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ATO issues warning about illegal early access to super

The ATO is urging super professionals to watch for potential illegal access to super schemes.

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has urged borrowers to be mindful of unlicensed people promoting illegal early access schemes for super – including those who may be encouraging Australians to set up a self-managed super fund (SMSF) to withdraw super in order to buy a house.

It comes after the ATO found that a total $380 million was illegally accessed from SMSFs in 2020 and $255 million in 2021.

ATO Deputy Commissioner Emma Rosenzweig said the ATO’s preventative measures had helped reduce the amount illegally leaving the system with the ATO preventing $126 million from leaving the system in 2019–20 and $168 million in 2020–21.


With over 80 per cent of SMSFs registered with the support of a professional, the ATO is now urging tax and SMSF advisers to watch for ‘warning signs’ of illegal early access.

“Tax and super professionals play a key role in helping address illegal early access to super,” the ATO said.

“Your professional status in the community means people pay attention to your perspective so take the opportunity to bust myths and help people understand when they can legitimately access their retirement savings from an SMSF.”

Where the registration of an SMSF doesn’t look or feel right for a client, the ATO said practitioners should ask them if they really understand what they’re getting into.

“You should [also] ask them if they know when they can legitimately access their super and are aware [of] the financial costs associated with doing something illegal,” the ATO said.

“Non-lodgement and financial difficulties are also warning signals that your clients might be facing difficulties. If you see clients in this situation, reach out and remind them of their obligations and the rules.”

The ATO said professionals can use their insights into specific clients’ circumstances and help resolve any issues early, as well as making good use of the ATO’s voluntary disclosure service and lodgement deferral services.

“We also have our Illegal early access to super fact sheet which provides useful information about when a member can legally access their super, the consequences, and warns against the dangers of promoters,” the ATO said.

“It is a good starting point for a conversation with your clients.”

The ATO is also encouraging practitioners to report any promoters of illegal access to super schemes through its tip-off form.

[Related: Housing affordability won’t be solved by accessing super: ASFA]

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