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SMSF Residency Rules

Navigating SMSF Residency Rules: A Comprehensive Guide



Self-managed super funds (SMSFs) are a popular choice for Australians seeking more control over their retirement savings. However, maintaining an SMSF’s residency status is crucial to ensure its ongoing compliance with Australian regulations. This article will explore the SMSF residency rules, the implications of non-compliance, and the steps trustees can take to meet these requirements.

Understanding the Residency Rules

To be considered a compliant SMSF in Australia, a fund must meet the following three residency conditions:

The SMSF must be established in Australia, or at least one of the fund’s assets must be located in Australia.
The central management and control of the SMSF must ordinarily be in Australia. This means that the strategic decision-making processes and activities, such as formulating the investment strategy and appointing fund members, should be carried out primarily within Australia.
The SMSF must meet the active member test. In other words, the majority of the fund’s assets must belong to active members who are Australian residents.

  • Establishment – The super fund ( SMSF)  was setup in Australia, 

  • Central management and control test – The funds central management and control must be undertaken in
    Australia even if all members reside outside Australia for less than two ( 2) years with the intention of returning

  • Active Member Test – At least 50% of the super fund member/directors must be located in Australia. This is referred to as the active member test measured by market value 

Implications of Non-Compliance

Failure to meet the SMSF residency rules can have severe consequences. A non-compliant SMSF may lose its tax concessions, resulting in the fund’s income being taxed at the highest marginal rate. Additionally, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) may apply administrative penalties or even disqualify the fund’s trustees.

Applying the ‘2-year rule’ 
The central management and control of a super fund ( SMSF) is taken to be conducted in Australia even if its members are temporarily outside Australia for periods of not more than 2 years. 
If the funds members intend on leaving Australian permanently, they cannot rely on the 2 Year Rule. 

Maintaining SMSF Residency Status

To ensure ongoing compliance with the SMSF residency rules, trustees should consider the following steps:

Regularly review the fund’s establishment documents and asset locations to confirm that they meet the residency requirements.
Ensure that the central management and control of the SMSF remain in Australia. If a trustee is temporarily overseas for a period not exceeding two years, the SMSF may still be considered compliant, provided the other residency conditions are met.
Monitor the residency status of fund members to ensure that the majority of the fund’s assets belong to Australian resident active members. Trustees should consider the implications of adding or removing members who reside overseas.
Special Considerations for Temporary Overseas Residents

Trustees who plan to reside overseas temporarily must take additional precautions to maintain their SMSF’s compliance:

Appoint an enduring power of attorney to manage the SMSF in the trustee’s absence. This individual should be an Australian resident capable of making decisions on the trustee’s behalf.
Notify the ATO of the trustee’s temporary absence and the appointment of the enduring power of attorney.
Ensure that the SMSF’s investment strategy and other essential documents are updated to reflect the change in management during the trustee’s absence.

Understanding and adhering to the SMSF residency rules is vital for the ongoing compliance and success of a self-managed super fund. Trustees must be vigilant in ensuring that their fund meets these requirements, particularly when members are temporarily overseas or when circumstances change. By proactively managing the fund’s residency status, trustees can safeguard their SMSF’s tax concessions and maintain the integrity of their retirement savings strategy.

More information
For more information on super fund residency rules, you can view the ATO
guidance on SMSF residency by clicking here.