Expenses in an SMSF

An SMSF must pay certain expenses if it is to continue running for the purpose of providing retirement benefit for its Members. Normal operating expenses will be tax deductible in the SMSF. Remember, however, that Trustees cannot be remunerated for their services to the Fund.

An expense that has a ‘private element’ cannot be claimed as tax deductible. For example, if a computer bought for SMSF use is also used privately, the expense cannot be claimed. This is because the SMSF is not a ‘business’.

It is also important to remember that, for Members in pension mode, any expenses paid towards earning this ‘exempt income’ are not deductible. The apportionment formula is defined in the ATO ruling below. When at least one member of an SMSF has an account in the accumulation (taxpaying) phase, SMSF trustees must be aware which of the fund’s expenses are tax deductible, and which are not.

The General Principle

An expense incurred by the SMSF, which is not of a capital, private or domestic nature, will be tax deductible to the extent that it has the essential character of an outgoing, incurred in gaining or producing assessable income.

Taxation Ruling on Specific SMSF Expenditure

The ATO’s taxation ruling TR 93/17 sets out the following list of SMSF expenses that are tax deductible:

  • actuarial costs;
  • accountancy fees;
  • audit fees;
  • costs of complying with Government regulations;
  • costs in connection with the calculation and payment of benefits to Members (but not the cost of the benefit itself);
  • investment adviser fees and costs in providing pre-retirement services to members;
  • other administrative costs incurred in managing the Fund;
  • the SMSF’s annual lodgement fee, however a late lodgement penalty is not deductible;
  • legal expenses, although this usually depends on whether the expenses are of a capital or revenue nature;

Other SMSF expenses can include:

  • life insurance premiums;
  • total and permanent disability insurance premiums;
  • partial deduction for total and permanent disability premiums;
  • investment research subscriptions; and
  • costs for amending a trust deed are deductible if the amendments are needed due to changes in Government regulations, and are made to ensure that the fund’s day to day operations continue to satisfy its compliance obligations.

What is not deductible?

  • upfront fees incurred in investing money are of a capital nature and are not deductible;
  • costs attributable to the earnings of assets backing tax exempt income streams (see below for the note on apportionment).


Expenses incurred in gaining or producing exempt income only (pension income) are not deductible. If the SMSF contains an accumulation account and a pension account, expenses incurred partly in producing assessable income and partly in gaining exempt income must be apportioned.

  • Ujjwal

    Can i Claim brokerage expenses as non delectable??

    • superannuationwarehouse

      Ujjwal, your question is not clear, but I take it you want to know if broker fees are tax deductable.

      Brokerage can be handled in one of two ways and this can be nominated in the accounting policies of the SMSF:
      1. Captitalise against the cost base of the shares; or
      2. Expense it in the SMSF.

      In order to expense the brokerage or other expenses depend on the nature of the expense and whether the SMSF was in accumulation phase only, pension phase only or partly in accumulation and pension phase.

      If the costs relate to the initial establishment of accounts, the expenses would be
      more likely to be capital in nature and therefore not deductible against the Fund’s assessable income. While expenses considered to be capital may not be deductible against the assessable income of the Fund, they may be added to the cost base of
      investments for capital gains tax purposes.

      If the SMSF is fully in accumulation phase, any expenses that are considered to be
      deductible will be allowed against the Fund’s assessable income. SMSF deductible expenses are usually accountancy and tax preparation fees, audit fees, bank fees, investment research subscriptions, legal advice fees, the administrative costs of managing investments and the Fund’s annual lodgement fee but not any late lodgement penalties.

  • MartyOA

    Hi Can a SMSF invest in a business by way of paying an advertising levy and as a result receive an income. The SMSF has no control over where the advertising money is spent. This control is handed exclusively to an arms length 3rd party business advisory group.

    And if this is possible is the payment a tax deduction against the income received by the fund.
    And is the GST component claimable?

  • superannuationwarehouse


    When an SMSF invest in an asset, it must get legal title over the asset. The normal way for investment is to purchase shares and to receive a share certificate in the name of the SMSF. For guidance on what type of companies you can invest in and related party rules, see here:

    The investment is of a capital nature and not an expense. So this is carried in the Balance Sheet (assets) of the Fund.

    Trust this answers your question.

  • Chris

    If the trustee of an smsf entered into a transaction of incurring $2000 of electricity expenses for the fund would this contravene SISA 1993? The account is 4 months overdue.

    • Hein Preller


      The Tax Office always looks at the purpose of the expenses. All
      the expenses the SMSF have must be for the sole purposes of the SMSF. It should
      not have any personal use involvement. For more info on the sole purposes test,
      please see:

      On your comments for the electricity account being over due – this does not affect the legitimacy of the expense, on the proviso the expense is for the SMSF. So most likely the SMSF must be the owner of a property, and most likely a commercial property for the electricity expense to be so high.

