by Olivia Long

I’m no different to most people – once I start to see those Christmas decorations going up I quickly get into the festive mood and my mind starts to think of what I want from Santa.

This year, particularly, I’m quite optimistic that my Christmas stocking might have all sorts of goodies inside. Why do I say this? Well, a few months ago the self managed superannuation sector got a nice early present when Santa announced that he was withdrawing the 15% tax on earnings above $100,000 for all SMSFs in the pension phase.

Now, when this 15% “gift” was first offered we were less than impressed. To begin with, we thought those estimates that it would only affect a small percentage of SMSFs were on the conservative side. Certainly this would have proved to be the case in 2012-13 with many funds ticking over double digit growth numbers. We also thought it would be a difficult “gift” to administer for little reward, so when Santa took it back you can imagine our delight.

So what am I hoping to find in my stocking this year? I have always thought trustees who make excess contributions into their fund are harshly treated. In my experience it’s typically an oversight – not deliberate. It would be nice to see those who err treated with greater leniency or even forgiven entirely. After all, it is Christmas.

I appreciate Santa has already been quite generous by increasing the contributions cap by $10,000 to $35,000, but like the little boy in David Copperfield, “we want some more, sir”. It seems there’s still not enough appreciation of the fact many people (especially women) experience broken work patterns, and for them to be able to tuck a little bit more away later in their working lives would be a great benefit.

Dropping the ATO’s supervisory levy would be a nice present. I know Santa is always loath to make these gestures, but I have written several letters to his North Pole headquarters requesting this and perhaps, just perhaps, he might entertain the idea. Anyway, there’s no harm in asking.

It would be good for the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal to be able to hear complaints involving SMSF trustees. Currently they have to handle these issues in a private forum, and we all know what that can cost.

The investment train wreck that was Trio illustrated how even the most conscientious of trustees can be victims of fraud. Although there is a common misunderstanding about SMSFs not having legal recourse in cases of fraud, it would be nice to see system simplified and for trustees to be able to claim a grant for financial assistance from the Government – at least on a par with the APRA-regulated funds.

Santa, please note I’m not asking for trustees to be sheltered from bad investment decisions. The whole notion of an SMSF is that trustees take responsibility for their retirement income, and as such have to live with their investment choices. But fraud is something that’s clearly outside their control.

I have some more wishes. But my letter to Santa is already on the lengthy side and I don’t want to appear greedy. So even if I get half these gifts in 2014 I will be well and truly content.