SMSFs need an ABN and TFN. A corporate trustee needs an ACN. And their members as well as individual trustees need a TFN.

SMSFs need an ABN and TFN

That is a lot of numbers. And confusing.

Your SMSF needs a TFN

Tax File Numbers (TFN) are issued by the Australian Tax Office (ATO) and identify a tax payer.

Your SMSF has to prepare an annual return and hence needs a tax file number. This number is like your SMSF’s id. Without it the ATO can’t process the information in their system.

Your SMSF needs an ABN – Not

Australian Business Numbers (ABN) are issued by the Australian Business Register (ABR) and identify a business.

Your SMSF needs an ABN – not true. There is no legal obligation for an SMSF to get an ABN. Neither the SIS Act nor SIS Regulations stipulate an ABN. And so the ATO can’t force you. Your SMSF can be a complying super fund without an ABN. 

But why the ATO’s keen interest in an ABN? One guess is that the ATO wants a public listing of SMSFs. A TFN is confidential. Only an ABN gets SMSFs into the ABN lookup.

For you there are practical reasons to get an ABN for your SMSF though. The business community expects your SMSF to have an ABN so many forms will ask for it. And eSAT doesn’t work for SMSFs without an ABN.

eSAT is the electronic superannuation audit tool auditors can use for their annual compliance audit or to lodge an auditor contravention report.

Your Corporate Trustee needs an ACN

Australian Company Numbers (ACN) are issued by the Australia Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) and identify a company.

A corporate trustee is a company so they need an ACN by definition. Every company – be it a special purpose company or not – automatically gets an ACN upon registration. You are not an Australian registered company if you don’t have an ACN.

Assuming your corporate trustee doesn’t run a business or derive any income directly, they neither need an ABN nor a TFN.

Your Individual Trustees and Members Need a TFN

Every individual trustee is a member. And every member has a beneficial interest in the SMSF’s assets and income.

The ATO wants to know who these members are. And they do that through a TFN. So every member needs a TFN.


In-Specie Contributions

Gifts and Contributions

Collectables and Personal Use Assets


Disclaimer: numba does not provide specific financial or tax advice in this article. All information on this website is of a general nature only. It might no longer be up to date or correct. You should contact us directly or seek other accredited tax advice when considering whether the information is suitable to your circumstances.

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Last Updated on 31 March 2019