The pool of lost or unclaimed superannuation now exceeds $20.8 billion, according to fresh data released today by the Australian Taxation Office.
Under new legislation, the ATO is working to reunite Australians with missing parts of their retirement nest eggs that remain dormant and unclaimed through job changes, working overseas or by simply moving home.
Last year alone, more than 540,000 active, lost and unclaimed super accounts worth $4.4 billion were recovered and consolidated into active accounts through data matching and pressure on super funds to declare inactive accounts.
ATO assistant commissioner Graham Whyte said that, for some Australians, the super windfall has been life-changing, especially those with uncertain retirement plans.
“One woman aged 68 will be directly paid over $1.5 million that was unclaimed and she’d lost touch with,” Mr Whyte said.
“Another woman was previously reunited with over $600,000 of unclaimed super after losing her home in a bushfire. As she was over 65, we were able to pay that money directly to her and she is now able to use this money to rebuild her life.
“In this case, it wasn’t until the woman reached out to us that she realised she had so much super. That’s why it’s great that we can now start proactively reuniting people with their super that they might not know about.”
In a state by state breakdown, the ATO found that residents in New South Wales were missing out on $6 billion in superannuation, followed by Victoria ($4.7 billion), Western Australia ($2.2 billion), Queensland ($2.8 billion), South Australia ($1.4 billion) and Tasmania ($404 million).
Under the new laws, superannuation funds must report inactive and low balance accounts to the ATO, including accounts that have not received a contribution for 16 months with a balance below $6000.
So far, the ATO has reunited 841,000 accounts worth $1.38 billion, with $1.22 billion transferred into active super accounts and $161 million to individual bank accounts.
The action by the ATO to recover lost super comes as employers confront a backlash from workers, unions and regulators in cases where superannuation has been either deliberately or inadvertently withheld.
The focus on worker entitlements is also intensifying after underpayments by Woolworths, Wesfarmers, Qantas, the Commonwealth Bank, Super Retail Group, Michael Hill Jewellers and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.