Administration, ATO

Real-time data case not strong

ATO real-time data SMSF

The high number of non-lodgers of SMSF annual returns has been noted as a key area impeding the rollout of real-time data reporting, according to the ATO.

The SMSF sector has not presented a strong enough business case for the ATO to provide access to real-time data, with the regulator highlighting its concerns around non-lodging funds and out-of-date software used by trustees.

Additionally, any efforts to provide real-time date would divert resources away from other projects currently being undertaken, according to ATO superannuation deputy commissioner James O’Halloran.

Speaking at the recent SMSF Association 2020 National Conference on the Gold Coast, O’Halloran was questioned by association chief executive John Maroney as to why tax agents, who could not provide advice, had access to SMSF trustee data, but financial advisers did not have the same access, despite being licensed to provide advice to those trustees.

O’Halloran said this was due in part to the evolution of the tax system, but also because of some of the lingering problems around annual reporting by SMSFs.

“It is a function of history but the tax system is built around tax agents. Many people in this room, with another hat and if we were at another conference, would agree that is a brilliant way to run a tax system because of the nature of the work of tax agents,” he said.

“I would say the appetite for real-time information and to gain access to what the ATO has on your client is a valid argument. I do not dispute that, but what do I stop building?” he added, referring to an ongoing program of works within the ATO.

He also addressed the issue of non-lodgements of SMSF annual returns, noting the high numbers reported by ATO SMSF segment assistant commissioner Dana Fleming earlier at the conference.

“How do I confront a contradiction in the appetite when in fact I have so many non-lodgers, so many people who don’t have current software, who don’t update their own software? The industry has not quite adapted to add to a business case,” he said.

He suggested the ATO would be more inclined to consider the request for data if the SMSF sector brought non-lodgements up to date and it did not have to be concerned about policing that area, which in turn would create better macro data that would be made available to the sector.

“It is not on my list at the moment and I hear the message, and under the statement of intent I am happy to hear thoughts as to what might be your view and the priority of it,” he said.

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