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ATO clarifies COVID-19 rent relief concerns

The Australian Taxation Office has responded to widespread concerns on whether SMSF landlords providing rent relief to tenants due to the financial impacts of the novel coronavirus is a contravention of the SIS Act.

         

In anticipation of the third stimulus package expected to be announced this week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a press briefing on Sunday that the national cabinet has considered issues relating to commercial tenancies as well as residential tenancies.

“The most significant of those is that state and territories will be moving to put a moratorium on evictions of persons as a result of financial distress if they are unable to meet their commitments,” Mr Morrison said.

“And so there will be a moratorium on evictions for the next six months under those rental arrangements.”

The industry has been seeking clarity from the ATO around whether SMSF landlords can legally provide rent relief to tenants as a result of the impacts of COVID-19.

In response, the ATO has sought to allay concerns from SMSF trustees around whether charging a tenant rent that is less than market value contravenes the SIS Act, and whether it would take action given the impacts of COVID-19.
 

The ATO’s response is as follows:

  • “Some landlords are giving their tenants a reduction in or waiver of rent because of the financial impacts of COVID-19 and we understand that you may wish to do so as well.
     
  • “Our compliance approach for the 2019–20 and 2020–21 financial years is that we will not take action where an SMSF gives a tenant — who is also a related party — a temporary rent reduction during this period.”

SMSF administrator SuperConcepts backed the ATO announcement, saying it has been inundated with calls and emails from concerned clients who have an SMSF which owns a business premise that is being leased to a related party.

“SuperConcepts fully supports this relief measure which provides certainty and much-needed relief for a growing number of SMSFs that own a business premise, and have been caught in the economic turmoil caused by COVID-19,” said SuperConcepts general manager of technical education services Peter Burgess.

Interpreting the ATO concession

SMSF law firms have also come out with their interpretations of the ATO’s concession for landlords.

According to CGW Lawyers partner Clint Jackson, the only requirement of the ATO’s concession is that the rent reduction must be temporary.

“Given the current business challenges, the ATO’s position is that there is no need for the rent reduction provided to be justified by market evidence (the SMSF can determine the reduction in its absolute discretion),” Mr Jackson said.

“The ATO’s concession does not apply to any other lease incentives or relief — just a ‘temporary rent reduction’.”

Mr Jackson said that while the ATO concession is “extremely broad”, it is also important that landlords not abuse the concession.

“This rent reduction should be reasonable and measured to the COVID-19 impact suffered by the tenant. Best practice is that it is consistent with the approach taken by arm’s-length landlords,” he said.

“The rent reduction agreed to by the SMSF should be properly documented, as this is an amendment to the lease terms.

“It is likely that SMSF auditors will be required to report any rent reductions, although the exact parameters of what will be reported in relation any rent reductions are still being determined.”

However, Daniel Butler and Bryce Figot of DBA Lawyers said that while the ATO will not actively seek out cases where an SMSF gives a related-party tenant a temporary rent reduction during the remainder of FY2020 or FY2021, the usual position for such practical approaches previously issued by the ATO is that if it does come across contraventions from other sources through its usual data detections, reviews or auditor contravention reports (ACR), it will usually apply the legislation in the normal manner.

“In short, SMSF trustees should not rely on the ATO’s non-binding practical guidance above, given the substantial downside consequences and given these situations may be legitimately resolved with appropriate action as outlined below,” said Mr Butler and Mr Figot.

“We do understand, however, that some SMSF trustees or businesses may not have the time or the funding to obtain proper advice and work through the appropriate steps to soundly position themselves to minimise future risk that will simply rely on the ATO practical approach at their own risk.”

Further, Mr Butler and Mr Figot said the ATO website does not provide any express relief for an SMSF that owns property via an interposed unit trust, such as a non-geared unit trust (NGUT).

“Once a contravention of one of the criteria relating to a NGUT is triggered under reg 13.22D of SISR, the trust is ‘forever’ tainted and the SMSF must dispose of its units in that unit trust to comply with the SISR,” they said.

“In particular, if the lease is not legally enforceable or if rent owing by a related-party tenant accrues and constitutes a loan under the lease, the unit trust will cease to comply with the criteria in division 13.3A of SISR.”

 

 

Adrian Flores
30 March 2020
smsfadviser.com

 

 

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Self Managed Super Funds

Self-Managed Superannuation Funds (SMSFs) offer a good strategy option for many individuals, families and small business owners to build tax effective wealth and to protect assets over time. SMSFs are becoming popular for those who are ready to take control of their own super investments as they give you ultimate control and flexibility to manage your retirement benefits.

