Accountants ‘sticking their head in noose’ on licensing
The combination of licensing changes and the superannuation reforms has left some accountants in a dangerous position, with many firms forced to choose between providing illegal advice or losing their clients, according to a financial services firm.
Merit Wealth accountants services director David Moss says in light of the superannuation reforms, almost every client with an SMSF needs a conversation from an accountant or a financial adviser.
The new licensing rules, however, mean that accountants are not allowed to talk in this space at all unless they’re licensed.
“In the past, ASIC has let accounting firms get away with the argument that it’s just tax advice but we know they’re no longer going to let that through,” Mr Moss said.
“They’re going to look at it more thoroughly and say, ‘That’s not good enough, if you’re going to say it’s tax advice, then there are all these extra steps you need to be able to jump through to be able to pigeonhole it’.”
While conversations around making contributions, starting a pension, setting up an SMSF and perhaps doing a rollover may appear to be tax driven, ASIC doesn’t consider these conversations to be purely around tax.
“As a result of your conversation, you could see someone who is 40 years of age putting $30,000 into super that they wouldn’t have otherwise done. For all you know, you perhaps didn’t ask the right question –maybe they’ve got a massive mortgage and they’re going to need access to that money,” Mr Moss said.
One of the biggest risks to accounting firms lies in the fact that they do not have a choice about whether they talk to clients about the changes to superannuation or not, he said.
“During the next half year, their clients are going to expect them to talk to them about their pensions and contributions. Saying ‘I’m not licensed so I’m not going to talk about it’ is going to be extremely difficult. They will risk losing clients to another firm.”
“The problem for most accounting firms is going to be that if they’re not licensed, they’re sticking their heads in the noose at the same time that ASIC’s out there on the prowl looking to catch people out.”
Miranda Brownlee is the deputy editor of SMSF Adviser, which is the leading source of news, strategy and educational content for professionals working in the SMSF sector.
Since joining the team in 2014, Miranda has been responsible for breaking some of the biggest superannuation stories in Australia, and has reported extensively on technical strategy and legislative updates. Miranda has also directed SMSF Adviser's print publication for several years.
Miranda also has broad business and financial services reporting experience, having written for titles including Investor Daily, ifa and Accountants Daily.