Despite tension seen during the recent Tax Agent Services Act (TASA) negotiations, the Institute of Public Accountants (IPA) expects there will be an increase in the number of blended businesses comprising accountants and financial planners.
Although there may be “some resistance” to an increased blending of the businesses, the IPA thinks this will eventually happen and is “encouraging members in this direction”, said IPA executive general manager Vicki Stylianou in an opinion column for this month’s SMSF Adviser magazine.
“Recent friction between accountants and planners had emerged due to an unlevel playing field in meeting compliance standards and the delay to the proposed TASA reforms,” said Ms Stylianou.
In terms of the TASA reforms and the one year reprieve granted to the financial planning industry, the IPA “fundamentally believes” that anyone providing tax advice should do so to the same professional and ethical standards, she said.
“The organisation remains positive that common sense will prevail in the best interests of clients and that both accountants and planners will work together to provide a greater level of accessible and affordable financial services for the community,” she said.
In addition, Ms Stylianou outlined concerns over the implementation of the limited licence for accountants.
If the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) fails to ensure accountants can get through the new licensing regime’s application process quickly and efficiently, the measure will not be deemed a success, she said.
During the three-year transition away from the current accountants’ SMSF exemption, licensees who receive an Australian Financial Services Licence under this streamlined process must within three years of being granted a licence be able to demonstrate to ASIC they have the knowledge and competence to provide the financial services covered by their licence.
“Exactly how streamlined this process will be will most likely depend on how well ASIC resources the process,” Ms Stylianou said.
“The IPA advises that if its members can't get through the process quickly and efficiently, within a few days and with a minimum of paperwork, then it won't be considered a success.”
Ms Stylianou added that the IPA is wary of factors such as how the scope of advice will be interpreted and how enforcement action to follow will be implemented, and said further clarity around these matters is required.
However, the IPA is “generally supportive” of the policy intent, Ms Stylianou added, particularly in the area of consumer protection.
“All in all, the accountant’s world and that of financial services is changing and we are all hopeful for the benefit of the Australian consumer,” she said.
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