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Last Updated on 21 June 2018

Life Insurance Through an SMSF:
Understanding Your Options


If you have a self-managed super fund (SMSF), you’re not required to purchase life insurance through your fund, but it may be possible. In fact, the law requires you to consider the life insurance needs of your members.

Whether you’ve had life insurance through an SMSF before or you’re not sure where to start, this guide is for you. We’ll look at the pros and cons of purchasing life insurance through your SMSF and give you a few extra things to consider.

Key Points
  • You can typically buy three popular types of life insurance policies through your SMSF: death cover, any occupation TPD, and standard income protection policies
  • Avoid out-of-pocket premiums when buying life insurance through an SMSF. Premiums are paid directly from super funds, freeing up your cash flow.
  • Life insurance payouts go to the fund first before they are distributed to the nominated beneficiary, so keep that in mind when organising your life cover.

What is an SMSF?

Self-managed super funds are a way to save for your retirement, just like any other type of superannuation. The difference is that members of SMSFs are also the trustees, who are essentially running the fund for their own benefit. It’s up to fund members to comply with any super or tax laws.

What Are My Life Insurance Options Through an SMSF?

According to the Australian Taxation Office, insurance through an SMSF can be provided for the following events, which meet the conditions of release for a member’s super:

  • Death
  • Terminal medical condition
  • Permanent incapacity
  • Temporary incapacity

In general, you can purchase the following life insurance policy types through your SMSF:

  • Death cover
  • Any occupation total and permanent disability (TPD)
  • Standard income protection policies

The following policies are typically not available through an SMSF:

  • Own occupation total or permanent disability (TPD)
  • Comprehensive income protection policies
  • Trauma insurance (unless it is a continuation of benefits for the member that existed prior to 1 July 2014)

These restrictions are in place to protect members, because payouts from these policies can become trapped in a superannuation fund. The conditions of release would not be met, and therefore the member wouldn’t be able to receive the benefits.

Advantages of Buying Life Insurance Through an SMSF

There are plenty of benefits to getting your life insurance through your self-managed super fund. Here are just a few.

  • Avoid out-of-pocket premiums
    Pay for your life insurance premiums by drawing on your superannuation balance. This frees up your cash for other things while still keeping you covered.
  • Convenience
    Since you’re paying your premium through your super, you don’t have to worry about paying a bill each month.
  • Pay premiums with pre-tax money
    Since your super is built through pre-taxed income, you’ll pay your premiums with money that hasn’t been taxed. Bonus!
  • Protect fund assets
    If you’ve borrowed money from your fund, it could mean a forced sale of assets if you die or are permanently disabled. An insurance policy will cover that loan, and property owned by the SMSF won’t be sold if you can’t make the loan payments.
  • Broader income protection
    Income protection policies usually replace 75% of your pre-disability income. However, if you play by the superannuation rules and purchase the appropriate income protection policy, you could get a full 100% of pre-disability income.
  • Protect your loved ones
    Life insurance through your SMSF ultimately does what life insurance is intended to do: protect your family’s finances if something should happen to you. This offers great peace of mind for many people who choose to have life cover.

Disadvantages of Buying Life insurance through an SMSF

There are a few drawbacks to buying life insurance through your SMSF that you should keep in mind when making a decision.

  • Limited product options
    As covered earlier, you may not be able to access the full suite of life insurance products when purchasing through your SMSF. However, this is for your benefit.
  • Reduced super funds
    When you pay your premiums from your SMSF, it could reduce the amount of your super balance.
  • Super caps
    If you try to counteract the reduction of funds by increasing your contributions, be aware of super cap limits. As of 1 July 2017, all individuals regardless of age are subject to a concessional contributions cap of $25,000.
  • Payout
    Life insurance payouts go to the fund rather than to an individual or family. This can catch people off guard if they are unaware, so be sure to plan for it when organising your cover. Check the rules of your fund, because there are also some circumstances where life insurance payouts from an SMSF may be taxed.

How to Buy Life Insurance Through an SMSF

Purchasing life insurance through an SMSF can be surprisingly straightforward. The main caveat is that you need to find a policy that is available in an SMSF version. Premiums are typically the same as those purchased by individuals outside of a fund. However, check to see if any exclusions apply in order to meet superannuation requirements.

When you buy a policy for an SMSF, the fund trustees or the trustee company must be listed as the policy owner. List them “as trustee for” the fund.

Tax Considerations for Life Insurance in an SMSF

Concessional contributions to your super are included in the fund’s assessable income,and are viewed as ‘tax-advantaged’ contributions. These contributions are taxed at a concessional rate of 15%.

As of 1 July 2017, you can contribute up to $25,000 at the concessional tax rate. That means you’re paying your life insurance premiums from tax-advantaged dollars, saving you money.

An SMSF is typically able to claim a tax deduction for insurance premium costs. This in turn can lower the tax payable on contributions and investment earnings, which means more money in your pocket.

Is Life Insurance Through an SMSF a Good Idea For Me?

Purchasing life insurance is a very personal decision, and what’s right depends on your situation. Weigh up the pros and cons of life insurance through your SMSF, and be sure to check any exclusions, terms, and conditions so you understand what you’re signing up for.

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