Emily Cooper No Comments

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone’s lives, and SMSF trustees are no exception.

While the worst of the pandemic is (hopefully) behind us, trustees still have difficult questions to ponder as they focus on how best to position their SMSF in 2020-21, as well as meet their annual regulatory obligations for 2019-20.

Meeting new pension requirements

To help manage the economic impact of COVID-19, the Government has reduced the minimum drawdown requirements by half on common pensions, such as account-based pensions and market-linked pensions, for 2019-20 and 2020-21. This also occurred after the GFC in 2008, and you will need to consider and amend your pension strategies for these two financial years.

This includes ensuring that the minimum pension has been paid for this financial year. Where this requirement is not met, SMSFs will be subject to 15% tax on pension investments instead of being tax free.

Where you have been receiving regular pension payments, it’s likely you may have received more than the required minimum payment for this year. Unless you meet contribution eligibility rules, these funds cannot be returned.

It is also important to amend your pension strategies for 2020-21 to reflect the “new” minimum pension standards. Specialist SMSF advice should be sought to help you determine the most effective way to structure benefit payments, please get in contact with me to discuss this further.

Contribution changes

Before 30 June, you should review your contribution strategies to ensure you have contributed what you intended to and ensure you are below the contribution caps.

Non-concessional (after-tax) contributions are limited to $100,000 for the 2019 financial year and concessional (before-tax) contributions are limited to $25,000. These will remain the same for 2020-21.

Investment strategy and property assessment

Your fund’s investment strategy is a key consideration on the cusp of 2020-21.

It is important to understand that an SMSF’s investment objectives and strategy are not set in stone, with the strategy needing to be reviewed at least once a year and signed off by the auditor.

Before any investment decision is implemented, particularly in a COVID-19 environment, you should examine the impact it will have on the overall portfolio to ensure you are investing in line with your strategy.

For those exposed to property, in some cases with a limited recourse borrowing arrangement (LRBA), there are new considerations. Many SMSF commercial properties (and, to a lesser extent, residential property) will not be receiving full rental payments under their lease agreements because of COVID-19, meaning less income.

All efforts should be focussed on negotiating with tenants and using the Government support packages to ensure they will be able to withstand the effects of COVID-19. This includes considering the property relief measures the ATO have implemented.

Annual Fund documentation

Although the first 6 months of 2020 have been anything but normal, there are some requirements that have not changed. You will still need to provide your auditor with the SMSF’s bank statements, annual investment statements, annual rental statements, financial statements and tax return.

For our clients, our integration with our independent auditor means less stress for the trustees as we are able to create and collate many of these audit documents on their behalf.

If there is anything that you are unsure about you can learn more about our SMSF accounting services, or you can contact us to discuss your clients specific circumstances in more detail.