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Accountants granted temporary AFSL exemption

Business

Accountants without a financial services licence will now be able to provide advice to clients on accessing superannuation early as ASIC rolls out temporary measures in response to COVID-19.

By Jotham Lian4 minute read
ASIC

The corporate regulator will today allow registered tax agents to give advice to existing clients about early access to superannuation without needing to hold an Australian financial services (AFS) licence.

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The move comes after over 617,000 Australians registered their interest to the government’s early access to super measure, which would allow retrenched workers and those whose working hours have been reduced by 20 per cent or more to access up to $20,000 of their super.

The first $10,000 will be available from 20 April until 30 June 2020, with a further $10,000 available between 1 July and 24 September 2020.

ASIC’s temporary relief for tax agents will be subject to a number of conditions, including capping the advice fee to $300 and establishing that the client is entitled to the early release.

Clients must also be provided with a record of advice (ROA) and must have approached the advice provider for the advice.

As part of the relief instrument, ASIC will also allow advice providers not to give a statement of advice (SOA) to clients when providing advice about early access to superannuation.

The corporate regulator has yet to reveal an end date for the measure, but it noted that it will provide 30 days of notice to the industry before revoking the relief instrument.

“The decision to access superannuation early is significant, and many Australians will seek assistance from superannuation funds, financial advisers and registered tax agents before deciding whether to access the early release scheme,” ASIC said. 

“ASIC will conduct surveillance activities to monitor the advice provided under this relief to ensure that advisers, registered tax agents and superannuation trustees are acting in the interests of their clients and members.”

The corporate regulator’s relief instrument comes after combined lobbying by the joint accounting bodies as well as the Financial Planning Association of Australia and the SMSF Association.

“We have come together and collectively worked with ASIC to help the Australian community and to ensure there are more skilled advisers in the marketplace to address this demand,” the joint bodies said.

“This move has removed significant red tape and ensured a simple, streamlined process is in place so those facing financial hardship during this time get the right advice.”

Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand’s Simon Grant said ASIC’s decision was an “excellent extension for clients”.

“As trusted advisers, accountants are well placed to provide individuals with advice and many already have an existing relationship with their accountant,” Mr Grant said.

Likewise, the Institute of Public Accountants chief executive Andrew Conway said the relief was needed in a time where Australians required financial advice more than ever.

“Decisions around superannuation are critical to quality of life. For this reason, a decision to access superannuation early should be based on advice that is easily accessible,” he said.

CPA Australia chief executive Andrew Hunter said that these unprecedented times called for a pragmatic approach to regulation and a commitment from the associations to work together in the public interest.

“Over 600,000 people have registered their interest in accessing their super early, so there is great need for support. It’s important that these people and others also considering their options can access professional advice,” Mr Hunter said.

Accountants granted temporary AFSL exemption
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Jotham Lian

Jotham Lian

AUTHOR

Jotham Lian is the editor of Accountants Daily, the leading source of breaking news, analysis and insight for Australian accounting professionals.

Before joining the team in 2017, Jotham wrote for a range of national mastheads including the Sydney Morning Herald, and Channel NewsAsia.

You can email Jotham at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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