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Should you choose a corporate or individual trustee for your SMSF?

An important decision you’ll need to make before you set up your fund is whether you want to use an individual trustee or a corporate trustee structure, which is where a company is established to be the trustee and then members of the fund are directors of the company.


  • Generally lower initial and ongoing costs
  • It’s a simpler structure so members aren’t required to understand and follow corporate law.


  • Because assets of the fund are in the name of the trustees it can be costly and time consuming to add or remove a member from the fund, as this involves changing the owner’s name on all of the fund’s investments
  • Hard to distinguish between and separate fund assets and assets owned personally by the trustees
  • Trustee’s personal assets not protected if the trustee is sued for damages
  • Administrative penalties for certain rule breaches apply to each trustee.


  • Simpler to add or remove members as no need to change the owner’s name on all of the fund’s investments
  • Easier to identify and keep fund assets separate from personal assets, as in the name of the company
  • Directors’ personal assets are generally protected if the trustee is sued for damages
  • Administrative penalties for certain rule breaches apply once per breach to the corporate trustee.


  • More costly to establish
  • More complex structure requiring a company constitution and annual review fees paid to ASIC
  • Maximum penalties for offences under super rules can be up to five times higher for corporate trustees.

What happens next?

After you set up your SMSF, you’ll need to prepare for the future and establish your portfolio so you can start investing. This involves:

  • Setting an investment strategy that your fund will follow. A financial adviser can assist you with this
  • Opening a bank account in your fund’s name so you can transfer funds and start accepting contributions. A Commonwealth Direct Investment Account is designed for this purpose, to act as a transaction hub for your SMSF. This will be done as part of the process if you choose to use the Commonwealth SMSF Setup and Administration Service
  • Once your cash account is set up and you’ve transferred funds you can start choosing your investment providers and implementing your investment strategy by placing trades, moving cash into a term deposit or selecting funds to invest in. You can see a selection of options on offer on our SMSF homepage.
  • You'll also need to consider insurance for your fund members. Visit our dedicated CommInsure SMSF Plan page.
  • In the future, you may want to wind up your SMSF for a wide range of reasons (for example, the compliance requirements become too onerous or costly, or the more active trustee may die or become incapacitated). To make the process as straightforward as possible, it is important that you consider and develop an exit strategy for your SMSF from the outset.



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Things you should know:

This information is prepared by Commonwealth Bank of Australia ABN 48 123 123 124 AFSL 234945. Registered office: Ground Floor, Tower 1, 201 Sussex Street, Sydney, NSW 2000. For terms and conditions of the products mentioned, please visit any of our branches, or call us on 1800 138 363, Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 5.30pm AEST.

Commonwealth Direct Investment Accounts (CDIAs) and Term Deposits are issued by Commonwealth Bank of Australia. The SMSF CDIA is a bank account designed for use in conjunction with an SMSF. It is not a superannuation product in its own right.

CommInsure is a registered business name of The Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Society Limited ABN 12 004 021 809 (CMLA). CMLA is a wholly owned but non-guaranteed subsidiary of Commonwealth Bank of Australia. SMSF Plan is part of CommInsure Protection. The Product Disclosure Statements (PDS) for CommInsure Protection and CommInsure Guaranteed Annuities are issued by CMLA.

Commonwealth Securities Limited ABN 60 067 254 399 AFSL 238814 (CommSec) is a wholly owned, but non-guaranteed, subsidiary of Commonwealth Bank of Australia. CommSec is a Participant of the ASX Group and Chi-X Australia. To be eligible for the brokerage discount your account must settle to a CDIA and be CHESS sponsored by CommSec. Otherwise, you’ll be charged normal brokerage.

Commonwealth SMSF (the ‘Administration Service’) is a service offered by CommSec to assist in the administration and (where necessary) the establishment of self- managed super funds. CommSec has engaged SuperIQ Pty Ltd ABN 27 147 105 164 AFSL 406690 to provide self-managed super fund administration services and related technology services in relation to the Administration Service.

Commonwealth Financial Planning Limited ABN 65 003 900 169 is a wholly-owned, non-guaranteed subsidiary of Commonwealth Bank of Australia. Commonwealth Financial Planners are representatives or authorised representatives of Commonwealth Financial Planning Limited.

The information contained may include general advice but does not take into account the investment objectives, financial situation and needs of any particular individual or trustee of a self-managed super fund. You should assess with the help of legal, financial and taxation advice, whether the information is appropriate in light of your own circumstances before acting on it.