At The Tax Institute, we sincerely believe that our economy, our local businesses and the Australian community would have fared far worse during COVID-19 if not for the efforts of dedicated tax practitioners.
So, we’re taking this opportunity to put our members and their colleagues in the tax profession on centre stage, and to say, on behalf of business owners and employees everywhere:
We recently reached out to four of our incredible members who told us their stories of proactive, compassionate work during COVID-19.
Manager, Keays & Associates Chartered Accountants
“The biggest challenge for our clients would be the uncertainty about the future. The impact of COVID-19 on business and the economy was quick and widespread. For many businesses, despite the Coronavirus Economic Responses Package, the impact of COVID-19 was catastrophic.”
As any business owner or tax practitioner knows, Government announcements regarding COVID-19 stimulus measures – in particular JobKeeper – were anything but clear and concise. Rather, the measures were fleshed out in a series of announcements, leading to some uncertainty.
According to Amanda Donald, from Keays & Associates Chartered Accountants, her clients, “were often confused as to the impact of the announcement for them, when it would be implemented and whether the announcement was in place already.”
This left tax advisers to not only analyse and interpret the announcements and the law and regulation that followed, but to communicate them to clients in a relevant and simplified way.
“To take advantage of the Government assistance, businesses need to have the correct advice so they can take the appropriate actions. The implications of not having this correct advice is significant, as there are not only the potential tax planning prospects missed but also substantial cashflow opportunities unutilised.”
For Amanda, COVID-19 has thrown the importance of reliable tax advice into sharp relief.
“The Government’s response to COVID-19, if anything, has emphasised the value of having a trusted tax professional from a consulting perspective, rather than for only compliance use,” she said.
“The use of tax professionals to decipher and assist with applying for the Government assistance, has enabled businesses to focus on daily operations and been a necessary measure to assist in the implementation of these packages.”
“We quite literally worked around the clock to our own personal detriment to ensure we assisted where possible, as quickly as possible. The client feedback we have received has been outstanding and we have been very proud of everything we achieved, whilst maintaining our own isolation working in our home offices.”
When COVID-19 hit, Bellevue Advisors started their client support where it was needed most.
“Initially we reached out to all businesses immediately and obviously impacted, providing them with support and assistance in relation to how they might survive through this period of restriction and closure,” Principal, Lucinda Mills said.
After stimulus packages were announced, they rolled out a laundry list of further assistance, including help with applications for state and federal government assistance, rental assistance, and government grants, and of course, assistance for businesses to assess their eligibility for the JobKeeper scheme, enrol in the program, manage ongoing payroll obligations and keep on top of monthly declarations.
“We found that many clients had no idea of what assistance was available or how to apply. Many clients attempted applications for grants, Jobseeker or JobKeeper themselves and found it impossible to navigate the requirements, calling on us to take over the process for them,” Lucinda said.
With initial uncertainty around eligibility and how the program would be administered, followed by daily updates to complicated eligibility criteria, Lucinda said JobKeeper regulations are “fraught with danger.”
“The enrolment process itself is incredibly easy which leads to the false sense of security for those attempting to navigate this system themselves,” she said.
“The risk is significant, if a client inadvertently enrols due to an incorrect self-assessment, they could find themselves in a far worse situation than they were already in.”
Director, Trove Advisory Group
“The Tax Professionals of Australia needed to invest their time to very quickly learn and understand the various new rules. They can be proud of the assistance they were able to give to clients in need.”
A Friday afternoon phone call may have had a massive impact on many Trove Advisory Group clients.
Director Dudley Elliott told us that, “Right up to the Friday preceding the first April/May JobKeeper registration deadline we were ringing clients to discuss the Decline in Turnover test. There were a significant number who were eligible but thought they wouldn’t be entitled.”
He pointed out that Treasury and the ATO had listened to lobbying from within the tax profession and made enhancements to the schemes to assist anyone inadvertently missing out.
“The ATO provided significant relief from obligation to pay BAS and income tax and to get refunds of prior payments. This enabled us to contact those identified as most in need and assist them with getting cash back to continue operations.”
During times like this, when businesses everywhere are adapting to new rules and legislation as the economy shifts, expert advice that clients can rely on is crucial.
“With Integrity rules and potential for incorrect or omitted claims, business need advisors who understand the detail,” Dudley said.
For Dudley, The Tax Institute COVID-19 Stimulus webinars, which ran from early April through to the end of May and are still available as free recordings for members, “were an important source of information that enabled me to identify and assist businesses with meeting JobKeeper criteria.”
And in the end, Dudley says his firm’s assistance with JobKeeper applications ultimately allowed businesses to keep staff on their payroll during COVID-19. A positive outcome indeed.
Director, PWS Advisory Group
“The taxation system has played a huge role in providing support to families and businesses, and we have seen the introduction of several stimulus measures over a short period. For many businesses’ eligibility to Cash flow boost and JobKeeper payments have meant the survival of the business.”
For PWS Advisory Group, a swift shift to remote, online working and a team who were ready to go above and beyond have been instrumental during COVID-19.
This allowed clients to gain timely advice and assistance, including cashflow negotiations in managing ATO debts, and negotiations with landlords for reduced lease payments.
“It also meant that we could just be there for our clients day and night to help them talk through what they are going through and providing them with piece of mind so that they can ultimately continue to focus on what they do best, and to implement changes to the way they do business,” Director Daniel Angelovich said.
Daniel relayed the story of a client who he was able to help navigate their business through COVID-19. Prior to the pandemic, the client had been through some financial difficulties, and according to Daniel, “COVID-19 had the potential to have a significant impact on the continuation of their business and their personal mental wellbeing.”
Through available stimulus measures, management of ATO debt and lodgement obligations, and a complete review of their overall finances, Daniel’s client was able to gain cashflow relief and get out of a difficult position.
“By working closely together with this client and their business, it reassured them of the support network they had around them and helped them understand the options they had available to them,” he said.
“This has allowed the client to focus on their core business and provided them with confidence to engage with their customers and suppliers at a time when many other businesses in their industry were unable to do so.”
Daniel said that COVID-19 has “thrown up a challenge” to tax practitioners, the ATO and bodies like The Tax Institute, but that the collaboration achieved within the profession has been “a major benefit to businesses as they grapple with economic and health challenges.”
“This has truly shown the impact that the tax profession can have on the wider community, especially when all working together,” he said.
We couldn’t agree more.
Thank you to the tax profession.
Keeping you in business is their business.