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Decision time for accountants

FINANCIAL Services Reform legislation could force many accountants to decide on the direction and structure of their business, a seminar in Perth was told this week.

The Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia seminar was attended by many accountants who were unsure about whether they would need to be licensed under the FSR Act, which takes effect next March.

Accountants who provide financial product advice, as opposed to traditional accounting services, would have to be licensed.

The difficulty comes in defining the boundary between the two activities.

Australian Securities & Investments Commission’s manager financial services regulatory operations WA, Angus Dale-Jones, told the seminar FSR was not designed to “significantly shift the goalposts of what accountants are meant to do”. He suggested accountants who do a lot of work “on the boundary” should think about getting a licence or becoming an authorised representative of a dealer group.

The two main areas of uncertainty relate to business planning advice, including share valuations, and superannuation advice.

A Federal parliamentary committee has recommended that some of the current rules be relaxed to allow accountants to advise clients on superannuation fund structures but not on specific products. The Federal Government is yet to respond to this proposal.

ICAA technical adviser Keith Reilly said evaluating historical data was not covered by FSR, whereas providing an opinion about likely changes to the future value of a business would be covered.

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