The federal government must allow accountants to play a more significant role in the provision of financial advice and should look to the SMSF sector as to the areas in which this move could make a significant difference, the head of the premier industry body has said.
Speaking at the Institute of Public Accountants National Congress 2023 in Sydney on Friday last week, SMSF Association chief executive Peter Burgess told delegates: “I think a good example [of the role accountants can play in providing financial advice] is in relation to self-managed super funds. If you think about tax planning, if you think about advice that accountants provide to small business owners and business restructuring, SMSFs feature very prominently in those discussions.
“It makes no sense to us why accountants can give advice on a range of tax structures, but when it comes to self-managed super funds, they can’t give that advice.”
Burgess pointed out the broadening of the role accountants can play in providing financial advice needs to be assessed without the constraint of traditional boundaries.
“This is not about allowing unlicensed accountants to give comprehensive financial advice and investment advice; it’s about allowing them to do more in terms of tax advice around financial products in a limited set of circumstances with the appropriate qualifications,” he noted.
According to Burgess, a solution to providing more Australians with affordable financial advice hinges on establishing a level playing field for both financial planners and accountants.
“We need a level playing field [and] it is something that for the best part of two decades this industry has not been able to achieve,” he said.
Further, he reiterated the SMSF Association’s disappointment the Quality of Advice Review did not examine this issue even though it was in the exercise’s terms of reference.
“We think that’s a missed opportunity. We are talking about potentially what more employees of super funds can do to in terms of giving some kinds of limited advice, but we’re not talking about accountants,” he noted.
“[But] if we’re serious about bridging this advice gap and addressing [the many Australians who] are going to need advice, then surely we’ve got to think about the role accountants can play in bridging that gap.”