Q. Having worked in Australia for a number of years, I am planning on migrating back to New Zealand.  I have accumulated a substantial Superannuation balance and want to know if I can access the funds when I leave. I am getting conflicting advice.  I am told the funds must remain in Australia but I have also been told they can be moved to New Zealand.  I am 51.

A.  At your age you cannot access the funds but can transfer the funds between Australia and New Zealand.  From 1 July this year if you migrate between Australia and New Zealand you are able to transfer your retirement funds between the two countries.

Unlike Temporary Work Visa Holders, you are not compelled to move your funds out of the Australian Superannuation system on departure. So the decision to move the funds is up to you.

The Trans-Tasman Retirement Savings Portability Scheme is voluntary.  KiwiSaver Account providers are not obliged to offer a facility to transfer the funds, so check that your NZ fund will accept transfers from Australia.

There are additional conditions imposed on the funds transferred that differ from the rules applicable for normal Kiwi-Saver accounts; You cannot cash out the Superannuation benefits until retirement nor use the funds to purchase your first New Zealand home. KiwiSaver accounts usually are only accessible from age 65 however provided you satisfy the Australian definition of Retirement and are over 60, you can access the Australian Superannuation component of your KiwiSaver Account at that time.

There are a few types of Australian Funds that cannot be transferred to NZ; Self Managed Super Funds, Defined Benefit funds and Unfunded Public Sector Superannuation Scheme.

There is no tax on transfer but be wary of the loss of benefits on transfer of the funds; for example loss of insurance benefits. Tax on earnings within a KiwiSaver Account varies between 10.5 – 28% depending on your income.  Tax on Superannuation earnings in Australia is a flat 15%.

Be mindful also of the loss of flexibility with Financial Planning Strategies.  For example you will become ineligible for Transition to Retirement Allocated Pensions nor enjoy tax free status on earnings within the fund in Pension mode.

There are a number of benefits of transferring the funds; you will have all your Retirement assets in the country that you wish to retire to, your assets denominated in the one currency and income will be received under one tax jurisdiction.


Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewHeavenFP.  This article was originally published in The Australian.