within 90 days, Sharon makes a downsizer contribution to her superannuation of $300,000 while Martin contributes $250,000 to his superannuation.

Though the cap on downsizer contributions is $300,000, Martin only contributed $250,000 because the combined contributions cannot exceed the sale proceeds of their home. They could have also split the contributions evenly, contributing $275,000 each.

Example 2:

Roger is aged 66, Mel is aged 63, and they live in a home purchased by Mel 20 years ago.

Mel sells the home for $900,000 on 15 July 2021 and the proceeds are exempt from capital gains due to it being their primary residence.

Roger can make a downsizer contribution of up to $300,000 within the 90-day period but as Mel is under age 65^, she is unable to make a downsizer contribution.

Does it impact the Aged Pension?

If you qualify, or are hoping to qualify for the Age Pension, the impact of selling an asset needs to be considered. The value of your main residence is excluded from the assets test, however if it is sold, and some of the proceeds added to your super, that value will then be assessed and may reduce your age pension benefits.

How do you make a downsizer contribution?

If you are eligible, you’ll need to complete a downsizer contribution form and provide this together with your contribution cheque, to your complying superannuation fund so it can be correctly classified. The form is available from the ATO website.

It’s important to be aware of the timing of your contribution into super. The contribution must be made within 90 days of receiving the proceeds of sale (or longer permitted period), which is usually the date of settlement.

For more information on the downsizer scheme, visit the ATO website.

Next: The million dollar retirement myth

Retirement solutions from BT

Explore our flexible solutions to manage your super savings into retirement.

Find out how much super you might have in retirement, and how long it could last.

Our guide shows you a range of strategies you can use to help grow your super. Try just one or embrace them all, to boost your super savings over time.

If your spouse is on a low income, their ability to build their super is limited. However, there are ways to help while potentially earning yourself a tax rebate.
There are many benefits to receiving a pension or even a part pension, but there are limits to the level of income or assets you can have to be eligible.
Whatever your vision of retirement is, making the most of your retirement years is certainly something worth planning for.

Information current as at 1 July 2021.

^ In the 2021 Federal Budget it was proposed that the eligibility age for downsizer contributions be reduced to age 60, with effect from 1 July 2022. 

The article was prepared by BT, a part of Westpac Banking Corporation ABN 33 007 457 141, AFSL and Australian Credit Licence 233714.

This information does not take into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs and so you should consider its appropriateness, having regard to your personal objectives, financial situation and needs having regard to these factors before acting on it. This article provides an overview or summary only and it should not be considered a comprehensive statement on any matter or relied upon as such.

Superannuation is a means of saving for retirement, which is, in part, compulsory. The government has placed restrictions on when you can access your investment held in superannuation. The Government has set caps on the amount of money that you can add to superannuation each year on both a concessional and non-concessional tax basis. There will be tax consequences if you breach these caps. For more detail, speak with a financial adviser or visit the ATO website.

BT cannot give tax advice. Any tax considerations outlined in this article are general statements, based on an interpretation of the current tax law, and do not constitute tax advice.
The tax implications of superannuation can impact individual situations differently and you should seek specific tax advice from a registered tax agent or registered tax (financial) adviser.

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