The Self-Managed Super Fund Professionals’ Association of Australia (SPAA) announced in February, at its National Conference 2010 in Melbourne, the introduction of the  non-mandatory SPAA Self-Managed Super Fund (SMSF) Trustee Education Accreditation Program (TEP). This program will take applications from education providers from April 1, 2010. It is the first program of its kind to allow any education provider to teach SMSF trustees about their roles and responsibilities.

The TEP gives education providers the tools and standards needed  to develop education opportunities, including curriculum guides. It is also the first program of its kind to provide a capacity for SMSF trustees to achieve SPAA Continuing Professional Devel-  opment (CPD) points if they attend the accredited education. The program has been developed over a number  of years and provides standards and guidelines for education providers to develop and deliver appropriate education to SMSF trustees.

SPAA is opposed to any form of  “mandatory” education for SMSF trustees, as raised by the Cooper Review into Superannuation efficiency.

SPAA believes that mandatory training would impose an unnecessary barrier to entry, be discriminatory against the SMSF sector and place members of SMSFs at a disadvantage  when compared to members of APRA-regulated funds.

SPAA draws an analogy between SMSFs and privately owned and operated businesses in Australia where, in the vast majority of cases, there is no requirement for training, education establishing a business.

SPAA believes that the focus of education should be directed to advisers and other service providers who give professional advice and support to SMSF trustees and members. Education providers can use the SPAA Education SMSF Accreditation Program (SAP) accreditation standards to assist in developing and delivering high  quality education to SMSF advisers, targeting in particular the auditor, accountant, lawyer, financial planner, estate planner, administrator and other SMSF service providers.

The SAP for advisers has been available for three years and to date more than 60 education providers have undergone the accreditation program to deliver quality education. The education providers range from universities who are providing education at Master’s degree and undergraduate levels through to corporate providers, vocational education and training (VET) and registered training organisation (RTO) providers. The register also includes individual providers who are recognised as experts  and specialists in the SMSF education arena. As a member of SPAA, you can access the SPAA Education Register to allow you to evaluate your education pathway to achieve excellence and meet  CPD expectations for professional and specialised advice and services.

SPAA recommends that its Trustee Education Program (TEP) be  the basis of a non-mandatory accreditation program for education providers to deliver appropriate education for SMSF trustees. This program has had significant industry consultation  Trustee Education Standards, SMSF Lifecycle Mapping and Curriculum Guidelines.

The TEP program allows SPAA accredited CPD points to be obtained by SMSF trustees who voluntarily attend these training and education programs. SPAA has submitted to the Cooper Review that these CPD points can be acknowledged by the SMSF Auditor in the annual audit process for the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). SPAA recommends consultation to determine if other benefits can be sourced for SMSF trustees that voluntarily seek appropriate education, via the ATO annual audit program.

SPAA has also submitted through the Cooper Review a suggestion to encourage the ATO to remove an SMSF from the requirement for an annual audit review where a trustee has achieved a minimum of 10 SPAA CPD points per annum for at least three years.

SPAA is not averse to the ATO  having the power to impose non-financial educational or other requirements on SMSF trustees where breaches or instances of incompetence  or non-compliance occur. The extent of any such power and the form of the training would need to be developed in consultation with the SMSF sector.

Andrea Slattery is chief executive officer of the Self-Managed Super Funds Professionals’ Association of Australia (SPAA)

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