ATO outlines trustee, auditor concerns

The Australian Taxation Office has said it is concerned about trustees and auditors who fail to comply with their SMSF obligations.

The ATO sees a “reasonable” number of trustees who don’t understand aspects of their SMSF obligations, assistant commissioner for superannuation Matthew Bambrick said at the Institute of Public Accountants’ National Congress on the Gold Coast last week.

“We do find a worrying number of trustees have little or no idea about their obligations… trustees need to recognise that they themselves are the ones who are accountable for the fund,” Mr Bambrick said.

“We’re [going] to scrutinise every fund that is reported to us from an approved SMSF auditor. We want to make sure those trustees are fully aware of their obligations,” he added.

Mr Bambrick said one of the key elements of trustee obligation that concerns the ATO is SMSF lodgement, because it reports on a fund’s regulatory and income tax obligations.

The ATO is also concerned about SMSFs being established for illegal early release purposes, and is engaging with new trustees to ensure they are not seeking illegal early access to their retirement assets, Mr Bambrick said.

He also stated the ATO is concerned about approved auditors who do not audit funds correctly or report contraventions.

“Since 2006, overall auditor numbers have declined, and the average number of audits undertaken by auditors has increased. This is significant as small scale, less experienced auditors are more likely to fail to meet their obligations,” Mr Bambrick said.

“A key part of [the SMSF] sector staying in good shape is the SMSF compliance department and how well it’s managed. A key element of that is the annual audit of each fund by an independent, approved auditor,” he added.

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