This is the most comprehensive guide to the First Home Super Saver Scheme in Australia.
The best part?
I’m going to show you the exact techniques step-by-step process in applying for, contributing and withdrawing funds from the First Home Super Saver Scheme, also known as the FHSSS.
(With lots of real-life examples and 4 new case studies)
In short: if you want to buy your first home fast, you’ll love this guide.
Let’s get started.
- 1. First Home Super Saver Scheme Basics
- 2. How does the First Home Super Saver Scheme work?
- 3. Who can apply for the First Home Super Saver Scheme?
- 4. How much can you save using the first home buyer super saver scheme?
- 5. First Home super saver scheme calculator (FHSSS Calculator)
- 6. How do you pay extra money into my super for the FHSSS?
- 7. How do you withdraw money from the FHSSS?
- 8. How long does it take to get funds released from the First Home Super Saver Scheme?
- 9. Is there a time limit to use the funds released from the FHSSS?
- 10. What happens if I do not use the FHSSS funds within 12 months?
- 11. What are the risks with the FHSSS?
- Bonus #1: Can the FHSSS be used with the $15,000 First Home Owner Grant?
- Bonus #2: What do the banks consider as genuine savings?
1. First Home Super Saver Scheme Basics
In this section, we’ll cover the basics.
First, you’ll learn exactly what the First Home Super Saver Scheme is.
I’ll also explain why you would use the FHSSS.
What is the first home super saver scheme?
First Home Super Saver Scheme (also known as FHSSS) is a government scheme made to assist you with speeding up the time it takes to save and buy your first home.
The way it does this is using voluntary before-tax contributions made to your superannuation fund, that can then be withdrawn to be later used as your deposit towards buying your first home.
For example, Bianca has been working as a Marketing Associate, makes $50,000 per year and wants to use the FHSSS to speed up the time it takes to save for her first home purchase. She has never owned a home before, and wants to buy a place as soon as possible… but has no savings at all.
Bianca asks her work to take voluntary before-tax contrubtions from her salary, and make them to her superannuation fund of $10,000 per year which works out to roughly $833 per month from her before tax pay.
As this money is being taken before tax it reduces how much tax she pays per year on her total pay, so in effect Bianca’s take home pay (i.e. the pay she receives in her bank account every month) is only reduced by $6,400 per year, or $533 per month!
Using the First Home Super Saver Scheme Bianca is actually saving around $300 more per month.
After 3 years of saving, based on the First Home Super Saver Scheme Calculator Bianca would have an extimated $25,608 availble for deposit under the FHSSS – This is $6,089 MORE than if she had been saving in a regular deposit account
Why use the First Home Super Saver Scheme (FHSSS)?
The First Home Super Saver Scheme makes it easier for you to save your deposit by making before-tax contributions to your superannuation.
In other words:
Using the FHSSS you can automate saving for your deposit by portioning a part of your income to be put into your super account before tax.
Other benefits of the First Home Super Saver Scheme include:
- ✅ Speeding up your savings – Any earnings that you make on contributions to the First Home Super Saver Scheme are taxed to 15% in your superannuation fund, this can assist with speeding up your savings because the tax rate is likely less than your marginal tax rate.
- ✅ Tax benefits – You get favourable tax treatment on eligible funds that are withdrawn (and any earnings associated) from your super.
- ✅ Meeting genuine savings criteria – Putting your savings on autopilot, and having them in the FHSSS makes them genuine savings in the eyes of the banks.
- ✅ Win-win if you don’t use the funds – If you do not use the funds to buy a home you can keep them in your super fund and help build for the future.
Can I use my super for a house deposit?
While you can use super for a house deposit if it is an investment property (and you have a self-managed superannuation fund set up) the First Home Super Saver Scheme does not allow you to use your regular super contributions towards your house deposit.
You can only withdraw the additional contributions you make as a part of the FHSSS to buy your first home.
2. How does the First Home Super Saver Scheme work?
People who have never owned property in Australia can make extra contributions to their superannuation (known as voluntary contributions) from their pre-tax income to build a deposit for a home.
