Operation of the Superannuation Guarantee
The Superannuation Guarantee (SG) was introduced on 1 July 1992 with the
enactment of the Superannuation Guarantee (Administration) Act 1992 and
the Superannuation Guarantee Charge Act 1992.
In conjunction with voluntary superannuation contributions and a means
tested, government funded age pension, the SG system forms an integral part of
Australia's retirement income policy. As noted by the Inspector-General of
Taxation, the SG system 'relies upon the effective interaction and information
flows between employers, employees and superannuation funds who all have a role
Generally, if an employee is over 18 years of age and earning over $450
per month, their employer is obligated make SG contributions on their behalf.
The amount of SG that an employer is required to pay is a percentage of the
employee's ordinary time earnings (OTE). OTE is, in the main, salary and wages
paid less bonuses, overtime and termination payments related to unused annual
leave. The current SG percentage commenced in July 2014 and is 9.5 per cent of
OTE. It should be noted that the SG contribution rate is the minimum amount
that must be contributed by employers, and that some awards and enterprise
agreements require a higher rate be paid.
Employers are generally required to make SG contributions to the
complying superannuation fund of the employee's choice four times per annum.
However, some superannuation funds, industrial awards, or contracts require
that SG is paid more regularly (e.g. monthly). The quarterly payment due dates
are set out in Table 2.1.
Table 2.1—quarterly timeframes for superannuation
| Payment due date
|1 July–30 September
|1 October–31 December
|1 January–31 March
|1 April–30 June
If an employer does not pay the correct SG contribution to an employee's
nominated fund by the quarterly payment due date, they may be liable for the SG
charge (SGC), payable to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).
The SGC is made up of three components:
the shortfall amount (i.e. the amount of SG not contributed);
nominal interest (currently set at 10 per cent from the beginning
of the period); and
an administration fee (currently $20 per employee, per quarter).
An employer subject to the SGC must lodge a SGC statement with the ATO,
calculate the amount payable, and pay the charge by the due date for the
relevant quarter. The ATO then forwards the shortfall and nominal interest
component to the employee's superannuation fund.
As the ATO noted in its submission:
The system was designed for employers to pay adequate and
timely SG contributions direct to an employee's super fund. The SGC introduced
a strong deterrent for employers not paying as they would incur significant
penalties and administration fees.
The administrative arrangements for the operation of the SG system are
set out in the Superannuation Guarantee (Administration) Act 1992 (SGA
Act). The Commissioner of Taxation is responsible for the day-to-day
administration of the SGA Act, and the ATO has a range of responsibilities
under it. These responsibilities include:
educating employers and employees about their responsibilities
monitoring employer compliance with SG obligations;
the receipt and redistribution of the SGC; and
investigating employers for possible breaches of the SG
In its 2015 performance audit report, the ANAO characterised the ATO's
role in administering the SG system as follows:
Figure 2.1—ATO's role in administering the SG scheme
The operation of the SG system also directly involves other
stakeholders, such as superannuation funds. The Superannuation Industry
(Supervision) Act 1993 categorises superannuation funds into large funds,
which are regulated by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority; and
self-managed superannuation funds (SMSFs), which are regulated by the ATO.
Industry funds hold almost 40 per cent of all member accounts and under
certain circumstances can intervene to pursue and collect superannuation
contributions in arrears, which may include employing debt collection services.
Further discussion on the ability of third parties to detect and recover unpaid
SG can be found in chapter 6 of this report.
For example, Industry Fund Services (IFS) provides a range of services
to not-for-profit superannuation funds, with unpaid superannuation services
covering arrears collection, enforcement and participation in insolvency
proceedings. IFS acts on behalf of nine not-for-profit superannuation funds
with members across a range of industries.
The committee did not receive any evidence from retail superannuation
funds, and as such is unable to comment on what actions they take in regard to
following up unpaid SG for their members.
An employee who has cause to believe that their SG contribution has not
been paid, or has been paid incorrectly, can lodge an enquiry (known as an employee
notification or EN) with the ATO. The ATO aims to investigate all employee
notifications and, where it considers it appropriate, audit employers to verify
that the correct payments have been made. 
The ATO aims to commence 99 per cent of ENs within 28 days of receipt, and
where an EN proceeds to audit, it aims to complete 50 per cent of
compliance cases within 4 months, and 90 per cent within 12 months.
According to the ATO's submission:
All ENs are investigated to establish the accuracy of the report
through an initial review or audit action against the reported employer. Some
28 per cent of reports do not need to proceed to an audit case due to finding
employer is already being
employee withdraws report
employee is covered by assessments
employer is insolvent/bankrupt and
the ATO is unable to pursue the debt
employment was more than 5 years
ago and the employer is no longer required to keep records.
Previous reviews into the operation of the SG system
Over many years there have been numerous reports examining the operation
and administration of the SG system and various measures have been recommended
to improve rates of SG compliance.
