On this page
- 1. Review investment strategy and document it
- 2. Hold regular trustee meetings and keep trustee minutes
- 3. Keep all documents for the required timeframe
- 4. Do the accounts and prepare annual return
- 5. Appoint an auditor
- 6. Get an actuarial certificate if required
- 7. Make transfer balance reports for members if necessary
- 8. Make minimum pensions payments for the year if member in pension phase
Due to COVID-19 the ATO are automatically applying a deferral for the lodging 2018/19 SMSF annual returns due on 15 May and 5 June 2020 until 30 June 2020.
Trustees have a lot on their to-do list, not least of which is to keep on top of administration. But remembering to keep up to date with paperwork and other requirements is an important legal responsibility for an SMSF trustee.
We know life often gets in the way, so we’ve created a checklist to help you make sure there isn’t anything you’ve forgotten.
You can download and print the checklist and keep it as a regular reminder of what needs to be done, and tick off each task as you get to it.
Continue reading for explanations of each item on the list.
1. Review investment strategy and document it
The ATO requires you to review your investment strategy at least once a year and we think it’s a good idea to give it a once over at least twice a year. You need to check things like whether or not your objectives are still current; whether all members are still happy with asset allocations and if you’re considering other types of investments – such as property – why you think they will help retirement outcomes of members.
You can find our SMSF health checklist here.
2. Hold regular trustee meetings and keep trustee minutes
If there is more than one member of your fund you need to hold trustee meetings around each major decision you make for your fund at least once a year when doing the fund’s accounts. You still need to have regular meetings for single member funds (and you may need to have non-member trustees or directors of trustee companies present depending on your trust deed).
SuperGuide Premium is ad-free
You don’t have to talk to yourself in these single person meetings but you do need to keep a minute around each major decision you make for the fund (see our article on trustee minutes here and keep them for at least ten years.
3. Keep all documents for the required timeframe
The Australian Taxation Office is quite specific around keeping documents for at least five years, and in many cases ten years, depending on the type of document (see below). If at any point your fund is audited you are going to want to have the relevant documents to back up your decisions and choices.
You need to keep the following records for a minimum of five years:
- Accurate and accessible accounting records that explain the transactions and financial position of your SMSF
- An annual operating statement and an annual statement of your SMSF’s financial position
- Copies of all SMSF annual returns lodged
- Copies of transfer balance account reports lodged
- Copies of any other statements you are required to lodge with us or provide to other super funds.
You need to keep the following records for a minimum of ten years:
- Minutes of trustee meetings and decisions (if matters affecting your fund were discussed, for example you reviewed the fund’s investment strategy)
- Records of all changes of trustees
- Trustee declarations recognising the obligations and responsibilities for any trustee, or director of a corporate trustee, appointed after 30 June 2007
- Members’ written consent to be appointed as trustees
- Copies of all reports given to members
- Documented decisions about storage of collectables and personal use assets.
4. Do the accounts and prepare annual return
You need to do your fund’s accounts and lodge your SMSF’s annual return each year. You may use an accountant for this but ultimately, as trustee, it will be your responsibility if anything is incorrect, so examine documents prepared for your fund carefully. For your annual returns, you will need your assets valued as at 30 June each year.
For listed assets, such as equities, this will be reasonably easy but for other assets, such as property (if you feel the value has changed materially in the last 12 months), you may need to get an independent valuation. You also need to pay the annual supervisory levy when you lodge your annual return.
5. Appoint an auditor
You need to appoint an independent auditor at least 45 days before your fund’s annual return is required to be lodged with the ATO. You also need to take on board any suggestions the auditor makes about your fund.
The auditor will put together a report and are required to return that to you within 28 days of receiving all documentation required to audit your fund. Auditors are also required to report any breaches to the ATO.
Learn more in our guide to SMSF audits.
6. Get an actuarial certificate if required
If your fund has both members in pension and accumulation you may need an actuarial certificate as part of your annual accounts. You will always need the certificate when a member first starts up a pension and there are other members in accumulation phase.
If your actuary is using the proportionate method to calculate the fund’s exempt current pension income, you will need a certificate annually.
Learn more about Actuarial certificates.
7. Make transfer balance reports for members if necessary
A relatively new requirement for SMSF trustees is to make transfer balance reports whenever a transfer balance event occurs, if there are members in retirement phase. This is because there is now a limit on how much can be supporting a pension and for which income is tax-free. The kind of events the ATO wants reported are basically anything that could impact the balance and are detailed in our guide to TBAR.
The frequency of the reports will depend on the balance of the SMSF. If total member balances are less than $1 million, reports only need to be made annually with the fund’s tax return. However, for funds with member balances of more than $1 million, reporting must be done within 28 days of the end of the quarter the event occurred in.
8. Make minimum pensions payments for the year if member in pension phase
It’s also important you make the minimum required pension payment each year if you have members in pension phase. The percentage will depend on your age, as per the ATO’s table below. There is no requirement as to when or how often you make the payment, just that you need to do it by the end of the financial year.
Minimum % withdrawal
95 or more
Learn more about SMSF pensions.
The bottom line
Ultimately there are significant penalties for SMSF trustees if you fail to comply with all your administration requirements, so we hope this checklist serves as a useful tool to make sure you stay on top of the law.
Want to learn more about running an SMSF?
Become a SuperGuide Premium member and access expert guides for SMSFs, on topics such as costs, compliance, administration, investment, borrowing and pensions. Discover valuable SMSF, super and retirement strategies, the most popular shares, managed funds and ETFs for SMSFs, the latest super rates and thresholds, contributions caps and more.
Includes more than 500 articles, how-to guides, checklists, tips, calculators, case studies, quizzes and a monthly newsletter.