SMSFs and Property Development: Be Cautious


Many Australians choose to manage their retirement savings through Self-Managed Superannuation Funds (SMSFs) because it gives them more control. But lately, there have been concerns about people using SMSFs in ways that could get them into trouble with the tax authorities. One area of concern is when SMSFs get involved in property development projects. The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has issued a warning about this, and we’ll break it down for you in simple terms.

Why the ATO is Concerned

The ATO is worried that some groups of people who are closely connected are using SMSFs to get tax benefits they’re not supposed to have. They do this by using a special kind of company owned by their SMSF to funnel profits from property development into their superannuation funds.

Important Points from the ATO Warning

  1. Understanding the Arrangements: The ATO is looking closely at certain arrangements, and if you’re thinking about doing something similar or already have, you should pay attention to this warning.
  2. Non-Arm’s Length Dealings: The problem lies in situations where people in the same group are doing business together but not in a fair way. Even if the SMSF isn’t directly involved in these dealings, it could still face issues.
  3. Tax and Rules: The ATO wants to make sure people aren’t using tricky schemes to bend the rules and pay less tax or get around the rules for superannuation funds.

What SMSF Trustees Should Keep in Mind

If you’re in charge of an SMSF and are considering property development, here are some simple things to think about:

  1. Be Open and Honest: Always be clear about what you’re doing, especially if you’re doing business with people, you know well. Keep good records to show you’re following the rules.
  2. Ask for Help: It’s a smart idea to talk to experts like accountants or financial advisors who know all about SMSFs before you start any property development project. They can help you follow the rules.
  3. Know the Risks: Property development can be tricky, and it can have both good and bad sides. Make sure you understand what could go wrong and what could go right, both in terms of money and rules.
  4. Stay Updated: The rules about SMSFs and taxes can change, so it’s important to keep an eye on any new information from the ATO.


SMSFs can be a good way to save for retirement, but you need to be careful about how you use them, especially when it comes to property development. The ATO’s warning is a reminder to be honest, follow the rules, get advice when you need it, and stay informed about any changes. This way, you can make sure your retirement savings stay safe and legal.