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Does your SMSF's Borrowing require COVID-19 relief and should it be documented?

If an SMSF has entered into a Limited Recourse Borrowing Arrangement with a related party, and is experiencing hardship with its repayments as a result of COVID-19, then the SMSF borrower may qualify for COVID-19 relief on its repayments. This article will explain why the arrangement needs to be documented for it to be compliant with super law, the evidence that needs to be retained and will outline the new Cleardocs SMSF Borrowing (COVID-19 Relief) product.

Melissa Ramov, Maddocks Lawyers

Is an SMSF generally allowed to accept loan repayment relief from a related party lender? No.

Ordinarily, super law prohibits an SMSF from dealing with a related party lender on non-arm's length terms - the point of a Limited Recourse Borrowing Arrangement (LRBA) is that it is entered into on arm's length terms or in a manner which ensures the borrower enjoys terms and conditions which are no more favourable to them than one would expect if the parties were dealing at arm's length. Accordingly, other than in respect of COVID-19, a SMSF which is party to a loan with a related party lender on terms which offer repayment relief would ordinarily breach super law.

Is an SMSF allowed to do so in response to COVID-19? Yes.

Notwithstanding the general position described above, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has acknowledged that an SMSF would be permitted to accept temporary relief in relation to an existing LRBA between the SMSF and a related party due to the financial effects of COVID-19.

The ATO has announced that it will consider that any relief between related parties will be regarded as arm's length dealings and that the non-arm's length income provisions will not apply if the relief is on similar terms to that offered by commercial banks, (e.g. no reduction in interest rates, no reduction in loan terms, relief on repayments up to 6 months or more if required, interest is capitalised on the loan amount.) The parties must document the arrangement and the reasons why the terms of the loan agreement have been changed.

How do I know if I can qualify for COVID-19 repayment relief for my limited recourse borrowing arrangement?

This is a matter that requires self-assessment and is made by agreement between the related-party Lender and Borrower. However, evidence of the reasons why the relief is being granted must be provided by the Borrower to the Lender and needs to be ready to be produced to the ATO if ever requested in order to substantiate the reasons for relief being granted.

How should an SMSF document the COVID-19 relief?

The ATO requires that the change in the terms of the loan agreement must be documented by the parties and the reasons why those terms have changed. The new Cleardocs SMSF Borrowing (COVID-19 Relief) product which includes a Deed of Variation to vary an existing loan agreement is an easy way to alter an existing LRBA to:

  • record the temporary changes to a loan agreement (which reflect the above requirements of the ATO); and
  • record the reasons why relief is being offered.

What if the SMSF is already making smaller repayments due to COVID-19?

If the parties have already applied repayment relief but have not yet formally documented it - they will need to record it in writing as soon as possible. The Cleardocs SMSF Borrowing (COVID-19 Relief) product allows the parties to enter an effective date from which the repayment relief commenced. This allows parties to properly document the terms of the relief even where they have already started making reduced repayments.

More information

For more information, please contact Maddocks on (03) 9258 3555 and ask to speak to a member of the Commercial team.

More Cleardocs information on related topics

You can read earlier ClearLaw Articles on a range of topics, including the following topics which you may find relevant:

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Lawyer in Profile

Georgia Borg
Georgia Borg
+61 3 9258 3554

Qualifications: LLB, University of Sheffield, LLM(CL), University of British Columbia

Georgia is a member of Maddocks Commercial team and assists in a variety of commercial and corporate matters for private, public and not-for-profit clients.

Her expertise includes advising on general commercial law, wills and estates law, charities and not-for-profit law along with corporate law.

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