Financial Planning, Superannuation

COVID-19 changes challenge trustees, advisers

COVID-19 changes trustees

COVID-19-related legislative changes have become an area of added concern for SMSF trustees and advisers, who have increased requests for expert assistance.

Trustees and advisers have struggled to understand the COVID-19 legislative changes relating to SMSFs, particularly in the area of early release of funds, according to an administration provider.

SuperConcepts technical education executive manager Graeme Colley said the firm had seen strong interest in extra support and information about COVID-19-related changes to legislation that impact SMSFs.

“We have had a spike in attendees to our online education programs, with a focus on questions relating to self-managed superannuation funds from both trustees and advisers. These have primarily been about lodgement extensions and early release of funds,” Colley said.

SuperConcepts chief executive Lara Bourguignon said the firm’s ability to provide support to trustees and advisers was the result of a restructuring last year and preparation for lockdown in March, which it was able to implement within a week of the global pandemic declaration.

“We provided our 800-strong workforce across Australia, India and Vietnam with the support and training needed to quickly and smoothly transition to a work-from-home basis,” Bourguignon said.

“This was a huge undertaking as none of our previous crisis plans had factored in a complete shutdown of all sites at the same time. Our committed team deftly rose to the challenge of people management, IT and software updates and personalised customer care.”

Colley added this approach had given SuperConcepts extra time to support trustees and advisers on an individual basis and cited a case of SMSF landlord rent relief as an example of the work being undertaken.

“We’ve had the time to support a trustee landlord, whose commercial property was leased by a pharmacist that contracted COVID-19. The pharmacist was forced to close the premises while in recovery, only to return with a reduction in revenue. We helped the trustee navigate the new policies to give rental relief for the pharmacist while protecting their investment and returns,” he said.

“Had we not been in such a positive, stable and certain position with our own COVID-19 response, we may not have had the bandwidth to develop tailored responses to our customers’ unique circumstances with such certainty.”

Bourguignon said the firm expected to meet the new 30 June tax lodgement deadline and supported calls for a similar extension to apply for tax lodgements across the industry.

Last week, six major tax and accounting bodies made a joint submission to the ATO requesting an extension to lodgement dates for personal and company tax for 2018/19, which would bring them in line with the extension to lodgements for superannuation and pension tax to 30 June 2020.

“We acted quickly and decidedly to respond to the extraordinary circumstances surrounding COVID-19 and are in a very good position to make the 30 June deadline for lodgement on all the SMSF accounts we administer,” Bourguignon said.

“While this is a great accomplishment for our clients and team, we would want the same extension to apply to tax lodgements across the industry as personal and company tax lodgements have been similarly impacted by COVID-19.”

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