SMSF – Trustee Update – what the ATO requires

SMSF Trustee Update Book Cover
  • SMSF Trustee Update

  • $330 includes GST

Changing an SMSF Trustee? ATO’s ‘risk assessment process’

The ATO regulates SMSFs in Australia. Upon changing the SMSF trustee you notify the ATO. You let the ATO know within 28 days. That is easy to do. Our covering letter that comes with the Deed of Variation tells you how to do that.

However, what happens when you let the ATO know that you updated the SMSF trustee? The ATO carries out a ‘risk assessment process’. 

ATO’s SMSF risk assessment process – when you update the SMSF trustee

The ATO automatically starts a mini-investigation when you change your SMSF trustee. The 5 primary checks into your new SMSF trustee are:

  1. Is the process of changing the SMSF Trustee correct?
    An SMSF is started by a “deed”. It must, therefore, be varied as a deed. Only law firms are legally able to provide “deeds”. Further, it is best to have the SMSF Trustee Deed legally prepared by a superannuation law firm such as Legal Consolidated.
  2. Bankrupt?
    Has the new SMSF trustee been bankrupt or insolvent?
  3. Criminal?
    Has the new SMSF trustee been convicted of crimes? Especially of dishonesty nature?
  4. Lodged tax returns on time in a chase and virtuous manner?
    Has the new SMSF trustee lodged tax returns on time? Has the new SMSF trustee associated with businesses that have sharp practices in the eyes of the ATO?  (This is rather naughty of the ATO. Given how I have seen it behave in Court, the ATO is not the best arbitrator of who is chaste and virtuous. It again shows why the ATO is not the best entity to look after SMSFs. The ATO does not look after retail and industry super funds. APRA looks after all non-SMSFs. Having the ATO look after SMSFs is akin to having Dracula run the blood bank.)
  5. Five or Six member SMSF Funds
    In 2021 the laws changed to allow for up to 6 members of an SMSF. (It was previously only 4.) Most SMSF Deeds should have been amended at that time to allow for more than 4 members. Failure to amend leads to a breach.

Change SMSF trustee? ATO changes the SMSF public status to “regulations details withheld”

The ATO operates a website called the Super Fund Lookup.

It is the go-to website to see if a super fund ‘compliant’. It has “Status: Complying“. Well, my SMSF states that. I hope yours does as well.

However, when you change the trustee of your SMSF then you suffer the indignity of “Status: regulations details withheld“. This is when you notify the ATO of the changes to the SMSF trustee. You must do this within 28 days. The whole world sees a change of status.

These organisations only deal with ‘complying‘ SMSFs:

  • Banks – no new bank accounts, loans are rejected (perhaps permanently)
  • other superannuation funds – no rollovers allowed
  • employers – no contributions
  • payroll providers – no contributions
  • potential new members (ironically, they are the cause of the change to the SMSF trustee!)

The shameful badge of “Status: regulations details withheld” is a warning to the above. Something may be wrong.

The dreaded “Status: regulations details withheld” does not go away. You only escape this indignation when the ATO gets around to completing its ‘risk assessment process’. If you pass then your SMSF goes back to “Status: Complying“.

But the ATO process takes time. They may also interview the new trustee or the SMSF company’s directors.

However, your SMSF is ‘complying’. This is during the ‘process’.

Our SMSF Trustee update seeks to make the ATO’s job easier.

What does the ATO say about the change of Trustee of an SMSF process?

The ATO states:

Adding a new member or trustee
As part of our ‘secure front door’ process, we may review new trustees and members if we find reason to. If you add a new member or trustee and we initiate a review, the SMSF is taken offline. Currently our secure front door process takes up to 56 days to complete. This is one of the many steps we are taking to safeguard the retirement of Australians.”

Why change a trustee of a Self-Managed Superannuation Fund?

Your SMSF can have up to 6 members. If all the humans are trustees of the SMSF, then:
  • SMSF trustee/member dead?
  • SMSF member child about to turn 18 years of age?
  • children and children-in-law about to join your SMSF?
  • new member joining?

