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SMSFs warned of risky retirement planning

The ATO is warning self-managed super fund (SMSF) trustees about the risks of some emerging retirement planning arrangements.

Retirees or SMSF trustees who are involved in any illegal arrangement, even by accident, may face severe penalties, risk losing their retirement savings, and potentially, their rights as a trustee to manage their own fund.

The Tax Office has released additional information through their Super Scheme Smart Program to help educate retirees and trustees of these complex tax avoidance schemes and arrangements.

Super Scheme Smart provides case studies and information packs to ensure taxpayers are informed about illegal arrangements including what warning signs to look for and where to go for help.

Many of the arrangements are cleverly designed to look legitimate, give a taxpayer a minimal or zero amount of tax or tax refund or concession, aim to give a present day tax benefit and involve a fair amount of paper shuffling.

Some arrangements may be structured in a way which appears to satisfy certain regulatory rules, however, these arrangements are often ‘too good to be true’ and are in fact illegal.

Among the ATO’s previous concerns about dividend stripping arrangements and contrived arrangements involving diversion of personal services income to an SMSF, there are some new arrangements on the Tax Office’s radar, including:
– Artificial arrangements involving SMSFs and related-party property development ventures.
– Arrangements where an individual or related entity grants a legal life interest over a commercial property to an SMSF. This results in the rental income from the property being diverted to the SMSF and taxed at lower rates whilst the individual or related entity retains legal ownership of the property.
– Arrangements where individuals (including SMSF members) deliberately exceed their non-concessional contributions cap to manipulate the taxable component and non-taxable component of their fund balance upon refund of the excess.

If you are concerned about your involvement with such arrangements, you can contact the Tax Office early to work towards a resolution.

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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.