ASIC issues guidance for accountants providing SMSF services

ASIC has issued an information sheet for accountants providing services to SMSFs, setting out the different types of services and the potential licensing requirements and exemptions.

Information Sheet 216 AFS licensing requirements for accountants who provide SMSF services (INFO 216) covers how the Australian Financial Services (AFS) licensing regime applies to SMSF services provided by accountants. It sets out the various SMSF services an accountant might provide and whether a licensing exemption applies to them or whether an accountant must be covered by an AFS licence for those services,” said ASIC.

“ASICs primary role in relation to SMSFs is to regulate the gatekeepers – the accountants, financial advisers and SMSF auditors,” said ASIC Deputy Chairman, Peter Kell.

“We think that accountants and financial advisers have a critically important role to ensure that only those investors for whom an SMSF is suitable go into the SMSF sector and, in doing so are fully informed,” he said.

ASIC says that SMSF services provided by accountants usually fall into one of three categories: ‘traditional’ accounting services, financial product advice relating to SMSFs and exempt SMSF financial services.

“Generally, the exemptions will apply if the financial service happens to be an integral part of or incidental to another type of service typically provided by an accountant – that is, you would reasonably need to provide the exempt SMSF financial service in order to carry out your normal accounting practice,” says the regulator, in INFO 2016.

“However, it is important to be aware of the limits of any exemption you rely on. Even if you rely on an exemption to provide one type of SMSF service, if you also provide financial product advice recommending an SMSF or particular investments through the SMSF at the same time, this advice will trigger the requirement to be covered by an AFS licence. Operating under an exemption does not remove the requirement to be covered by a licence for other types of financial service.”

ASIC also says that accountants can provide “advice on establishing, operating, structuring and valuing an SMSF” and “advice that is for the sole purpose of, and only to the extent reasonably necessary for, ensuring compliance with superannuation legislation” without a licence. Though there are restrictions and limits around these exemptions, as discussed in the information sheet.

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