Crackdown on unqualified tax advice draws closer

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The government is slowly closing in on financial planners who provide unqualified tax advice.

The Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation Bill Shorten met with the Tax Practitioners Board, ASIC and representatives of the financial planning industry yesterday and agreed to a broad set of principles that will be used to develop regulatory arrangements for financial planners who provide tax advice within the context of providing financial advice.

Shorten also announced that the government would hold off on implementing a new tax advice regulatory regime for financial planners until 30 June 2012 as it works out the details with industry.

A transitional framework would operate from 1 July 2012 that enables financial planners to be eligible for a simple initial registration period of three years. This period can be used to attain competencies to deliver quality tax advice as part of financial planning advice.

 “For consumers, this means they can expect to receive quality financial advice planning services that include competent advice on related tax issues,” Shorten said.

The Institute of Chartered Accountants has been lobbying the government to crack down on financial planners who provide unqualified tax advice for several years.

A survey commissioned by the institute in 2004 indicated that unqualified and illegal advice has resulted in tax bills as high as $250,000. The institute indicated financial planners and real estate agents were the worst offenders.

The new regulatory changes will require financial planners to register through ASIC with the Tax Practitioners Board to provide tax advice within the context of providing financial advice, and a public register will be created.

The level of services that can be provided by financial planners will be determined by their registration type.

Planners will also be required to abide by tax specific obligations that currently apply to registered tax agents. These obligations come under a code of conduct to ensure services meet appropriate professional and ethical standards.

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