Setting up a Self-Managed Super Fund

Last update - 17 January 2024 By Charity Bru

This article will outline the aspects to consider prior to setting up your superannuation as a self-managed fund.

1. Consider professional assistance

There is a range of professionals who can assist when establishing an SMSF including:

  • An accountant or professional fund administrator for initial organisational requirements. They can guide you through the process of setting up, and help meet the initial requirements to be a complying fund with the ATO.
  • A lawyer to draw up the trust deeds. The trust deeds are legal documents that establish the fund and its rules. Even simple mistakes or omissions in the trust deed can lead to expensive problems later.
  • A financial or investment advisor to help create an investment strategy that meets the needs and goals of the members while also complying with the superannuation laws.


At Rivkin, our SMSF clients receive our retail advice product for free. Rivkin also has several other investment options. We now provide a comprehensive range of multi-asset solutions, including equity model portfolios and asset management. Additionally, we offer curated investment opportunities for sophisticated investors and specialised portfolio solutions for financial institutions.


Once established, you’ll also need to get ongoing help from:

  • A registered SMSF auditor for your annual audits. The ATO requires that you have an independent auditor go over the fund’s accounts each year.
  • A tax accountant to prepare your tax returns, unless you’re comfortable doing it yourself.

Naturally, all these professionals will charge fees for their services.


2. Decide on your trustee structure

There are two trustee structures to choose from:

  • Individual trustees: two to six individuals who act personally as trustees
  • Corporate trustees: a trustee company with one to six directors.

The number of individual trustees, or directors of the corporate trustee company, will depend on whether your SMSF is a single-member or a multi-member fund. In all cases, at least one trustee or director must also be a member (beneficiary) of the fund.

However, trustees/directors cannot be employees of other trustees/directors unless they are related.

The trustee structure will also influence:

  • The cost of setting up an SMSF
  • The ownership of fund assets, and
  • What happens to the fund if a person can no longer be a trustee.


3. Choose your trustees

Make sure that the people you appoint as trustees or directors are eligible. For example, they cannot be currently bankrupt, disqualified by ATO or APRA from being a trustee, or hold a conviction for an offence of dishonesty such as fraud, theft, or illegal dealings.

Trustees must:

  • Accept their appointment in writing, and
  • Sign the Trustee Declaration confirming that they understand the duties and responsibilities of being a trustee.


4. Create your SMSF and draft your trust deed

Your SMSF is an entity known as a trust because it holds assets such as property and shares in trust for the benefit of its members, i.e. its beneficiaries.

The trust deed is the legal document that sets out the rules of the fund.

To create your SMSF you will need to:

  • Appoint your eligible trustees
  • List the beneficiaries (members)
  • Ensure your trust deed is drawn up by a qualified professional, listing the beneficiaries, payment preferences, and other rules of the fund. The deed must then be signed by trustees and executed according to the laws of your state.
  • Allocate initial assets worth at least $10


At Rivkin, we assist with the process of setting up your fund using a standard SMSF trust deed. If you would like to have a custom deed you will need to consult with a lawyer.  


5. Is your fund an Australian Fund?

By law, even though your superannuation is self-funded, your SMSF must still be recognised as an Australian fund, which means meeting residency conditions such as where it was set up, where it is managed from, and where the beneficiaries/members live.

The status of a fund can change if an active member moves from Australia for an extended period, and professional advice should be sought if a member wishes to retain their Australian residency about their SMSF.


6. Open a bank account for the fund

The fund’s bank account is used to hold cash assets, accept contributions, pay expenses, and receive income from investments.

Details of the fund’s bank account should be provided to the ATO at registration (step 7) or as soon as possible afterward.


At Rivkin, we assist you with opening a Macquarie Cash Management account as part of your setup process. We can also arrange to set up a stockbroking account to trade with us via CMC Markets.  


7. Register with the ATO and get an ABN

Funds have 60 days within which to register with the ATO and apply for an ABN. If an SMSF does not register, then it cannot claim tax concessions or deductions for contributions.


At Rivkin, we act as your registered tax agent. We arrange to apply for the SMSF’s ABN and tax file number as part of your setup process. We also assist with arranging an audit and preparing your fund’s annual tax compliance requirements each year. 


8. Set up an electronic service address for SuperStream

Funds that receive contributions from employers need to be set up for SuperStream, the data and payment standard for the super industry. This includes getting a special electronic service address either via your fund administrator or a SuperStream messaging service provider.


9. Plan for the potential winding up of the fund

A fund can be wound up or closed for several reasons including a breakdown in the relationship between trustees or members, if someone dies, or if a trustee can’t perform their duties.

Rules for what happens to the SMSF in such a scenario are often included in the trust deed as well as in the ATO’s superannuation rules.

Plans can also exist outside the deed and include nominating other beneficiaries if a member dies, and members appointing powers of attorney to a trusted third party.


Now you’re ready to go! Once the ABN and TFN are issued by the ATO, you’ll be able to contribute to your fund (directly or via an employer) and you can also apply to have any existing super transferred from another fund.

If you would like to explore Rivkin’s SMSF product click here.



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