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ATO to tailor lodgement deferral

SMSF return lodgement

The ATO has revealed its compliance approach to SMSFs requiring a time extension for their annual return lodgement obligations.

The ATO will not be introducing a general rule regarding the deferral of SMSF return lodgement in response to the disruptive effect COVID-19 has had on fund administration, preferring instead to approach the issue on a case-by case basis.

Following a recent conversation with SMSF Association chief executive John Maroney, ATO SMSF segment assistant commissioner Dana Fleming confirmed: “At this stage, recognising the world changes every day, we’re not planning any blanket deferral, so the ATO is not considering a blanket deferral across all sectors.

“What we’re trying to do is deal with the situation in a more tailored way.”

To this end, Fleming revealed the regulator last week started to send out tailored messaging to all parts of the SMSF sector.

“[This is] a message through our SMSF news publication to tax agents themselves and also directly to our SMSF auditor population,” she said.

“And what we are saying in that messaging is we recognise that all these businesses have been affected and if you need more time, we have created a streamlined process for tax agents to request a deferral of up to six weeks, to 30 June, if they need more time.”

She noted the time extension is not limited to the tax agent’s needs, but is designed to take into account trustees and auditors who may be under too much pressure to adhere to the standard lodgement time frame.

“We’re encouraging all those parts of the sector to talk to each other and if you need that deferral, it will be granted,” she said.

She pointed out the standard lodgement deferral process was still available for tax agents to use as well.

“I do want to emphasise that tax agents do have the ability to ask for a deferral for four weeks under their standard process and that is in place already,” she said.

The deferrals for annual return lodgement will automatically flow through to the transfer balance account reporting requirement for the SMSF in question, meaning there will be no need to apply for a lodgement extension for administration obligations separately.

The ATO recently established a COVID-19 webpage to communicate its compliance approach to issues such as rental relief and in-house assets.

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