I spent a year working and travelling in Australia and was surprised to learn that many other expats didn’t know you could claim your superannuation fund money back after you leave the country.
I’m not sure how I knew about it—probably from all the Googling and reading countless expat blogs—but I definitely knew I could and I would. Who wouldn’t want to claim back what’s rightfully theirs and receive a little added bonus to top up their travel funds?
What is superannuation?
Basically, it’s a pension or a retirement savings plan. Known simply as "super," it is money put aside each month for your future, so you have a regular income when you retire. It is government-implemented and if you’re eligible to pay tax, you’re eligible for a super.
By law, every employer in Australia must pay into your superannuation if you earn more than $450 a month. Currently, they must pay 9.5 per cent of your income, including bonuses, commissions and loadings. But you can also choose to pay extra into your super by as much as you want.
Your super is managed by a superannuation fund. In Australia, mine was managed by ANZ Bank, which made sense because I already had savings and chequing accounts with ANZ, and it was a low fee ($4.85 per month).
How much can you save?
This all depends on how much you work and how much you earn each year. My total superannuation fund didn’t amount to much, but it was a lot considering I worked casual part-time for the duration of my stay in Australia.
After about seven months of work, I had around $900 in my super.
Claiming your super
Luckily, that money you worked hard for won’t be entirely lost. If you have worked part-time or full-time on a working holiday visa, you can claim your super refund—but only once your visa has expired and you have left Australia.
A lot of blogs and articles say it is easier to begin the process of applying for your "departing Australia superannuation payment" (DASP) before you leave the country. Personally, I didn’t even look at the form until a couple of months after I had left and I found it to be very easy and straightforward. However, it’s a good idea to make sure you have all the necessary documents and information you need to apply for your claim.
Annoyingly, you will be taxed on your superannuation refund. If you held a working holiday visa (subclass 417 or 462), or an associated WHM bridging visa, you will be taxed 65 per cent as of July 1, 2017. All other visas and claims prior to that date are taxed 35 per cent.
What do you need to apply for your refund?
• Your name, date of birth and other personal details
• Your e-mail address
• Your passport country
• Your passport number
• Your Australian Tax File Number or TFN (optional)
• Your superannuation account details, including your super fund's Australian Business Number (ABN)
I suggest keeping a copy of your TFN because it makes it quicker and easier if you do have it.
How do I claim it?
You can fill out and mail the forms, but the easiest options is to claim online by filling out the electronic forms and submitting them to the Australian Tax Office.
Alternately, companies such as Taxback or Pink Cow will do it for you. They'll give you a free estimate to how much you'll receive, but there's a fee for using their services. With that being said, if you worked more than one job and/or had more than one superannuation fund, it can be a good idea to get help.
Personally, I chose to do it myself and, as I mentioned before, I found it really simple to do.
Generally, it takes up to 28 days to process the claim and receive the refund, but it can take up to 50+ days if they run into any payment problems.
You can choose to have the refund paid directly into your bank or sent via a cheque. I still had my Australian bank account open so I just chose to have it paid into there for ease and then transferred it to my current New Zealand account (where I am now living).
Although it might not work out to be much, it’s still a good idea to claim your super refund. If you don’t claim it within six months of leaving Australia and your visa ceases to be in effect, your money will be kept by the Australian Taxation Office until you can claim it.Add this article to your reading list