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Licence complacency bears risk

Accountants choosing not to act at all in preparation for the licensing regime next year could find themselves in trouble nevertheless, according to a specialist SMSF lawyer.

One of the options for accountants was to do nothing, DBA Lawyers director Dan Butler said on Friday.

“This is not a good option even if an accountant does not obtain a licence,” Butler warned.

“From June 2016, accountants need to ensure that their services will not give rise to any undue risk.

“This may result in curtailing execution-only services to what is clearly not dealing in a financial product.

“A complete review of documentation and communications to clients should also be undertaken to ensure that no financial product advice or financial services are provided as the firm does not have a licence.”

An accountant who did not obtain a licence might want to refer clients to an appropriate licence holder and, in doing so, should issue a written statement that sets out that they did not have a licence and the appropriate disclaimers, as well as any commissions or fees they receive from that referral in accordance with the regulations, he said.

“The interest and feedback gathered from this round of seminars [I have undertaken] has been very insightful,” he said.

“I have been advising a number of accounting firms on the strategy which may best work with their firm and their main options.

“Indeed, quite a number of our accounting firm clients intend to continue to operate without a licence providing the services they have for many years.”

However, he stressed it was quite easy for an accountant to be involved with the dealing of a financial product, for example, where they assisted with the rolling over of super balances from a public offer super fund to an SMSF.

“Also, many accountants now use documentation supply services when setting up, say, a new SMSF that also sets up a bank or cash deposit account,” he said.

“These accountants could be ‘dealing’ in a financial product and would be contravening the Corporations Act unless the accountant is licensed or makes appropriate adjustments to their business operations and provides the appropriate disclosures and disclaimers.

“There are a number of key strategic decisions to make when obtaining a licence or deciding not to have one.”

DBA Network recently prepared an online SMSF Core Course that provides an in-depth learning experience at the user’s own pace.

The course constitutes a significant portion of the RG 146 training towards a limited licence to provide SMSF superannuation advice.

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