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Tess Uncle

B.Sc, M.Com, CA, DipFP

Tess has over 15-years experience in Chartered Accounting Firms and in this time has had a broad range of experience in superannuation, taxation, business services, and financial strategy.

Over the last two-years, Tess has turned her attention to Financial Planning, earning a Diploma of Financial Planning in 2015 and leading the newly established financial division of the Wybenga Group as a director of Wybenga Financial.

Tess’s mission is to bring the ethics and integrity of her Chartered Accounting background to the area of wealth management.

As a woman in a male dominated field, Tess is active in promoting gender equality in the industry through various programs and mentoring opportunities.

Using her depth of knowledge and experience in tax and accounting Tess is able to demonstrate a level of competence that is unique in the Financial Planning sector.

  • 2001 – Commenced employment with Wybenga & Partners and part-time accountancy studies
  • 2004 – Graduated Masters of Commerce from the University of New South Wales
  • 2005 – Admitted as an Associate Member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants Australia
  • 2007 – Promoted to Manager at Wybenga & Partners
  • 2012 – Appointed as Associate Director
  • 2015 – Awarded a Diploma of Financial Planning
  • 2016 – Appointed as Partner of Wybenga Group and Director of Wybenga Financial

Adam Roberts

B.Bus, B.Sc, CA, DipFP

Adam has over 13-years experience in Chartered Accounting Firms and in this time has had a broad range of experience in superannuation, taxation, business services, and financial strategy.

Over the last two-years, Adam has turned his attention to Financial Planning, earning a Diploma of Financial Planning in 2015 and leading the newly established financial division of the Wybenga Group as a director of Wybenga Financial.

Adam’s mission is to bring the ethics and integrity of his Chartered Accounting background to the area of wealth management.

Combining traditional accounting and financial services has been a welcome move for Adam, allowing him to operate and advise in the financial sector that has been a long time personal passion.

Using his depth of knowledge and experience in tax and accounting Adam is able to demonstrate a level of competence that is unique in the Financial Planning sector.

  • 2005 – Graduated Bachelor of Science from the University of Western Sydney
  • 2005 – Commenced employment with Wybenga & Partners and part-time accountancy studies
  • 2007 – Graduated Bachelor of Business from the University of Western Sydney
  • 2010 – Admitted as an Associate Member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants Australia
  • 2010 – Promoted to Manager at Wybenga & Partners
  • 2012 – Appointed as Associate Director
  • 2015 – Awarded a Diploma of Financial Planning
  • 2016 – Appointed as Partner of Wybenga Group and Director of Wybenga Financial

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What is an Advisory Cadetship?
An Advisory Cadetship enables you to commence your career whilst attaining the necessary university qualifications by studying part-time.

How does it work?
Generally, our cadets complete a relevant business or accounting degree at the University of New South Wales, the University of Technology Sydney, Macquarie University, or the University of Western Sydney.

The Firm provides 3-hours paid study leave per week to attend university. This can either be taken at the one time or broken between days depending on the individual’s requirements. In addition, the Firm provides paid study leave for both mid-semester and end-of-year exams.

We take the work life balance very seriously at Wybenga Financial and our cadets are encouraged to have a fulfilling life outside the office. A typical day will have you arriving at the office at around 8.30am with most days concluding at 5.30pm.

What are the benefits of an Advisory Cadetship with Wybenga Financial?
Our cadets benefit from the following:

  • Career path – on completion of their degree our cadets have significant practical experience which will assist them in advancing their careers
  • Work helps your studies – by working full-time our cadets are able to apply their practical knowledge in the university subjects
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What happens when I complete my degree?
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There are always progression opportunities for the right cadets and we are dedicated to the long term development of our staff.

Who should apply?
Current Year 12 students or first/second year University Students who:

  • want to commence their career in financial advisory;
  • are due to commence or are currently completing a part-time business or commerce degree at university with an advisory major;
  • want to gain valuable hands-on experience while completing their qualifications;
  • are looking for a friendly working environment;
  • are team players who display initiative;
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  • are motivated and mature minded.

How do I apply for an Advisory Cadetship?
To apply for a Cadetship position at Wybenga Financial send us your details. Please also include in your covering letter why you wish to do a cadetship, include relevant qualities you possess, main interests / achievements, and any previous employment.

Interested candidates should initially forward a resume/covering letter of no more than 3-pages. Please provide full details of contact information (telephone or e-mail).

What if I have more questions?
For further information about our Cadetship program, please send your enquiry to info@wybengagroup.com.au