Mischief with reserves unfounded, says software giant
Based on an analysis of 175,000 SMSFs, one of the major SMSF software firms says there is no evidence that reserves are being used to circumvent the superannuation reforms.
In light of recent comments by the ATO regarding the creation of new reserves by SMSFs, BGL Corporate Solutions analysed data from over 175,000 funds to investigate whether reserves were being created as a way of circumventing the changes to the law.
BGL managing director Ron Lesh said the analysis that was conducted indicated this was not the case.
“Our data really only shows an increase in the use of contribution reserves” said Mr Lesh.
“This sort of makes sense as we are sure the reduction in the concessional contribution limit will have caught out many employees who have been salary sacrificing additional contributions.”
BGL’s analysis identified 1,359 funds with reserves at 30 June 2017. Of these reserves, 80 per cent were contribution reserves, with the remaining reserves labelled as investment reserves at 18 per cent, pension reserves accounting for 1 per cent and anti-detriment reserves accounting for 1 per cent.
“I can understand the ATO would be concerned if SMSF trustees were using reserves to circumvent the new legislation, but from our analysis, this does not seem to be the case,” said Mr Lesh.
Last month, the ATO revealed that 690 reserves had been created during the 2016–17 financial year.
ATO assistant commissioner James O’Halloran said the ATO would be closely examining new or increased reserves where the facts indicated the reserve was a means of circumventing the 2016 reforms.
The ATO also stated that overall there were approximately 1,900 SMSFs with an average of value $192,000.
Some industry experts, including SuperConcepts’ Peter Burgess believe the total number of reserves could be much higher than the ATO figures.
“There are a lot of SMSFs with defined benefit income streams and whether the client realised it or not, they have a reserve in their fund because the way those pensions work. The client has given up a capital lump sum amount in exchange for regular income streams, the fund is using that money to pay the pension.,” explained Mr Burgess.
“It’s not their balance anymore, but in my experience it’s very common for those funds not to report that as a reserve and report it as the member’s account balance but technically it’s not, it’s a reserve.”
Once all the funds with defined benefit income streams are factored in, he said, the number of funds with reserves is probably a lot higher than what the ATO figures state, he said.
“The ATO can only base their figures on what is reported to them,” he said.
In terms of the newly created reserves, Meg Heffron from Heffron SMSF Solutions previously said this could be the result of SMSF trustees winding up defined benefit income streams.
“It’s just an outcome of getting rid of the defined benefit pension. For example, if you have a pension that goes for a specific number of years such as a life expectancy pension and you stop it early, then there’s a cap on the amount that you’re allowed to take as a commutation value. This is also the same for flexi-pensions,” she explained previously.