Guarding Your Golden Years

Safely Manage Your SMSF and Avoid Illegal Early Withdrawals

Accessing money in your SMSF

The ATO has made a call to professional accountants to help identify and manage illegal early access to superannuation by members of self-managed superannuation funds (SMSFs).

In general, access to your super is only possible if:

  • You retire and turn 60; or
  • You turn 65 (regardless of whether you’re working).

Early access to superannuation is only possible in very limited circumstances such as terminal illness, permanent incapacity, and severe financial hardship and there are very strict protocols to follow before any amounts are paid out.

One of the benefits of an SMSF is the control that it provides to members. The flip side of full control is the temptation to dip into the super account and approve transfers without proper controls.

There are two common ways illegal early access occurs:

  • When the trustees (or their business) are in financial distress and they use the superannuation account for a short-term loan; or
  • A promoter offers access through a scheme – often getting people to establish the SMSF and roll over their superannuation into the SMSF.

Illegal access to the SMSF’s account or assets is not difficult to identify and generally will be picked up by your auditor. Where illegal access has occurred, not only is it likely that your retirement savings have been lost or impaired, but you are likely to face additional tax, penalties and interest, and be disqualified as a trustee. In addition, your name will be published online.

One of the signs that there is a problem is when SMSF annual returns are not lodged on time or at all so ensure you are up to date with your SMSF compliance.

If you are worried that you may fall into this category, please feel free to contact us for assistance.

Note: The material and contents provided in this publication are informative in nature only. It is not intended to be advice and you should not act specifically on the basis of this information alone. If expert assistance is required, professional advice should be obtained.

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