Put another way:
You reduce your take-home pay but increase the amount your employer puts into your super.
So the FHSSS works by reducing the tax you pay from your salary, and (should) help you save a deposit for a home quicker.
For example, Sally has been working as an Advertising Associate for the last 3 years and earns $70,000 per year and wants to buy her first home as soon as possible so will make the maximum annual salary sacrifice of $15,000 per year over 2 years.
Sally’s salary sacrifice contribution of $15,000 will reduce her take-home pay by only $9,650 and after 2 years she will have an estimated $25,355 available for deposit under the First Home Super Saver Scheme. That is $5,802 more than Sally would have had if she had been saving in a standard deposit account.
If Sally wanted to reduce the salary sacrifice amount and increase how much money she took home she could reduce her annual salary sacrifice contrition to only $10,000 which would only reduce her take-home pay by $6,450.
After 3 years of saving, Sally would have an estimated $25,892 available for deposit under the FHSSS which would work out to be $6,210 more than if she had been saving in a regular savings account.
Calculations based on figures from First Home Super Saver Scheme Calculator
3. Who can apply for the First Home Super Saver Scheme?
Similar to the First Home Owners Grant, to be eligible for the First Home Super Saver Scheme you cannot have owned property in Australia in the past, you need to be over 18 years old, planning to live in the property for at least 6 months within the first 12 months of owning it and not have used the FHSSS before.
The ATO says eligibility is based on an individual basis, which means couples, siblings and friends can still access their own FHSSS contributions to purchase the same property and if someone has previously owned a home it will not stop anyone else who is eligible from applying.
For example, Andrew and Steve are wanting to buy a property together. Andrew has owned property in Australian in the past and is ineligible for the FHSSS but Steve has never owned property in Australia before.
Steve meets all the criteria for the FHSSS, so is able to apply for the concessions in his own right and is not affected by Andrew having owned property in the past even though they will end up buying a property together in the future.
There are some exceptions to the eligibility including financial hardship provisions, so if you have previously owned property but have suffered financial hardship that has resulted in a loss of ownership (including bankruptcy, divorce, loss of employment, or illness) you could be considered for the First Home Super Saver Scheme Hardship Application.
4. How much can you save using the first home buyer super saver scheme?
There are limitations on the amount you can save using the First Home Buyer Super Saver Scheme, there is a maximum voluntary contribution of $15,000 per financial year or up to a maximum of $30,000 in total.
Voluntary contributions can either be concessional contributions from pre-tax income like salary sacrifice, or personal contributions in which a decision has been claimed. Non-concessional contributions can be made from after-tax income and no-tax deduction can be claimed.
In other words:
Concessional contributions include salary sacrifice contributions and are taxed at 15% but the non-concessional contribution is made from your after-tax pay so you will pay your regular marginal tax on these.
There are different caps to both concessional, and non-concessional contributions which you can discuss with your accountant and financial adviser.
For example, Donald is employed full-time and receives $115,000 taxable income per year and he is wanting to make the maximum salary sacrifice contribution possible which will be limited to $15,000.
He asks his employer to take $15,000 annual salary sacrifice contribution, which will reduce his take-home pay by $9,150 and after 2 years of saving there will be approximately $24,327 available for deposit under the FHSSS being $5,804 more than if he had been saving with a regular account.
How much can you have released from the FHBSSS?
The amount you can release is limited depending on the type of contribution you made to the fund. If you made a non-concessional contribution, 100% is eligible to be released and if you made a concessional contribution 85% of the amount is eligible to be released.
Keep in mind that the maximum amount that can be released is not the actual amount you will receive from the ATO, because they will withhold the appropriate amount of tax and offset against any outstanding Commonwealth debts.
5. First Home super saver scheme calculator
Update: August 2019, there is a brand new first home super saver scheme calculator to check out.
The benefits of the First Home Super Saver Scheme will depend on your taxable income, and annual sacrifice amount so the ATO’s calculator can help you determine the total benefits.
