Heffron's experts provide a regular stream of thoughts, hints, tid-bits and technical articles to the SMSF industry at large. You can find these below.

When super policy becomes a crazy game

Sometimes the lunacy of politicians (both sides) amazes me when it comes to superannuation policy.  Although perhaps that fact in itself is amazing since I have been working in superannuation for nearly 30 years and should have learnt better by now.

The Opposition Treasury Spokesman recently re-iterated some of Labor’s superannuation policies which were reported here but the full explanation is readily available on their website here.  These reports don’t specifically cover their earlier announcements about changes to franking credits to make them non refundable but this is also clearly part of the mix.

SMSFs and reserves - new guidance from the ATO

The ATO has recently issued its first guidance on reserves in SMSFs via a brand new series of publications called "SMSF Regulator's Bulletins".  The new Bulletins (SMSFRBs) allow the ATO to flag compliance issues it is concerned about or actively monitoring relatively quickly without the formality of other publications such as SMSF or Tax Rulings etc. It also explains how the Commissioner would apply particular legislation if asked via a formal process such as a private binding ruling. In that sense it is perhaps similar to a Taxpayer Alert but with a regulatory focus as well as a tax one.

This first publication (SMSFRB 2018/1) provides some contentious views (and reversals of previous views) on reserves in SMSFs.

Company Directors & Gainful Employment

It is a well established principle that company directors are not considered common law employees, unless they are also engaged under a contract of employment to provide non-director duties.

So, if a director is not a common law employee, can they ever qualify as “gainfully employed” for the purpose of making superannuation contributions after age 65? Conversely, if they cease to be a director after age 60, is that sufficient to satisfy the retirement definition?

We recently sought clarification of these issues from the ATO and can now confirm:

CGT relief – five traps emerging at the pointy end of the year

We are definitely at the business end of 2017/18 when it comes to discovering just where the submerged rocks lie for CGT relief under the 2017 Superannuation Reforms.

We have written more broadly on this before - see our previous publication, Heffron Super News, Issue # 142 and for subscribers to McPherson Superannuation Consulting’s SuperTech newsletter, the December 2016 edition.

However, as is always the case, new tips and traps emerge all the time and we’ve shared below just five that have come to our attention as we help advisers, accountants and trustees navigate the rules and lodge their 2016/17 annual returns.

Super Concepts buys More Super

It was pretty big news in SMSF circles today when SuperConcepts announced they had bought More Super.

SuperConcepts (AMP) is probably the country’s largest SMSF administrator.  Perhaps not surprisingly given the dollars at their disposal, the AMP business has everything – they own their own software (SuperMate), offshore processing operations, multiple SMSF administration brands, financial / investment products (via the AMP business), Australian financial services licensee for accountants (SMSF Advice), financial planning network and no doubt many other components I haven’t even imagined.

More Super just adds “more” to an already big story.  Compared to others in this industry it was already a sizeable business and when combined with AMP the result is just … huge.

But there is one fascinating thing about the SMSF industry that this change highlights : even in an environment where the largest one or two players dwarf everyone else, AMP still only administers around 5% of the country’s SMSFs

Government moves to fix TRIS complexity

Traditionally when a transition to retirement income stream (TRIS) reverted to a spouse on the death of the original pensioner, the TRIS status of the original pension was academic.  Regardless of how the pension started, the surviving spouse inherited a pension unencumbered by the usual restrictions associated with a TRIS because the death of the original pensioner effectively ‘freed up’ the entire balance to become ‘unrestricted non-preserved’ superannuation. 

However, the addition of the ‘retirement phase’ concept on 1 July 2017 added some complexity which currently causes some constraints to remain even after death and changes the position for those transition to retirement pensions that revert to another beneficiary on death.

SMSF. Crypto. Bitcoin.  What’s all the fuss?

Why is there so much focus on SMSFs and Bitcoin?

Mainly because it’s new and sexy.  Whenever there is a new and exciting investment, early movers want to get started.  These days, the largest pot of potential investment cash is often an individual’s superannuation.  Thanks to compulsory superannuation at a relatively high level for a long time now, even youngsters in their 30s and 40s potentially have large sums locked up for retirement.

