There are billions of dollars of superannuation savings sitting unclaimed – some of it could belong to you! The amount of lost or unclaimed super in Australia has topped $17 billion. There are some ways of finding out if you have some claim to a part of this gigantic pool of cash.
Super is considered lost if the fund can’t reach you, but also if the account has been inactive, with no contributions or rollover amounts being deposited for a period of five years. Saying that it is “lost” however does not mean that the funds have disappeared, just that it is unclaimed. This can come about for a number of reasons, such as if you have:
– changed jobs
– had more than one job at the same time (and super was paid into different funds)
– moved house (and did not update your details with a fund)
– changed name (marriage, divorce, deed poll etc)
– worked in Australia as a temporary resident.
Unclaimed super money can also come about where an account is split, such as in a divorce settlement.
Your first stop should be the Tax Office, which has a list of the names of people who have been reported by their super funds as “lost”. This list is called the ‘Lost members register’. It names the members of super funds, approved deposit funds, eligible rollover funds and retirement savings accounts that are considered lost.
The Tax Office is also where you will find the free service called SuperSeeker. This is a tool that will search the lost members register and the Tax Office’s other records to give you possible matches for your lost super. You will need your tax file number to be able to use SuperSeeker but may also need a recent notice of assessment from the Tax Office, PAYG payment summary, dividend statement or Centrelink payment summary. Ask this office for help if you need it.
You will get the name and contact details of the fund that may be holding your lost super if there is a match. You can then arrange to either withdraw the money (the Tax Office says it may be possible to get amounts of $200 or less), or roll the amount over into another active super fund. Generally it makes a lot of sense to consolidate your super into one fund so that you cut back on multiple fees and charges.
Federal Treasury reported 3.6 million lost superannuation accounts holding a total of $17.4 billion as at July 2012, which is an amount that has fallen by about 14% from the year previously. Treasury says the average value of these lost super accounts is around $4,800.
You may already have an inkling that there could be super money out there that you’ve lost track of – you could have changed jobs a number of times in the last few years, or changed address, or even your name, and any super funds that were holding funds for you just may not have your most current details.
A lot of the lost money is in smaller amounts, and technically speaking it’s not free cash that’s up for grabs. It’s your money anyway. And the tax rules that apply to all your other super entitlements will still apply. But with most super fund performances not necessarily surging upwards lately, and fees also eating into what’s left, finding a cache of extra money, no matter how small, is probably worth the effort.
Super funds themselves are also keen to see that people recover their lost super — more identified super savings means funds under their management. The country’s largest industry super fund, AustralianSuper, “found” on behalf of its members about $1 billion in lost super in late 2011 and re-united this money with its rightful owners. The welcome result was achieved through a huge cross-referencing exercise between its own database and the Tax Office’s lost members register.
Since 2010, the government has required superannuation providers to report and pay the following accounts to the Tax Office as unclaimed super:
- lost accounts with balances of less than $200 (small lost member accounts)
- lost accounts that have been inactive for a period of five years and have insufficient records to ever identify the owner of the account (insoluble lost member accounts).
Individuals can search for these types of accounts using SuperSeeker and lodge a claim for them with the Tax Office. SuperSeeker will display all unclaimed super, including small and insoluble lost member accounts, where a high confidence match with records has been identified.
In many cases, any lost money may have been transferred into an eligible rollover fund. These were created to hold otherwise unallocated money to give some protection against erosion of funds through administration costs. Unclaimed super funds such as AUSfund can help with a search.
In some cases unclaimed super money can be left under the administration of a state or territory government, so it could pay to have a search of the relevant department (as well as the Australian Securities and Investments Commission). The online contacts are:
- NSW – The Public Trustee of NSW – Unclaimed money register
- QLD – The Public Trustee of QLD – Unclaimed money register
- VIC – The State Trustees of Victoria – Unclaimed money register
- WA – The Public Trustee of Western Australia – Unclaimed money register
- ACT – The Public Trustee of Australian Capital Territory – Unclaimed money register
- TAS – The Public Trustee of Tasmania – Unclaimed money register
- SA – The Department of Treasury & Finance South Australia ‑ Unclaimed money register
- NT – Northern Territory Treasury ‑ Unclaimed money register
- ASIC – Australian Securities and Investments Commission ASIC – Unclaimed money register
Previous employers may be able to help, especially if you can’t recall which super fund an employer contributed to, as they are more likely to either remember or have records.
As a final resort, you could also try the industry super fund that is most relevant to the sector you know you were working for in the past. For example, if you were working in a shop or department store of some sort, the most likely industry fund may be REST, which is the superannuation fund for retail employees. HOSTPLUS is the industry super fund for the hospitality, tourism and sport industries, and HESTA is for the health and community services industries. Industry SuperFunds may be able to help.