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ATO improves auditor support

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has expanded its support services for auditors in line with its growing reliance on the professional group to be the gatekeepers for the SMSF sector.

“We’ve expanded our support to auditors, so for auditors who do over 100 [SMSF] audits a year there is an email inquiry service,” ATO superannuation assistant commissioner Matthew Bambrick said.

“This is our professionals-to-professionals service and if the auditor emails us a question, we’ll answer it within 48 hours.”

The move is in line with the regulator’s increased focus on the SMSF audit function, whereby all audit contravention reports (ACR) will be investigated further and funds risk rated in order to determine the compliance action deemed necessary.

In regard to this subject, Bambrick clarified the increased emphasis on ACRs did not mean any potential compliance breach reported would automatically result in trustees being issued with fines under the ATO’s new penalty regime.

“We’ll investigate before issuing any notices to confirm the contravention was one that required reporting. So it’s not automatic,” he said.

According to the assistant commissioner, the ATO would also be scrutinising low-cost audit providers as part of its compliance action this year.

“If very low-cost audits are being offered, it does make you wonder how they’re able to do it for that kind of cost,” he said.

“There might be good reason, but there might not be.”

Although admitting low-cost audit services would be looked at, he did not specify the pricing point that would constitute an audit being low cost.

He also pointed out action against specific practices to lower audit costs, such as using offshore resources, would be unlikely.

“Policy decisions are for the government to make,” he said.

While more support was being shown to auditors, he said the same would not apply to tax agents even though the rules governing those practitioners were also undergoing significant change.

“Not with the resources we have at the moment,” he explained when asked about the issue.

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