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Industry split on best way forward for SMSF advice

A large proportion of SMSF professionals would still like to see the accountants’ exemption returned, but the industry is split on how to make SMSF advice more accessible as the joint accounting bodies prepare to roll out their proposed new advice model to government.

Business Sarah Kendell 11 November 2019
— 2 minute read

A straw poll on sister publication SMSF Adviser which has so far seen almost 400 responses indicates that 48 per cent of industry stakeholders believe the return of the accountants’ exemption is the best way to improve access to SMSF advice, while 29 per cent think a broader inquiry into SMSF advice is the preferable choice and 23 per cent believe something else entirely is required.

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The results come following the re-establishment of the joint accounting bodies alliance to call for a more efficient regulatory framework for advisory services, reversing the initial disagreement from the bodies around the best way forward in their submissions to the recent Treasury review of the TPB.

While the IPA had initially supported returning an “extended” accountants’ exemption, in opposition to CPA Australia and CA ANZ’s rejection of the exemption, IPA chief executive Andrew Conway told SMSF Adviser the three bodies would now be looking at the best advice model to bring to government as a replacement for the current limited licensing scheme.

“The other bodies are engaging with their members around the broader regulatory burden — we have already been on that bandwagon and got our suggested model which is member-led — and our technical teams are working collaboratively to develop a paper,” Mr Conway said.

“We expect to be presenting government with options for reform within calendar year 2020, because the next step for us is direct engagement with one voice of the 270,000 accountants in Australia rather than body by body.”

Mr Conway said while it was understandable accountants still desired the return of the old exemption as they had not yet seen full details of the new proposal, the industry needed to concede that the previous exemption had been too limited to be workable.

“What we are saying is there is a bigger piece to work on here, which is, what does an accountant need to meet the needs of their clients?” he said.

“The core pieces of the accountants’ exemption were SMSF establishment and wind-up, but there is so much more that accountants should be able to provide advice on and we need a consultation process to understand that more.”

BGL managing director Ron Lesh — whose firm had also recently surveyed accountants and found 60 per cent said the current licensing system was “poor, expensive and overly onerous” — said the software provider was still in favour of a return of the original exemption but would also support a broader one in line with the joint bodies’ forthcoming proposal.

“I too would like to see a more wide-ranging exemption under the responsibility of the TPB, but I would see the accountants’ exemption or something similar as a starting point,” Mr Lesh said.

“The accounting bodies would like a more wide-ranging exemption, and I would support that as well, but support for option B does not mean I do not support option A.”

Industry split on best way forward for SMSF advice
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