ASIC continues unlicensed advice blitz
Further accounting firms have been questioned by ASIC about their services in the past month as the regulator continues to ramp up its surveillance activities into unlicensed advice, warns an advice group.
Merit Wealth accountants services director David Moss said in the past month he has continued to hear from accounting firms that have been called by ASIC in relation to advice services it suspects they may be providing.
In these phone calls, ASIC requests information about what the firm’s plans are for licensing, Mr Moss told SMSF Adviser.
“I heard from a firm that got a call from ASIC asking about what advice they had given,” he said.
“ASIC is getting very active in the accounting space. We know ASIC is contacting and gradually chasing accountants and is slowly accumulating little pieces of evidence.”
This latest action undertaken by ASIC follows the distribution of letters to unlicensed accounting firms by ASIC last month, requesting further details about the services they provide clients.
“[This is either] another case where it's either website driven, or something has flagged ASIC's attention and they're raising it with the firm,” he said.
While a lot of the surveillance activity undertaken by ASIC so far has been concentrated on advice on SMSF set ups, Mr Moss said advice on partially commuted pensions could be a new area of focus for ASIC in coming months, given the ease at which ASIC can identify this type of advice.
Mr Moss previously highlighted the importance of documenting the partial commutation of pension amounts before payments are made and the risks for both licensed and unlicensed accountants.
“I would suggest that telling someone to take part of their pension as a lump sum is an extremely high risk recommendation [for unlicensed accountants] because it’s easily identified by the regulators,” said Mr Moss.
“It's easy for them to look at those transactions, contact the trustee of the fund and ask questions and the wording they use will be very confusing for clients.”