The SMSF Association has called on the government to extend access to the ATO portal to financial advisers, who are the only licensed professionals able to provide SMSF advice.
Financial advisers lobby for access to tax portals
In a Supplementary Budget submission, the SMSF Association noted that, currently, only registered tax agents, who are typically accountants, are able to access the ATO portal to obtain total superannuation balance and transfer balance cap information.
“Ironically, these advisers are generally not able to provide SMSF advice as they are not licensed or authorised with ASIC. Incongruously, those licensed advisers who have the ability to provide SMSF advice such as a financial adviser have no reasonable way of sourcing ATO portal information directly from the ATO as they are not, generally, the member’s personal tax agent,” the submission explained.
The SMSF Association pointed out in the submission that there is a fundamental lack of information for SMSF advisers who need to provide timely advice based on complex caps, thresholds and balances.
“Accountants are able to obtain information but cannot provide advice, and financial advisers are unable to obtain information but are the advisers authorised to provide advice. This jeopardises the quality and efficiency of advice that is being provided to members,” the submission explained.
“Even advisers who are registered with the TPB as a tax (financial) adviser are restricted from this access.”
Without direct access to this information, the submission said that SMSF advisers and administrators must rely on clients accessing the information through their myGov account, downloading the information and then sending it to their adviser.
“Some advisers have been forced to send in written requests signed by the taxpayer and wait upwards of six weeks for a written reply. This is hardly conducive to giving timely and affordable SMSF advice,” the submission stated.
The submission noted that ATO deputy commissioner James O’Halloran previously acknowledged that one of the frustrating aspects for professionals dealing with transfer balance cap reporting or excess TBC determinations was the difficulty in accessing information about a client’s transfer balance cap.
For example, advisers are unable to see the information the ATO has relied on when determining their client has exceeded their TBC, the submission explained.
“SMSF administrators and software providers are also locked out of this data and do not have efficient ways of accessing it. The majority of SMSFs are administered with the assistance of purpose-built software. If these providers could access relevant ATO application programming interfaces (APIs) (subject to privacy protection and formal authorisations) for all client members, it would provide the only source of officially consolidated member information across all superannuation funds available,” it stated.
“This vital information would enable SMSF service providers to protect the integrity of the superannuation system in general, and the SMSF sector in particular, by minimising the potential for errors in both reporting and action.”
The submission acknowledged that this may incur cost for the ATO and require more resources to implement.
“However, we believe it is imperative that access is opened to SMSF advisers. We recommend individuals who are registered with the TPB as a tax (financial) adviser and the fund’s appointed SMSF administrator should be provided access to ATO portals for the purposes of SMSF advice on an individual and group level,” it said.
The submission has also outlined a number of other areas where red tape can be reduced in regard to making advice more accessible and affordable.
SMSF Association chief executive John Maroney said the limited licence framework, which was implemented for accountants in 2016, has failed and should be removed and transitioned to a new consumer-centric framework.
“Individuals have unmet financial advice needs, financial advisers face high regulatory costs, and both accountants and financial advisers are strangled by regulation,” Mr Maroney said.
“Currently, SMSF trustees who wish to seek simple SMSF advice are either required to seek formal costly financial advice from a licensed financial adviser or must act without advice. This means there are important unmet SMSF advice needs in the market.”
Mr Maroney said the association believes the ability for professionals to provide specific single-issue advice or “scaled advice” is extremely limited and this limitation particularly affects super advice.
“The complex limited licence framework for SMSF accountants and advisers, the carve-out for intra-fund advice for superannuation trustees and the lack of clarity around scaled advice for fully licensed financial advisers are all evidence of this fact,” he said.