One law firm has warned accountants who simply cease to offer advice on SMSFs following the removal of the accountants’ exemption should be wary of potential breaches of the Corporations Act.
Jaime Lumsden Kelly, solicitor director at The Fold, said that while exiting the SMSF advice space is a valid alternative to becoming licensed to provide financial advice, accountants will still need to comply with AFS requirements.
“The key issue facing accountants is understanding what ‘financial product advice’ is, so that you know how not to provide it,” she said.
Ms Lumsden Kelly outlined several issues accountants who are not licensed or authorised to provide financial advice will need to keep in mind when talking with clients. Among other things, they should:
• Recognise and avoid dangerous client questions that tempt ‘advice’ answers
• Understand how to change opinions into factual information that still provide value
• Identify which part of the accountant's current SMSF services is not financial product advice e.g. advising on SMSF tax requirements
• Know when to refer clients on to a financial planner for advice
"If you don’t, you could be at risk of a breach of the Corporations Act requirement that prevents you from providing advice without a licence," she said.
Above all, said Ms Lumsden Kelly, accountants should not be fooled into thinking they can establish SMSFs on an ‘execution-only’ basis, without advising clients about the suitability of an SMSF.
“While SMSF establishment is exempt, ASIC is likely to scrutinise this activity closely to find accountants who are still recommending SMSFs ‘off the books’ or ‘by implication',” she said.
“A solid referral relationship with an AFS licensee who can provide this advice will go a long way to demonstrating compliance,” she said.
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