10 TRAPS OF POOR SMSF ADMINISTRATION
Super Outsource is a specialist independent fund administrator, as such we
encounter a number of funds which have had previous administration. This article
focuses on the traps of poor administration versus breaches. The common breaches
that occur are well documented in a number of ATO publications. Traps that occur
are more innocuous until inevitably it is too late and the financial
ramifications become unavoidable which is regrettable when in most instances,
with a bit a forward planning and good compliance they could be avoided.
The list below is in no particular order, but all are of high importance.
In our opinion the 10 Ten traps for SMSF fund’s are:
- No tracking of components
- No tracking of RBL position
- No tracking of Eligible service date
- No retirement plan
- No beneficiary election
- Assets not held in the name of trustees
- Poor advice
- No understanding of trustee obligations
- No investment strategy
- Deed not current
No Tracking of components
SMSF administration has very little to do with preparing financial statements
such the balance sheet and profit or loss. It has a lot to do with member
statements. Different components such as undeducted contributions are afforded
varying preservation and tax treatments. Now depending on when these funds were
contributed into super will have significant implications on whether or not they
can be accessed prior to retirement.
For example if undeducted contributions were made prior to 30 June 1999, they
would be restricted non preserved, as well as any earnings on those undeducted
This has significant implications for a number of people who may have need to
draw on these benefits, if they satisfy the conditions of release prior to
Also, losing track of these components, means the difference between paying
little or no tax, and being taxed at ETP rates, and also having benefits counted
towards the Reasonable Benefit Limit (RBL) versus not having the benefits
No retirement Plan
When investors take out an investment, most people ask what sort of return
will this investment provide? Yet, most people do not ask the same question of
Without knowing what your super entitlements can pay you at retirement, how
will they ever know if it is going to be enough?
No Tracking of RBL Position
The Reasonable Benefit Limit (RBL) is the maximum amount over a person’s
lifetime that can be withdrawn taxed concessionally. RBL amounts are recorded
when amounts are taken either as a pension, redundancy or eligible termination
By not tracking these benefits, clients can often find out too late that the
desired type of pension they would prefer, in particular an allocated pension
which is assessed as a lump sum RBL may not be afforded all the preferential tax
treatment they had planned on, ie commutations assessed 39.5% on post 1983 and
47% on pre 1983, and losing some or all of the 15% rebate on the pension income
No tracking of Eligible Service Date
The eligible service date (ESD) is one of the most important elements to be
considered when evaluating the various strategies for retirement planning.
Losing track of an early service date particularly what is known as the pre 1983
dates, can cost people thousands of dollars, particularly when evaluating the
common strategy of rollout and recontribution strategy.
Service dates can arise from a number of sources such as redundancy from an
employer, or date that a person commences employment with an employer (not the
date the employer started contributing to super), and life insurance endowment
No beneficiary election
It is important to know that superannuation sits separate to a person’s Will,
and whilst they may elect to pay the proceeds of their super to their will, this
may not be necessarily what they may have intended, nor the best tax decision.
When people fail to keep these documents current or have not completed them in
the first place, they risk potentially paying a 16.5% tax on the withdrawal from
super to the estate.
Assets not held in the name of trustees
Aside from the fact that this is a reportable breach under the legislative
provisions, when assets are not held in the name of trustees a person put them
at risk in the event of bankruptcy, divorce or any number of other
circumstances. The trustee then has the major issue of having to fight through
the courts to have them separated away from their personal assets and back into
the super funds name. This is an expensive exercise, when a bit of care could
avoid the issue altogether.
Not getting the right advice
Poor advice is a common occurrence, which unfortunately does not help the
trustee of a SMSF escape liability for the funds non compliance, or a person
from paying too much tax.
Examples of POOR advice
- That when a fund goes into pension phase, the fund does not have to
prepare accounts, tax returns etc…
- All funds that have member in pension phase do not need actuary
- That says you can stay at that investment property for the weekend
- That it is okay to have artwork/paintings located on your living room wall
- That withdrawing money from the fund and have your spouse lend it back to
- Not having a written lease agreement for leased properties
- Borrowing via a unit trust arrangement
- Allowing yourself or any related party to live in a house in which your
super has any involvement (especially if a unit trust)
- Being in pension mode allows you to use your super account to go shopping
- Buy a residential house off your father
- Keep contributing to super for a tax deduction even if you are above your
- Having assets such as shares at historic cost
- The fund is paying tax in pension phase
- Does not make any reference on liquidity issues
- Does not know that pension members are entitled to a 15% rebate and some
of the pension paid may be tax free
- Does not make suggestions on various forms of pensions
- Is not aware of why the ESD is so important
- Does not make suggestions on any strategies which may assist you
- Never inquires if your will and estate planning is in order
Ultimately, trustees get what they pay for, and taking the cheapest option in
advice can ultimately end up costing much, much more. It could be suggested if
the adviser cannot answer questions without constantly saying, “can they get
back to you”, or “it’s a grey area”, or “we’ll have to look into that”, then
perhaps they do not have a great knowledge on the subject.
No understanding of trustee obligations
The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has made a great attempt over the course
of the last few years to help educate trustees on what their roles and
responsibilities are in the management of a SMSF through the ATO publication
“Roles and Responsibilities of Trustees”, and have also attempted to explain
their position as regulator and the responsibilities of associated parties such
as auditors, tax agents, actuaries, and administrators in the ATO publication
“it’s your money…but not yet!”
No investment strategy
Aside from the fact that this is a legislative requirement, and that it is
required to be reviewed regularly, and it is a notifiable breach if a fund does
not have one in existence, the issue is prudent management
Any sound business prepares budgets, plans cashflows and sales targets etc…
As with investments, this is about planning to achieve a return on investments
that satisfies the fund risk profile, liquidity, and determining if the
investment yield sort conforms to the investments held by the fund.
In other words how will they be able to reflect on how well, or they have, or
not have invested at year end, if they did not know what they were planning to
achieve to begin with.
Deed not current
A deed is the bible by which trustees run their fund, hence if the deed is
unclear as to what a trustee should do in particular circumstances, then it is
not a good guide. The deed also needs to provide sufficient flexibility and
range that conforms to the fullest extent of the legislation.
Hence, trustees need to be aware that a Deed will only be as current as the
legislation that existed at the time the Deed was prepared.
Some people also have a mistaken perception that the coverall provision in
most deeds which states “if the deed is inconsistent with the legislation, then
the legislation will prevail”, will cover any future changes in the law. This is
To draw an analogy, if the legislation was the fence surrounding a football
field, and the deed is the boundary of the football field, the above statement
is only helpful in the event that the boundary fence shrinks, ie becomes more
restrictive. What happens when the boundary fence is extended, then the boundary
lines of the deed become relatively more restrictive on trustees.
For example, the Government announced the Government co-contribution scheme
in last years budget, with government stating it will match contributions paid
by a member into their own fund. Never before had it been envisaged that the
government would be contributing to a members account, and hence all deeds
previously drafted had only taken into account a member or employer contributing
into a member’s account. Now if a trustee has not updated their deed, for this
circumstance, and decides to bank the government’s cheque for the
co-contribution, then the fund will be non complying!
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