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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

 

 


David Forrest Download David's Adviser Profile

David Forrest

Director
BEc (Acc), MBA, CPA, FFin

David has been in the Financial Services Industry for nearly 30 years. He was one of the founding Directors of the successful Financial Planning and Stockbroking Practice, Henderson Gregory Forrest, for a decade. Prior to that, he held senior roles in companies such as ING, KPMG Accountants and AMP. David was previously Chairman of OAMPS Superannuation Trustee Board and currently serves as an independent Board Director for several companies.

David’s extensive experience in all forms of superannuation, including Self Managed Super Funds (SMSF), Defined Benefit Funds, retirement funding through Account Based Pensions, stockbroking with a focus on Direct Share Investment, Taxation/Remuneration Planning, Centrelink, Aged Care and business management, equip him to advise expertly on all aspects of Financial Advice.

Those with a particular interest in superannuation/SMSFs, direct share investment, salary packaging or applying for the Centrelink Pension will find his knowledge and ability in formulating and implementing creative, logical and simple wealth creation strategies a valuable asset.

David maintains a strong personalised client service focus, providing tailored solutions for clients.

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David Forrest is an Authorised Representative of Integrity Financial (SA) Pty Ltd ABN 16 133 921 187 — AFSL No 334846

Michelle Forrest

Michelle Forrest

Business Finance Manager
B Bus (Acc), CPA

Michelle’s career has spanned across the Financial Services, Retirement Living and Aged Care industries working in the private sector, not for profit and more recently with the state government for over 20 years. Her experience extends to many facets of the financial services industry, having worked in superannuation administration, technical support and financial planning practice administration.

Commencing with AMP and subsequently working in commerce and accounting roles with companies such as Brambles, Adelaide Bank Retirement Services, ECH Inc and SA Health and Wellbeing, Michelle returns to financial services after working in practice financial management at Henderson Gregory Forrest. This wide range of experience from senior accounting and management roles has provided Michelle with a strong background in business administration.

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Darren Chalk

Financial Adviser
B Com, Dip FP

Darren joins the Integrity team as a strong technical specialist with almost 20 years’ in the Financial Services industry. He has extensive experience advising clients on how to build and protect wealth, prepare for retirement and retire comfortably.

Commencing with advising clients on direct equities for over 10 years at Baker Young, Tolhurst Noall, and ABN AMRO Morgans, his career expanded to providing holistic client advice, having operated his own financial services licence and company. Most recently having worked for a 'Big 4' bank, he has welcomed the more personalised ‘client first’ approach that is evident at Integrity Financial Advisory.

With a deep understanding of investment markets, he is appropriately qualified and authorised to provide direct share advice, as well as superannuation/SMSF advice, encompassing both investments and insurance.

Meticulous in his approach, he aims to deliver quality outcomes for clients by understanding their financial situation and needs before providing advice which is central to our advice process. Darren supports David in tailoring solutions for all client financial advice needs.

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Darren Chalk is an Authorised Representative of Integrity Financial (SA) Pty Ltd ABN 16 133 921 187 — AFSL No 334846

Natasha Bartlett

Natasha Bartlett

Client Service Manager

Natasha commenced working in the financial services industry in June 2008 and is a new addition to the Integrity team. During the past 11 years, she worked closely with advisers providing administration support in a share broking and financial advice business.

Having successfully completed her RG146 accreditation in securities and managed investments and continued her studies to complete her competency in Superannuation, Natasha can ably assist with all aspects of fixed interest, cash management, portfolio administration, direct shares and client advice implementation.

Natasha takes time to ensure she understands our client’s financial goals and needs and believes in creating, preserving and utilising wealth through effective financial management as a key objective in helping clients.

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Kelly Collins

Kelly Collins

Client Service Manager

Kelly has worked in the Financial Services Industry for over 10 years and has supported David since 2013. Kelly’s primary background is in customer service and administration.

On starting in the industry, Kelly initially focused on direct shares, stockbroking administration and client liaison. Since moving to the Client Service Manager role, Kelly has developed skills encompassing all aspects of financial planning including client advice implementation and term deposit management.

Kelly’s experience in the direct share environment, especially management of estates, provides a key part of the direct equity expertise in Integrity’s Client Service Team.

Returning from Parental Leave following the arrival of her second child, Kelly has developed further honed multi-tasking skills after juggling the demands of a growing family.

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Jasmine Smith

Jasmine Smith

Client Service Manager

Jasmine has worked in the financial services industry for over 12 years in all areas of client administration, working with David since 2013.

Jasmine has extensive knowledge and experience in client service including implementation of advice, portfolio reporting, assisting with the establishment of Self Managed Super Funds (SMSFs), term deposit management and a long history of helping clients with their enquiries.

Jasmine’s attention to detail, yet gentle approach, means she is able to solve the trickiest of questions for our client community.

Jasmine has gained her Certificate III in Financial Services qualification.

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Merrilyn Smith

Client Service Manager

Merrilyn has worked in the financial services industry for over 11 years in all areas of client administration, and is a new addition to our client services team, returning from Melbourne to join the team in June 2019.

Merrilyn has extensive knowledge and experience in client service including implementation of advice, managed fund administration, assisting with the establishment of Self Managed Super Funds (SMSFs) and process improvement for the previous practices she has worked with. Merrilyn’s experience with direct shares constitutes the other part of our administrative support for direct equity investments.

Merrilyn’s warm and caring nature continues to endear her to our clients and she has already established herself as a valued member of our team.

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