The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) advises that every taxpayer has the right to arrange their financial affairs so that they pay minimum tax. This is the process of tax planning and is quite legal provided the measures taken are legitimate and within the intent of the law. Tax avoidance schemes, however, are outside the tax laws and will attract the attention of the ATO, possibly incurring paying back taxes and penalties.
For any accountant working in the area of tax planning, there are a few attributes they need to ensure that they are acting in the best interests of their clients while also working within the law. Every year brings changes to the tax rules and regulations, so one of the best habits an accountant can have is to keep up to date, so they are always giving their clients accurate information.
Among the benefits of being members of relevant professional organisations is access to such information, as well as conferences and regular training programs to keep members current. It is a good habit to also set up a regular schedule to check taxpayer alerts and product rulings issued by the ATO. This helps the accountant to be aware of any issues their clients may raise or even become involved in, so they can offer advice and exercise caution.
This all becomes even more important for accounting firms that are managing the administration of self-managed superannuation funds (SMSF). These funds are regulated by the ATO to ensure that the retirement benefits of the members are being effectively managed. This requires a heightened level of compliance that trustees find difficult to manage themselves, particularly given the penalties for non-compliance with statutory requirements.
Companies such as SMSF Assure employ accountants to establish and manage the complex administration systems needed to create, process and securely store the SMSF information of their clients. This requires people with habits like being organised, using sound decision-making techniques, prioritising forward planning, time management and regularly checking and verifying management reports.
Accountants working in the SMSF area are supervising tasks such as maintaining individual member records and accounts, investment records, preparing PAYG payment summaries where applicable, collecting and facilitating dividend payments and monitoring cash balances to ensure the SMSFs can meet obligations.
These are just some of the responsibilities that, along with verifying transaction reconciliations throughout the year and maintaining a diverse investment register, are just as important to the fund trustees as tax planning.