Nationwide e-document model should be kept

electronic documents

The nationwide approach to the electronic execution of documents should be retained, but state-based irregularities must be removed to avoid confusion.

The electronic execution of documents, which includes SMSF trust deeds, should continue nationwide after the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, but will need greater consistency across different state jurisdictions, the Law Council of Australia (LCA) has recommended.

Addressing the Senate Select Committee on Financial Technology and Regulatory Technology, LCA president Pauline Wright said temporary measures, introduced by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on 5 May to deal with COVID-19, should remain in place.

“In the Law Council’s view, these reforms should be maintained post the COVID-19 response measures, with the necessary safeguards in place,” Wright said, adding harmonisation was required across Australia to make the move more effective.

She said the pandemic had altered the economic and financial environment in Australia while having a significant affect on technology use in the financial, regulatory and legal sectors, but more work was needed to improve the use of electronic execution.

“Improving the ability to undertake the witnessing and signing of crucial documents, as well as filing or registering documents with governmental and regulatory agencies electronically, should be the priority of any reform process.

“The Law Council asks that the committee consider the possibility of harmonising, where appropriate, processes for e-signatures and similar activities nationally,” she added, noting inconsistencies between jurisdictions had created uncertainty among legal practitioners.

The call was supported by the SMSF Association, with deputy chief executive and director of policy and education Peter Burgess saying there was value in continuing to have a national approach to the electronic execution of documents.

“It makes sense and continues a trend we saw before the pandemic and lockdown that has since accelerated,” Burgess said.

“We would also like to see some consistency across the states so there is no confusion about what can be signed, witnessed, executed or sent electronically.”

He said the move to electronic documents has been useful for the association’s members and has tied into efforts from the ATO to allow SMSFs to file financial statements electronically.

Legal firm Townsends Business & Corporate Lawyers said the Treasurer’s determination had made state-based rules around the electronic execution of a document irrelevant for the six-month period in which the measures were to be in place.

Copyright © SMS Magazine 2024

ABN 43 564 725 109

Benchmark Media

Site design Red Cloud Digital