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SMSFs turn to unusual investments in low-return environment

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With investments such as term deposits seeing minimal returns, there has been increased investment by SMSFs in non-standard investments such as private entities and gold bullion, says an audit firm.

Speaking to SMSF Adviser, BDO superannuation partner Shirley Schaefer said she is seeing more investment in non-standard investments in SMSFs as trustees look to improve their returns. 

“It’s not just cryptocurrency, but things like bullion, diamonds and private entities,” explained Ms Schaefer. 

Ms Schaefer cautioned that it could sometimes be difficult for trustees and the auditor to obtain the relevant information for these assets, particularly for investments in private entities. 

“It depends on what the private entity does, but it does tend to be more problematic. Some trustees and accountants are probably better at making sure they’ve got all that information. [However], I’ve also got clients that are a minority holder in an entity, and despite their best intentions, they just can’t get that information,” she said.

“They can’t necessarily make an assessment on what its worth, so how does the auditor [get that information]?”

Ms Schaefer said different types of investments are emerging more in funds as SMSF trustees look for better returns in the low-interest rate environment. 

“While the share market has done well, and property seems to be doing okay, term deposits and things like that are not obviously performing particularly well, and people are looking for returns which is why we’re seeing some investments in things like cryptocurrency, the more unusual investments like diamonds and private entities,” she said. 

ASF Audits head of education Shelley Banton also recently highlighted some of the issues she is seeing with less common types of investments such as unrelated entities and unrelated unit trusts and companies. 

“It can sometimes be very hard to get that information, if we do get it, we may only get draft financial statements, we may not get signed financial statements,” said Ms Banton.

“It makes it even more difficult when the accountant who’s preparing the super fund doesn’t prepare the accounts for that unrelated entity. You’re trying to get that information from a fourth party [and] there’s no requirement from that accountant who’s providing those financials to provide it to the SMSF accountant.”

Miranda Brownlee

Miranda Brownlee is the deputy editor of SMSF Adviser, which is the leading source of news, strategy and educational content for professionals working in the SMSF sector.

Since joining the team in 2014, Miranda has been responsible for breaking some of the biggest superannuation stories in Australia, and has reported extensively on technical strategy and legislative updates. Miranda has also directed SMSF Adviser’s print publication for several years. 

Miranda also has broad business and financial services reporting experience, having written for titles including Investor Daily, ifa and Accountants Daily.

You can email Miranda on: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.