Busting insurance myths around SMSF collectables and personal use assets
There is much debate around what is best practice around insuring collectables and personal use assets for SMSFs. However, recent ATO viewing makes it more clear on the stance of compliance funds must undertake.
Since 1 July 2011, the SIS Regulations require trustees of SMSFs to insure collectables and personal use assets owned by the fund, other than memberships of sporting or social clubs, in the name of the fund within seven days of acquiring the item.
SMSF Association technical manager Mary Simmons said in a blog that the need for SMSFs to insure provides a protection mechanism for a member’s retirement benefit.
If the asset is damaged or suffers some other insurable event, the expectation is that a member’s benefit will not be lost, she noted. In addition, requiring the insurance to be in the name of the fund ensures that assets are maintained separately from other assets of the trustee, which gives greater integrity to the process.
However, Ms Simmons said that industry practice around insuring collectables and personal use assets continues to generate much discussion, particularly from an audit perspective.
“For example, some collectable items are separately identified under general household insurance and premiums proportionally paid by the member and the fund. Other trustees rely on insurance policies of third parties, such as an art gallery, to cover the SMSF’s artwork,” she said.
“There are even instances where trustees do not meet the insurance requirement, as they struggle to find an insurer.”
This discussion was recently brought up at the SMSF Association’s National Conference, but Ms Simmons said clarity has now been sought from the ATO to once and for all clear up any confusion and uncertainties about insuring collectables and personal use assets.
“We can confirm that it is the ATO’s view that to comply with the insurance requirements for collectables and personal use assets, the insurance policy must be held in the name of the SMSF, with the trustee as the legal owner of the policy (in their capacity as trustee),” she said.
“As the obligation falls on the trustee to insure the item, a trustee cannot delegate or rely on a third party to source and maintain risk cover for an asset of the fund.
“Collectables and personal use assets may be insured by the trustees collectively under one policy or under separate policies. However, the policy must still be in the name of the fund, irrespective of the value of the asset.”
Ms Simmons said this means that it is not acceptable for the assets to be insured under a policy held in the trustee’s own personal name (for example, as part of a home and contents insurance policy).
This would also apply for the assets to be insured under a policy held by another third party (i.e. a business owner or custodian who may be storing, displaying or leasing the asset) or the fund’s interest to simply be noted on an insurance policy owned by a third party.
“It is important that the trustee is the legal owner of the policy to ensure the fund’s assets are adequately protected against financial loss or liability, the trustee can make a claim under the policy and any insurance proceeds are payable directly to the fund. This remains the case even if the item is also covered under a policy taken out by another party,” Ms Simmons said.
“When deciding to invest in collectables, trustees need to consider their ability to comply with all the regulations prior to making the investment.
“However, where a fund is having difficulty obtaining insurance in the name of the SMSF trustee, it may be appropriate to contact the ATO through their voluntary disclosure service to seek some guidance on how to best manage the situation.”
Tony Zhang is a journalist at Accountants Daily, which is the leading source of news, strategy and educational content for professionals working in the accounting sector.
Since joining the Momentum Media team in 2020, Tony has written for a range of its publications including Lawyers Weekly, Adviser Innovation, ifa and SMSF Adviser. He has been full-time on Accountants Daily since September 2021.