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Steps to Take When Winding up Your SMSF

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July 20, 2023

Winding up a self-managed super fund (SMSF) requires careful planning and execution to avoid legal or tax-related complications. The process involves several steps, including finalizing investments, paying out benefits, and lodging final tax returns. 

It includes paying all outstanding tax and compliance fees, ensuring all members have received their entitlements, and notifying all relevant parties of the closure of your fund. It’s also necessary to understand why trustees wind up SMSFs, which can be due to changes in personal circumstances, a lack of interest or time to manage the fund, or a desire to consolidate assets. This article outlines the essential steps to take when winding up an SMSF, to ensure a smooth and compliant process.

How to Wind Up an SMSF?

First, ensure that, by relevant legislation, all assets are allocated to the members or beneficiaries. It may involve selling assets, transferring them to members, or rolling them over to another super fund. 

Secondly, you must lodge a final tax return for the SMSF, which includes reporting all income and paying any outstanding tax liabilities. 

Thirdly, you need to notify relevant parties of the closure of your fund, including the ATO, ASIC, and any other regulatory bodies. Trustees wind up Super funds for reasons including retirement, changes in personal circumstances, or a desire to consolidate superannuation funds. 

What Do You Need to Do to Close an SMSF?

To close a Self-Managed Superannuation Fund (SMSF), you should follow a specific process and fulfill various requirements. There are many reasons why trustees wind up with self-managed superannuation funds, such as changes in personal circumstances or the desire to transfer to a different type of fund. Here are the general steps involved in shutting an SMSF:

1. Review the Trust Deed

Examine the trust deed of your SMSF to determine the procedures and conditions for winding up the fund. The trust deed is the governing document that outlines the rules and operations of the fund. Inform all members of the decision to wind up the SMSF. Provide them with relevant information about the distribution of assets and any other relevant details.

2. Notify the Australian Taxation Office (ATO)

Inform the ATO about your intention to wind up the SMSF. You can do this by submitting the final annual return and indicating that it will be the last return for the fund. Complete and lodge the final SMSF yearly return with the ATO. It is crucial to include the appropriate details of all members and report the fund’s financial position up until the wind-up date. Professionals such as SMSF accountants in Perth or financial advisors have the expertise and knowledge to navigate the complexities of winding up an SMSF.

3. Settle Outstanding Liabilities

Pay any outstanding liabilities or tax obligations of the SMSF. It could involve selling the assets and distributing the proceeds or transferring them to the individual members’ superannuation accounts. Steps to take when winding up an SMSF include settling any outstanding liabilities before closing down the fund. By resolving unpaid liabilities, you can properly distribute the funds and assets of the SMSF to the individual members’ superannuation accounts.

4. Cancel Relevant Registrations

Cancel the Australian Business Number (ABN) and any other registrations associated with the SMSF, such as the Tax File Number (TFN) and the fund’s registration with the ATO. Prepare the final financial statements of the SMSF, including a statement of financial position and an income and expense statement. These statements should accurately reflect the fund’s financial status up to the wind-up date.

5. Seek Professional Assistance

Seek Professional Assistance

Seeking Expert SMSF Specialist Advisors when closing an SMSF is essential for a smooth and compliant process. Additionally, professional assistance can help individuals understand the potential tax implications and explore alternative options for managing their superannuation funds.  Professionals can guide in fulfilling regulatory obligations, ensuring all necessary financial statements and SMSF tax returns in Perth are accurately prepared and submitted. 

6. Closing of SMSF Account

To close down an SMSF (Self-Managed Super Fund), address the need for closing the SMSF account. There can be various reasons for closing an SMSF account, such as retirement, a change in investment strategy, or the inability to meet compliance requirements. Understand the procedures and implications of closing an SMSF account to ensure a smooth transition and adherence to legal requirements. To successfully close an SMSF account, manage the associated costs effectively. One of the significant expenses to consider is the SMSF tax return cost.

Reasons Why Trustees Wind up SMSFs

One of the crucial steps in winding up your SMSF is to understand the reasons why trustees wind up their SMSFs. There can be various reasons why trustees choose to wind up their Self-Managed Superannuation Fund (SMSF). Here are some common reasons:

1. Retirement 

Trustees may decide to wind up the SMSF upon reaching retirement age and no longer require the benefits of running a self-managed fund. Retirement often marks a new phase where individuals may prefer a hands-off approach to their finances and opt for more passive income streams. Additionally, the ongoing administrative responsibilities of managing an SMSF may become burdensome for retirees who wish to enjoy their newfound free time.

2. Insufficient Funds

It could happen due to poor investment performance, financial difficulties, or changes in personal circumstances. Furthermore, some trustees wind up their SMSFs due to insufficient funds. After years of managing their superannuation fund, trustees may realize that their investments did not yield sufficient returns to sustain their retirement lifestyle.

In such cases, winding up the SMSF and transferring the remaining funds to a more traditional superannuation fund provide security and access to professional investment management. With the assurance of a steady income and professional oversight, trustees can feel confident in their financial future without the added stress of managing their funds.

3. Consolidation

Trustees may choose to consolidate their superannuation by transferring their SMSF assets to another superannuation fund. It can simplify administration and reduce costs, especially when the SMSF is no longer serving its purpose or becoming too burdensome. Additionally, consolidation is another reason why trustees wind up their SMSFs. It enables them to concentrate on their retirement goals and not be burdened by the complexity of managing several SMSFs.

4. Changes in Personal Circumstances 

Life events such as divorce, the death of a member, or changes in the relationship between members can prompt the winding up of an SMSF. Furthermore, changes in personal circumstances can also be a factor for trustees to wind up their SMSFs.

Life events such as marriage, divorce, or career changes can significantly impact an individual’s financial situation and retirement plans. In such cases, consolidating their funds into a different superannuation fund can provide greater flexibility and adaptability to meet their changing needs. SMSF consultants play a crucial role in assisting trustees with the winding up of self-managed super funds. 

5. Relocation or Emigration 

Trustees who plan to move overseas or relocate to another country may not handle an SMSF from a far due to administrative complexities, regulatory requirements, or tax implications. When individuals move to a new location, especially overseas or far away, managing an SMSF from a distance can become complex and time-consuming.

It may be challenging to stay up-to-date with local regulations and ensure compliance with tax laws in the new jurisdiction. SMSF Perth guides managing costs, including the SMSF tax return cost, ensuring that trustees know the potential expenses involved in the wind-up process.

Also Read: Pros and Cons of Self-Managed Super Funds (SMSF)


Trustees need to follow the necessary steps, which include distributing all assets to members or beneficiaries, lodging a final self-managed super fund tax return, and notifying relevant parties. Once you have decided to wind up your SMSF, you need to distribute all assets to members or beneficiaries, lodge a final tax return for the SMSF, and notify relevant parties of the closure of your fund. By following these steps, you can ensure a smooth and successful wind-up of your SMSF. 

It’s important to note that closing an SMSF can be complex but the specific steps may vary depending on your circumstances. Consulting with professionals experienced in SMSF wind-up can help you navigate the process successfully and comply with all legal obligations.

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