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SMSFs a “policy success”, says ATO

The capacity for the SMSF industry to maintain itself perpetually was high because of practitioners’ professionalism, commitment to trustees and members, and consultative approach in relation to government and regulators.

“The industry works,” ATO SMSF risks and products director Nathan Burgess told the Self-Managed Independent Superannuation Funds Association SMSF Forum in Melbourne last month.

“People are interested in super and it’s a policy success. Why?

“Because of people like yourself – professionals with good standards, acting in the best interest of clients and you actually lobby the government for changes and help the ATO by letting us know when we’re falling down; that’s how it works.

“Most people didn’t think this industry would ever be this big.”

Over the past five years, 36,000 new funds a year had been established on average, Burgess said.

“The other thing is that the funds that were established 10 years ago, 90 per cent of them are still around,” he said.

“That perception of people just doing this [for fun], then getting burnt later, maybe that’s happened a little, but most of them are still here 10 years later.

“So I actually think the sustainability of the industry is really great.

“I’m really looking forward to the changes that the industry suggested [at the Future Planning Workshop for SMSFs in Canberra last month] and that the ideas around technical issues that we still haven’t resolved will be discussed [this week with the trial return of the National Tax Liaison Group technical sub-group meeting].

“I think there’s a great future here.”

However, there was scope for further improvements, he said.

“I still think we can do better and there’s definitely technology that the ATO can make a lot better – you should be able to log in [to your account] and see that the ATO is worried about your fund because of x, y and z,” he said.

“You might disagree with it but at least you know our position, even before we contact you and that allows you to avoid contact as well.”

He said non-compliance was the worst possible option for the ATO.

“Last year about 154 funds were made non-compliant,” he said.

“I hate it and think it’s a failure of the entire industry, including the ATO, when we get there, but there will always be some.

“I would like to get that number as low as possible.”

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