The revised professional standard, APES 310 Client Monies, features significant changes including the recategorisation of existing obligations of members in public practice into three sections, namely general obligations, trust accounts specific obligations, and client bank accounts specific obligations.
In addition to the changes around trust accounts and client bank accounts, the amendments clarify accountants’ obligations for client reporting, providing audit relief in certain circumstances, the process for changing auditors and changes to the auditor’s report.
The revised standard will come into effect on 1 October 2018.
Speaking to Accountants Daily, CPA Australia head of policy, Paul Drum, said that while the revision helped provide clarity over previously ambiguous areas, the revised process for changing an auditor of client monies would increase compliance burdens.
According to APESB, the incoming auditor of client monies is now explicitly required to undertake an engagement acceptance process, with members in public practice required to notify the professional body of the membership details of the new auditor of client monies within 20 business days of the appointment.
“The idea of this change is to discourage members from opinion shopping in respect of the audit of their trust account but the issue is we're not really sure of the practicalities,” said Mr Drum.
“A member is going to have to report to us that they've changed their auditor and the idea is to stop opinion shopping so if a member was doing something illegal that was going to be discovered by the auditor, they might want to change auditors so that the auditor never gets to build a picture over a number of years about what's going on but I think the mere fact that they have to tell us about the change of auditor — I'm not sure how that is going to achieve the objective should that set of circumstances arise.
“Auditors change for a variety of reasons — they might retire, they might die so to set this mechanism in place it is unclear how the objective will be met,” he added.
“It imposes another compliance obligation on not only the member but also the professional association.”