How can I improve my skills and knowledge as a trustee?

48295630 - it communication - knowledge base, e-learning

Q: I am interested in developing my knowledge to ensure that I fulfil my role as trustee of my Self -Managed Superannuation Fund (SMSF).  I understand the Australian Tax Office offers complimentary webinars, are their other tools available? How can I access them and what do I need to do?

A:  Ensuring that you fulfil the role of a trustee is essential and is an obligation under the Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Act. Should you make a mistake, even if it is a genuine mistake penalties can be applied by the Australian Tax Office (ATO). For example, failure to properly prepare financial accounts and statements, may incur a fine of $1,800 to each individual trustee or be divided amongst the directors of a corporate trustee. The fine needs to be paid from the trustees’/directors’ personal funds, not the SMSF.

Being proactive about your ongoing education and understanding your role as a trustee is important.   You can certainly subscribe to different websites such as the Trustee Knowledge Centre Login offered by the SMSF Associations (click here). WealthPartners clients who have a SMSF in place receive this as a complimentary membership, in addition to the ongoing compliance support from our firm.

For trustees of an SMSF who may have made mistakes by contravening the superannuation law, the ATO can direct the trustee, or a director of a corporate trustee to undertake an education course.  These courses are access via the ATO’s website (click here).

In your case, you can proactively register and undertake the course to improve your knowledge about SMSF’s. To successfully complete the course, you will need to undertake an assessment. The certificate can certainly be retained on your SMSF file and provided to the auditor of the fund. This is not essential, however it demonstrates your level of commitment to your role as trustee.

In fact, having this knowledge can be extremely useful to ensure that you will understand all of the basic rules and requirements (such as retaining records for the required periods, avoid common mistakes etc). However, it does not replace the expert guidance and support provided by the board of professional advisers who have established around you. These professionals include your accountant, administrator, solicitor, auditor and financial adviser.

So what next?

Understanding and applying the superannuation and taxation laws on day to day basis to ensure your fund complies is essential. However, making decisions on key planning areas within the fund (such as benefit payments, investments into related parties, estate planning issues etc.) does require advice from your board of advisers.

About Damian Hearn

Financial Adviser & SMSF Specialist
WealthPartners Financial Solutions