Still confusion over accountants’ licence: Treasury

Treasury has moved to clarify several issues around the accountants’ licence replacing the self-managed super fund (SMSF) exemption, saying there still seems to be widespread confusion about some aspects of how it will work.

Addressing the SMSF Professionals’ Association of Australia conference in Melbourne, Bede Fraser, acting adviser with the shared services project at the Department of the Treasury, stressed there will be transitional arrangements in place for three years from the 1 July 2013 implementation during which the existing exemption will still apply.

“One of the reforms we’ve adopted is if a licensee doesn’t handle client monies, they can supply an annual compliance certificate rather than an annual audit of financial statements,” Fraser said.

This will mean significant cost savings for practitioners, he added.

The new full licensing regime will ensure accountants are subject to conducting business with clients under Future of Financial Advice provisions, such as the best interests duty.

The regime should also provide additional protection to providers and establish a level playing field for advice providers so that they operate under the same framework, Fraser said.

“There will also be benefits to advisers themselves: the limited licensees will be able to provide a range of services that they can’t under the current accountants’ exemption [and] there will be lower compliance costs if they don’t handle client money,” he added.

There will also be improved outcomes for investors in terms of greater protections and greater access to advice, Fraser said.

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