So, you’re an accountant or a financial adviser and a client has come to you with documents that need to be witnessed or certified. Legally, can you do it?

Legislation

In Victoria, there is legislation which sets out who is permitted to witness certain documents, and who can certify copies of documents.

The right to witness and/or certify documents is contained in the following legislation:

  • Oaths and Affirmations Act 2018 (the Act); and
  • Oaths and Affirmations (Affidavits, Statutory Declarations and Certifications) Regulations 2019 (the Regulations).

Bit of a mouthful, aren’t they? To make things a little easier for you, we’ve set out summary of what documents you can witness, and how you go about doing it.

Affidavits

Unfortunately, the Act and Regulations do not permit accountants or financial advisers to witness affidavits based solely on being an accountant or financial adviser.

However, if you’re fortunate enough to be an accountant or financial adviser who is also a:

  • legal practitioner; or
  • public service employee (level 4 or equivalent or above); or
  • member or former member of either House of the Parliament of Victoria or the Commonwealth; or
  • Notary Public;

then you can witness an affidavit.

Statutory Declarations

The list of people who can witness statutory declarations is a lot more extensive than the list of people who can witness affidavits.

Section 30 of the Act sets out who can witness statutory declarations in Victoria and guess what? You’re in luck!

You are permitted to witness statutory declarations if you are:

  • a financial adviser or financial planner who is currently licensed or registered to practice in Australia; or
  • an accountant who meets at least one of the following criteria:
    • a Fellow of the National Tax Accountants’ Association; or
    • a Member of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand; or
    • a Member of the Association of Taxation and Management Accountants; or
    • a Member of CPA Australia; or
    • a Member of the Institute of Public Accountants.

Certified Copies

A certified copy of a document is a copy that is certified as being a true and complete copy of the original document.

The list of people who are permitted to certify copies of documents is the same as the list of people who can witness statutory declarations, so again, you can do this!

How Do I Witness a Statutory Declaration?

The person making the statutory declaration and you, as the witness, must do the following (in the presence of each other):

  • ensure the name and address of the person making the statutory declaration is contained in the statutory declaration;
  • both sign or initial any alternations to the statutory declaration;
  • both sign or initial each page of the statutory declaration;
  • if the statutory declaration refers to a document attached, you must sign a certificate attached to the document identifying the document as an exhibit to the statutory declaration;
  • the person making the statutory declaration must sign and date the statutory declaration;
  • the person making the statutory declaration must say “I, (name) of (address) declarethat the contents of this statutory declaration are true and correct.”
  • you must write or stamp your name, address and qualification under the signature of the person making the statutory declaration;

How Do I Certify Documents?

Before certifying a copy of an original document, you must:

  • Inspect the original document to ensure it is an original document;
  • inspect the copy to ensure that it is identical to the original document – ideally you would take a photocopy of the original document yourself, ensuring you copy both the front and back of the document (ie both sides of a drivers licence);
  • write or stamp the first page of the copy document with the words “Certified to be a true copy of the original seen by me.”
  • sign and date the copy;
  • write your full name, address and qualification on the document below your signature.

Questions or concerns?

If you have any questions or concerns about the processes for witnessing or certifying documents, please get in touch with our Senior Associate, Joanne Jenkins.