The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has fired another shot over the bows of laggard accountants over their last-minute attempts to become licensed and the legal implications for those who seek to provide unlicensed advice.
The ASIC warning shot is contained in the regulator's overview of licensing and professional registration applications: January to June 2016 released this week in which it has warned that the laggard approach of accountants had placed it under significant pressure.
It reinforced that the ASIC's funding for implementing the limited AFS licensing regime ended on 30 June 2016 but that the regulator now had a significant number of outstanding limited AFS licence applications to assess as part of our standard operational budget.
"Consequently, our workload in dealing with these applications has increased substantially, meaning that there will be a significant delay before they can all be assessed," ASIC said. "Given the volume of limited AFS licence applications still on hand, and the fact that many applications do not generally include all the information we require, we expect that we will need to request further information or clarification to complete our assessment."
ASIC said its aim was to complete the work for all applications lodged before 30 June 2016 by the end of March 2017 but added that it was hard to predict when it would complete all the assessments.
"We have been clear in our communications about the need for accountants not to leave their licence applications until the end of the three-year transition period, and we were supported in this communication by the professional accounting bodies," it said. "This current backlog is also affecting the level of service we can provide in the near term to other licence and professional registration applicants."
ASIC also renewed its warning to accountants to refrain from providing advice unless they were appropriately licensed.
"Any accountant who does not hold an AFS licence, limited AFS licence, or an appropriate authorisation from an AFS licensee or limited AFS licensee, must not provide advice in relation to the acquisition or disposal of an interest in an SMSF, or provide any other financial service," it said. "Providing unlicensed financial services is a criminal offence. If we become aware of accountants providing unlicensed advice, we may take regulatory action."