But where a superannuation fund invests via unit trusts or similar pooled vehicles, the fund may become a mere 'taker' of relevant information (in the form of the tax distribution statements received from the trust). Some recent ATO risk reviews have raised issues that, both technically and practically, are arguably matters for the trustee or manager of the trust, rather than the superannuation fund.
At the same time, Stronger Super disclosure and reporting reforms have been introduced to provide greater transparency regarding underlying fund investments. Broadly, superannuation funds will be required to publicly disclose portfolio holdings information on financial products or other property in which the fund’s assets (including 'assets derived from assets') are invested.
The concept of 'assets derived from assets' captures investments made via intermediaries, such as unit trusts or fund-of-fund structures. In addition, Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) has released detailed reporting standards regarding certain investment and investment flow data. For 'indirectly held investments', some reporting will be on a 'look through' basis, so that the reported data will relate to the underlying investments held in trusts.
These new requirements suggest that superannuation funds may have far greater data on hand than has previously been the case regarding underlying investments within trusts. Availability of this data may encourage the ATO to try to explore trust income / investment enquiries more intensively at the superannuation fund level, potentially increasing compliance costs.
Superannuation funds will need to be alert to ATO 'fishing expeditions' on matters better addressed to investment managers. Where appropriate, funds should seek clarification from the ATO on the purpose of its enquiries or obtain advice.