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Watch your SMSF’s annual return this year

Making sure you lodge your SMSF's annual returns in time has taken on a new meaning since September 2019, and it’s one to watch in 2020.

From 1 October last year, if your SMSF has annual returns outstanding by more than two weeks after its required lodgement date, the ATO will remove its compliance status from Super Fund Lookup.

This new approach has stirred up the industry, as some think that removal of compliance status two weeks after the official lodgement date is far too short, while others have no sympathy for those who fail to get their returns in on time.

The consequences of the new reality 

However you feel about the cut-off date, the ATO’s approach is a reality that must be taken seriously.

Removal of compliance status of your SMSF does not mean that the fund will be made non-compliant, but it does mean that no one will be able to confirm the fund’s compliance status via the Super Fund Lookup.

So, what does it mean for an SMSF that has its compliance status removed? Well, it will not be possible to roll over benefits from an APRA fund to an SMSF, as the APRA fund will not be able to confirm the compliance status of the SMSF. This may not affect most SMSFs. However, for new SMSFs that are expecting rollovers or funds that are winding up, problems may arise.

Another impact is that employers who make contributions to SMSFs via SuperStream will not be able to make contributions to an SMSF where the fund’s status has been changed to ‘regulation details removed’.

This may mean that the employer ends up making the contribution to the default fund and you will then need to sort out the web to get the amount transferred to your SMSF. It’s an unnecessary problem that is best avoided.

While the rollover and contribution issues create problems, there may be other wide-reaching consequences for your SMSF. Under the anti-money-laundering (AML) laws, it is compulsory for investment houses and other financial service providers to undertake identification checks of investors. When it comes to your SMSF, the investment house may use the Super Fund Lookup as an independent third-party check to confirm the fund’s identification and compliance status.

If your SMSF’s compliance status has been removed you can expect, in some circumstances, that the fund will be prohibited from making certain investments depending on the policy of the investment house.

The problem may not only affect new fund investments. It may also apply to an SMSF if the fund has changed its trustee structure from individual trustees to a corporate trustee. The change will require the trustee’s name as the legal owner of the investments be updated to reflect the change.

This will require the fund trustee to notify the relevant financial institution with details of the change and as part of their policies they may use the Super Fund Lookup to confirm the fund’s compliance status. If the compliance details have been removed it is possible that your SMSF may not be able to transact on its bank accounts.

A lot of SMSFs fail to meet the deadlines 

Obviously, the best way to avoid your SMSF’s regulation status being removed is to ensure the fund’s annual return reaches the ATO on time. In a perfect world this is achievable. However, the ATO’s SMSF annual return lodgement records show that between 85% - 90% of SMSF returns are generally lodged on time each year, but not all of them make it on time. On these figures alone, it’s possible that about 60,000 - 90,000 SMSF annual returns could be late.

The ATO’s service delivery standards indicate that the fund’s status is updated within 21 days. You would hope that reinstatement of the fund’s status happens as quickly as it was removed. If your SMSF’s compliance status has been removed it may pay you to monitor the Super Fund Lookup once the outstanding returns for your fund have been lodged. If the status has not been amended after 21 days, you or the fund’s administrator should contact the ATO to see what is going on.

Whether the consequences of the ATO clamping down on the lodgement of SMSF annual returns are unintended remains to be seen. Still, the impact on your SMSF could be that the fund is left stranded until the outstanding returns have been lodged and the ATO has updated the Super Fund Lookup. Don’t get caught out.

 

Graeme Colley is the Executive Manager, SMSF Technical and Private Wealth at SuperConcepts, a sponsor of Firstlinks. This article is for general information purposes only and does not consider any individual’s investment objectives.

For more articles and papers from SuperConcepts, please click here.

 

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