Online learning hub could assist unengaged trustees
The ATO is exploring an on-line SMSF education course next year, with free resources for trustees centered around the key matters they need to know about when establishing, managing and winding up their SMSF.
In a recent interview with SMSF Adviser, ATO assistant commissioner Dana Fleming said the regulator’s letter campaign around diversification, combined with a series of recent cases against SMSF auditors, highlighted that many trustees need assistance to better understand their key legal obligations of running their SMSF.
“The reaction to our investment strategy letter has highlighted concerns regarding the levels of awareness about some of the basic requirements of operating an SMSF and what they actually mean” Ms Fleming said.
“We want to help trustees to understand what their legal obligations are in running their SMSF and what the risks are, as the consequences for trustees in getting it wrong can be very severe as recent court cases show. In many cases, the trustees have not intentionally done the wrong thing but have rather not had the benefit of someone really explaining to them what it was they were supposed to be doing.”
Ms Fleming said that the course being explored is a free online adult based learning course for trustees that caters for the broad range of SMSF trustees, many of whom come from professions outside financial services and have varying degrees of financial literacy.
“Over time a wider range of individuals have set up SMSFs and more complex arrangements have been used – such as when LRBAs came in, small business people found SMSFs an attractive way to buy their commercial premises, so we need to provide a course that can help a variety of audiences understand their obligations”
Ms Fleming said the proposed course could have different modules for trustees to select from, depending on the stage they were at in the life cycle of their self-managed fund.
“It would focus on what you need to do when setting the fund up, what you need to do while you’re running it, such as what are the key things you need to think about every year, and when you turn 65 or 70, what you need to consider when working out your exit strategy ” she said
“This online course would supplement the range of guidance, resources, tools and services that we provide to support, inform and assist SMSF trustees and their advisers to make it as easy as possible to manage the regulatory and tax aspects of an SMSF.”