Accountants should be prepared to be scrutinised by ASIC this year as to whether they are complying with their SMSF licence status, according to a financial services lawyer.
Surveillance on newly licensed accountants imminent
Speaking to Accountants Daily, Holley Nethercote partner David Court said six months after the new SMSF licensing regime came into effect, accountants must ensure they are operating within the boundaries of their licence.
“The first issue for accountants is working out your current licensing status,” Mr Court said.
“If you're continuing to do SMSF work, A) do you have a licence?; B) have you become a representative of someone else?; or C) are you still waiting for your licence to come out from ASIC, in which case you are technically unlicensed and you shouldn't be doing any of that work at all?”
The second issue for accountants is making sure they comply with the regulations around the licence, according to Mr Court.
“If you are licensed, you need to remember that it doesn't give you carte blanche to do whatever you want,” he said.
“The licence is called a limited licence, and it’s called that because you do have limitations on what you can do under that licence, so that's also an issue of making sure that, if you are licensed, of staying on the rails and keeping things where they should be.”
Mr Court said the overriding message is that ASIC may well be using various surveillance techniques to monitor and check whether accountants are working within their boundaries.
“ASIC has publicly stated that they will be looking at accountants both in the licensed space and in the unlicensed space,” Mr Court said.
“ASIC sometimes does what are called 'shadow-shopping arrangements', where they send people in to act as your customers and they'll go in and ask to set up an SMSF or something and then see how the whole thing goes. So it'll be interesting to see whether ASIC does an exercise like that this year.”
“So accountants should be aware that ASIC might be onto them without them knowing about it.”