Policy issues still plaguing licensing regime
Certain interpretations of the law around licensing for accountants is creating practical challenges for the accounting profession and in some cases disadvantaging licensed accountants, according to a consultant.
Speaking to SMSF Adviser, Licensing for Accountants chief executive Kath Bowler said there are still a lot of policy issues with licensing that need to be resolved by both ASIC and the government.
One example of this she said is that an accountant with a limited licence is able to look at a client’s existing fund if they’re setting up an SMSF and recommend that they should keep their APRA-regulated fund or whether they should roll it into an SMSF.
“However, if a client already has an SMSF as well as an existing fund, the rules don’t allow the accountant to do that same task,” she explained.
“So you’re only allowed to look at the existing fund, if you’re in the process of setting up an SMSF and not in the process of reviewing an SMSF.”
Another big issue, Ms Bowler explained, is ASIC’s interpretation of tax and superannuation compliance which has actually put licensed accountants at a disadvantage.
“They can no longer offer their clients a choice in the level of services. They’ve gone to the effort of getting licensed by someone else or through their own limited licence, but their ability to provide compliance work has been taken away because the ASIC interpretation suggests that if you’re giving advice on super it has to be done in a licensed capacity,” she said.
“Sometimes clients want a choice though, they may want a low level compliance service or they want advice, and different clients need different levels of service.”
Ms Bowler said licensed accountants consequently feel like they’re at a disadvantage because they’ve added the advisory element to their business in order to expand their services but they don’t want to force all of their clients into receiving advice services.
“They wanted to add to their services not swap them,” she said.
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.