Despite substantial lobby efforts by the SMSF industry, one of the major accounting bodies says a reinstatement of the accountants’ exemption is unlikely to happen based on meetings with ministers and ASIC.
Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CA ANZ) tax leader Michael Croker said CA ANZ has been contacted by members asking if the accountants’ exemption, which permitted accountants to provide basic SMSF services without requiring an AFSL, could be reinstated.
“We have taken soundings at the ministerial level and from our committees. We have also spoken to CPA [about this],” Mr Croker said at the CA ANZ National SMSF Conference.
“We don’t see that coming, but we do see it as an opportunity to claw back some territory in terms of pitching you and your skills as the foundation stone of a good, trusted relationship, which is something that accountants have always put forward as their strongest ace in the pack.”
Accountants IQ director Bronny Speed said CA ANZ has also discussed the issue in meetings with ASIC.
“CPA and CA ANZ meet every quarter with ASIC. At the last I attended, I tried to make it quite clear to ASIC that I thought the pendulum had swung a bit too far and that some of our members find it quite hard to be commercial and do the right thing by clients with all these other bits and pieces they’ve got to do now,” she said.
“ASIC didn’t exactly jump over the table and say ‘no problem that’ll be fine we’ll bring the accountants’ exemption back to what it was’. I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
The licensing regime, which replaced the accountants’ exemption, has created a number of hurdles for SMSF accountants, prompting groups such as SMSF software firm BGL and the Institute of Public Accountants pushing the government to restore the exemption.
The Institute of Public Accountants had previously arranged to meet with the Minister for Revenue and Financial Services Kelly O’Dwyer to discuss a possible reinstatement of the exemption, before Ms O’Dwyer was removed from the portfolio.
SMSF Adviser understands the IPA has since met with new Assistant Treasurer Stuart Robert on matters impacting IPA members.
While Mr Croker said the exemption is unlikely to be reinstated, the focus of the Hayne royal commission on commissions and remuneration could at least see some advantages for accountants who have embraced the fee for service over advisers using the commission model.
“I think there will be something coming from commissioner Hayne about remuneration and commissions and I think those of you who have embraced the fee for service model are on a winner,” he said.
“Fee for service obviously isn’t a magic wand, but it is a stronger card to play than the commission model.”
By Miranda Brownlee
19 September 2018