If you’re thinking of setting up your own self-managed super fund (SMSF), to take charge of your retirement and be able to make investment decisions, there are some important steps you have to take before you seek registration with the ATO such as choosing between individual trustees or a corporate trustee, creating the trust and trust deed appointing trustees or directors, setting up a bank account, obtaining an electronic service address, and preparing a windup strategy.
Itis a complex process with the ATO as the gatekeeper ensuring that only genuine trustees are allowed into the SMSF sector. This is achieved by conducting pre-registration checks on newly registered SMSFs and new members added to existing SMSFs, as well as maintaining the Super Fund Lookup (SFLU) which is a public register of super funds that third-party funds and employers can use to determine if they can pay rollovers or contributions to an SMSF.
The ATO uses analytical risk models that look at a number of factors and data related to new SMSFs or new members to determine the risk of illegal early release of funds or non-compliance.
This consists of the trustees’ financial history and behaviour including: bankruptcy; debts owed to the ATO; outstanding lodgements; poor lodgement or payment compliance history; ability to maintain an ongoing super fund; and whether the individual has been linked to any other SMSFs of concern.
When a risk is identified during the pre-compliance check, the ATO will usually undertake further checks and interviews with the trustees involved to ensure that they are genuine in wanting to establish an SMSF and understand all the obligations and consequences of failing to comply with super laws, as well as having received adequate professional advice or have had appropriate education.
Where there are still concerns with the registration of the SMSF even after speaking to the trustees, the ATO will withhold registration and trustees will need to seek a review of the decision and address any concerns raised during the new registration check. In the 2017-18 income year, there were around 26,000 SMSF registrations and approximately 2,100 were subject to further review. Of those reviewed, 29% had their ABN cancelled and a further 16% had their registration details withheld from SFLU.
Therefore, it is important that the SMSF be set up correctly for the sole purpose of providing retirement benefits for its members. Even at the set-up stage, it is important to look ahead for life events such as marriage, divorce, or death which may impact on an SMSF. While some of these issues may be unpleasant and a conversation involving them unwelcome, it is important to note that an SMSF is a long-term retirement vehicle and it is prudent to ensure from the beginning that there is a strategy to deal with unexpected events and wind up the SMSF if necessary.
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