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SMSF Explained - SMSF Set-up

Setting up an SMSF can seem like an unappealingly involved and complicated process. However it doesn’t have to be.

How to set up a self-managed super fund (SMSF)?

Setting up your own SMSF can seem like a daunting and confusing task. Read below to understand the basic steps set out by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and then how Stake Super can support and significantly streamline the process.

What is an SMSF?

A self-managed super fund, or SMSF, is a trust run for the sole purpose of providing retirement benefits to its members. Essentially, it's a private super fund managed by you. Unlike industry or retail funds where members have little to no control over how their super is invested, with an SMSF you have complete control over and responsibility for the fund's investment strategy.

Learn more in our comprehensive guide on What is a SMSF and how it works.

How to set up an SMSF?

Setting up a self-managed super fund can seem like a very complicated and involved process. Whilst it is more involved than joining other super funds, the partner you choose to provide professional advice helping you set up and manage your SMSF can lead to significantly varied customer experiences- some far more seamless than others.

What are the steps to set up an SMSF?

Below is a brief summary of the steps to set up an SMSF as detailed by the ATO:

1. Choose an SMSF structure
SMSFs can be a single member fund or a multi-member fund (up to 6ppl) and have an individual or corporate trustee structure.

2. Appoint trustees
Individual trustee structure must have two trustees whereas a corporate trustee structure has a company that acts as the SMSF trustee, of which one or two members act as directors of the trustee.

3. Create a trust deed
Your trust deed is the foundational legal document that forms the fund’s governing rules however importantly, it cannot override the law.

4. Check your fund qualifies as an Australian super fund
Your SMSF needs to be an Australian super fund by satisfying 3 residency conditions regarding set up, central control and member residence.

5. Hold assets
To be legally established, an SMSF needs to hold some initial assets.

6. Register your SMSF
Once legally established, a fund must register by applying to the ATO for an ABN and TFN.

7. Set up a bank account
Set up a fund bank account that will keep all money and assets separate from any personal or business finances.

8. Get an electronic service address (ESA)
An ESA ensures that employers know where to send contributions to correctly reach your fund.

9. Create an investment strategy
Prepare and follow an investment strategy for your SMSF.

How does Stake Super manage the SMSF set up process?

Stake Super is a full service SMSF administrator that significantly streamlines all administrative requirements- especially the above steps to setting up an SMSF.

So how does set up work with Stake Super*?

1. (You) Complete online application
Complete our online application in minutes including anyone's details beyond yourself that will also be a member of the fund.

2. (We) Set-up & register company with ASIC
All Stake Super SMSFs are set up as corporate trustees in order to provide the maximum flexibility for fund members and protection of SMSF assets.

3. (We) Prepare trust deed
Once we receive your Australian Company Number (ACN) from ASIC, we prepare your SMSF trust deed which includes the information provided by you in the application form to ensure the fund qualifies as an Australian super fund.

4. (You) Receive and sign trust deed
The trust deed is sent to you and any other directors of the corporate trustee electronically for review and e-signature.

5. (We) Register SMSF with the ATO
Once we receive the signed trust deed, we register the SMSF with the ATO by applying for an Australian Business Number (ABN) and Tax File Number (TFN).

6. (We) Set-up your brokerage account
Once the ATO confirms the fund has been registered we will go ahead and set up your Stake Super brokerage account which plays two roles:
1. The account wallet is your SMSF bank account
2. The account gives you access to seamless invest your super in over 8,000 stocks + ETFs on the Stake platform.

7. (You) Rollover existing super
We will prompt you to complete a rollover request via our online request form. Once we receive this, we will work with your existing super provider(s) to process the rollover.

8. (You) Start investing
As mentioned above, as soon as your Stake Super brokerage account is set up you are free to take control of your super and invest in over 2,000 ASX stocks & ETFs and over 6,000 US stocks & ETFs.

*Some SMSF applications may require additional documentation or information based on your individual circumstances and any requests from ASIC or the ATO however the above is the set up process the vast majority of Stake Super SMSF funds experience.

