The federal government has promoted six-member funds as a retirement income planning tool for families, but this overlooks the investment and borrowing opportunities they can create as asset holding structures for non-related members, an SMSF legal firm has noted.
Townsends Business and Corporate Lawyers said the creation of six-member SMSFs, which is awaiting the passing of legislation to increase the maximum number of members from four, would allow them to be used as asset holding structures as well as a family superannuation vehicle.
“The six-member fund may see more people view the SMSF as an appropriate structure for a wide range of investments, particularly those involving a group of people hoping to pool their resources,” the legal firm said in an update on its website.
“For example, an SMSF may be the structure business buddies use to purchase an asset, rather than being restricted to being a structure only for jumbo families. Provided there is no breach of the sole purpose test, such an approach could result in material benefits.”
Additionally, six-member SMSFs would also have advantages in regards to borrowing and tax that were unavailable to equivalent structures outside the superannuation environment, Townsends added.
“The limited ability to resource the SMSF due to contribution limits can be overcome by borrowing. The SMSF may enhance its capital base through limited recourse borrowing subject to appropriateness, the investment strategy and the LRBA (limited recourse borrowing arrangement) rules,” it said.
“This can provide the SMSF with greater flexibility to invest in more substantial projects or further diversify investments. Loan interest and borrowing expenses are generally tax deductible to the SMSF.
“The SMSF has immense advantages over other commercial structures when it comes to tax, both in terms of the applicable rate of tax and the use of franking credits. The lower tax rate potentially accentuates the compounding effect of earnings reinvestment in the fund.”
The firm noted that while the government first announced plans to create six-member funds in April 2018, claiming it would allow greater flexibility, it had provided little explanation as to how that would occur.
“The enthusiastic Explanatory Memorandum for the [Treasury Laws Amendment (Self-Managed Superannuation Funds)] Bill couldn’t point to any significant need or request for reform. Just 7 per cent of SMSFs in Australia have more than two members,” the legal firm noted, adding that despite the low level of government commentary, SMSF trustees should prepare for the change.
Townsends noted the benefits of a six-member fund would include reduced costs due to shared compliance and administration costs, higher contribution inflows from five or six members, and the sheltering of small super guarantee contributions for younger members from high public offer account fees.
At the same time, six-members SMSFs would have to handle the issues related to more member trustees, children knowing more about their parents’ financial affairs and vice versa, the creation and implementation of different investment strategies for different age groups, and who had control within the fund.