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Illegal early release of super on ATO watch-list

Illegal early release of super (IER) is one of the risk areas that the ATO has identified as being of most concern and in need of action.

Each year, the ATO analyses its data to identify the areas of high risk that will form part of its compliance program. Aside from illegal early release, another key risk area is non-lodgement. In the last year, the ATO has targeted individuals and promoters who register self-managed super funds with the intention of using the fund to illegally access super benefits.

In the 2019 financial year, the ATO cancelled the registration of 609 newly registered SMSFs who intended to use the funds for IER. They also withheld the details of 352 funds from the Super Fund Lookup, meaning they couldn’t receive payments and rollovers.

The ATO has warned of severe consequences for you and your fund if super is accessed before you are legally entitled to it. These include disqualification of trustees, administrative penalties, the fund deemed as non-complying, or even prosecution.

Fund trustees or members who have knowingly been involved in a scheme or been approached by anyone claiming that they can withdraw their super early should contact the ATO immediately to advise of the situation and avoid further penalties.

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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.