Written by:
Mark Ellem
Head of Education (SMSF)

As the landscape of Self-Managed Superannuation Funds (SMSFs) continues to evolve, trustees, accountants, and advisors face a multitude of challenges, particularly when it comes to property investments within these funds. One such challenge revolves around the critical audit issues associated with valuing SMSF assets accurately.

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has recently underscored the paramount importance of valuing SMSF assets at market value every income year (refer ‘Valuing fund assets correctly for the SMSF annual return’). This responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of SMSF trustees. Prior to lodging the SMSF annual return (SAR), trustees must ensure that their fund’s SMSF auditor is able to assess whether the basis for these valuations is appropriate and supported by relevant evidence.

Recent data analysis by the ATO has revealed a concerning trend: a significant number of funds have maintained the same values on reported SMSF assets in their annual returns over multiple income years. Of particular concern are approximately 16,500 funds that have reported certain classes of assets at the same value for at least three consecutive years. These assets include residential and commercial property, unlisted companies, and unlisted trust investments.

The ATO’s scrutiny doesn’t stop there. Despite the high number of funds at risk, data indicates that no auditor contravention reports (ACRs) were lodged for potential breaches of the market valuation rules for these assets. In response, the ATO has initiated targeted messaging to trustees and auditors, reminding them of their obligation to value and report assets at market value annually.

Trustees must understand the implications of failing to meet valuation requirements. This includes:

  • Failing to comply with SIS Regulation 8.02B to disclose assets in financial statements at market value. This could lead to an administrative penalty being imposed to each trustee of 10 penalty points, a current monetary penalty of $3,130.
  • Failing to pay the correct minimum pension. Where assets are undervalued, this would result in the relevant pension balance used to determine the required minimum pension to also be undervalued. Correcting the disclosed amount of the asset to market value and the resulting effect on the pension balance could mean the fund failed to pay the minimum pension. This in turn could result in the fund being denied it’s claim for exempt current pension income (ECPI).
  • An incorrect amount being used for total superannuation balance. Again, where an asset is undervalued and the member’s balance is undervalued, their total superannuation balance is also likely to be undervalued. As total superannuation balance is used for a member’s entitlement to the non-concessional cap and the carry forward catch-up concessional cap, a correction to the disclosed value of fund asset could result in the member not being entitled to the cap they believed they were. This could result in the member having excess contributions.

In addition to annual financial statements, it’s also important for fund assets to be correctly valued at the time a retirement phase pension is commenced. The commencement value of a retirement phase pension is used to determine how much of a member’s transfer balance cap is used. Where the value of assets used in below market value and are subsequently adjusted, a re-reporting of the commencement value of the retirement phase pension could result in the member having an excess transfer balance amount.

Therefore, it is crucial for trustees, accountants, and advisors to stay abreast of ATO guidelines and regulatory requirements pertaining to SMSF asset valuations. Compliance with these guidelines not only ensures adherence to legal obligations but also fosters transparency and integrity within the SMSF sector.

As trustees prepare for the next round of financial statements and annual returns, it is imperative to heed the ATO’s reminder; assets must be reported at market value. By providing objective and supportable evidence to SMSF auditors and adhering to valuation requirements, trustees can navigate the critical audit issues associated with SMSF property investments effectively.

To address these challenges and equip accountants and advisors with the necessary knowledge and tools, our upcoming webinar ‘Critical audit issues for SMSF property investments’ will feature SMSF specialist auditor and advisor Frank La Spada from Seamless SMSF who will join our Head of SMSF Education, Mark Ellem, to provide invaluable insights and practical tips on navigating the audit obligations and requirements of property investments within SMSFs. From understanding ATO guidelines to implementing effective valuation strategies, attendees will gain actionable knowledge to ensure compliance and reduce audit time.

Join us for this not-to-be-missed webinar and take the first step towards mastering the critical audit issues for SMSF property investments.

Don't miss out on this invaluable opportunity! Register now to secure your spot and stay ahead in the ever-evolving landscape of SMSF property investments.

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