Why retirees can't afford to ignore tax time


Published on

It is often assumed that tax is only a concern for working-age people, but this couldn't be further from the truth.

"Once you've retired, it's dangerous to assume you no longer need to lodge returns," says financial planner Chris Giaouris from Chronos Private Wealth.

"You can still adopt tax-effective strategies after you retire."

tax deductions for retirees

As the adage goes, the only certainties in life are death and taxes. And this still applies in retirement.

Managing retirement income

Superannuation can be drawn down via a lump sum or an income stream.

If you're 60 or over, the entire benefit from a super fund is tax-free regardless of which avenue you choose to take.

While superannuation can be withdrawn in a lump sum before 60, it is not overly common because it will incur tax.

If you're between 55 and 60, taking out a lump sum will be taxed at 15% over and above $225,000, the low rate capped threshold.

Still, taking a lump sum before 60 can be a valuable option for people receiving Centrelink benefits.

"Where there is a discrepancy in age between spouses, we will often leave a lot of money inside one spouse's superannuation account because it is exempt from Centrelink," says Giaouris.

"However, when you're drawing a lump sum before 60 out of an accumulation fund, it's taxed at 15%, so those still on Centrelink need to weigh up whether the Centrelink benefit is worth it against paying 15% on the lump sum."

More common is a pension structure.

"The majority of other clients will start a pension, and once you get over 60 those pensions become very tax-effective because the pension is tax-free, so you won't pay tax on investment earnings, capital gains, interest, dividends, anything that the pension account is earning."

Financial planner Nicola Beswick from FMD Financial also points out that the underlying assets within the super account are not subject to capital gains tax and income from the assets is also tax-free. Compared to if money is in the accumulation phase, the underlying assets are subject to capital gains tax and income tax.

"This underlying tax difference is important for someone to understand too and how they may want to structure their affairs."


There is a hard and fast rule when it comes to deductions: deductions can be made on expenses incurred in the process of earning income.

That could include investment property maintenance costs such as agent fees and loan interest, as well as some advice fees. Basically, anything that costs money in the pursuit of generating income is deductible.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said retirees may be able to deduct medical expenses. This has not been available since July 1, 2019. Also, the low rate cap for 2021-2022 is $225,000 not $250,000 as originally stated.

Get stories like this in our newsletters.

Related Stories


David Thornton was a journalist at Money from September 2019 to November 2021. He previously worked at Your Money, covering market news as producer of Trading Day Live. Before that, he covered business and finance news at The Constant Investor. David holds a Masters of International Relations from the University of Melbourne.
Louise B
June 26, 2021 11.07am

I do not think medical expenses have been rebatable for a few years now

Money magazine
June 29, 2021 8.54am

Hi Louise,

You are correct - medical expenses can no longer be deducted.

We have updated the story to reflect this, and apologise for the error.

- Money team

James Anderson
June 28, 2021 3.19pm

Is the low cap rate for 2021/22 now $225,000? See ATO website - Low rate cap amount - Table 9

Money magazine
June 29, 2021 2.27pm

Hi James,

Thank you for your comment. We have updated the story to reflect the correct 2021-2022 low rate cap rate of $225,000. We apologise for the error.

- Money team