Speaking at the CPA’s SMSF Conference yesterday, assistant commissioner for SMSFs Matthew Bambrick noted there are various risks and “areas of concern” the ATO will be focusing on this financial year.
Mr Bambrick identified overseas seminars as an area the ATO is monitoring, involving promoters who advertise “questionable” SMSF conferences in overseas destinations.
“The promotions target SMSF trustees, citing they can claim a deduction for the full cost of the travel, accommodation and meals component incurred when attending these seminars or workshops,” Mr Bambrick said.
“The conferences appear to contain minimal training related to SMSF activities. Trustees contemplating attending such events should be aware of the potential to contravene the sole purpose test.”
Mr Bambrick also said the ATO has identified a potential home loan unit trust arrangement which involves the purchase of a residential property by a non-geared trust whereby units are purchased by the SMSF, related family trust and SMSF members.
The purchase of the asset is effectively financed by the SMSF and the property is occupied and rented by the member, Mr Bambrick said. The rental income less expenses is paid out to unit holders but the proportion of distributions is not consistent year by year, he added.
“Again, trustees should be aware of the potential to contravene the sole purpose test and/or of providing financial assistance to a member. If there is a form of ‘gearing’ or investments in other entities involved within the trust, then the SMSF may also be in breach of the in-house assets provisions,” Mr Bambrick said.
The ATO will also be closely monitoring SMSFs it believes are taking “undue advantage” of the concessional rates of tax for complying super funds and entering “aggressive” tax planning arrangements.
In addition to these newer risks, Mr Bambrick stressed the ATO is still closely monitoring the illegal early release of super benefits, labelling it a “serious risk” to the health of the superannuation system.
“Note too, that our strategies for dealing with [illegal early release] go beyond the establishment phase. We’re focusing on SMSFs which have undertaken ‘traditional’ [illegal early release] and those where [illegal early release] is becoming more sophisticated – such as round-robin loans to purported unrelated entities,” Mr Bambrick said.
The ATO is also continuing to encourage on-time SMSF lodgement and is monitoring the compliance of SMSFs paying pensions, to ensure they are claiming the correct amount of exempt current pension income, Mr Bambrick said.