On 18 January 2018, the ATO released its latest statistics on the self-managed super fund (SMSF) sector with the publication of the annual Self-Managed Superannuation Funds: A Statistical Overview 2015-16. Assistant Commissioner Kasey Macfarlane said the annual overview data shows that the sector continues to grow, with positive returns on assets and increasing fund and member numbers.

  1. SMSFs account for 99.6% of all superannuation funds and 30% of the $2.3 trillion in total superannuation assets in Australia. The annual statistics highlight the growth of the SMSF sector.
  2. In the five years, to 2016–17, we have seen the number of SMSFs grow by 26% to 597,000, with total assets worth $697 billion.
  3. In 2015–16, SMSFs also experienced a positive return on assets of 2.9%. SMSFs have experienced annual positive growth for the five years to 2016 and are in line with the return on investment achieved by APRA funds of more than four members.
  4. At 30 June 2017, 57% of SMSFs had a corporate trustee. We’d previously reported 77% of SMSFs had an individual trustees but that was using less reliable data.
  5. We continue to see strong growth in average member balances, at 26% over the last five years. But female members have grown their balances at a higher rate than their male counterparts – respectively, at 30% and 22%, over the last five years.
  6. We continue to see a decrease in the median age of new members in newly established funds. In 2016 the median age was 47 years compared with 50 years in 2012. This tells us that more trustees are entering the SMSF sector at an earlier stage in their working life than in previous years.
  7. The report shows that 7% of SMSFs held assets under limited recourse borrowing arrangements (LRBAs), for the 2015/16 year – slightly higher than 6% in the prior year.
  8. The proportion of SMSFs with total borrowings increased from 4% in 2012 to 9% of funds in 2016. [I don’t understand, though, how 9% of funds can have borrowings, when only 7% of funds have LRBA’s. I thought LRBAs were the only way a super fund can borrow.]
  9. At June 2016, the estimated value of total SMSF borrowings were equivalent to 3% of total SMSF assets.
  10. The value of estimated assets held under LRBAs, as a proportion of total SMSF assets, remained relatively low in 2015–16, at approximately 4% (approx $28b).
  11. Additionally we continue to see that real property assets make up over 90% of the total value of LRBA investments by SMSFs.

[ATO website: media release; FJM; LTN 12, 18/1/18; Tax Month January 2018]


Study questions (*answers below)

  1. Do SMSF’s make up 30% of all superannuation funds?
  2. Do SMSF’s hold about $700b of the total $2.3t assets in superannuation funds?
  3. Have average member balances plateaued over the last 5 years?
  4. Do 7% of SMSF’s hold assets under Limited Recourse Borrowing Arrangements (LRBA’s)?
  5. Do LRBA assets comprise as few 4% of total SMSF assets?




About the author