The latest COVID outbreak is slowing down SMSF audit processes and creating chaos for SMSF firms, with some clients unable to respond to queries and provide vital information, says an SMSF audit firm.

 Aquila Super partner Chris Levy said that while the SMSF industry has gone through outbreaks of COVID several times before and now has better IT infrastructure and processes in place, the latest wave of COVID is having a substantial impact on SMSF audits and the profession generally.

“Instead of just dealing with a lockdown as we did last year, we now have many firms with infected staff, clients unable to respond to queries as they can’t obtain info for whatever reason,” said Mr Levy.

“A typical example are the property valuations that the ATO have pushed very strongly for SMSFs – the latest outbreak has created chaos with this requirement.”

In a recent SMSF Adviser Show podcast, Mr Levy said the latest outbreak has slowed down the whole audit process, with trustee responses to audit issues falling outside of the prescribed time frames more than usual.

“More problematic is that there are situations where trustees simply can’t get the information. We might need some additional information or a valuation and they’re saying that they don’t want to deal with strangers [because they’re] a 75-year-old with a heart condition or immunocompromised, and they don’t want to compromise their health,” he said.

“So you have a theoretical model of how an audit should go coming up to these health issues that are being experienced by trustees or the organisations that they use.”

Organisations themselves, he said, are also getting swamped with requests and sometimes can’t provide information.

“The accountants themselves are also struggling on a range of different fronts, so the whole process is being slowed down, so we’re not getting the streamlined audits that we’re used to being able to do. It’s not always the case, but there are a significant portion of audits that are running into these problems,” he explained.

Mr Levy said most SMSF auditors would be as reasonable as they can given the circumstances, but on the odd occasion where the information is vital, it may result in a Part A breach where they can’t find information to support the figures in financial statements.

“More commonly, you have to work your way around it, come up with solutions but we are having to spend a lot more time having to solve those issues though,” he said.

“We’re still a couple of months from the deadline. As we get closer to the deadline, I think the dangers and problems will really come to the fore.”

Aquila Super