There is still much confusion among the wealthier members of our society regarding the $1.6 million limit on the amount that can be held in a tax-free pension fund after that date.

The following question is typical of many I have been receiving.

“Most of the assets in my self-managed super fund are in cash deposits and Australian shares. To meet the $1.6m cap for each of us, we intend to keep some shares and some term deposits in the pension fund. The shares will have to be valued as at close of business 30 June 2017. What if the price of these shares goes above/below the estimate made before this date? Further, if term deposits were to mature some time after 30 June, can we transfer the amount above the cap (upon maturity) to the accumulation fund without incurring any penalty? Or do we have to incur a penalty and break the term before 30 June? Can you please clarify?’

While these questions appear reasonable, they are over-complicating the issue. Provided the trustees of the fund have decided to keep the assets of the fund unsegregated after June 30 (a wise decision, in my view) there are really no urgent actions to take on June 30. The regulators do not expect you to do the impossible, and are well aware that dividends, and dividend tax statements, will arrive after June 30, as will the tax refund cheque if the fund is getting one.

One vital factor has not been mentioned by a single enquirer. It is critical that or before 30 June instructions to commute the pensions back to a balance of $1.6 million have been given to the trustee. Minutes should be drafted. If there is a balance in another fund, details of how to calculate the commutation should also be placed on file.

At some stage after June 30, the trustees of the fund will need talk to their fund administrator and examine the cost base of all growth assets held by the fund. If there is a capital profit the trustees will almost certainly exercise the option to value the base cost of that asset at June 30 at market value on that date. This means that unrealised capital profits within the accumulation phase will be zero on June 30.

For those of you, like myself, who have some duds, it is important that you do not sell these before June 30 unless you believe they are in a fast-moving downward spiral. At June 30, these losses will be able to be carried forward to be offset against future capital profits in the accumulation mode. By selling prior to June 30 you are losing the benefit of those losses.

Between 1 July 2017 and 30 June 2018 the fund can then proceed as normal, with the trustees making sure the members take the minimum pension required. Because a portion of the fund will now be in accumulation mode, the pension multiple will be based on $1.6 million per member. For many funds this means that a much lower amount will be required to be withdrawn than was the case this year. Remember, in accumulation mode there is no obligation to make any withdrawals.

After 30 June 2018, the fund’s actuary will calculate the numbers that will determine what amount of assets will be treated as if they were in pension mode, and what proportion will be allocated to accumulation. The profits and losses will also be distributed according to those numbers.

I must stress the importance of taking expert advice if you have substantial assets in your superannuation fund. It’s a sad reality that many emails I receive from trustees of their own funds show a dangerous lack of knowledge in the way they function and must be run. There could be huge penalties for getting it wrong – good advice doesn’t cost you, it saves you.