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  • SMSFs and the ATO: key issues and updates

    Kasey Macfarlane, Assistant Commissioner, Superannuation

    Speech to The Tax Institute, Superannuation Intensive

    Sydney, 29 March 2017

    1 Introduction

    As the regulator of self-managed super funds, the ATO is concerned with building and maintaining trust and confidence in the integrity of SMSFs within the regulatory framework and government policy. Given that the sector now comprises close to 600,000 funds with over 1.1 million individual members relying on the good governance of the sector to protect their superannuation investment and to deliver their financial goals in retirement, the importance of trust and confidence in the integrity of the sector cannot be underestimated.

    Consistent with the ATO’s overall mission, we seek to ensure good governance and regulatory compliance in the SMSF sector by fostering willing participation.

    Our observations and insights highlight that there are already high levels of willing participation in the SMSF sector. To maintain that high level of willing participation and to realise even greater levels, we understand we need to offer better services, make it easier for people to comply and provide assurance that others are complying with their obligations.

    The ATO’s compliance philosophy is that of ‘prevention rather than correction’, whilst recognising that we need to ensure a level playing field by taking proportionate and appropriate enforcement action in instances where people are not willing to comply or are deliberately ignoring their obligations.

    Our experience is that SMSFs are generally focused on building and protecting their retirement savings and are in the main predisposed to complying with their obligations and working with us to address issues and problems willingly. Our preferred approach is to support SMSFs to establish and maintain good compliance from the outset; we have no interest in catching trustees or advisers out by surprise.

    To this end, we aim to provide easy to understand, readily accessible and relevant information, including early warnings about areas of concern, so that SMSF trustees, in collaboration with their advisers, can make informed decisions about their super investment and have certainty in terms of the area where it is safe for them to ‘swim between the flags’.

      Last modified: 18 May 2017QC 52130