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Important Facts to know about your Business Superannuation Obligations

Posted 31 Oct '21

What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You!

As you probably know, superannuation is highly legislated and one of the most strictly monitored responsibilities of the Australian Taxation Office. Although the regulations surrounding super obligations may seem over the top, there is a reason those rules and boundaries are put into place.

Superannuation is “money put aside by your employer over your working life for you to live on when you retire from work.” Therefore, superannuation plays an incredibly important part in the lives of all Australians.

As this is essential to the wellbeing of our future, the ATO places penalties and fees on employers who fail to follow the super obligations compliance obligations. As an employer, knowing the right process and making sure you are compliant can be a daunting task. This is why, at the end of the day, what you don’t know and choose not to learn about your super obligations can hurt your business.

On that note, we’ve done the research, so you don’t have to!

Here are the most common compliance obligations employers can overlook and the nasty penalties that come along with them.

Record Keeping Requirements

As an employer, you are required to pay a minimum amount of superannuation to your employees funds each quarter. The current rate (as of October 2021) is 10% of ordinary times earnings. This is set to rise by 0.5% in the coming years each year.

Ordinary time earnings are what is earned for ordinary hours of work, including over-award payments, certain bonuses, allowances, and some paid leave. Payments for overtime hours are generally not included in ordinary time earnings.

The most effective way to track these superannuation obligations is through a payroll system. At Empire, we love Xero, and recommend to all our clients who process payroll to use this solution.

Failing to be Timely

The legislation states that even if you are 1 day late with the superannuation guarantee payment reaching the fund then these late obligations need to be reported to the ATO through a Superannuation Guarantee Charge statement. Please note, the payment must reach the employees fund so if you are using a clearing house (such as the ATO or Xero) the payment needs to be made a week or so in advance to ensure it clears in time.

Due dates for Super obligations cut-off are quarterly as follows:-

  • July to September – due by 28 October
  • October to December – due by 28 January
  • January to March – due by 28 April
  • April to May – due by 28 July

Impacts of Not having good records

Providing accurate and thorough information is a must. Maintaining appropriate records and having the substantiation to prove your calculations is vital in the event you were reviewed or audited by the ATO. If you don’t and the ATO find that you provided a false or misleading statement, this can result in an administrative penalty up to 75% of the shortfall. Say if you’ve missed $10,000 worth of super, that is another $7,500 on top of having to pay the superannuation itself (oh and don’t forget the interest).

Furthermore, failing to provide a Superannuation Guarantee Charge (SGC) statement when required carries a maximum penalty of 200% of the SGC! Using the above example, say if you just ignored it, the ATO conducted and audit and it is at that time they discover the non-payment of $10,000. They have the right to fine you $20,000 alone for not complying. That is a hefty fee that, we’re sure, you would like to avoid at all costs!

As intended, the high fines and penalties can be motivation enough to ensure you are on top of superannuation obligations.

Director Specific Obligations

Being a nominated director of a company comes with a lot of responsibility in relation to super obligations. If you are a director of a company, it is your ultimate responsibility to pay Superannuation Guarantee before the due date. Failing to do so in full and on time can result in the ATO issuing a Director Penalty Notice (DPN) which will be issued to you personally. This circumvents your corporate umbrella protection and leaves you personally liable to unpaid super, interest and penalties.

When the ATO Will Consider Waiving Penalties

It’s not all doom and gloom! If you are reading this and not feeling confident you are getting green ticks all round then the best course of action is to come forward.

The ATO is aware that the superannuation process can be quite challenging to understand for the average person. As such, they are known for being fairly forgiving if accidents happen, and they can see that you made an honest effort to do everything correctly.

For example, the ATO may consider waiving a penalty if you have shown a genuine attempt to abide by the super obligations. If you have a good history of compliance, they are more likely to waive a penalty than if you have shown repeated non-compliance. Furthermore, they have been known to reduce penalties for employers who may have lodged an SGC statement after the due date but did so before being notified of an ATO compliance action.

It seems as though if you show signs of trying to do the right thing, the ATO can be lenient if you accidentally do something incorrectly.

Qualities the ATO are willing to work with include:

  • Completion and lodgement of any SGC statements.
  • Discussing payment plans if you are unable to pay by the deadline.
  • Show a willingness to learn and show that you want to fulfill your super obligations.
  • Take the voluntary online Super Guarantee Employer Obligations Course.

Final Thoughts

We have only scratched the surface on super in this article. There are plenty of resources to further help you understand your obligations. These resources are informative about the required timeframes and responsibilities when onboarding and maintaining your employee’s superannuation. Review this ATO Checklist and This Article about Superannuation Guarantee Changes to get started!

Here at Empire Accountants, our team is happy to answer any of your enquiries around superannuation compliance to ensure you understand you are being the most compliant employer possible!

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