SMSF Tax Returns: What You Need to Know

Managing a self-managed super fund (SMSF) comes with certain responsibilities, and one of them is the annual lodgement of a tax return with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). Whether you’re an Australian resident or an expat living abroad or even a foreign investor, understanding the intricacies of completing an SMSF tax return is crucial.

This comprehensive guide is designed to provide you with a step-by-step overview of the process, highlighting the specific requirements that apply to Australian expats and foreign investors.

By familiarising yourself with these guidelines, you can ensure that you meet your obligations and maximise the benefits of your SMSF while remaining compliant with the relevant tax regulations.

Who Needs to Lodge an SMSF Tax Return?

Every self-managed super fund (SMSF) is obligated to lodge an annual tax return with the ATO, regardless of whether the fund has generated income or incurred any expenses during the financial year. This requirement ensures transparency and accountability in the management of SMSFs.

Regardless of the fund’s financial activities, the ATO must be informed about its operations and financial status. It’s important to note that failing to lodge an SMSF tax return by the deadline can result in penalties and potential legal consequences.

The deadline for lodging an SMSF tax return is 31 October each year. This allows sufficient time for trustees to gather the necessary financial information, complete the required documentation, and submit the tax return to the ATO.

It’s crucial to meet this deadline to avoid any penalties or complications. However, if you engage a registered tax agent to lodge the SMSF tax return on your behalf, you may be eligible for an extended lodgement date, typically until 28 February of the following year.

Understanding the requirement to lodge an SMSF tax return, regardless of the fund’s financial activity, ensures compliance with the ATO’s regulations and ensures the ongoing management and operation of your SMSF.

What Information Do I Need to Complete My SMSF Tax Return?

To complete your SMSF tax return, you will need to gather the following information.

SMSF Details

  • Name of your SMSF
  • Australian Business Number (ABN) of your SMSF
  • Electronic service address (ESA) for SuperStream purposes

Member Information

  • Names and tax file numbers (TFNs) of all members in your SMSF
  • Details of any new members who joined or members who left the SMSF during the financial year


Contributions made to your SMSF during the year, including:

  • Employer contributions (superannuation guarantee or salary sacrifice)
  • Personal contributions made by members
  • Spouse contributions
  • Government co-contributions


Details of any withdrawals or benefit payments made from your SMSF during the year, such as:

  • Lump sum payments
  • Pension or income stream payments
  • Transition to retirement income stream payments

Investment Income and Expenses

Records of all investment income earned by your SMSF, including:

  • Interest
  • Dividends
  • Rental income
  • Capital gains or losses from the sale of assets
  • Distributions from trusts or managed funds
  • Foreign income (if applicable)

Details of any expenses incurred by your SMSF, such as:

  • Management and administration fees
  • Investment expenses
  • Insurance premiums
  • Other operational costs

Other Relevant Information

  • Any tax losses carried forward from previous years
  • Capital gains or losses from the disposal of assets
  • Details of any limited recourse borrowing arrangements (LRBAs) in your SMSF
  • Any tax offsets or rebates applicable to your SMSF
  • Any other relevant information specific to your SMSF’s financial activities during the year

How Do I Lodge My SMSF Tax Return?

To lodge your SMSF tax return, you have several options available to you. You can choose to lodge it online, by mail, or through a tax agent.

For online lodgement, follow these steps:

  • Create an account on the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) website.
  • Log in to your account and select the SMSF tax return option.
  • Provide the required information from your SMSF’s financial records.
  • Review and double-check the details before submitting the tax return electronically.
  • Retain a copy of the lodged tax return for your records.

If you prefer to lodge your tax return by mail, follow these steps:

  • Download the SMSF tax return form (NAT 71226) from the ATO website.
  • Print the form and fill it out manually, ensuring all necessary information is provided.
  • Gather any supporting documentation required by the ATO.
  • Make a copy of the completed tax return and supporting documents for your records.
  • Mail the original tax return and supporting documents to the address specified on the form.

