The following courses of action are available to the ATO to deal with SMSF trustees who have not complied with super laws:
Education direction – the ATO may give an SMSF trustee a written direction to undertake a course of education when they have been found to have contravened super laws. The trustee will need to provide evidence they have completed the course. Trustees will also be required to sign a Trustee declaration confirming they understand their obligations as a trustee of an SMSF.
Enforceable undertaking – an SMSF trustee may initiate a written undertaking to rectify a contravention. The ATO will decide whether or not to accept the undertaking, taking into account factors such as the compliance history of the trustee, the nature of the contravention and the strategies to prevent the contravention from recurring.
Rectification direction – the ATO may give a trustee, or a director of a corporate trustee, a written direction to rectify a contravention of the super laws. Rectification generally involves putting in place arrangements that could reasonably be expected to ensure there are no further similar contraventions.
Administrative penalties – individual trustees and directors of corporate trustees are personally liable to pay an administrative penalty for breaches of various provisions of the super laws. Administrative penalties may also be imposed on SMSF trustees if they make false and misleading statements to the ATO. Penalties cannot be paid or reimbursed from the assets of the fund.
Disqualification of a trustee – the ATO may disqualify an individual from acting as a trustee or director of a corporate trustee if they have contravened super laws or if the ATO is concerned about the individual’s actions or suitability to be a trustee. It is an offence for an individual to continue to act as a trustee, or as a director of a corporate trustee, if they have been disqualified.
Civil and criminal penalties may apply where an SMSF trustee has contravened certain provisions of the super laws. The ATO will consider the severity of the contravention, the circumstances that led to it and the actions of the individuals involved before instigating civil or criminal prosecution.
Notice of non-compliance – serious contraventions of the super laws may result in an SMSF being issued with a notice of non-compliance. In this case, the fund remains non-compliant until they receive a notice of compliance. Making a fund non-complying can have a significant financial impact on the SMSF.
Allowing the SMSF to be wound up – following a contravention, the trustee may decide to wind up the SMSF and roll over any remaining benefits to an APRA regulated fund. However, the ATO may continue to issue the SMSF with a notice of non-compliance or apply other compliance treatments.
Freezing an SMSF’s assets – the ATO may give a trustee or investment manager a notice to freeze an SMSF’s assets where it appears that conduct by the trustees or investment manager is likely to adversely affect the interests of the beneficiaries to a significant extent. This is particularly important when the preservation of benefits is at risk.