The ATO has declared its adoption of technology to make tasks such as SMSF establishment more efficient will always be limited by the need to protect the integrity of the sector.
ATO SMSF assistant commissioner Kasey Macfarlane told delegates at the 2018 Accounting Business Expo in Sydney last week: “When you talk about [technology use] speeding up the SMSF registration process, I think it is important to note that the ATO does have some processes in place to ensure the integrity of the registration of new SMSFs.
“It is very important in our role as the regulator and also as the custodian of the SMSF sector in a way that we ensure that integrity is maintained within the SMSF sector and protect the sustainability of the SMSF sector.
“So I think that in terms of fully automating that process, I’m not sure that’s necessarily something that can happen because of that very important integrity role.”
Macfarlane said the tax office had processes in place to review all new SMSF registrants from a risk perspective pertaining to issues such as illegal early access to superannuation benefits and trustee obligations, and automation was already being used to make this activity as streamlined as possible.
She stressed though that interpersonal communication still had a role to play once potential risks had been detected.
However, she did admit this did not mean technology could not play an increased role in this vetting process in the future.
“I think as the capability increases with the more data we get … it may well be that we can better identify and pinpoint those funds where there are those risks, so it might be a smaller number [of funds where] we need to have that intervention [with potential trustees],” she said.