Compliance for SMSFs: insight into the ATO’s regulatory agenda in 2021

Copy of 0078LEARN_CTA3_Blog_images_refresh_Twitter-Blog-Header-1024x512 (22)

As any tax practitioner knows, keeping up with compliance obligations is key to running a successful practice, looking after client’s best interests and staying on the right side of regulators. But compliance can be time-consuming and occasionally confusing to navigate. For SMSF practitioners, insight into what key compliance areas are on the ATO’s radar is invaluable.

And that’s just what you’ll get at our upcoming 2021 Superannuation Intensive Series, when the ATO's Justin Micale, Assistant Commissioner for Self Managed Superannuation Funds (SMSF) Risk and Strategy takes the stage.

“I'm going to outline how the ATO is addressing key risk areas that have the potential to undermine Australia’s retirement system. That's the key focus of the session,” Justin explained to us ahead of the event.

“So I'm going to talk about what those risk areas are, why we're concerned about them, what we're currently doing and going to do in the future to address them, and provide an update of how we're tracking in relation to the work that we've been doing in that respect. I’ll also touch on a few changes that are on the horizon that will impact on the SMSF landscape in 2021.”

Justin’s session, Update from the ATO on the key issues for self-managed superannuation funds, gives you a look into the ATO’s thinking on compliance obligations for your clients. Covering off key focus areas and what this might mean for your clients this year, it’s essential viewing for any tax practitioner in the SMSF sector wanting to advise clients with confidence.

“While I've only been in the role for a very short period of time, it's been pretty evident to me that trustees are very well supported by industry professionals, including [The Tax Institute’s] members. And given the nature of the fact that SMSFs are self-administered by the trustees, they heavily rely on practitioners, such as yourselves, to help them navigate the complexity associated with running an SMSF,” Justin said.

“I think it almost goes without saying, by participating in events such as this, helps professionals and other participants in the industry stay informed and up to date to ensure they're able to appropriately support their members.”

Sessions like Justin’s help to put practitioners on the same page as regulators when it comes to compliance obligations, which is the goal underpinning work in the sector, despite approaching some issues from differing perspectives.

“At the end of the day, we share common goals and that is, we all want to support SMSFs to meet their obligations so they can continue to thrive, and for the community to have confidence in their credibility as an effective retirement planning choice,” Justin said.

Back to basics: compliance starts with your annual return

Justin’s session will touch on various risk areas that SMSF practitioners need to be aware of, but one key building block of good compliance practice is the lodgement of an annual return.

“Without the lodgement of the return, we don't have visibility of the fund’s compliance with it's regulatory or tax obligations,” Justin explained.

“So keeping up to date with lodgements is an absolute cornerstone obligation of the correct operation of an SMSF.”

And while Justin made it clear that most SMSFs lodge their annual return on time, there are a raft of reason why some may avoid doing so. Pressure from COVID-19 is one reason, despite the ATO extending the lodgement deadline for SMSF 2018–19 annual returns to 30 June 2020. And according to ATO data, SMSFs that had a contravention in the prior year are also more likely to wind up not lodging on time the following year.

“There's a raft of reasons that underpin SMSFs not lodging. But again, what we're wanting people to do is to reach out to us early, rather than it becoming a problem down the track,” Justin said.

And if you or your clients are new to the SMSF space, staying on top of this key obligation from the get-go is vital.

“There's one behaviour in particular that I am very concerned about. And that's where we see new registrants, so, new entrants into the SMSF system, not lodging their first return, and we can see evidence of there being a roll over,” Justin said.

“And that's particularly concerning because for us, that's a strong indicator of somebody entering the system to illegally early access their superannuation. So, that is something that we will be touching on as part of the presentation.”

Session details

Session: Session 6: Update from the ATO on the key issues for self-managed superannuation funds

Presenter: Justin Micale, Australian Taxation Office

When: 12:10PM – 1:10PM, Thursday 25 March 2021 (Day 2)

What to expect: An exploration of the key focus areas on the ATO’s compliance and regulatory agenda and what this means for your SMSF clients.

Find out more

Download the brochure

Register today


About the 2021 Superannuation Intensive Series

“For me, it's always interesting to get other perspectives on issues that are particularly topical in relation to the SMSF sector. So I'm always interested in hearing those other perspectives ... I'm sure participants will find it interesting to hear firsthand from people involved in the sector, what they see as some of the issues and challenges for the sector and their interpretation as to how to navigate those issues and challenges.” – Justin Micale

Encompassing the key areas of focus for practitioners advising in the Superannuation space, this event takes a technical deep-dive into current thinking and leaves you with practical take-aways for your practice. Topics to be covered include:

  • changes affecting the SMSF industry
  • NALI and NALE
  • estate Planning and Superannuation
  • superannuation contributions
  • property investment through the life cycle of an SMSF
  • pensions and SMSFs

When: 24 March 2021 - 25 March 2021

Where: This is a hybrid event, including 8 technical session held virtually, followed by a face-to-face workshop in your capital city. Check out the event brochure to see where your local workshop will be held.


About Justin Micale

Copy of Firstname-Lastname-Cicle-200x200 (11) Justin Micale is a highly experienced leader with over 30 years of experience at the ATO. He has been at the forefront of driving transformational change to the way the ATO manages and treats risks across individual and small business sectors. Justin has recently taken on the role of Assistant Commissioner of the Self-managed super fund Segment and is looking forward to supporting the sector and safeguarding the integrity of the self-managed super fund system.



See all

Follow Us