Adviser fee-blocks could be merged in the 2011/12 financial year, with potential cost implications for IFAs.
The FSA says it will consult on whether to merge fee-blocks A12 (arrangers who hold or control client assets such as discretionary managers), A13 (IFAs) and A14 (corporate financial advisers) in the autumn.
It means advisers could potentially pay more than they would normally do in 2011/12 if firms in A12 and A14 are subject to significant FSA activity in the coming financial year.
The FSA says it is continuing to discuss the issue with stakeholders and expects to publish a detailed consultation paper later this year. A spokesman makes clear the merger is in no way " set in stone".
The FSA also accepts merged fee blocks could see higher costs for IFAs, though it says this is only likely to affect a minority of firms.
A simple comparison of the combined costs of fee-blocks A12, A13 and A14 between 2009/10 and 2010/11 shows total costs for IFAs in the next financial year would fall by only 2%, instead of the 8% outlined today.
The idea arose when the FSA consulted on new fee calculation methods late last year, with its main focus on whether to adopt a headcount or income-based method for calculating fees.
However, the latest consultation suggests merging fee blocks could form part of 2011/12's fee regime.
Many firms have complained the current headcount system of regulation is difficult to calculate and has become obsolete.
The FSA first raised the issue in its November 2009 paper, CP09/26, but has yet to reach any firm conclusions on a fairer and more efficient way of calculating intermediaries' fees.
It has proposed moving to an income-based measure for assessing fees, but some firms are concerned this will fail to target those advisers of most concern to the FSA.
On the subject of income-based fees, the FSA says: "It may decrease efficiency and productivity by increasing fees for firms with higher than average ratios of income per AP - firms which, with more to invest in compliance and research, might present lower regulatory risks."
In addition, a number of adviser firms now also offer a wide-range of services, regulated and unregulated, and trade internationally, which would make it difficult to consistently report UK-regulated income.
Each system has its pros and cons, and the regulator says further consultation is needed to come up with a workable solution.
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