Craig Stone is an Associate in Accounting & Business Advisory services and responsible for the management of superannuation services at Hood Sweeney. With over 16 years' experience, his intimate knowledge of self- managed superannuation funds and their legislative requirements, Craig ensures the professional provision of dedicated services to clients.
We had the pleasure of sitting down with Craig recently to discuss key challenges and opportunities facing the industry today. You can read the full Q&A below.
How would you briefly describe the current regulatory climate for SMSFs? Do regulators seem to be more active in more areas?
The regulatory climate for SMSFs provide a positive influence on the industry with the Royal Commission underway and various banks, insurance and superannuation providers under the spotlight. Clients will benefit from the revelation of the costs and benefits of the advice provided, and not ‘pushed’ into products or arrangements that only favour the adviser.
The Royal Commission structures that are coming to light are in focus and will no doubt be reviewed as clients see the clear link between the products that they are told to invest in, and the remuneration that their adviser receives. ‘Fee for service’ has been confirmed in many ways as preferred. The Commission is lifting the lid on some of the long standing arrangements that might not be ‘best practice’ or in the best interest of the clients.
What are some of the issues attracting the ATO’s attention?
The ATO has been focused on smaller balance SMSF setups, which I agree don’t seem to be in the client’s best interests. Some of the firms are also including ‘advice’ relating to LRBAs, which sees the cost / benefit analysis steered away from the client and towards the adviser.
What sort of things should accountants consider when creating policies and processes to avoid SMSF reporting issues before they even arise?
Firms that are ‘daily processing’ are keeping up with client transactions as and when they occur and can be ‘cut off at the pass’. Also, the more regular ATO reporting requirements are influencing software companies that are refining their policies and processes, to (hopefully) ensure there are fewer SMSF reporting issues down the track.
When the ATO comes knocking, what’s one key consideration to keep in mind?
Be responsive and communicative. Don't bury your head in the sand and hope it goes away. Consider completing each file with an ATO review/audit in mind, so you are ready should be an audit. Also consider using an external SMSF auditor to further ensure client files are in order.
How real is the threat of tough penalties by regulators for violations?
The ATO has been very lenient on SMSF Trustees in the past with respect to enforcing the new changes to Superannuation laws. To encourage compliance, the ATO needs to have tough penalties for second and third time violators.
What are some of the trends and developments you see ahead in the regulatory enforcement area?
With recent changes by the ATO requiring more regular reporting such as TBAR, Single Touch Payroll and Super Stream, clients are becoming more engaged, enquiring more about their current balances and tracking transactions throughout the year.
Data matching, artificial intelligence and software improvements, will also greatly assist with developing this area further.
With their best interests always at heart, Craig ensures that his clients' superannuation funds remain compliant - a demonstration of his dedication to perfection, ensuring estate planning documentation for clients remains up to date and appropriate to each clients' circumstances, including liaising with various professionals including lawyers and financial planners. Craig is passionate about assisting clients with their superannuation, estate planning and taxation affairs. He aims to improve their situation by minimising tax, simplifying their tax structures and helping them understand the benefits of the strategy that has been developed and implemented on their behalf. Craig is an active participant in various community organisations and he takes pride in sharing his expertise by past lecturing at the Taxation Institute of Australia.