Accountants hoping for a wholesale return of the accountants’ exemption should temper their expectations, with other solutions tabled by industry heavyweights as a workaround for the limited licensing regime.
Industry heavyweights argue case for basic advice exemptions
Speaking at a SMSF Association roundtable discussion, Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CA ANZ) superannuation leader Tony Negline said events in recent times, including the banking royal commission and the Productivity Commission’s review into superannuation, would likely play against the government’s decision to reinstate the accountants’ exemption.
“If you’ve got your eyes open, and you’re even taking a moderate amount of interest in the royal commission, you will know that Canberra’s not in the slightest bit interested in less regulation,” said Mr Negline.
“Stranger things have happened but you’d have to put it in the doubtful column, or the unlikely column.”
Instead, Licensing for Accountants chief executive, Kath Bowler believes the government should allow for a degree of exemption for both accountants and financial planners to provide a basic level of guidance without needing a licence.
“If you’re providing some basic guidance to clients that shouldn’t trigger licensing SOAs, like, don’t have an SMSF when you’ve got $20,000… pay your home loan off – You can’t even tell someone to pay a home loan off and not redirect to super,” said Ms Bowler.
“Something has to be done to allow that base level, so accountants can give basic guidance.”
Likewise, Mr Negline believes there should be a carve out for certain issues.
“Where things probably need to be corrected, is maybe as simple as pensions and contributions,and we would argue establishments as well, and wind ups,” said Mr Negline.
“We have situations where, our SMSF auditors, who do not need a license in any stroke or form, if they might see an SMSF [where] it might be obvious that there’s little money in the fund, there’s only one person in the fund, they’re elderly, whatever it might be – it doesn’t seem to make sense that this fund exists. But they cannot turn around and say we think you should shut this fund up.
“They could possibly suggest it in their management letter that you might want to give consideration to this; you need to go see a financial adviser but they actually cannot say quite frankly, just get out.”
‘Work as a team’
Verante Financial Planning director and chair of the SMSF Association’s NSW Chapter Liam Shorte believes there is an opportunity for accountants and financial planners to start working as a team through a referral network.
“If you have an accountant, and a client comes to him and says ‘I want to do a property in an SMSF,’ and the accountant says, ‘Well, let’s bring in a financial planner to look at this for you’ … it’s an the opportunity for us to start working as a team,” said Mr Shorte.
“It’s not just a case of just picking a partner. It’s doing the research, working with the person long term. I sit in two different accountants’ offices during the week. So that we’re building the relationship, we’re educating their staff because in a lot of cases, it’s not even the accountant that is working with clients, it’s a junior staff member working with the client and they may not even realise that they are giving advice.
“Doctors don’t just refer to any specialist – they work on what’s that specialist’s specific area, what’s his track record, what are his costs? Before they start referring to him.”