The First Home Super Saver Calculator compares difference scenarios when saving for your first home using your annual pre-tax contributions to superannuation of up to $15,000 per year, and a maximum of $30,000 to the equal saving amount, less your personal tax rate in a regular savings account.
Steps in using the First Home Super Saver Calculator:
- 1. Enter your taxable income
- 2. Enter how much you would like to save (or salary sacrifice per year)
- 3. Look at the total benefit, and how many years it would take you to achieve this
6. How do you pay extra money into my super for the FHSSS?
As covered above, you need to make extra payments (called voluntary contributions) to your superannuation fund with the intention of using those funds towards your first home.
Can I use salary sacrifice to save for a home deposit?
If you are paid through an employer (i.e. you get payslips) you can just ask your employer to reduce your take-home pay and increase your pre-tax contributions to your existing superannuation fund. These are taxed at 15%, along with deemed earnings and can be withdrawn as your deposit.
On the other hand, if you are self-employed you can make the contributions to your superannuation fund and claim a decision on the personal contributions later. You need to be mindful of staying within the concessional contribution cap.
In either case, you do not need to let the superannuation fund that you plan on participating on the First Home Super Saver Scheme, you only need to make these extra voluntary contributions and then when you are ready to apply to the ATO to release the funds.
7. How do you withdraw money from the FHSSS?
There are a few steps in withdrawing your voluntary superannuation contributions from your fund, and your first point of call is actually the ATO.
(And not your superannuation fund)
The steps in withdrawing your money contributed to the FHSSS are:
- Apply to the Commission of Taxation for the ‘FHSSS determination and release’ via your myGov Account
- The Commissioner will process and provide your ‘FSSS determination’ then you need to apply to the ATO for a release of your funds
- The ATO will then release an authority to your superannuation fund, who will send a request to release the amount to the ATO
- The ATO will then calculate and hold back any tax you owe and offset against any outstanding Commonwealth debts
- The ATO will then send the balance of funds to you.
The FHSS scheme maximum release will take into account your $15,000 financial year limit, and $30,000 total limit when calculating how much will be refunded to you.
Also, know that you can only apply for a release once, so you want to have confirmed you are ready to buy a property before going through this process.
8. How long does it take to get funds released from the First Home Super Saver Scheme?
Because there is a fairly lengthy process to get your funds released under the FHSSS it can take around 20-25 business days for your superannuation fund to release your deposit funds and pay it to you.
This is on top of the 10-20 business days it can take the Commission of Taxation, and ATO to arrange their determination and other paperwork.
Read More: First Home Super Saver Scheme Guide
9. Is there a time limit to use the funds released from the FHSSS?
Yes once the savings have been released you have up to 12 months to sign a contract of sale or construct a home.
You need to be purchasing a residential property to live in, and it cannot be:
- ⛔️ Any premises not capable of being occupied as a residence
- ⛔️ A houseboat
- ⛔️ A motorhome
- Vacant Land*** see below…
BUT, if you want to buy vacant land to build a home on you need to have entered a contract to build the house within 12 months of the funds being released to you.
For example, Sabrina has withdrawn funds from her FHSSS to buy vacant land to build a house on. The funds from her FHSSS are released 1st November 2018, she signs the contract of sale to purchase the land on 1st December 2018 and then took 6 months to sign a contract to build the home.
The contract to build the house was signed 1st July 2019, because Sabrina entered a contract to build the house within 12 months of the FHSSS funds being released she is ok.
10. What happens if I do not use the FHSSS funds within 12 months?
If you do not sign a contract to buy a home or construct a property within 12 months from the funds being released from the FHSSS you can either:
- ✅ Request an extension of up to 12 months
- ✅ Recontribute the total amount of funds back into your superannuation. This needs to be a non-concessional contribution and be at least equal to your assessable FHSS released amount less any tax withheld.
- ✅ Keep the released amount and be subject to FHSS tax, which is a flat tax quay to 20% of the FHSS released amount.
