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$635m illegally taken from SMSFs in two years

Mike Taylor22 February 2024
Leaking piggy bank

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has signalled another crackdown on superannuation early release associated with self-managed superannuation funds (SMSFs) claiming over $635 million was accessed over two years.

The crack-down was signalled by the outgoing Commissioner of Taxation, Chris Jordan  in an address to the National Press Club in Canberra where he said that the ATO was for the first time revealing the estimated size, scale and trajectory of illegal early access of funds from SMSF accounts.

“In 2020 over $380 million was illegally accessed from SMSFs and $255 million in 2021,” he said.

“This needs to stop. Super is for retirement. If people are experiencing genuine hardship, there are rules in place for when you can legally access super to help.”

Later at the SMSF Association in Brisbane, ATO deputy commissioner, Emma Rosenzweig described illegal early superannuation release as being one of the ATO’s greatest concern.

She said the ATO had undertaken a significant new program to estimate the amount of money illegally withdrawn before referencing the more than $500 million outlined by Jordan.

“For the 2020 year we estimated $380 million of super has been illegally withdrawn by trustees of SMSFs. This figure would have been half a billion dollars if we hadn’t protected over $125 million leaving the system as part of our new registrant risk reviews,” she said.

“In the 2021 year, we estimated over $255 million of super has been illegally accessed with almost $170 million additional protected at registration.”

“Don’t let the scale of the overall super system diminish the significance of this issue. These are large amounts of money and do not include prohibited loans. Across these 2 years, a total of $635 million of superannuation savings has left the system illegally through SMSFs.”

“Prohibited loans are another way trustees inappropriately provide financial benefits to members or related parties. In the 2020 and 2021 years, our analysis found SMSFs entered into over $200 million in prohibited loans each year. What is pleasing, is over 75% of these loans have been repaid.”

“These estimates really highlight why as a regulator we are so concerned and why it’s important for all of us to ensure SMSFs aren’t seen as a vehicle to access super illegally or to provide short-term finance.”

“Our findings indicate newly established SMSFs were more likely to engage in this behaviour compared to established funds. Around two-thirds of the $930 million at risk over these 2 years appears to relate to individuals entering the system with no genuine intent to run an SMSF.”

Mike Taylor

Mike Taylor

Managing Editor/Publisher, Financial Newswire

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