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5 common SMSF mistakes you must avoid


Whoever said SMSFs were easy to manage was lying, especially with all the changes that have come into effect since 2017. But while these rules and regulations are an added challenge, they’re there to protect you.  The key is understanding them so you don’t get stuck. Read on to find the five most common mistakes people are making with their SMSF, so that you can avoid them at all costs.

1.  They withdraw cash from their SMSF ahead of schedule

This is superannuation 101 – do not use the money from your SMSF to pay personal or business expenses before you’re allowed to.  We know it’s tempting, especially when the situation is critical. But taking money from your super account ahead of schedule can result in severe penalties that will cost you greatly. It’s just not worth it.  Always keep your personal and business bank accounts separate from your SMSF, and if you have withdrawn money and you know you’ve breached the rules, our advice is to pay it back as soon as possible before you’re disqualified from running an SMSF or fined.

2.  They don’t have their SMSF investments in the right name

This is such an avoidable mistake, but surprisingly common. By law, the assets of a fund must be in the name of the individual trustees or the corporate trustee, but sometimes these investments get accidentally mixed in with personal investments.

If for some reason you’re unable to put your SMSF assets in the name of the trustees, supporting documentation that proves the asset belongs to the fund, such as declarations of trust or trustee minutes, need to be shown.

Why does this matter? If a member becomes bankrupt, investments in the name of the fund are protected from the member’s creditors in most cases so making sure the names are correct could save you money down the track.

3.  They break the rules

It’s no secret there are many rules and regulations in place when it comes to SMSFs, so knowing them all is a big ask.  The most common rule that’s broken is when there’s a significant link between a person, company or trust and the fund. If the fund makes a loan, invests in or leases assets to a related party, it’s considered a big no-no. Penalties may apply, including the fund losing its tax concessions. Bottom line: when in doubt, leave it out… and always seek professional help before investing in something you could be linked to.

4.  They don’t pay the minimum pension

If you’re in the retirement phase of your super or receiving a transition-to-retirement pension, it’s imperative you maintain your pensions properly to avoid losing your tax concessions.

If you’ve inadvertently made a mistake that’s resulted in underpayments of the pension, we recommend getting things back on track as quickly as possible with catch-up payments to avoid losing your tax concessions.

5.  They don’t keep track of documents

Filing and keeping up-to-date with your SMSF documentation is key to avoiding compliance issues.  This includes your trust deed, meeting minutes, investment information, and membership and trustee acceptances, which is crucial for compliance, audit and when the trustees of the fund may be brought to account.

Records that are required to be kept for five years are:

  • Accounting records that provide accurate information about the transactions and financial position of the fund
  • The annual operating statements and the annual statements of the fund’s financial position
  • Copies of all SMSF annual returns lodged with the ATO
  • Copies of any other statements lodged with the ATO or provided to other super funds

Records that are required to be kept for 10 years are:

  • Trustee minutes of meetings and decisions on matters affecting the fund
  • Records of changes to trustees, and a member’s written consent to be appointed as a trustee
  • Trustee declarations recognising the obligations and responsibilities for any trustee, or director of a corporate trustee, appointed after 30 June 2007
  • Copies of all reports given to members
  • Documented decisions about the storage of collectibles and personal use assets

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