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SMSF Crypto and illegal SMSF Loans – ATO NOTICE

smsf notice from the ATO - Cryptocurrency & SMSF Loans

ATO Alerts on SMSF Crypto Losses and Illegal Fund Withdrawals


The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has recently issued warnings concerning self-managed superannuation funds (SMSFs) related to the losses from crypto investments and the illegal withdrawal of funds. These alerts highlight the risks and compliance issues that SMSF trustees need to manage to safeguard their retirement savings effectively.

Crypto Investment Losses in SMSFs

Overview of Crypto Risks

SMSFs investing in cryptocurrencies face various risks leading to financial losses. Common causes for these losses include scams, theft, collapsed trading platforms, lost passwords, and fraudsters impersonating the ATO to solicit crypto wallet details​ (Australian Taxation Office)​. The volatile and unregulated nature of many crypto platforms means that SMSF trustees may not have recourse if the platform fails​ (Australian Taxation Office)​.

ATO Guidelines on Crypto Investments

The ATO has set clear guidelines for SMSFs engaging in crypto investments. It is imperative for trustees to ensure:

  • Investments align with the fund’s investment strategy and comply with the trust deed​ (Australian Taxation Office)​.
  • All crypto assets are valued according to ATO guidelines, using fair market values from reputable digital currency exchanges​ (Australian Taxation Office)​.
  • Investments are held separately from personal or business investments, maintaining clear ownership and separation of assets​ (Australian Taxation Office)​.

Record-Keeping and Tax Implications

Proper record-keeping is crucial for managing crypto investments in SMSFs. Trustees must keep detailed records of every transaction, including receipts, dates, transaction purposes, exchange records, and values in Australian dollars at the time of each transaction​ (Australian Taxation Office)​. For tax purposes, crypto assets are treated as capital gains tax (CGT) assets, and trustees need to report any capital gains or losses during the disposal of these assets. It’s important to note that SMSFs can’t offset a net capital loss against other types of income​ (Australian Taxation Office)​.

Illegal Withdrawal of Funds as Loans

Compliance Concerns

The illegal withdrawal of funds from SMSFs poses a significant compliance risk, attracting heavy penalties and scrutiny from the ATO. SMSFs are designed to provide financial security for retirement, and thus, early access or borrowing of these funds for personal use can lead to legal actions against trustees.

Monitoring and Enforcement

The ATO actively monitors SMSF activities to ensure compliance with superannuation laws. Trustees suspected of illegally accessing or lending SMSF funds may be investigated, and breaches may result in significant penalties or disqualification from serving as trustees.

ATO Commissioners Video on SMSF Crypto


The ATO’s alerts serve as a stern reminder to SMSF trustees about the importance of compliance with superannuation laws, particularly in the high-risk area of crypto investments. Trustees are urged to practice due diligence, adhere to legal requirements, and engage with professional financial advisors to navigate these complex investment landscapes effectively. These measures are critical to safeguarding the retirement savings of SMSF members and ensuring the integrity of their investment strategies.

For more detailed guidance and updates, trustees should regularly consult the ATO’s website and trusted professional advisors.


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