Prevailing market conditions can pose problems in acquiring shares using LRBAs


investors

Whilst most of the attention with limited recourse borrowing arrangements (LRBAs) has centred around property transactions, there has been a need to clarify a range of issues on other acquirable assets, in particular assets allowable as a collection of identical assets under the definition of a single acquirable asset (SAA).

It’s not uncommon when placing an order of shares that there may be insufficient volume at a particular price to acquire shares or units.  This is particularly common where the shares are to be acquired at the prevailing market price.  This results in the single order being ‘filled’ over multiple share prices or even different dates.   This however poses a problem for those undertaking any share acquisitions using a limited recourse borrowing arrangement, because of the strict interpretation of a collection of assets” within the single acquirable asset as defined within s67A(3) of the SIS Act.

The question was asked of the ATO recently (via National Tax Liaison Group (NTLG) Superannuation Technical sub-group, September 2012) as to whether a single order of shares filled over multiple prices or dates will still meet the definition of a single acquirable asset.

To understand the issue, let’s consider the following example:

ABC Super Fund enters in a LRBA to acquire #42,500 shares in NewCo Limited at the prevailing market price. This single order is undertaken by the trustees through their CommSec account.  Due to the share volumes available at the time of the order and movement in the prevailing market price, the purchase of the shares were completed in three tranches:

  • 01/10/2012 – #30,000 @ $4.70
  • 01/10/2012 – #10,000 @ $4.72
  • 02/10/2012 – #2,500 @ $4.67

Have we got a problem?

It is important to note that the policy intent around the changes introduced on 7 July 2010 were to prevent borrowing arrangements over multiple assets in which may permit the lender to choose which assets are sold in the event of default.   Whilst a strict interpretation of s67A would mean this transaction would fail as a single acquirable asset, the ATO has stated that in circumstances such as these, they are prepared to ignore short delays in fulfilling a single on-market order to purchase shares or a single on-market order at the prevailing market price which might result in some shares being acquired at different prices.

For the trustees of the ABC Super Fund, the ATO would allow these this single order to be filled over multiple transactions, given the short timeframe to fulfil the order (based on the prevailing market conditions).

Whilst providing a logical outcome for fund trustees, the Regulator has also made it abundantly clear that it will not allow trustees to embark on a course of action to accumulate or sell down shares as an acquisition of a ‘single acquirable asset’.

Do you see much activity with LRBAs to acquire assets other the property?

Alarms bells ringing with ATO around property investing in SMSFs


After only just discussing the regulatory focus by ASIC on SMSFs and property investments, we have seen further regulatory “alarm bells” ringing through the ATO’s release of taxpayer alert, TA 2012/7.  A Taxpayer Alert is an “early warning” of significant new and emerging higher risk tax and superannuation planning issues or arrangements that the ATO has under risk assessment, or where there are recurrences of arrangements that have previously been risk assessed.  With the growing amount of ‘hype’ in the use of these type of strategies, the alert is a timely reminder to ensure such arrangements comply with the strict nature of superannuation law.

It is often lost in the conversation, that borrowing is ordinarily prohibited in superannuation.  Limited exceptions apply, with the ability to enter into a limited recourse borrowing arrangement for prescribed purposes.  The specific purpose of the borrowing must be for the acquisition of a ‘single acquirable asset’.  To say ‘near enough is good enough’ simply won’t cut it when it comes to compliance with these requirements.  Failure to comply with sections 67A & 67B of the SIS Act, will mean that any maintenance of the loan will be in breach of the borrowing provisions.  With an inability to sell a brick-at-a-time, the unwinding of these arrangements can be difficult, and potentially expose the fund to a significant loss on a forced sale.

What problems are the ATO seeing with property investments using LRBAs?

  • The borrowing and title of the property is held in the individual’s name and not in the name of the trustee of the holding trust.  The SMSF has paid the deposit and ongoing repayments;
  • The title of the property is held by the trustees of the SMSF, not the trustee of the holding trust;
  • The trustee of the holding trust is not in existence and the holding trust is not established at the time the contract to acquire the asset signed;
  • The SMSF acquires residential property from a member;
  • The acquisition comprises two or more titles and there is no physical or legal impediment to the two titles being dealt with, assigned or transferred separately; or
  • The asset is a vacant block of land, with the intention to construct a house on the land.  The land is transferred to the holding trust prior to the house being built.

These problems throw up a whole range of compliance concerns, including:

  • potential breach of the sole purpose test in section 62 of SISA;
  • failure to comply with section 67 which prohibits a SMSF from borrowing money or maintaining a borrowing;
  • the acquired asset not meeting the single acquirable asset definition under section 67A(2) as it comprises two or more proprietary rights;
  • the acquirable asset is subject to a charge which would prohibit the fund from borrowing money or maintaining a borrowing of money under section 67A(1)(f); and
  • where the title is incorrectly held in the name of the individual and not the trustee of the holding trust, the deposit and/or loan repayments may breach the payment standards, effectively drawing on preserved benefits prior to meeting a cashing condition.

