23rd Oct, 2023
The ATO has ramped up compliance activity in the self managed super fund (SMSF) space in response to an increasing number of funds that have been identified as not complying with superannuation obligations. For the 2023 year, the ATO says it has issued double the amount of tax and penalties when compared with the 2022 income year, and the number of disqualifications has tripled.
For the 2023 year, ATO compliance actions included issuing an additional $29 million in income tax liabilities, administrative and tax shortfall penalties, and interest on SMSF trustees and/or members, which is double the amount of tax and penalties the ATO issued in 2022. In addition, a total of 753 trustees were disqualified in the 2023 income year, and that is more than triple the amount of disqualifications in the 2022 income year.
According to the ATO, the most common reason for applying penalties was the illegal early access of super benefits by fund members. It reminds SMSF trustees that they have a responsibility to ensure that members have met a condition of release before any funds are released. Trustees should also be aware that some conditions of release have cashing restrictions which restrict the form of benefit (ie lump sum or pension) or the amount of benefit that can be paid.
Common conditions of release include the fund member having reached preservation age and retired, or commenced a transition-to-retirement income stream; ceasing an employment arrangement on or after the age of 60; being 65 years old even though they haven’t retired; or having died.
If the common conditions of release aren’t met, where a member meets eligibility requirements under certain special circumstances, they are able to have at least part of their super benefits released before reaching preservation age. These special circumstances include that the fund member:
Besides targeting illegal early release, the ATO has reminded trustees of SMSFs that their fund must be audited every year by a suitably qualified auditor and an annual return must be lodged by the due date. This blitz on the SMSF compliance is set to continue all through until the end of the 2024 income year, with the ATO explicitly stating it will take “firm action” against trustees who persistently fail to comply with their obligations and seriously breach the superannuation laws.
23rd Aug, 2023
The ATO has warned taxpayers against entering into a scheme through their self managed superannuation fund (SMSF) which claims to allow individuals to purchase property using money from their super.
This sort of scheme typically involves the rollover of a member’s super benefits from an existing fund into a new or existing SMSF, which then invests in a property trust for a fixed period and rate of return, being a contributory fund with other investors. However, the money from the property trust is then on-lent to individuals from a third-party in the form of a loan to assist in the purchase of real property secured by mortgages over the property.
Depending on the type of scheme, the money on-lent to the individual may be used for all or part of the deposit, the balance of the purchase price, costs relating to the purchase, or even to help consolidate a member’s personal debts to enable them to secure a home loan. The scheme promoter will usually charge a high fee to the fund and establish both the SMSF and the property investment, as well as organising the purchase of the property (in some cases house and land packages).
The ATO notes that these arrangements are established and promoted under the guise of a genuine SMSF investment with the added benefit of helping individuals purchase a home, but they are not in fact legitimate investments. They often contravene one or more of the super laws by providing members with a current day benefit while also being set up in ways that don’t comply with the sole purpose test.
The ATO will apply a “look through” approach when considering this type of scheme. That means if an SMSF’s fund money is used to help purchase a property for a member, whether it be indirectly through the SMSF’s investment in other entities, it will be treated as an illegal early access of super benefits by the member. The amount used to help purchase a property will be included in the member’s assessable income and taxed at their marginal rate, and tax shortfall penalties may apply.
People who may have been persuaded by slick marketing or promoters and inadvertently entered into these schemes are urged to contact the ATO to make a voluntary disclosure, which will be taken into account.
22nd May, 2023
As flagged earlier in the year when the announcement was made, the Federal Government recently released a consultation paper on its proposal to reduce super tax concessions for individuals with super balances over $3 million, including those with self managed super funds (SMSFs). Some important questions the paper asked included whether the proposal would create any unintended consequences and whether the current proposed proportioning methods are appropriate. The new measure is not yet law.
To recap, the government proposed in late February that individuals with a total super balance (TSB) of more than $3 million combined in all the super accounts will have their super concessional tax rate changed to 30% from the 2025–2026 financial year onwards. This means from 30 June 2026, the earnings of those individuals on the part of their TSB over $3 million will attract an additional 15% tax. The additional tax will be applied directly to the individual and there will be no change to the tax arrangements within super funds.
