The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has issued a warning on accountants becoming licensed, with less than five months to go before the new regime commences.
Speaking at the SMSF Association 2016 National Conference in Adelaide today, ASIC commissioner Greg Tanzer was asked what an accountant was going to look like after 30 June this year.
“Up until 1 July 2016 accountants have been able to operate under an exemption from the general [obligations] around their licence if they are giving advice on running or establishing a SMSF,” Tanzer said.
“That exemption is being removed from 1 July.
“That law passed several years ago and there has been a very long transition, and there has been a very extensive consultation with the [industry] associations.”
He warned that any accountant providing SMSF advice had always required a full licence to do so as the exemption only applied to the establishment and wind-up of SMSFs.
“There is currently an opportunity for persons to apply for a limited licence, which has lesser ongoing regulatory requirements,” he said.
“Importantly, if you get your application in or are registered by 30 June this year, there’s some relaxation of the educational requirements.”
But accountants who were yet to apply for a limited licence had to do so immediately, because if their licence was not granted by the end of June and they continued to provide advice, they would be acting illegally, he warned.
There were a number of possible options for those who were yet to be licensed, including becoming authorised under an existing financial services licensee, self-licensing for an extended or full licence, or changing their business model and discontinuing the provision of SMSF establishment advice, he said.
“It doesn’t mean that you can’t keep providing accounting services to an SMSF,” he said.
“You can keep being an accountant for an SMSF, but you cannot advise on establishing an SMSF after 30 June, unless you’re authorised by an existing licensee or if you’ve got your own licence.”
The accountants’ exemption under the Corporations Regulations 2001 has permitted accountants to provide advice on the establishment of SMSFs without the need for an Australian financial services licence.
In April 2010, the government announced it would remove the accountants’ exemption as part of the Future of Financial Advice reforms.