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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

What to do with your Lost Super

March 19, 2021

After COVID 19’s impact on the world, an influx of employees who had lost their jobs fell into the job market. Many of these came from companies that couldn’t afford to continue their employment. As a result, many individuals had to seek alternative employment, or draw from their super. Some individuals took on multiple jobs to pay bills, and others drew from the super that they had accumulated in the government’s early release scheme specifically for coronavirus related income loss.

Super is held by superannuation funds, and accumulates as a result of how much super an employer pays to the employees’ funds. Many Australians may find that they actually possess multiple super accounts as a result of having “lost” their super accounts during changeovers. It can also happen as a result of changing names, moving addresses, living overseas or changing jobs.

Australians can use the ATO’s online tools to:

As superannuation funds often have fees associated with their upkeep, as well as insurances that may be tied into it (such as life, total and permanent disability and income protection), it’s important to consult with providers before accounts are consolidated.

https://www.ato.gov.au/Individuals/Super/Growing-your-super/Keeping-track-of-your-super/#Lostsuper