ATO to target SMSF tax compliance
The ATO has announced it will be directing its attention towards SMSF tax obligations with auditors now conducting increasingly effective reviews of regulatory compliance matters.
In an ATO webinar, ATO risk and intelligence officer Cameron Millson said there were a variety of issues in regard to SMSFs failing to comply with their taxation obligations.
Profit shifting into SMSFs and the calculation of tax losses, Mr Millson said, were two of the main issues concerning the ATO.
Non-arm’s length income, he said, is “major income-related tax risk for the sector”.
“Our compliance program is targeting large trust distributions or dividends paid from a private entity at rates that are unusual compared with the market value of the investment that the super fund holds,” said Mr Millson.
“In many cases we’re not just looking at the relationship between the fund and the immediate entity that it’s dealing with, we sometimes need to scrutinise several layers of entities that the profits pass through to determine whether the fund’s income is arm’s length.”
In terms of the calculation of tax losses, Mr Millson said trustees and tax agents need to ensure these losses are calculated correctly.
“Funds in pension phase must be particularly careful when they calculate their carry forward losses – in many cases a tax loss of a pension phase fund will not be able to be applied against its accessible income in a future year,” he said.
The most common breach among SMSF members, Mr Millson said, continues to be loans and financial assistance to members.
“We see this breach in about 21.5 per cent of the auditor contravention reports that we receive,” he said.
He also stressed the importance of clients contacting the ATO to disclose breaches of superannuation or tax laws before they are detected by the ATO’s data analysis and intelligence as they will be far better off.
“We can work with them to agree on an appropriate settlement,” said Mr Millson.
He said trustees sometimes try to hide contraventions from the ATO or don’t cooperate when they are contacted.
“We put more resources into these cases and we investigate them more thoroughly so [that we’re] satisfied we’ve identified every contravention, and at the end of the day we seek higher penalties,” he said.
Miranda Brownlee is the deputy editor of SMSF Adviser, which is the leading source of news, strategy and educational content for professionals working in the SMSF sector.
Since joining the team in 2014, Miranda has been responsible for breaking some of the biggest superannuation stories in Australia, and has reported extensively on technical strategy and legislative updates. Miranda has also directed SMSF Adviser's print publication for several years.
Miranda also has broad business and financial services reporting experience, having written for titles including Investor Daily, ifa and Accountants Daily.