Superannuation is a large component of building long-term wealth and retirement planning. Self-managed super funds are becoming increasingly popular as the investment structure for those who prefer greater autonomy and control over how their funds are being invested and accumulated. However, whilst self-managed super funds can be effective for building wealth and minimising tax burdens, they must be properly executed and managed in order to protect you and your family’s interests. Etheringtons Solicitors have a team of experienced solicitors who can assist you in a range of wealth management matters in a strategic and compassionate manner.

What is a self-managed super fund?

A self-managed super fund (“SMSF”) is a private superannuation fund where the members are usually the trustees. Members of the SMSF run it for their benefit and are responsible for complying with the relevant laws. A SMSF can have up to four members, but it is quite common for there to be just one member.

A SMSF trustee is the person responsible for ensuring the SMSF is maintained for the purpose of providing retirement benefits. The trustee can be a company or an individual. For a single member SMSF, there must be two individual trustees, the other trustee must either be related to the member or be another person who is not an employer of the member.

What are benefits in establishing a self-managed super fund?

1. Control and Choice of Investment

The primary benefit of a SMSF is the control and choice you have over how the funds are invested. For example, SMSF’s can invest in commercial properties, term deposits, shares and derivatives. SMSF’s are recommended for small business owners as the fund can receive steady income from the SMSF when the business property owned by the SMSF is leased back to the business.

2.  Tax Minimisation 

SMSFs grant greater flexibility than other superannuation structures to minimise overall tax payments. If you are a SMSF trustee, you are entitled to the reduced superannuation tax rate. Provided the SMSF complies with legislation, your investment return would therefore be taxed at a maximum of 15% in Australia.

The tax-free benefits are highly attractive. Benefits received after the age of 60 and pension payments received from the fund are tax-free.

We highly recommend that you seek advice in relation to SMSFs as they may also be utilised for tax strategies around capital gains and franking credits.

3.  Life Insurance

The following forms of personal insurance can be paid through a SMSF:

  • Life Insurance;
  • Total and Permanent Disability Insurance; and
  • Income Protection Insurance.

Life policies are often held in SMSFs because the funding of premiums can become tax deductible if certain contributions are allocated to fund the premiums. The level of cover and insurance needs are unique to each individual. Professional advice must be sought prior to taking out a life insurance policy through a SMSF.

Whilst there are clear benefits to having a SMSF, there are important factors to consider when deciding if it is the appropriate wealth building strategy for you.

Important Considerations

1. Time and effort of managing a SMSF

SMSFs require the trustee to take responsibility for all investment decisions, unlike an industry or retail fund. A sound understanding of investment options and markets is required to be a trustee of an SMSF. Poor decisions will impact the assets of the fund and the retirement savings of its members.

Furthermore, trustees are responsible for ensuring that their fund complies with legislation. If the ATO rules that there has been a breach of these obligations, it may impose high penalties on trustees who will be personally liable.

2.  Cost of running a SMSF

The costs of running a SMSF are fixed and therefore can be disadvantageous when the assets held within the SMSF are low in value. The costs reduce in proportion to the value of the fund, and it is advised that the fund should contain at least $250,000 worth of assets to ensure the costs of running the SMSF are worthwhile.

3.  Estate Planning

The superannuation benefits of a SMSF are not assets that automatically fall within the ownership of a person’s estate upon their passing. Allocation of benefits is decided by the trustee unless written direction is provided. Without careful consideration and planning, your superannuation funds may not end up where you want them to after your death.

You may properly document where superannuation benefits are to be directed upon the death of a beneficiary through a binding death nomination. A binding death nomination must be renewed every 3 years while a death benefit agreement is permanent until revoked, unless it is a non-lapsing nomination.

Contact Etheringtons Solicitors

Wealth management and estate planning takes careful contemplation. If you or someone you know requires more information or needs advice in relation to self-managed super funds, please contact us on (02) 9963 9800 or via our contact form.