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Be wary of unregistered tax preparers

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is warning taxpayers to keep an eye out for people posing as tax agents who are not registered with the Tax Practitioners Board (TPB). Only a registered tax agent can charge a fee to prepare and lodge your tax return.

There are concerns from the ATO about the number of people claiming to be tax agents, often promising refunds that sound too good to be true, or providing discounted services much cheaper than registered, legitimate tax agents. Unregistered preparers will often use a taxpayer’s personal login details to access their ATO Online account through myGov to lodge tax returns.

To protect yourself from a large tax bill or from facing penalties, check that your tax agent is registered on the TPB website or ask to see their Certificate of Registration of Tax Agent. Protecting your myGov login details and password will also ensure safety as a legitimate tax practitioner will never ask for your myGov credentials. Registered tax agents can access the information they need themselves through ATO online services dedicated to lodging returns for their clients.

Individuals should also be aware that if you use an unregistered tax or BAS agent and they are negligent, you will not be protected under the safe harbour provisions set out in the Taxation Administration Act 1953.

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Self-managed super funds (SMSF) aren’t just about financial investment

December 3, 2020

Individuals may be looking to opt for an SMSF because these provide entire control over where the money is invested. While this sounds enticing, the downside is that they involve a lot more time and effort as all investment is managed by the members/trustees.

Firstly, SMSFs require a lot of on-going investment of time:

Data shows that SMSF trustees spend an average of 8 hours per month managing their SMSFs. This adds up to more than 100 hours per year and demonstrates that compared to other superannuation methods, is a lot more time occupying.

Secondly, there are set-up and maintenance costs of SMSFs such as tax advice, financial advice, legal advice and hiring an accredited auditor. These costs are difficult to avoid if you want the best out of your SMSF. A statistical review has shown that on average, the operating cost of an SMSF is $6,152. This data is inclusive of deductible and non-deductible expenses such as auditor fee, management and administration expenses etc., but not inclusive of costs such as investment and insurance expenses.

Thirdly, investing in SMSF requires financial and legal knowledge and skill. Trustees should understand the investment market so that they can build and manage a diversified portfolio. Further, when creating an investment strategy, it is important to assess the risk and plan ahead for retirement, which can be difficult if one is not equipped with the necessary knowledge. In terms of legal knowledge, complying with tax, super and other relevant regulations requires a basic level of understanding at the very least. Finally, insurance for fund members also needs to be organised which can be difficult without additional knowledge.
Although SMSFs have the advantage of autonomy when it comes to investing, this comes at a price. Members/trustees need to invest time and money into managing the fund and on top of this, are required to have some financial and legal knowledge to successfully manage the fund.