As of the 01st of July 2016, your accountant is required to be licensed to recommend the establishment of a SMSF. The purpose of this new licensing regime is to crack down on the establishment of SMSFs that are inappropriate for the client. This may mean that the client does not have the funds to make it worth the client's while, or it may mean that the client hasn't got the ability to deal with the compliance issues that surround being a trustee of a SMSF. Now, I'm not saying that all accountants are shady (and a financial planner is as only as good as their software, says my Uncle Kevin...the accountant), but now the industry has standardised parameters to ensure that the client is well educated before making this decision. And the scenario outlined below will show why it's so important.
A client of mine was at a ladies lunch the other day, and overheard a conversation regarding purchasing jewellery using funds from super. Luckily, for all that she likes to push the boundaries, she contacted me to confirm that this is actually the case. Now, a SMSF is on the cards for this particular client, but not for another five or so years, so she was quite excited about this prospect. After a bit of digging, it was admitted that she had approached the conversing ladies and found out that the jewellery in question was actually the one being worn. "How old was she?" I asked, "In her 50s" the client replied. "Right", I said, "This is the way it works".
Other than the fact that collectibles (art, jewellery etc.) are in themselves a very speculative asset class (cue disapproving financial planner face), you cannot purchase assets with superannuation funds, which are legally restricted for your retirement, and then wear them before you retire. As the trustee of a SMSF, you are liable for non-compliance, and one of those many potential breaches is the failure to keep SMSF money separate from personal assets. This means that the collectibles must be stored away from the personal place of residence (I would suggest a bank vault leased to the SMSF), and cannot be loaned to related parties. The penalty for this, is 20 penalty units, which at $180 per unit, is $3,600 for each individual breach.
"But, how would they know that you had worn the jewellery?", the client asked, slightly less excited than she was earlier. "The better question", I replied, "is how do they know you have not?" It is not up to the ATO to prove that you are in breach, it is up to the trustee to prove that they are not. And, after reviewing your auditor notes, if the ATO suspect that you may be in breach they will take a very close look at what is going on. If Facebook shows that you have worn the jewels to multiple events, then that is multiple breaches, which means multiple fines. Which the trustee pays out of their personal pocket, not from the SMSF.
Luckily, this client has a good relationship with her planner and could be put back on the straight and narrow, and, I would assume, her accountant (under the new regime) would have done the same rather than facilitating the client's request.
The moral of the story is, if you are at a BBQ with mates, or happen to overhear some ladies at lunch, please make sure you speak to a qualified professional before acting on it. After all, we all know what happens in those stories that are too good to be true.
*Authorised Representative of Securitor Financial Group Ltd ABN 48 009 189 495 AFSL 240687.
This is general information only and does not consider your personal circumstances. You should not act on any recommendation without obtaining professional advice specific to your circumstances. We recommend you speak to a financial adviser before acting on any of the information you read on this website.