It's trust account audit time! - Real estate industry bulletin 263
16 January 2023
It's trust account audit time!
January is the perfect time to start preparing and referring last year’s trust account information to your auditor so the 2022 audit report can be completed by the end of March as required.
Do I need to be audited?
The law requires all individuals, bodies corporate or firms (partnerships) that held current triennial certificates in 2022 to have their trust accounts audited by a qualified auditor.
Your trust account/s will need to be audited if, from 1 January 2022 to 31 December 2022:
- You or your company or partnership held a current triennial certificate; and
- Your business held or received any monies in trust, regardless of the length of time.
Who is responsible?
It is the responsibility of the agent to cause the trust accounts to be audited. This means it is the responsibility of the agent to provide the auditor with all relevant documents and information when required to do so by the auditor. This will allow the auditor to prepare the audit report on time.
It is then the responsibility of the auditor to provide the Commissioner with a report on the result of the audit by 31 March.
If you fail to provide the auditor with all of the necessary materials when required to do so by the auditor, the Commissioner may consider you to have failed to cause the audit of the trust accounts and be subject to enforcement action.
When don’t I have to be audited?
If you, your company or partnership did not hold or receive monies in trust at any time during the 2022 year, you can meet your audit obligations by completing and submitting a Declaration of no receipt of trust funds (declaration) in place of an audit report.
If you held the role of the agent in bona fide control, branch manager, licensed director, or partner for another licensed trading entity, you may not be required to submit an audit or statutory declaration for your individual licence. This applies if you held the role for the full audit period from 1 January 2022 to 31 December 2022.
Deadline is in March
Your auditor must lodge the annual audit report or declaration for the calendar year ending 31 December 2022 with the Commissioner by 5pm on 31 March 2023.
Any applicable declarations must also be lodged prior to 31 March 2023.
Agents and auditors are encouraged to submit audit reports and declarations via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
An auditor can request extra time to lodge an audit report. The written request must outline the exceptional circumstances why extra time is needed, confirm the auditor has access to the trust account records, and state the date the completed report will be provided. The request must be lodged and approved by the Commissioner prior to the 31 March deadline.
If an audit report or declaration is not lodged with the Commissioner by 1 April 2023, where no extension has been approved, the matter will be investigated and appropriate enforcement actions may be taken, including issuing infringement notices or even prosecution action.
Reminders for agents
You should remember to:
- Disclose all trust accounts, including interest bearing trust accounts, to your auditor.
- Provide the auditor with all records relating to discrepancies in trust accounts, regardless of how the error occurred or whether we have already been notified.
- Ensure the address provided in any statutory declaration is your current address.
- Only submit a statutory declaration of no funds held if you did not hold or receive any money for or on behalf of others during the audit period.
Reminders for auditors
- Disclose all trust accounts, including interest bearing trust accounts, in Annexure A with the proper titling as per the bank records. This includes any accounts closed during the audit year.
- List all interest bearing trust accounts separately in Annexure A with the proper titling as per the bank records.
- Ensure the correct titling of trust accounts as described in Regulation 6 of the Real Estate and Business Agents (General) Regulations 1979.
- Ensure the entity name and business name are correct on all documents within the audit report including statutory declarations.
- Check the agent’s business name is registered with Australian Securities and Investments Commission.
- Check the agent’s address is correct.
- Confirm witnesses to statutory declarations are authorised persons, with full name and qualification listed.
- Disclose all instances of discrepancies associated with trust accounts including errors made by financial institutions or the agent.
- Make a note of any trust account matters for communication to the Commissioner in the statutory declaration, and attach a management letter detailing these matters. If a management letter is not required, please do not mention it in the cover letter.
- Have all parties complete and sign the Change of Auditor Request Form if there has been a change of auditor since the last audit.
- Ensure the audit report is complete with no missing pages and that the statutory declarations by the agent and auditor are included.
Our publication, A guide to auditing trust accounts: Real estate agents, business agents and settlement agents and business settlement agents, contains more auditing information.
The Real estate and business agents’ trust account handbook contains information to help you understand your trust accounting obligations.
You can contact the audits team by email at email@example.com or by telephone on (08) 6552 9538 if you have any queries in relation to the audit process.