New 'ground breaking' standard released for accountants

A new accounting standard from the Accounting Professional and Ethical Standards Board allows accountants, in some cases, to breach confidentiality if they uncover or suspect illegal acts during the course of their work.

Yesterday, the Accounting Professional and Ethical Standards Board (APESB) issued a new standard, Responding to Non-Compliance with Laws and Regulations (NOCLAR), which will come into effect on 1 January 2018.

The new standard requires accountants to consider their obligations if they uncover or suspect illegal acts such as fraud, corruption, bribery or money laundering, and permits them to set aside the principle of confidentiality where illegal acts are suspected.

“This standard encourages professional accountants to speak up where they discover laws and regulations are not being adhered to – and identifies a process to go through enabling accountants to raise concerns appropriately without breaching other professional and ethical standards,” said Nicola Roxon, chair of the APESB.

“It is feared that, in the past, identifying potential illegal acts and raising the alarm did not always prevail over confidentiality and other obligations to a client or employer.”

Accountants will need to update their systems to comply with the standard before 1 January 2018, with the APESB encouraging firms and accountants to adopt this standard earlier where possible to meet international best practice.

The new standard will be incorporated into the Australian Code APES 110 Code of Ethics for Professional Accountants (APES 110) which will also incorporate minor changes to the provision of non-assurance services.


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