What investment options are available in an SMSF?

With some limited exceptions, an SMSF provides you with the freedom to invest in almost anything. Start with the more common investments such as:

  • Cash
  • Stocks
  • ETFs
  • Managed funds
  • Property

Through to less common investments including:

  • V/C funds
  • Start-ups
  • Precious metals
  • Cryptocurrency
  • Collectables and much more.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of an SMSF?

A self-managed superannuation fund has a range of unique benefits when compared to other super funds. The best known is flexibility and control however, there are also a number of other benefits of SMSFs that members can leverage to maximise their retirement savings, this includes things like asset protection, estate planning, tax strategies, borrowing and much more. Read more about the SMSF benefits to see if setting up an smsf is the right investment decision for you.

What are the rules and regulations of an SMSF?

Self-managed super funds are regulated by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC). Running an SMSF comes with a lot of administrative tasks which is generally why most SMSF trustees appoint SMSF trained accountants or specialised administrators like Stake Super to manage the administration and compliance of their funds.

Make sure you are across the rules and regulations and understand the SMSF compliance responsibilities.

How is a SMSF audited each year?

An ASIC registered auditor must audit an SMSF on an annual basis. An independent auditor examines the validity and accuracy of an SMSF's financial records and makes sure that the fund is compliant with the rules and regulations that SMSF trustees are required to adhere to. The audit also provides an independent opinion on whether the fund’s records are kept correctly and satisfies the sole purpose test.

Is a SMSF right for you?

Historically SMSFs were seen as only being relevant for the older and very wealthy. Today however, thanks to increased access, financial knowledge and lower costs, there is a shifting trend toward younger people looking to take control of their financial future- of which their superannuation forms a significant chunk.

They may not be for everybody however, once evaluating the SMSF advantages and disadvantages, if they still appear appropriate they could prove an incredibly valuable tool to maximise your financial future.


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Stakeshop Pty Ltd, trading as Stake, ACN 610105505, is an authorised representative (Authorised Representative No. 1241398) of Sanlam Private Wealth Pty Ltd (Australian Financial Services Licence No. 337927) ('Sanlam') and an authorised representative (Authorised Representative No. 1241398) of Airwallex Pty Ltd (Australian Financial Services Licence No. 487221) ('Airwallex'). Stake is not authorised by Airwallex under Airwallex’s AFSL to arrange for clients to be issued with securities as Airwallex is not authorised under its AFSL for this purpose. Stake is not authorised by Sanlam under Sanlam’s AFSL to arrange for clients to be issued with a non-cash payment facility as Sanlam is not authorised under its AFSL for this purpose. Stake SMSF Pty Ltd (‘Stake Super’) is not licensed to provide financial product advice under the Corporations Act. This specifically applies to any financial products which are established if you instruct Stake Super to set up a self managed super fund (‘SMSF’). When you sign up to Stake Super, you are contracting with Stake SMSF Pty Ltd who will assist in the establishment of a SMSF under a ‘no advice model’. You will also be referred to Stakeshop Pty Ltd to enable your trading account and bank account to be set up in order to use the Stake Website and/or App. Stakeshop Pty Ltd will also run marketing and promotions to you under. For more information about SMSFs, see our SMSF Risks page.The information on our website or our mobile application is not intended to be an inducement, offer or solicitation to anyone in any jurisdiction in which Stake is not regulated or able to market its services. At Stake and Stake Super, we’re focused on giving you a better investing experience but we don’t take into account your personal objectives, circumstances or financial needs. Any advice given by Stake is of a general nature only. As investments carry risk, before making any investment decision, please consider if it’s right for you and seek appropriate taxation and legal advice. Please view our Financial Services GuideTerms & ConditionsPrivacy Policy and Disclaimers  before deciding to invest on or use Stake or Stake Super. By using our website or service in any way, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions. All financial products involve risk and you should ensure you understand the risks involved as certain financial products may not be suitable to everyone. Past performance of any product described on this website is not a reliable indication of future performance. Stake and Stake Super are registered trademarks in Australia.

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