Read More: First Home Super Saver Scheme Fact Sheet
11. What are the risks with the FHSSS?
As with any government scheme or offer, there are going to be some benefits and risks including:
- ⛔️ You need to make (additional) voluntary contributions to the FHSSS and cannot be made on your behalf, like your ordinary employer superannuation contributions or contributions made by your spouse.
- ⛔️ To remain eligible under the First Home Super Saver Scheme you are limited to a maximum of $15,000 contribution per financial year, and a total amount of $30,000 and if you go above this amount you will get slapped with massive tax penalties.
- ⛔️ The ATO will determine how much you can withdraw, after taking into consideration the total contribution amounts and tax.
- ⛔️ Once you do withdraw the funds from the FHSSS, any concessional contributions and associated earnings will be included into your assessable income and taxed at your marginal tax rate less a 30% tax offset. Non-Concessional contributions are tax-free because they were already taxed going in.
- ⛔️ You need to sign a contract of sale or construct a home within 12 months of withdrawing the funds from your superannuation account, and you need to live in the property for at least 6 months.
Ultimately being able to withdraw the funds is going to be at the ATO’s discretion, and as you could expect they will hit you with heavy penalties if you make any false statements.
Bonus 1: Can the FHSSS be used with the $15,000 First Home Owner Grant?
The good news is that yes, the First Home Super Saver scheme can be used in conjunction with the First Home Owner Grant and Great Start Grant in Queensland provided you meet the eligibility criteria including:
- ✅ You have not previously owned a residential property
- ✅ Your minimum age should be 18 years and you must be a permanent resident of Australia
- ✅ The value of the land including the land is less than $750,000
- ✅ You must be buying or building a brand new home
- ✅ You must move into the new home as your primary home within 1 year and live there continuously for 6 months.
For example, Sabrina in the example above but she signed the contract at an earlier date. Sabrina has withdrawn funds from her FHSSS to buy vacant land to build a house on. The funds from her FHSSS are released 1st November 2018, she signs the contract of sale to purchase the land + contract to build a home on 1st December 2018.
Sabrina had never owned property before and planned on living in the home for at least 6 months. The value of the new home including the land was less than $750,000 and she met the other criteria above meaning she also qualified for the $15,000 First Home Owner Grant. You can check your eligibility for the first home owner grant here.
Read More: Queensland first Home Owners Grant
Bonus 2: What do the banks consider as genuine savings?
Genuine savings show the bank that the applicant has a bit of skin in the game, a bit of hurt money that you have saved up yourself. While most banks consider the First Home Super Saver scheme genuine savings they will also count any of the following:
- ✅ Savings held or accumulated over 3 months
- ✅ Shares or managed funds held for 3 months or greater
- ✅ Equity in real estate or property
- ✅ Term deposits held for 3 months or greater
- ✅ First Home Super Saver Scheme (FHSSS)
- ✅ Some lenders allow exceptions if rent has been paid for the last 3 months or greater
Read More: What Is Genuine Savings?
Next steps and settling your new home
Our team here at Hunter Galloway is here to help you buy a home in Brisbane. Nathan & Joshua Vecchio are Senior Mortgage brokers who specialise in making your home journey easy.
Unlike other mortgage brokers who are just one person operators, we have an entire team of experts to help make your home loan journey as simple as possible.
If you want to get started, please get in touch here and we can book a time that suits you – either a phone call information session or a face to face meeting (which doesn’t cost anything for you).
Further reading for Home Buyers…
- 🏡 For our comprehensive guide for First Home Buyers, check out this page here.
- 🏡 Looking at getting a loan, check out our Complete First Home Buyers guide.
- 🏡 Home Loan Guide to Brisbane
- 🏡 And don’t forget the costs of buying which we covered in detail here.
Note: Information is current as at August 2019 and subject to change without any further notification. Any home loan application is subject to credit approval, and verification of all supporting documentation. Consider this article as general in its nature and not to be taken as advice.