SMSF Trustee Declaration: Why It’s Important and How to Complete It Properly

  • Ashwin RamdasAshwin Ramdas
  • Mate Checked

    This information has been reviewed by our SMSF Mates before it was published as part of our review process.

In the landscape of personal finance, the Self-Managed Superannuation Fund (SMSF) stands as a key retirement strategy. Super funds like these stand apart from other superannuation models by offering members full control over their retirement savings, usually with one or more members serving as SMSF trustees.

In an SMSF, the trustee’s role is paramount. They oversee key investment decisions and are responsible for ensuring the fund’s adherence to various legal and tax obligations. An important aspect of this duty involves overseeing the fund’s tax compliance, which encompasses responsibilities such as ensuring proper handling of tax implications, including capital gains tax for self-managed super funds. A crucial legal document in this context is the SMSF Trustee Declaration, vital for both setting up and managing an existing SMSF.

Defining the SMSF Trustee Declaration

The SMSF Trustee Declaration is a legal obligation, distinct from the trust deed, which outlines the setup and operational structure of an SMSF. Upon becoming an SMSF trustee or director of a corporate trustee, it’s crucial to understand the declaration’s content, as it explains your duties and ensures the SMSF operates in compliance with the superannuation law.

As part of these responsibilities, trustees also coordinate with approved auditors to ensure compliance with all legal and financial requirements.

The Significance of an SMSF Trustee Declaration

The SMSF Trustee Declaration, pivotal in the SMSF management, ensures legal compliance, safeguards member interests, and deters fraud. By signing the ATO Trustee Declaration, you affirm your adherence to obligations under the Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Act 1993 and Regulations 1994.

These include satisfying the sole purpose test, preparing and reviewing the SMSF’s investment strategy, acting in member’s best interests, keeping fund and personal assets separate, and adhering to contribution and benefit payment standards. If you are interested in optimising your contributions, learn more about the benefit of timing your super contributions.

Identifying Who Needs to Complete the Trustee Declaration

SMSF trustee declarations are mandatory for anyone becoming an SMSF trustee or a corporate trustee director, or acting on behalf of incapacitated or deceased members. Eligibility for trusteeship necessitates individuals to be over 18, mentally fit, financially sound, and free from convictions or penalties under superannuation legislation. In addition, trustees need to ensure ABN registration for the fund is correctly handled and updated as necessary.

Trustees or directors should sign the declaration within 21 days of appointment. It’s pertinent that each director of a corporate trustee, though part of a single legal entity, fully understand their responsibilities and the implications of the separate declaration.

The Role of a Corporate Trustee in SMSFs

Some SMSFs appoint a corporate trustee, a company acting as the fund’s trustee, offering benefits such as limited liability and ease of member management. Each director, a fund member, must sign the Trustee Declaration, understanding their responsibilities under the Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Act 1993.

The company, legally responsible for the fund, ensures compliance and acts in the best interests of the members, thereby ensuring a compliant and effective operation of the SMSF.

Guidelines for Properly Completing the Trustee Declaration

Understanding the Terms

As a trustee or director, understanding your obligations and responsibilities before signing the declaration is paramount. It’s important to stay informed about the key rates affecting superannuation and how they apply to your SMSF. If any aspect of the declaration is unclear, seek independent professional advice.

Providing Accurate Information

A critical element to consider is providing precise and reliable information within the declaration. Should there be any alterations to the fund’s trustees, directors, or members, it becomes imperative to promptly report these changes to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) within 28 days.

Meeting the Timeframe

The declaration needs to be signed within 21 days of your appointment as a trustee or director. As the end of the financial year approaches, it is essential to adhere to this timeframe to maintain compliance.

Maintaining Storage and Record Keeping

It is obligatory to keep the ATO Trustee Declaration form for the entirety of the fund’s operational life and ten years following its conclusion. Failure to adhere to this requirement can result in penalties.

Avoiding Common Mistakes When Completing the Trustee Declaration

Certain common errors are often made while completing the SMSF Trustee Declaration. These can include misunderstanding the terms, providing incorrect information, or failing to meet the signing timeframe. By understanding these potential pitfalls, you can avoid them and ensure the proper completion of your SMSF Trustee Declaration.


Correctly completing the SMSF Trustee Declaration is central to running an effective Self-Managed Super Fund. It is a legal assertion of your comprehension of, and agreement to fulfil, the obligations as an SMSF trustee or corporate trustee director.

Its importance cannot be overstated, as it serves to ensure legal compliance, protect member interests, and prevent misuse. Avoiding common pitfalls and adhering to the prescribed guidelines is crucial in upholding the health and success of your SMSF.


General Advice Warning

Ashwin Ramdas

Eventum Consulting

Ashwin is an accountant and educator based in Perth, Western Australia. He is passionate about helping family owned businesses and startups. He is one of the founders of SMSF Mate and you’ll regularly see him on our podcast!

Ashwin is a managing owner and director of Eventum Consulting, a multidisciplinary firm helping clients with finance, succession planning and their tax needs. He also served as a lecturer in taxation and small business at the Central Institute of Technology, and has worked as an accountant at a number of well-known tax specialists.

Ashwin studied a Diploma of Business Education and a Bachelor of Commerce in Financial Accounting, Managerial Accounting and Corporate Finance, both at Curtin University, WA.

Ashwin is passionate about technology, and sees it as an enabler for his clients to grow truly sustainable and profitable businesses.

You can find out more about Ashwin or connect with him on Linkedin here:

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Kind words from Aussies managing
their own self funded futures

  • SMSF Mate is a unique website because it has ideas about how to approach SMSFs, insurance and other financial topics that come straight from first hand experience. It's much more useful than what you find on all the other financial websites that just offer generic info that you could easily get on the ATO's website. It's also nice to know there's no financial incentive behind the information, it's legitimately there to help people understand self-managed super funds and how to get the most out of them, not to get an affiliate commission from a broker or other financial services provider. The investment product information is also incredibly useful, I've never seen this kind of functionality on any other website that let's you look at such a wide range of products, sort by what info is most interesting or important to you, and subscribe to updates for different funds and financial products all in one place. Definitely worth checking out if you own or are considering an SMSF!

    David G, Self-Employed, SMSF Owner
  • SMSF Mate provides a unique insight into superannuation and financial topics in a way that is easier to understand than conventional websites. The colloquial nature of the site makes it easy to understand and they often speak about complicated topics in lamens terms so I can wrap my head around them. The investment product information is a great way to research funds that I am interested in investing in with my SMSF and there is a lot of helpful information on the site for better structuring my investment portfolio. In comparison to other websites which offer similar information, SMSF Mate excels as the information is free to access whereas many other sites charge a subscription fee for the same thing. Overall, I think SMSF Mate is a great resource for SMSF trustees and is worth looking at for a variety of super-related topics. Thanks.

    Tim B, Business Owner, SMSF Trustee