ATO’s independence swoop continues

ATO’s independence swoop continues

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The ATO says it will continue to focus compliance resources on a group of auditors who continue to prepare SMSF accounts and statements for SMSFs which they also audit.

Speaking at an industry conference, ATO deputy commissioner, superannuation, James O'Halloran said the ATO continues to have concerns about auditor independence, especially where auditors act as both the tax agent and SMSF auditor for a client.

“Specifically, we will further scrutinise a group of 92 auditors who act as both tax agent and SMSF auditor for a client,” said Mr O’Halloran.

Some of the other concerns around independence the ATO has, he said, relate to valuations for real-property.

“An independent professional valuation will be the best evidence to support the value attributed to an SMSF’s investment in real property,” said Mr O’Halloran.

“However, trustees can also rely on data such as a valuation by a real estate agent, comparable sales data, property valuation website data or rates notices as objective evidence to support a real-property valuation.”

He stressed that if SMSF trustees rely on evidence other than an independent valuation, however, they need to ensure that they have considered the assumptions and methods underlying this data to ensure it produces “a reasonable reflection of the value of the real property in question”.

“Importantly, if relying on evidence other than an independent valuation, trustees do need to ensure they have considered the assumptions and methods underlying this data to ensure it produces a reasonable reflection of the value of the real property in question,” he said.

“For example, does the comparable sales data relate to properties in the same location, with similar features? Is the value stipulated on a rates notice an unimproved or improved value?”

Mr O’Halloran said while any value within a stipulated range, where the range is fair and reasonable and based on objective and supportable data, will be accepted.

“However, it’s not acceptable to use a value at the lower end of that range for one purpose and a value at the upper end of the range for another purpose,” he said.

“We will scrutinise cases where it appears that a value at the top end of the range has been used for transitional CGT relief purposes but a value at the lower end [was] used for total superannuation balance and transfer balance cap purposes.”

ATO’s independence swoop continues
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