(Did you know that someone with a salary of $50,000 ten years ago who has experienced wage increases of only 3% each year could have grown their superannuation to around $50,000 today if their fund earned even just 2% more (ie 5% pa) over that period?)

But how does one invest superannuation money in Bitcoin?

ECPI - capital gains and losses in funds that cannot be “segregated”

One of the many benefits traditionally enjoyed by funds entirely in pension phase was that when an asset was sold, any capital gain was completely disregarded.  Not only was there no tax paid on that particular capital gain but the fact that the gain was ignored entirely meant it also did not “use up” capital losses that the fund might have been carrying forward from previous years.

But what does the future look like on this front?

Death and transfer balance cap reporting

A question that has already come up in our practice several times relates to clients who died before 1 July 2017.

In particular, if the deceased had a retirement phase pension, what (if anything) should be reported for that pension when the Fund’s first TBAR (Transfer Balance Account Report) is lodged later this year.

Like most superannuation issues, it depends.

First Excess Transfer Balance (ETB) determinations to be issued in January 2018

Well we know what the ATO will be doing over Christmas. 

While we expect few SMSFs have lodged any reporting for the new Transfer Balance Cap (the $1.6m limit on transfers to retirement phase pensions), the ATO plans to start issuing its first excess transfer balance determinations from January 2018. These are the new notices that will alert individuals that they have exceeded the limit and set a deadline for taking action.  Those who don’t do so within the required timeframe will effectively have their entire pensions cancelled.

Segregating in SMSFs beyond 1 July 2017

Understanding when a fund is "segregated" for tax purposes is critical in applying the tax rules to SMSFs providing pensions.  An important rule change from 1 July 2017 means that some funds are no longer classified as segregated even if they very much look like it - for example, they are entirely in pension phase.  In this article we explain which funds are actually no longer allowed to segregate for tax purposes and what that means when it comes to their tax exemptions.

BGL Simple Fund 360 Actuarial Certificate integration now live

Accountants who use BGL Simple Fund 360 for their SMSF clients can now request actuarial certificates from Heffron with no re-keying, no hassle and an immediate certificate where the fund passes all our automated checks and balances.  We have also taken this opportnity to review the way we bundle our services to construct a range of special offers for BGL 360 users to celebrate our integration.

CGT Relief help

If there is one aspect of the 2017 superannuation reforms that has caused many practitioners some challenges it is the special relief provided on capital gains tax for those affected by the changes to pensions.  We have recently introduced a service specifically to help deal with these rules.

What do the 2017 super changes mean for SMSF accountants & administrators?

The current superannuation changes present the most profound adjustment to the strategic landscape for SMSFs since 2007.   Like any change, they highlight the importance of good guidance from accountants and advisers for all trustees.  In the coming months, there will be a lot of questions asked of anyone advising trustees but also of those of us implementing the new strategies via a compliance or fund administration role.

What will you tell clients who’d planned large non concessional contributions this year?

It has already been widely reported that last night’s budget saw a lifetime cap of $500,000 announced for non-concessional contributions.  There is a distinct element of retrospectivity in this measure in that contributions right back to 1 July 2007 will be counted in working out whether someone has exceeded the cap.  I imagine the Government will argue that this is not retrospective because those who had already exceeded the new limit at 3 May 2016 will not be penalised.

Tax expenditure – what’s in a name?

According to Wikipedia, an oxymoron is a figure of speech that juxtaposes elements that appear to be contradictory. Anyone paying attention to the political debate in Australia will recognise its utility in the hands of a skilled (or not so skilled) politician. Unfortunately, some of these political oxymorons make their way into wider community conversations as an accepted and serious economic truth where they have the potential to cause a lot of damage.

The role of professional bodies

Last week saw CPA Australia announce the establishment of CPA Australia Advice Pty Ltd.

This wholly owned subsidiary of CPA Australia will apply for an Australian Financial Services Licence (AFSL) with the intention of effectively providing dealer services to interested members of the association (you have to be a CPA to operate under the new licence).