Parliamentarians urged to stand up for family farms in the face of ‘Super Tax’

26 June 2024

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) is again urging Senate cross benchers to consider the impact of proposed taxation changes for superannuation on thousands of family farms across Australia.

“We are pleased to see reports today that Senate crossbenchers David Pocock and Jacqui Lambie have raised concerns about the proposed legislation, and we are calling on others to do the same,” NFF Acting CEO Charlie Thomas said.

The NFF is calling on Parliament to make critical amendments to the Federal Government’s proposed tax changes on superannuation, emphasising the detrimental impact these changes will have on thousands of family farms across the country.

The Treasury Laws Amendment (Better Targeted Superannuation Concessions and Other Measures) Bill 2023 is currently before the Lower House, and the NFF is urging legislators to exempt primary production assets from the legislation.

Mr Thomas highlighted the unique financial structure of many family farms, where older farmers often hold their farm in a self-managed super fund (SMSF) and lease it to their children, providing retirement income while giving the next generation an opportunity to start farming.

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“We are extremely worried that the proposed increases in taxation rates, including the treatment of ‘unrealised gains’ on holdings, will increase the tax obligation so much that farmers may be forced to sell land assets to pay the tax bill.

“This may leave farmers with a terrible choice: sell the farm to meet these new tax and liquidity obligations or increase their lease rates so much that their own children and grandchildren can’t afford it and leave the industry.”

This will impact thousands of farmers right across the country from Tasmania to Northern Australia.

“The Government has consistently said this bill is aimed at the top end of town, making countless references to people with hundreds of millions of dollars in their super accounts as the target of the reforms – not hard-working family farms.

“If that truly is the case, the Government should have no issue supporting amendments that ensure this legislation does not impact farming families,” Mr Thomas said.

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The NFF’s concerns have been echoed in the recent Senate inquiry with evidence from the SMSF Association estimating over 17,000 accounts in 2021/22 held farming land and of these, more than 3,500 would impacted by the new tax. It’s expected this figure could grow substantially higher in coming years if the Government continues not to apply indexation to the base threshold.

The Association stated that: “Farmers and small business operators with land and business premises owned by their SMSF may encounter significant liquidity pressures. Changes in property values do not automatically correlate to an increase in leasing income or rental yields… If such farmers do not have enough cash inside the SMSF or outside of the SMSF then they may have to sell assets (including the farm) to pay such liabilities.”

Similarly, evidence provided to the inquiry by The Tax Institute, Financial Advice Association of Australia, and the Institute of Financial Professionals Australia also raised similar concerns about farmers unfairly being hit and the changes potentially forcing the sale of farms.

Debate in the Lower House has shown that these issues need to be addressed. The NFF thanks members in the House of Representatives, including many cross benchers, who have raised the significant impacts this bill will have on the farming sector.

“As the Bill continues its passage through Parliament, we urge parliamentarians on all sides to listen to the concerns of Australian farmers and financial professionals and make appropriate amendments to the Bill to exclude the primary production assets from the calculation of superannuation balances,” Mr Thomas said.