But most commonly you are converting to a company as trustee of an SMSF.

Moving from humans as trustees of your SMSF to a company as trustee of your SMSF?

The SMSF has a group of humans as human trustees of the SMSF. The members want to change to a company as trustees of the SMSF. They want to replace humans with a corporate trustee of an SMSF.

An SMSF is a trust. An SMSF has trustees. The SMSF trustee is either a human or a company

There are two choices of trustee for an SMSF:

  1. all the members are the trustees of the SMSF, or
  2. a company is the trustee (and the only directors are all the members)

Why a Deed for the SMSF Trustee update?

The appointment or resignation of a trustee must be carefully documented. The SMSF Trustee update is a Deed. It must be a ‘Deed’. Minutes are not enough. The Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Act 1993 (Cth) (‘SIS’) is complex.

13 requirements when an SMSF Trustee changes:

1. updating legislation to allow you remove and change Trustees

2. removing any outgoing trustees

3. adding any new trustees complies with Moss Super Pty Ltd v Hayne [2008] VSC 158

4. confirming any trustees that are remaining

5. reduction of tax clauses for use by the Trustee

6. ensuring that there is no resettlement

7. grandfathering structures and defined benefits

8. augmenting trustee powers to comply with the latest Australian budget

9. dealing with conflict of interest between trustees

10. increasing power of appointment and delegation for the trustees

11. allowing meetings via the Internet and other forms of communication

12. minutes to confirm and accept the Deed of Variation

13. covering letter confirming the above (for accountant’s due diligence file)

The above reduces problems arising from divorce, ATO audit and a trustee’s death. See Katz v Grossman and oppolo & Hesford v Conti [2013] WASC 389

What do I need when I change a trustee of an SMSF?

Your Self-Managed Superannuation Fund update of your Trustee contains:

  • Law firm letter confirming our law firm prepared the Deed of Variation of the SMSF to change a trustee
  • Minutes for your accountant and auditor’s due diligence file
  • Deed of Variation of an SMSF to:
    • update the Trustee
    • confirm that up to 6 members are permissible

Which do I do first? Update the SMSF comporate trustee or admit the member first?

It is a chicken and egg dilemma. Which do you update first? Do you make him a trustee/director or a member first?

But the SISA legislation is clear on the order of proceedings when you change an SMSF trustee.

  • Have humans as the SMSF trustees? Then the new member is added as trustee of the SMSF first. The person is then immediately admitted as a member of the SMSF: 17A SISA.
  • Does the SMSF have a corporate trustee? The person is appointed as a director. This is on ASIC’s website. And then immediately admitted as a member of the SMSF: 17A SISA.

Move from humans to a corporate trustee?

Your Trustee is either a Company or all the members.

  • If the Trustee of your SMSF is a company then all the members are the directors of the company.
  • Or, if you have no company then all the members are trustees.

See section 17A SIS Act.

Example: Mavis and John are trustees of their SMSF. By law, they must be the only members.
Example: Futuris Pty Ltd is the trustee of the Futuris SMSF. The members are Karen and Peter. Therefore, by law, the only directors of Futuris Pty Ltd are Karen and Peter.

The Legal Consolidated SMSF Trustee Update allows you to:
  • Remove humans – replace them with a company
  • Remove company – replace with humans as trustees
  • Remove humans – replace them with humans
  • Remove a company – replace it with another company

Only changing the company name of your SMSF? It is still the same company

You have a corporate trustee of your SMSF. The corporate trustee is called McDuck Pty Ltd. It is a special purpose company. It is the trustee of your SMSF.

But you now do not like the name. So you log into ASIC and change the name of your company.

You now need to build an SMSF Change of Trustee Deed. Put in the ‘outgoing’ company name and the ABN. And put in the new ‘incoming’ company name with the same ABN.