As far back as April 2001, the Senate Select Committee on
Superannuation and Financial Services (the select committee) tabled its report
into the enforcement of the Superannuation Guarantee Charge. Many of the
concerns and suggestions the select committee noted in its report were similar
to those raised during the course of the current inquiry. For example, the
ATO's apparent lack of activity in pursuing defaulting employers and addressing
individual complaints, the complexity of the SG system, and low levels of
education among employers and employees with regard to superannuation rights
and responsibilities were mentioned. In addition, the report noted support for
more frequent SG payments and observed calls for more effective protection for
employees who lose their SG contributions through employer non‑compliance
In March 2010, the Inspector-General of Taxation (IGT) published a
review report titled 'Review into the ATO's administration of the
Superannuation Guarantee Charge'.
The report found that while the SG system worked well for the majority of
individuals, those employees most at risk within the system were amongst the
most vulnerable in society. The IGT made seven recommendations aimed at better
supporting the underlying SG policy intent and improving compliance with the
relevant obligations. The IGT submission to the inquiry noted that the government
and the ATO had implemented a number of these recommendations, resulting in a
degree of alleviation of the difficulties faced. However, the IGT noted that,
as evidenced by the ongoing complaints regarding unpaid SG entitlements and the
frustrations encountered by employees in recovering unpaid amounts, challenges
still exist in the administration of the SG system.
More recently, in 2015 the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO)
published a performance audit of the ATO and its work in promoting compliance
with SG obligations.
As outlined by the ANAO at its appearance at a public hearing:
The audit concluded that the ATO's administration of the
super guarantee scheme had been generally effective, particularly having regard
to the scale of the scheme and the substantial flow of legislative revenue
generated. The audit noted that the ATO carries out a wide range of activities
to promote compliance and to help employers and employees understand their
super guarantee rights and obligations... The audit identified scope for the ATO
to better target its compliance activities and more effectively promote
employer compliance with super guarantee obligations. In particular, the ATO
should gain a greater understanding of the level of noncompliance with super
guarantee obligations across industry sectors and types of employers.
The audit contained four recommendations directed at the ATO, centring
around: better analysing non-compliance and further engaging with superannuation
stakeholders; emphasising the enforcement role of the ATO in education
material; better coordinating compliance activities within the agency; and
evaluating the effectiveness of compliance activities. The ATO agreed with all
The IGT also informed the committee that in 2016 it completed a review
into the ATO's employer obligations compliance activities, which included an
examination of opportunities to reduce employers' regulatory burden in
complying with SG obligations whilst improving voluntary compliance.
The terms of reference focused on easing the compliance burden for employers
and evaluating the ATO's conduct of compliance activities. The full terms of
reference can be found at Appendix 3.
The IGT noted in its submission that the review report is currently with
the Minister and not yet publicly released.
Multi-agency working group on SG non-compliance
On 25 January 2017, the Minister for Revenue and Financial Services, the
Hon Kelly O'Dwyer MP, announced that in December 2016 a multi-agency working
group had been established to investigate and develop practical recommendations
to deal with SG non-compliance.
The working group is comprised of senior representatives from the
following government bodies:
the Australian Taxation Office;
the Department of the Treasury;
the Department of Employment;
the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority; and
the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.
The multi-agency working group has the following terms of reference:
the information and data available in order to establish [a] 'fact base' and to
identify characteristics and detect drivers of superannuation guarantee
non-compliance. Also have reference to:
- the extent of non-compliance
amongst insolvent employers
- the extent to which salary
sacrifice is used to meet superannuation guarantee obligations.
and consider administrative options to improve compliance and foster
participation in the superannuation guarantee by employers. Have reference to:
- information about
superannuation guarantee payments coming to the ATO
- the use of deterrents, such as
prosecutions and audits
- review service offerings to
support employers (including understanding the employee/contractor
distinction), such as online forms and tools for employers
- the role of superannuation funds
to assist employer compliance.
and consider policy options to address superannuation guarantee non-compliance,
including potential legislative change. Have reference to:
- potential to improve
compliance through collection of more timely and accurate data
- the frequency of employers paying
- the appropriateness of
penalties and interest rates for non-compliance.
The ATO informed the committee that as the focus of the working group
was on clarifying internal views and establishing a 'fact base', as at February
2017 no consultation with external stakeholders in the superannuation industry
had been undertaken. The ATO noted however, that it was possible that some
targeted consultation may be undertaken by individual agencies in the process
of finalising recommendations.
The working group was due to report to the Minister by the end of March
2017. An interim report was provided to the Minister on 31 January. At the time
of the committee's report being drafted, the interim report had not been
released publicly, nor had the final report.
The committee heard from members of the working group during a public
hearing in Canberra. The evidence received during this session will be examined
in chapter 4.
The committee is aware that there has been, and continues to be, work
conducted on aspects of SG non-compliance and the SG system in general, and
notes the findings of the previous reports around the topic. In particular, the
committee awaits with interest the findings of the multi-agency working group
on SG non‑compliance, noting that the working group terms of reference
encompass matters similar to those covered in the committee's inquiry.
Additionally, the committee looks forward to the release of the 2016 IGT review
report into the ATO's employer obligations compliance activities.
In the interests of better informing the debate on the current state of
the SG system, the committee recommends the Minister for Revenue and Financial
Services publicly release the interim and final reports of the multi-agency
working group on SG non-compliance, as well as the 2016 review by the
Inspector-General of Taxation as soon as is practicable.
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