As highlighted by the Commissioner, there is a lot of talk about the benefits of limited recourse borrowing in super, but not a lot about the risks.  It is important to remember, responsibility ultimately rests with the trustees to comply with superannuation law.  Ensuring that the fund’s governing rules allow for borrowing (and assets to be held in a custodian arrangement), and that the decision is consistent with the fund’s investment strategy are all critical elements to ensure compliance.  Failure to do so, can render the fund non-complying, effectively meaning the fund is subject to a 45% tax rate which is applied to its income and market value of fund assets (other than undeducted contributions).  Furthermore, civil and criminal penalties could also apply.

Related trust arrangements

The taxpayer alert also highlights a range of concerns around the use of related unit trust structures to acquire property.  Once the ‘darling’ of the SMSF sector, the use of unit trusts has somewhat diminished with the inability to typically leverage inside these trusts, nor put a charge over the assets of the trust.  These strict requirements are outlined within SIS Regulation 13.22C.

The ATO concerns with these arrangements appear to stem from investments that are failing to adhere to the requirements of SISR 13.22C and subsequently become in-house assets under section 71 of SISA, thereby counting towards the allowable 5% limit.

It is not to say these strategies don’t provide some fantastic outcomes for individuals, but the decision process to establish a SMSF and consider acquiring property is not something to be taken lightly.  These alerts and investigations by the Regulators highlight the need for “buyer-beware” when it comes to property in SMSFs.

 

Have SMSFs become the target of property spruikers?


I read with great interest recently in the Australian newspaper, an article titled “Setting up an SMSF to buy property a risky strategy” (13 November 2012) regarding ASIC commissioners Peter Kell and Greg Tanzer focusing a taskforce on aggressive marketing of speculative property developments with SMSF limited recourse borrowing arrangements.

Whilst there appears to be a lot of ‘hype’ around SMSF borrowing arrangements, it has highlighted the lack of a Government response to introducing these arrangements into the financial services licensing regime.  It was June 2010 when Treasury released its first consultative paper around licensing and bringing these arrangements under the financial consumer protection framework.  A further consultation occurred in February 2012 and now nearly two and a half years later the industry is still waiting.   The consensus from submissions generally supported bringing these rules into the licensing framework to avoid the situations highlighted in the newspaper article.

So to the Regulators, I commend you in targeting those looking to make a quick buck from consumers with borrowing in super, but let’s get a regulatory framework in place to ensure we have the right licensing framework and regulatory protections.  I just hope this doesn’t put a nail in the coffin for the use of SMSF limited recourse borrowing arrangements…  I kind of believe the framework around the legislative definitions and operation of such arrangements was heading down the right track!

Do you think SMSF borrowing will be hear to stay?

 

WEBINAR – SMSF limited recourse borrowing arrangements


 

The topic of borrowing in super continues to gain momentum with a growing number of SMSFs looking to establish limited recourse borrowing arrangements (LRBAs) to acquire property.

The next SMSF Academy webinar will discuss the latest issues impacting LRBAs including:

  • Understanding the Commissioner’s views in the final ruling, SMSFR 2012/1: application of key concepts with LRBAs
  • Update on the proposed licensing requirements
  • Considerations of insurance with LRBAs
  • Latest ATO issues with related party loans, interest rates, multiple loans, off-the-plan acquisitions and much more

Find out more and register here

 

Zero interest in SMSF borrowing?


Whilst the interest in limited recourse borrowing within self-managed super funds appears to be rising, the opposite has been posed to the  Australian Taxation Office in respect to the level of interest than may be applied to a related party loan.

The June 2012 NTLG minutes posed the question as to whether a zero percent interest rate could be applied to related party loan in accordance with the provisions of section 67A of the SIS Act, which outlines the requirements of a limited recourse borrowing arrangement.  This question follows the ATO’s interpretative decision ATOID 2010/162 which confirms that a fund is dealing at “arm’s length” where the terms are more favourable to the SMSF.  What wasn’t outlined within the interpretative decision was whether the differential in ‘market rates’ versus a lower interest rate could constitute a contribution.

In an interesting outcome from this meeting, it is the views expressed by the ATO confirm that a zero percent interest rate can be established with a related party LRBA loan without the discrepancy between what is ‘commercial’ and the lower rate offered to the fund being classified as a contribution.  Consistent with the views express within SMSFR 2009/2, regarding the meaning of ‘borrow money’ or ‘maintaining a borrowing of money’, the most important element is that a genuine loan is in place (where it can be shown that there is an intention that the loan will subsequently be repaid to the lender).  Whilst a borrowing arrangement will usually involve an interest charge, the fact that no interest (or a lower interest rate) is charged will not, of itself, preclude the loan arrangement from being a borrowing.

It is important to remember that nothing within the borrowing exception of s67A of the SIS Act prescribes that a rate of interest must be applied in respect to the fund entering into a borrowing arrangement.

The release of this information by the ATO has already sparked the interest of many as a way to further improve ‘inflows’ into superannuation for many members who have been ‘capped out’.

What do you think about the ATO’s views expressed about SMSFs being able to provide 0% interest rate loans?

(C) The SMSF Academy 2012
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