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SMSF accounting advice falls short: panel

Two people at a desk.

A consumer panel criticises the quality of SMSF advice they received from accountants.

A panel of consumers has criticised the quality of advice they received from the accounting community with regard to establishing an SMSF, as well as the assistance given in running this type of fund.

Speaking at the 2018 Accounting Business Expo in Sydney last week, defence force member Anthony White said his experience when looking to set up an SMSF was unsatisfactory because the accountant failed to communicate with him properly.

“When it comes to accountancy, it’s a lot of jargon and I don’t understand it and I doubt many people do unless they’ve studied it,” White said.

He did admit he was happy with the practitioner’s analytical skills, but in the end did not establish an SMSF.

Fellow panellist and financial services employee Chantal Robertson concurred with White that accountants need to use clearer and easier-to-understand language during conversations about SMSFs.

“Certainly I can vouch that my husband felt [the advice given] was completely in jargon. I must admit I have an understanding of some of the terminology so I was obviously more comfortable, but certainly after every meeting that we had with the accountant I would have to give a debrief to my husband about what it actually meant,” Robertson said.

“Certainly Joe Bloggs off the street would need it to be changed to language which is more appropriate.”

Unlike White, Robertson did establish an SMSF, but remained dissatisfied with the standard of advice the accountant provided afterwards.

“We really need [advice that would give us] more of a long-term view. The solution of setting up an SMSF and investing in property seemed like a very quick-fix solution. In truth we probably needed to understand more about what the long-term implications of that was in leaving what is admittedly a very easy set-up-and-forget corporate super fund to become your own trustee. It’s a major undertaking,” she said.

Assisting clients in gaining a better understanding of the paperwork involved in setting up and running an SMSF was another area of service Robertson thought accountants needed to improve.

“I felt every time we received a document we were assured we’d only require a signature, but I didn’t feel that was a sufficient amount of advice and I felt as though I had to read all of the documents to ensure that I wasn’t signing something that I shouldn’t be and that I fully understood exactly what I was signing,” she said.

She did not end up buying property once her corporate super fund benefits were rolled over into her SMSF and again she cited a lack of advice being part of the reason.

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