      • Chris

        Thanks for your help! I have tried to locate the private ruling from the ato that deals with such expenses. I have been directed towards private binding ruling 17651. However, I can not seem to find this in the ato registry. Do you know the one I am looking for?

  • Roger

    Hello. Would books on trading and investment strategies for the investment types allowed by a fund investment strategy (e.g. futures, options or forex) be treated as SMSF expense? The purpose would be to increase fund income and it would be the sole purpose, as I do not trade these personally or professionally.

  • superannuationwarehouse


    On the face of it, this seems like a legitimate expense as its for the sole purpose of the SMSF. Remember to have the invoice made out to the Fund if possible.

  • Doris

    can a set up fee for a company trustee be paid by SMSF when changing from individual trustee to company trustee?

    • superannuationwarehouse

      Doris, setting up a Corporate Trustee is an expense for operating the Fund. The SMSF can and should pay for this expense.
      Most people set up their Funds with individual Trustees. This can be converted to a Corporate Trustee of the need arise, e.g. when purchasing a property with bank loans.
      Trust this helps

  • Wazza

    Can you claim the GST on establishment fees (trust deeds) upon setting up the SMSF ?

    • superannuationwarehouse

      We usually don’t register SMSF’s for GST. The admin hassle to claim back
      the minimal amount of GST is generally speaking just not worth it.
      if you prefer to have the SMSF registered for GST we set it up so you
      as the Trustee receive the BAS form in the mail from the Tax Office. You
      can then claim GST.
      When an SMSF purchase a commercial property,
      then its sensible to register for GST as the Fund can claim back a big
      chunk of GST.
      As a tax agent we will register the SMSF on your
      hahalf for GST if you choose to have it registered. We do not charge a
      fee to do this.
      Trust this answer your question.

  • Mark

    Can an SMSF pay legal fees incurred to win a claim on superannuation owned TPD insurance? If so, the second part to this question is what if the TPD cover was owned by a personal super fund owned by the same member but not the SMSF, as the personal fund cannot facilitate any such payment to solicitors?

    • superannuationwarehouse


      An SMSF can pay the legal fees on the assets and policies it owns. Best is to have invoices made out to the SMSF to substantiate the expense.

      The second part of the question is not clear. I assume you mean there is a retail fund. In this case, the Trustee of the retail Fund will act on your behalf. The retail fund can pay any legal costs if needed.

      Trust this answer your question.

    • superannuationwarehouse

      Just answered

      Regards Hein Preller Director – Superannuation Warehouse 03 86106999 (Office) 04 11241215 (Mobile) smsfwarehouse.com.au

  • Adriano D’Ovidio

    Have a SMSF and live in Perth WA ,have purchased a property in Victoria 3 years ago and have an agent taking care of it. Since then haven’t gone back to check on that property, only received pictures via email.Would like to inspect/check that property myself in person.
    Can I claim the moneys for the flight and accommodations going to Victoria or Can I pay it out of the superfund money.

    • superannuationwarehouse


      In the last budget it was announced that from 1 July 2017 all travel deductions relating to inspecting, maintaining, or collecting rent for a residential rental property will be disallowed.

      So to claim a travel expense, do it before the year end. Make sure the travel is for the sole purpose of the SMSF and the SMSF can then pay for this expense. Some guidance around travel expenses for rental properties can be found here:


      My understanding is these restrictions are for residential properties only. If the SMSF holds a commercial property, this new restriction will not apply.

      Get in quick!

  • Adriano D’Ovidio

    Hi Hein
    Thanks for the input about that but just one more questions in regards going to Melbourne to insect the Property and meet up with the Agent.
    Can other director of the fund that’s two people go and can we claim accommodations say for 2 night

    • superannuationwarehouse

      You can proceed on the basis the expense is incurred for the sole purpose of the SMSF. You can’t combine this expense with a family holiday or personal affairs.
      Its generally good practice to keep a diary noting the nature of the visit. So write for example, inspecting the property on day 1, see the property manager on day 2 and see the lawyer on day 3. This will make it easier to substantiate the claim when the fund gets audited.
      Lastly, do this before 30 June 2017 if its a residential property as the rules will disallow these expenses after this date.

Contact Details


Peace Of Mind

We are Melbourne based with clients throughout Australia. Our SMSF administration service is mostly paperless. This enable us to charge a fair fee, resulting in a good value-proposition for you.

No Advice

Superannuation Warehouse is an accounting firm and do not provide financial advice. All information provided has been prepared without taking into account any of the Trustees’ objectives, financial situation or needs. Because of that, Trustees are advised to consider their own circumstances before engaging our services.