Saturday, November 24, 2018

Self Managed Superannuation

I am exploring setting up a self managed superannuation fund (SMSF). I want to do this so that I can implement our target portfolio investment strategy and so I can put higher tax investments into the lower tax superannuation environment. Managed futures are a tax ineffective investment outside super when your marginal tax rate is 47%. Inside superannuation they will be taxed at 15%.

Setting up an SMSF is very complicated in Australia compared to the US where you can just open an IRA account with a broker like any other brokerage account and the only issue is limits on contributions and later on minimum withdrawals. For standard IRAs you pay tax on withdrawals only, on your regular tax return. The main reason Australian SMSFs are complex is taxation but some of the bureaucracy just seems to be for the sake of it... In Australia, pretax or concessional contributions are taxed at 15% (or 30% for high income levels) going in, and you can also make after tax contributions. Its necessary to keep track of which were taxed how. Then earnings are taxed at 15% (10% for capital gains) and can be offset by franking credits and foreign tax paid. When you finally withdraw your money, no tax is due and earnings of the account are untaxed if you set up a pension, though now there is a cap of $1.6 million on the amount of assets whose earnings are untaxed. So funds need to submit tax returns separate from their members. And they need to be audited annually and there are lots of ways they could become non-compliant with the rules. And an SMSF is a trust which is set up as a separate legal entity. You might also want to set up a company to act as trustee!

You could go to a lawyer to set up the trust and to a local accountant to help audit the fund and do everything else yourself. But there are many providers who streamline the set up and administration of SMSFs. You can get "year-end" administration which just helps get everything in order for the tax return and audit, or you can get a full daily service. Though I do our own tax returns, I have decided to go for the full daily service as I want to outsource this as much as possible (looks like I am going to have to do tax returns for my son too and am also looking at setting up a company...) and want to be confident that I am compliant with the rules, because the penalties for non-compliance are very severe.

This is a great site with information about different providers of services for self-managed superannuation funds. I visited the websites of all the providers that offer a daily service. Some sites have a lot information and some have next to none. The latter want you to phone them to give you the details. I have a strong preference for financial services that are as transparent as possible. I also investigated Commonwealth Securities and Dixon Advisory, which are not on this list.

Dixon are based in Canberra and I often go past their offices on Northbourne Avenue. Years ago, I used to read Daryl Dixon's column in the Canberra Times. Their service combines admin and investment advice and costs from $3,000 for a $333k account to a maximum of $6,000 for accounts above $666k. To make investments, you have to call their broker and the commissions for shares are 1.1%, which is capped at $400 for Australian shares and uncapped for foreign shares. I don't need investment advice and trading is way too expensive.

Commonwealth Securities is a more realistic option. Including audit fees, they charge a flat $3,000 a year. On a $900k account that is 1/3%, which is reasonable. Trading fees are 0.12% for Australian stocks, which is good though not the lowest, and 0.31% for US stocks and 0.41% for shares in the UK and many other countries, which is expensive but not as outrageous as Dixon. You can't trade CfDs (which are offered by CommSec for other accounts) or futures (which aren't offered by CommSec).

You can set up a trading account for an SMSF with Interactive Brokers, which can trade anything you like for low fees, and then find an administration provider who is prepared to work with them. Determining who can work with IB is what I need to do next. You can trade futures in an SMSF as long as it fits within the written investment strategy (yes, you are required to write one) and other risk related rules.

Two providers on my list, who have won awards and who I am going to investigate next, are Heffron and Super Guardian. I am impressed with the transparent information on Super Guardian's site. They also have an endorsement from Chris Cuffe. Super Guardian charge more the more investments you have. If we have up to 20 investments then they are a similar price to CommSec. Heffron charge a flat fee of $3,300 for their top level service.

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