ATO to use more education directives

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has taken an educational and enforcement route when it comes to non-compliant self-managed superannuation funds (SMSFs), following the Royal Commission.

The ATO’s assistant commissioner – SMSF segment, Dana Fleming, said at the SMSF Association National conference that the office was “improving transparency and effectiveness” and this included more education for SMSF trustees.

 “We set an expectation for a much greater use of directions to educate to address or post enforcement action. In all cases, case officers were asked if someone were to be asked to remediate pathway to consider issuing an education direction as well as other actions that might need to be taken,” she said.

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“Obviously, the concept here is that if trustees are better educated they are less likely to reoffend or have another breach or help them to be better educated on what their obligations are and be a better trustee.”

In FY19, Fleming noted that there were double the amount of directions to educate than previous years at 95, compared to 45 for FY18 and 32 for FY17. There was also a reduction in enforceable undertakings (58 in FY19 compared to 131 in FY18), disqualified trustees (127 in FY19 compared to 145 in FY18), and the number of SMSFs with penalties imposed (84 in FY19 compared to 146 in FY18).

“It was clear that we could fill a gap to provide an education course tailored to trustee needs. We are building an online trustee course focused on the lifecycle of an SMSF,” she said.

“This includes what trustees need to know, when setting up, managing and operating an SMSF, and what you should be thinking about when you exit.

“By having a clear spot for SMSFs to access they’ll go to the ATO and there will be more voluntary uptake in education by SMSF members.”

Fleming said she hoped this education course would be up and running by the end of the year.

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