ASIC set to check in on accountants providing advice

Accountants providing SMSF advice have been warned to start “cleaning their books”, as the corporate regulator is set to begin sifting through the databases of firms in the hunt for non-compliance.

ASIC has continually outlined its plans to target non-compliance in the SMSF sector this financial year, with a particular focus on new licensees giving SMSF advice.

Merit Wealth director David Moss says accountants especially should be going through their entire client base and identifying and recording, in the form of file notes, the current advice strategies in place for clients, including concessional and non-concessional contributions and pensions.

“If you’re not going to do it, then I think you’re mad. The future of ASIC and the ATO is trawling through databases of information on accountants and making their lives difficult if they can’t provide the right documentation [on clients],” Mr Moss told a Merit Wealth event in Sydney.

“If [on the other hand], you have all these documents on file and can provide them to ASIC, then they’ll walk away and leave you alone.”

Accountants need to be able to provide file notes on what was said to clients, statements of advice and records proving that a financial services guide and engagement letter was sent, Mr Moss said.

“I don’t care what financial planners have historically been doing, [you need to] focus on what ASIC wants. Make sure you’ve ticked all these boxes,” he added.

“ASIC is going to go through thousands of accountants. ASIC is going to come and talk to a lot of us and if you’ve guaranteed you’ve done this, then they’ll walk away.”

While some firms may be able to enter this information into their systems with individual tax returns and member statements, other firms with substantial numbers of SMSFs will need to export data.

“Depending on which program you use, some of them are easier to pull information out and some of them are not. If you’ve never done it before, you’ll probably need some help,” Mr Moss said.

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