Lawyer hits out at tipped restrictions on SMSF lending

Predictions that APRA will soon restrict the borrowings of low-balance SMSFs have been slammed by an industry lawyer who believes there is no good reason for SMSF-related policy that is fixated on balance.

SMSF Adviser reported early last month that the prudential regulator could target loans to low-balance SMSFs next, citing Thrive Investment Finance owner Samantha Bright.

“There’s a recommendation, and it was actually by the ATO, that people with less than $200,000 in their fund [should] not get a loan, and we’ve seen some of the lenders then adopt rapidly the $200,000 as their minimum fund balance in line with that,” Ms Bright said.

Ms Bright said she would not be surprised if, instead of being just a guideline and a recommendation, the $200,000 becomes a hard benchmark.

Townsends Business & Corporate Lawyers principal Peter Townsend said a policy along these lines would be a “very bad idea” and should be strongly resisted by the SMSF sector.

“What is it with $200,000? Did Moses come down from the mountain with that number scratched on the 10 commandments as a postscript? Or is it a devil’s number? Did the witches in Macbeth mention the number somewhere while whipping up a quick spell?” Mr Townsend told SMSF Adviser.

“Where is the reasoned evidence, argument and discussion about a policy such as this and why is this particular SMSF strategy to be limited when others are not?

Mr Townsend acknowledged the costs of running an SMSF, however, he suggested the importance of that is over-stated in this context.

“It’s not the cost of running an SMSF that’s the important thing, it’s the returns. Would you rather pay 1.8 per cent of the fund’s value in annual running costs and earn 8 per cent on the money in the fund or pay 3 per cent of the value on costs and earn 15 per cent?” he said.

“And I don’t want to hear anything about, ‘Well, you can’t guarantee the SMSF will earn that much or do better than the average public offer fund. No I can’t. But I don’t have to. You see, our system permits a person to operate their own SMSF regardless of the return they can achieve and whether it is better or worse than the ‘big boys’.”

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