Alternatively, you can choose to engage a tax agent to lodge your SMSF tax return on your behalf:

  • Find a registered tax agent who specialises in SMSF tax matters.
  • Provide the tax agent with all the relevant information and documentation related to your SMSF’s financial activities.
  • The tax agent will prepare and complete the SMSF tax return based on the information provided.
  • Review the tax return prepared by the tax agent to ensure its accuracy.
  • Authorise the tax agent to lodge the tax return electronically on your behalf.
  • Retain a copy of the lodged tax return and any relevant documentation for your records.

Remember to lodge your SMSF tax return by the deadline, which is typically 31 October each year. If you use a registered tax agent, you may be eligible for an extended lodgement deadline, usually until 28 February of the following year.

It is advisable to maintain a well-organised record-keeping system and seek professional advice or consult a registered tax agent to ensure compliance with the ATO’s requirements and maximise the benefits of your SMSF.

Australian Expats and Foreign Investors: Additional Requirements

If you are an Australian expat or a foreign investor managing an SMSF, there are specific considerations and requirements that apply to you when completing your SMSF tax return. Here are the key points to keep in mind:

Declaration of Worldwide Income

As an Australian expat or foreign investor, you must declare all your worldwide income on your SMSF tax return, including income earned from overseas sources.

This ensures that your SMSF tax return accurately reflects your total income and allows the ATO to assess any tax obligations appropriately.

Foreign Tax Obligations

Depending on your circumstances, you may have tax obligations in the country where you reside or where your overseas income is generated.

It is important to understand and comply with the tax laws of both Australia and the relevant foreign jurisdiction to avoid any potential double taxation or non-compliance issues. You will be required to pay foreign tax on your income earned abroad, and it is crucial to report and fulfil these obligations.

Foreign Tax Credits

In some cases, you may be eligible to claim a foreign tax credit on your Australian tax return. This credit can help offset any tax paid to foreign jurisdictions on your income, reducing the overall tax liability in Australia.

Consult with a tax professional or seek advice from the ATO to determine if you are eligible for foreign tax credits and how to claim them appropriately.

What If I Don’t Lodge In an SMSF Tax Return?

Failing to lodge an SMSF tax return can lead to serious consequences. The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) imposes penalties for non-compliance, and the potential repercussions include:

  • Financial Penalties: If you don’t lodge an SMSF tax return by the deadline, you may face penalties imposed by the ATO. The current penalty for failing to lodge an SMSF tax return on time is up to $2,200 per member of the fund. This means that the penalty amount can increase significantly depending on the number of members in your SMSF.
  • Interest on Unpaid Tax: In addition to the penalties, the ATO will also charge interest on any outstanding tax amounts. This interest accrues from the original due date until the tax liability is paid in full. Therefore, delaying or not lodging your SMSF tax return can result in additional financial costs due to accruing interest.

Consult a Tax Professional for Advice

Completing an SMSF tax return requires attention to detail and a thorough understanding of the specific requirements. Australian expats and foreign investors must be particularly mindful of their worldwide income declaration, potential foreign tax obligations, and eligibility for foreign tax credits.

Don’t hesitate to speak with our tax experts who are well-versed in SMSF tax matters. They can offer valuable insights, answer your questions, and provide the assistance you need to ensure your SMSF tax return is handled with expertise.

Book a consultation today and stay on top of your SMSF tax obligations.

Frequently Asked Questions

The penalties for not lodging an SMSF tax return can be severe. You could be fined up to $2,200 per member, and you may also be required to pay interest on any unpaid tax.

If you have not kept good records of your SMSF’s financial transactions, you may still be able to lodge your tax return. However, you may need to provide the ATO with additional information, such as bank statements and investment statements.

If you need help completing your SMSF tax return, you should consult with a tax professional. They will be able to help you understand the requirements and ensure that your return is completed correctly.

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