Licensing regime tipped to damage SMSF appeal

The complexities and additional costs imposed on clients as a consequence of the new licensing regime could see a significant decline in the attraction of SMSFs, according to one national accounting and advisory firm.

William Buck managing director Lindsay Holloway told SMSF Adviser that with the accountant’s exemption ending mid next year, accountants will be required to complete a statement of advice along with other complex processes when undertaking certain services for clients such as setting up a SMSF.

Clients he said will inevitably have to wear the cost of that.

Mr Holloway said accountants will have to do a needs analysis for clients when determining whether or not they should have an SMSF, a service that tends to cost around $1,500.

He said that for many of the smaller accounting businesses it will also mean their clients are dealing with multiple people for affairs, which could have been dealt with by the one firm.

“People are cost-conscious and this will add to their annual costs and their annual consideration costs, so I think what this will do is push people to other modes and means,” he said.

“It will impact on an accountant’s ability to service a client even if they are licensees because they will have to go through the proper process.”

Mr Holloway also suggested that it could be a way to “push everyone into industry funds”.

“That might be a bit cynical, but certainly this is an old idea that has been watered down and time is ticking over [...] I don’t think anyone is really considering the practical impact of what we have to deal with,” he said.

William Buck national chairman Nick Hatzistergos said accountants are being asked to stop the conversation with clients and before they can offer advice, “go on a fact-finding mission, fill out some checklists, consider how the investment fits within their risk profile, look for potential alternatives and complete statements of advice”.

“For a number of accounting firms it’s going to add a huge amount of time and complexity to the process,” said Mr Hatzistergos.

“It is counterintuitive. SMSFs offer complete control over a person’s retirement savings, but instead, the cost and complexity of managing your own fund is being pushed to point where it is going to be all too hard.”

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