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What Tax is Payable on Super Death Benefits? A Simple Guide!

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May 18, 2023

If you’re the beneficiary of a super fund member who has passed away, you may be entitled to receive a death benefit payment. However, it’s necessary to understand the tax implications associated with receiving superannuation death benefits to avoid any surprises when tax time comes around. Tax on super death benefits is estimated on the total benefits you are entitled to receive.

The system provides income to individuals in their retirement years. When an individual dies, their superannuation savings are a death benefit to their nominated beneficiaries. Two types of death benefits from superannuation funds are:

  • A lump sum death benefit
  • An income stream death benefit

Tax on Death Benefit Income Streams

  • Income stream payments from super death benefits pay taxes as ordinary income, beneficiary’s marginal tax rate applies.
  • One strategy for reducing tax on income stream payments is to split the amounts with a spouse or partner, which can reduce the taxable income for each individual. However, this strategy is only available to dependent beneficiaries and is subject to certain conditions.
  • When your superannuation fund has a tax-free portion, like those non-concessional contributions you made, you won’t have to pay taxes as a dependent beneficiary as an income stream.
  • The age of the deceased and the beneficiary can also impact the tax implications of receiving an income stream from a super-death benefit. If the deceased was under age 60, the taxable component of the income stream pays the tax at the beneficiary’s marginal tax rate, with a 15% tax offset applied. If the deceased was over age 60, the taxable component may be tax-free for dependent beneficiaries, while non-dependents may be subject to tax.
  • Receiving a super-death benefit as an income stream can be a complex process with significant tax implications. Beneficiaries should seek advice from SMSF advisers in Perth or other experts to ensure they understand the rules and regulations that apply to their specific circumstances and consider strategies for reducing tax where possible. SMSF tax return in Perth is a standard requirement for all funds.

Tax on Lump Sum Death Benefits

  • The amount of tax payable depends on several factors, including the age of the deceased, the age of the beneficiary, and the total value of the superannuation account.
  • Generally speaking, lump sum death benefits paid to dependents are tax-free. However, there are some circumstances in which tax may apply, such as if the deceased had exceeded their lifetime superannuation contributions cap.
  • Dependents: If the beneficiary is a dependent, the tax payable on the lump sum death benefit is calculated based on their age and the value of the superannuation account.
  • Non-Dependents: If the beneficiary is a non-dependent, the tax payable on the lump sum death benefit is higher than for dependents. Non-dependents are generally subject to a flat tax rate of 15% on the taxable component.
  • The taxable element includes contributions made by the deceased that were not in their assessable income or any earnings on those contributions.

How do the Death Benefits Work on an Annuity?

Death benefit payments from annuities are typically tax-free for the beneficiary. However, these payments may be subject to estate tax if the annuity owner’s estate exceeds the tax exemption. Different annuity contracts may provide death benefits, so read the specific agreement to understand how the death benefit would work.

An annuity is a financial contract that provides regular payments to the recipient, typically in retirement. In the event of the annuitants’ death, the beneficiaries can receive the remaining balance as a death benefit payment. The tax treatment of annuity death benefits depends on whether the annuity was purchased or outside of superannuation.

Who Can Receive Death Benefits?

The type of benefit payable on super-death benefits depends on affinity to the deceased and their age.

Dependents include:

  • A spouse, including a de facto spouse (opposite or same-sex). A spouse includes a person legally married to the deceased person or in a registered relationship.
  • A child of the deceased person under 18 years of age, or between 18 and 24 years of age, and wholly or substantially reliant on the dead person for their income.
  • An interdependency relationship exists where two people have a close personal relationship and live together, and one or both provides financial and domestic support to the other.
  • A financial dependent of the deceased person, including a person to whom the dead person had provided financial support immediately before death, and any person who would have been eligible to receive a survivor benefit from the deceased person’s superannuation fund.

How to Avoid the Death Tax on Superannuation?

1. Binding Death Benefit Nomination

Binding Death Benefit Nomination

Making a binding death benefit nomination ensures that the super fund trustee follows your wishes regarding the distribution of benefits upon your death. While not everyone needs a binding death benefit nomination, it can be a valuable tool for those with specific wishes.

2. Spouse Contributions

Spouse contributions involve contributing funds to your spouse’s superannuation account. It can be advantageous if the spouse pays taxes at a lower rate than you. Spouse contributions can help to reduce the tax liability on superannuation death benefits as the funds are deposited to the spouse’s account. It is a valuable way to reduce the tax implications on death benefits and provide for your loved ones after you are gone. It’s essential to consult with SMSF services in Perth or SMSF Perth to ensure that your spouse’s contributions are correct and effective.

3. Estate Planning

Estate Planning

Proper estate planning can reduce the tax liability on super-death benefits. Superannuation deceased estate can be a powerful tool in reducing the death tax. By structuring your estate plan, you can minimize the tax paid on your superannuation death benefits and ensure beneficiaries receive the maximum amount possible. It can include utilizing strategies such as testamentary trusts, lifetime gifting, and charitable giving to reduce the overall tax burden.

4. Superannuation Withdrawals

Superannuation Withdrawals

Continuing with the theme of reducing tax liability on superannuation death benefits, consider the role of withdrawals in this process. While pullouts may seem counterintuitive in minimizing tax burden, they can be beneficial in certain circumstances. It can involve utilizing techniques such as lump sum withdrawals or setting up a pension stream to stretch over a period. Superannuation death payout withdrawals pay taxes at 15% (or possibly less if the recipient is under age 60).

5. SMSF Strategies

It includes utilizing effective tax structures and seeking advice from SMSF consultants or advisers. Strategies involving self-managed super funds (SMSFs) tax returns can be particularly effective in giving greater control over the timing and type of withdrawals.

For example, an SMSF holder can withdraw funds in a tax year where they are likely to have lower income, thereby reducing their overall tax bill. Additionally, they can carefully manage their pension payments to minimize tax obligations and maximize the number of funds transferred tax-free to beneficiaries upon death. SMSF compliance audits in Perth and other SMSF advice specialists may help manage the tax returns on superannuation.


In conclusion, the tax on super-death benefits can vary depending on the circumstances of the beneficiary and the deceased. When a beneficiary receives an income tax return death benefits, they may be required to include the amount in their income tax return for the financial year. The amount of tax payable will depend on the beneficiary’s taxable income for that financial year. Claiming superannuation death benefits can be a complex process, and seek advice from SMSF consultants or Expert SMSF Specialist advisers.

Reducing tax on super-death benefits can be achieved through careful estate planning and different tax structures. SMSF compliance advice in Perth can help in this regard. Australian super death benefits tax is the beneficiary’s taxable income for the financial year.

In Australia, the superannuation death tax can significantly impact the money beneficiaries receive from a deceased person’s superannuation fund. It is crucial to determine if the beneficiary is a dependent or non-dependent to estimate the potential tax liability accurately.

Also read: Top 10 Steps to Setup a Self-Managed Super Fund

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