The ATO will continue to calculate the TSB of all individuals annually using existing information provided by super funds and SMSFs. Individuals will be able to quickly identify whether they will be subject to the new tax by reference to their TSB at the end of each financial year through myGov. As it is proposed, the threshold will not be indexed and is not shared between spouses, family members or between other individuals who have interests in the same fund such as an SMSF.
The additional 15% tax will be determined by the ATO and levied directly on individuals. This will also be imposed separately to personal income tax, and it is intended that the amount of tax payable would not be reduceable by deductions, offsets or losses available under the personal income tax system (ie only prior year negative earnings could be applied).
17th Feb, 2023
If you’re thinking of starting a self managed superannuation fund (an SMSF) in 2023, you need to be aware of the recent changes made by the ATO on fund registration, and the application of the Director ID regime to funds with corporate trustees.
Previously, after an SMSF was established and trustees were appointed, the trustees had 60 days to register the SMSF with the ATO by applying for an Australian Business Number through the Australian Business Register. That application included a section where bank account details of the SMSF could be added, along with other information such as the fund’s Tax File Number.
Due to the recent explosion in fraudulent schemes targeting SMSFs, this feature has been removed in a bid to protect the retirement savings of Australians. New SMSFs will now need to provide the ATO with their bank account details after the SMSF registration process, using the online portal for businesses, via phone, or through a registered tax agent.
If you’re contemplating starting an SMSF with a corporate trustee, you’ll also need to ensure the directors of the corporate trustee apply for Director IDs before their appointment is made through Australian Business Registry Services (ABRS). The Director ID is a unique 15-digit identifier that will follow each individual through their business life and was introduced as a part of a suite of measures to combat phoenixing and other illegal activities. The process is free, simple, online and only requires individuals to confirm their identity. Every individual must apply for their own Director ID, and no one else can apply on their behalf.
01st May, 2022
Because of the financial impacts of COVID-19, trustees of a self managed superannuation fund(SMSF), or a related party of the fund, may provide or accept certain types of relief, which may give rise to contraventions of the super laws. Some trustees may also have been stranded overseas because of travel bans, which can affect their fund’s residency status.
In recognition of these issues, the ATO is offering support and relief to SMSF trustees for the 2019–2020, 2020–2021 and 2021–2022 income years.
This generally includes not taking any compliance action against an SMSF and not requiring the SMSF auditor to report related contraventions in the following areas:
13th Mar, 2022
There are many compliance obligations for trustees of self managed superannuation funds (SMSFs). One of the simplest but most important is ensuring that contributions from members can be accepted into the fund. This involves reporting the tax file numbers (TFNs) of members to the ATO, ensuring non- mandated contributions are not accepted for members over a certain age, and observing certain restrictions on in specie (asset) contributions.
Broadly, whether a contribution to an SMSF can be accepted depends on the type of contribution, the age of the member making the contribution, certain caps, and whether the fund has the TFN of the member.
When a member joins an SMSF, they need to provide their TFN, which then needs to be passed on to the ATO through the registration process. If a TFN is not provided, the fund cannot accept certain member contributions, including personal contributions, eligible spouse contributions and super co-contributions.
Employer contributions, including salary sacrifice contributions and other assessable contributions, may also be liable for additional income tax of 32% on top of the 15% tax already paid.
If an SMSF mistakenly accepts a contribution it should not have, the fund must return it within 30 days of becoming aware of the error. Failure to comply with the time limit does not affect the fund’s legal obligation to return contributions.
Even if a member has provided their TFN, the type of a contribution combined with the age of the member can affect what is acceptable. For example, mandated employer contributions such as super guarantee contributions from a member’s employer can generally be accepted at any time, regardless of the member’s age or the number of hours they work. Non-mandated contributions largely cannot be accepted if a member is aged 75 years or older.
Lastly, there are restrictions on when an SMSF can accept an asset as a contribution from a member. These are referred to as “in specie contributions”, which just means contributions to the fund in the form of a non-monetary asset. Generally, an SMSF must not intentionally acquire assets from related parties to the fund; however, there are some specific exceptions.