While acknowledging that a fully advised population would be realistically impossible, new research by CPA Australia and CoreData has found that just increasing the uptake of professional advice by any amount could deliver significant windfalls to the economy.
Professional advice covered in the report includes accounting, taxation, financial, superannuation, business, and mortgage broking advice.
“If an additional 10 per cent of the population received properly implemented professional advice, the potential contribution to Australia’s economy could be approximately $112.8 billion per year,” said CPA Australia general manager of external affairs Dr Jane Rennie.
However, barriers to seeking advice, including a widely held belief in their own abilities, affordability and a lack of trust, continue to restrict uptake.
The research also found the current regulatory framework does not cater to the average consumer, who is often looking for advice on budgeting and saving, investment decisions, and retirement planning – advice that is governed by different legislation and regulations.
“Consumers and SMEs view professional advice very differently to lawmakers. They expect to see one qualified adviser for a range of taxation, business and financial advice needs. But the regulatory framework isn’t designed for this,” said Dr Rennie.
“Whatever their reasons for not seeking professional advice, our research shows that consumers and SMEs are paying a heavy economic and emotional toll for going it alone, which is ultimately shared by the whole community.”
CPA Australia is now calling for the government to consider simplifying the current complex regulatory frameworks to cater to a true consumer-centric advice model.
It believes a single regulatory regime, together with a single code of conduct – monitored and enforced by one regulator – should be established.
The professional accounting body also believes advisers should be individually registered for the areas of advice they are seeking to provide, reducing conflicts of interest between consumers, advisers and licensees that may arise in the current regulatory context.
“To realise the potential benefits identified in our research, we need to increase the accessibility and affordability of professional advice,” said Dr Rennie.
“This requires a system where consumers and SMEs can seek the advice they want from their chosen professional adviser.”
CPA Australia’s latest report comes after it found that accountants faced over $110,000 in registration and fees in providing holistic advice.
The joint professional accounting bodies — including Chartered Accountants Australia New Zealand, CPA Australia and the Institute of Public Accountants — have also since called on the government to re-examine the current regulatory framework that is preventing accountants from providing holistic advice.
ASIC has also recently commenced a review aimed at investigating the issues preventing the supply of affordable and high-quality personal advice.
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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.