E.g. McDuck Pty Ltd ACN 123456789 is the trustee of the Smith SMSF:

    • McDuck Pty Ltd ACN 123456789 logs into the ASIC website and changes the name of the company to Wholebright Pty Ltd ACN 123456789.
    • Start building the Change of SMSF Trustee.
    • The ‘outgoing’ SMSF trustee is McDuck Pty Ltd ACN 123456789.
    • The ‘incoming’ SMSF trustee is Wholebright Pty Ltd ACN 123456789.

A trustee is dead, bankrupt or of unsound mind?

The SMSF Trustee update also updates your Trustees, even if they are dead or otherwise incapacitated.

There are many training videos and hints to help you as you build the SMSF Trustee Update Deed.

What about updating the Members?

The Deed of Variation only updates the Trustees. It does not update the members of the Self-Managed Superannuation Fund. Your accountant and financial planner changes the ‘members’ by minute.


1I can't find the name of the SMSF

All Self-Managed Superannuation Funds have a ‘name’. They are a nick-name. They have no force of law.

The Trustee name (e.g. Smith Nominees Pty Ltd) is NOT the trust name. The Trustee is just a trustee. Don’t put in the trustee name. Put in the SMSF’s name.

Have a look at the original Trust Deed that set up your SMSF. Your Self-Managed Superannuation Fund is usually called after your name. For example:

1. Smith Self-Managed Super Fund

2. Mary and Colin Firth Superannuation Fund

3. Collins Family Retirement Fund


2What do I get when I build this document?

Because you are building your document directly at a law firm’s website you:

1. retain Legal Professional Privilege

2. benefit from our law firm’s Professional Indemnity Insurance

3. receive legal advice

4. get a letter on our law firm’s letterhead setting out what you have built

Only a law firm can provide the above.

Upon building the SMSF Trustee update, you receive as a PDF:

1. Deed of Variation, which updates completely the Trustees of your SMSF.
2. Minutes for the Trustee to accept the Deed of Variation


3Will I suffer from Resettlement?

Resettlement of an SMSF occurs when a new ‘trust estate’ is created out of an old trust. When this occurs, the trustee is considered to have disposed of the assets in the old trust and accordingly, have created a new trust. This will result in significant tax implications.

Updating your SMSF Trustee update through Legal Consolidated will not result in the resettlement of your SMSF as we retain those parts of the old Deed that are required to not affect a resettlement based on both the legislation and previous court decisions.

5Continuous requirements to keep your SMSF compliant

The Australian federal government provides generous tax concessions that come from operating a ‘compliant’ self-managed superannuation fund (SMSF). However, it must be compliant. To be compliant:

  1. Your fund must only ever have a maximum of 4 members at one time. You can have 1, 2, 3 or 4 members.
  2. Each member must be a trustee. Each trustee must be a member. (Unless you have a company as trustee or unless there are minors as members.)
  3. Instead of having all the members, as trustees, you can have a company. This is called a corporate trustee. Each member must be a director of the company. Only members can be directors.
  4. You cannot have someone you employ as a member with you. This is unless that employee is related to you.
  5. The trustee is a volunteer – a trustee can never draw a salary or fees for performing the job of trustee.
  6. All members and trustees should be Australian residents, otherwise, you face complexity.

6Do I need to tell you the updates required for the rules of my SMSF?

The Deed of Variation that you are building Updates the Trustees.
The rules of your SMSF Deed will not be substantively changed. By building an ‘SMSF Full Replacement’ on our website, you can update the rules of your SMSF Deed so that it complies with up-to-date legislation and regulations. Click here to build an SMSF Full Replacement.

 









Legal Consolidated Barristers & Solicitors Australia Brett Davies

Adj Professor, Dr Brett Davies, CTA, AIAMA, BJuris, LLB, Dip Ed, BArts(Hons), LLM, MBA, SJD
Legal Consolidated Barristers and Solicitors
National Australian law firm

National:   1800 141 612
Mobile:      0477 796 959
Email:       [email protected]