Documentation, Legislation, SMSFA

Digital execution of declarations accepted

Digital execution Statutory declaration Deed myGov

From the start of this year, individuals now have the option of using two digital methods to execute statutory declarations in addition to a traditional paper-based approach.

A bill that was granted royal assent in November last year has given individuals the ability to authorise commonwealth statutory declarations through two new digital methods from the start of 2024.

The Statutory Declarations Amendment Bill 2023 was introduced into the House of Representatives in September last year by the Attorney-General’s Department after a series of roundtable consultations with the public in 2021 and 2023.

During the consultations, the amendments received broad support, including backing from the SMSF Association and Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees, as a measure to streamline the authorisation of almost 4 million statutory declarations processed in Australia each year.

“We’ve seen this bill passed through both houses of parliament and has now received royal assent. And this is effectively codifying for the longer term some of the emergency measures that we had around COVID to do with electronic execution,” SMSF Association head of policy and advocacy Tracey Scotchbrook told attendees of a recent webinar.

“Now this applies only to commonwealth statutory declarations and it allows three forms of execution for [those documents].

“We’ve got a normal paper wet signature model. We can [also] do it through electronic means and this will mean that we can have that online viewing and that wet signature being viewed by someone on a screen as a part of that witnessing and execution process. And then we have digitally verified.”

For the digital authorisation process, a service through myGov is expected to be made available in the coming months.

“What we’re talking about here is using platforms like myGov for the completion of the statutory declaration and then the digital ID component being the myGovID being used to digitally identify the person that has executed that particular statutory declaration,” Scotchbrook noted.

“So this will be important when dealing with tax matters, social security [and] anything that involves commonwealth matters. That [is] effective from 1 January 2024. Anything that’s state-based, do bear in mind you’ll need to defer to the state-based rules as to how they will apply.”

With regard to approving trust deeds, a paper-based wet signature is still the recommended approach by some quarters of the sector as not all states and territories have implemented laws to allow for electronic authorisation of deeds.

The Attorney-General’s Department stated a working group has been formed among state and territory departments to explore harmonising the authorisation of statutory declarations and deeds across various jurisdictions.

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