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Accounting, Administration

Returns still require signature

SMSF annual return

An SMSF annual return will still require a signature of some sort, regardless of COVID-19 isolation practices, a technical specialist has said.

A technical specialist has reminded SMSF advisers a fund’s annual return still requires a trustee signature of some kind, regardless of whether practitioners are currently servicing clients on a remote or contact-free basis due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Specialist adviser Mark Ellem revealed during an Accurium technical webinar held last week that a number of advisers have queried how they might go about having the annual return signed, given the coronavirus isolation measures they have needed to observe, and that the ATO has responded by detailing acceptable sign-off practices on its website.

“[The ATO website advises] you could utilise scanning the financial statements and returns, emailing them to clients, [having them] print [the documents] out, sign them and send them back to you,” Ellem said.

He added the use of digital signatures, already commonly used by practitioners for the approval of financial statements and tax returns, has also been ratified for SMSF annual return sign-off.

“Or [there is] the good old-fashioned post, sign and return method,” he noted.

While these are the ATO suggested and approved processes to facilitate the proper signing of annual returns before lodgement, he highlighted the need for advisers to recognise practices that will not be accepted as proof of trustee sign-off.

“{Having trustees] simply acknowledging by email or over the phone that ‘yes I’ve had a look at the return, it all looks fine, go ahead and lodge it’ doesn’t meet the signature requirements,” he warned.

“You still need that actual signature whether it’s real or digital before [the return can be lodged].”

He also issued a reminder that trustees are required to have seen a copy of the signed audit report for the fund before they can properly approve the annual return and offered an alternative they could rely on if the final audit report was not provided.

“It could be a case of [having] the auditor issue an unsigned copy of the audit report with a declaration that it is the final version of the audit report,” he said.

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