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Understanding SMSF trustee responsibilities

Self-managed super fund (SMSF) trustees have onerous duties and responsibilities in relation to the management of their fund.

An SMSF trustee primarily needs to ensure the fund is properly managed for the benefit of members for their retirement.

All trustees must ensure the fund assets are held in trust and invested on behalf of the members. Trustees need to ensure their fund complies with all super rules including super laws and the fund’s trust deed.

Trustees must regularly review and update the fund’s trust deed and investment strategy in accordance with the law and the needs of the SMSF’s members.

Another responsibility is to accept contributions and paying benefits (income streams and lump sums) in accordance with super laws and the fund’s trust deed. Trustees must also advise the Tax Office of any changes in trustees, directors or members within 28 days of the change taking place.

SMSF trustees also have the duty of undertaking various administrative tasks such as lodging annual returns and record-keeping, as well as ensuring an approved SMSF auditor is appointed for each income year.

Where a conflict arises between your wishes as a member and your legal responsibilities as a trustee, you must comply with your trustee obligations. For example, if a relationship breakdown occurs between members, you must continue to act in the best interest of all members at all times and in accordance to the trust deed and with super laws.

It is also critical to keep fund assets (including money) separate from your personal and business assets. Fund assets should be solely used for fund purposes.

Finally, trustees are reminded that member benefits (money or other assets) cannot be accessed earlier than what is legally permitted (generally, until a member reaches preservation age). Member benefits can only be accessed in very limited circumstances, i.e., severe financial hardship and so on.

Remember, contravention of any of the super laws can result in significant penalties, including fines and jail terms.

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News

Updates to the unclaimed superannuation money protocol

January 15, 2020

The Superannuation (Unclaimed Money and Lost Members) Act 1999 (SUMLMA), more commonly known as the unclaimed superannuation money protocol, has been updated recently to provide a clearer structure going forward.

SUMLMA provides guidance on in relation to unclaimed money, lost member accounts, superannuation accounts of former temporary residents and their associated reporting and payment obligations. The update has now added content on inactive low balance accounts.

The act now clearly defines what is an inactive low-balance account, how statements and payments work, the registering of lost members and various rules for special cases.

It is important to note that the information in the protocol does not apply to super providers that are trustees of a state or territory public sector super scheme, in which:

The protocol provides administrative guidance only and should not be taken as a replacement for the law or technical reporting specifications.