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  • ATO celebrates 20 year milestone of regulating self-managed superannuation funds

    The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) celebrates its 20th anniversary as the regulator of self-managed superannuation funds (SMSFs) on Tuesday 8th October.

    With over 1.1 million Australian SMSF members, accounting for close to $750 billion in retirement savings, the ATO takes its role as regulator very seriously.

    Since the ATO started regulating the sector, it has grown considerably. There are 600,000 funds, with over 20,000 new SMSFs being established every year.

    In 1999, there were about 200,000 SMSFs with 387,000 members, and a total of $55 billion in assets. Today, SMSFs comprise nearly one third of the $2.76 trillion total superannuation assets.

    “The importance of good governance of the sector cannot be underestimated. As the sole regulator of SMSFs we are conscious of the significant responsibility of safeguarding 1.1 million Australians’ retirement savings”, said ATO Assistant Commissioner Dana Fleming.

    For the last 20 years the ATO’s role as regulator of SMSFs has involved facilitating, monitoring and regulating trustees who have made the choice to undertake the important duty and obligation of managing their own retirement savings.

    SMSF Association CEO John Maroney said “The Association has enjoyed a productive relationship with the ATO over the past 20 years. We believe its approach to regulating the sector has been both supportive and collaborative of all parties, with the end result being that SMSF members have benefited by enjoying better retirements.”

    “Many Australians want to take, and are taking, control of their retirement savings. Our aim is to help trustees to be able to make informed decisions by understanding their responsibilities and of course, where necessary we will take action to maintain the integrity of the SMSF sector for all other SMSF members”, Ms Fleming said.

    “We know most people in the sector want to do the right thing and operate within the rules and regulations. For this reason, our primary focus is to support trustees and their advisors by providing the tools, services, technical guidance and assistance to enable them to appropriately manage and protect their retirement savings.”

    There are a range of resources available on the ATO website including fact sheets, checklists, videos and case studies.

    While the ATO’s focus is on supporting trustees and preventing breaches occurring in the first instance, the ATO also aims to protect people’s retirement savings by addressing non-compliance in the sector. Compliance activities over the last 20 years have resulted in:

    • The disqualification of some 3,500 SMSF trustees
    • Around 2,400 enforceable undertakings being issued to trustees
    • More than 600 SMSFs being made non-complying
    • 145 SMSF approved auditors being referred to ASIC for further action

    “To continue to protect the SMSF sector for the next 20 years and beyond, we’re using sophisticated data and intelligence to focus our compliance activities on key risks we’ve identified, such as the illegal early release of super.

    “We know that our best success comes from working with SMSF trustees and advisors in a partnership with a common interest to ensure that SMSFs remain a key part of the superannuation sector. We thank the industry for their support in our shared successes.

    “We therefore look forward to continuing our work with the SMSF industry to ensure the retirement savings of everyday Australians are protected and the integrity of Australia’s world class superannuation system is maintained”, Ms Fleming said.

    Last modified: 07 Oct 2019QC 60260