About time someone acknowledged accountants!!!!!
Wow. I have been saying the things pointed out in the article below for the last 3 months.
I think accountants have been the forgotten profession in all this since the whole system is reliant on accountants and tax agents to make the government incentives work.
What annoys me the most is that CPA Australia and CA Australia have not been very vocal in supporting their membership. Accountants and tax agents have had to try to absorb all the COVID-19 regulations in amongst the regular work (such as BASs, IASs and tax returns for late lodgers, with almost useless “assistance” from the responsible government departments. We have found that many times when we ring these departments their own staff aren’t aware of some of the rules, mostly due to the fact that I suspect that they haven’t had enough to be trained up on the rules and are mainly “winging it”. That’s pretty useless to the accounting practitioners who have to try to give an accurate reply to client queries.
Over-riding all this is that very obvious fact that our taxation system is a heap of garbage and almost incomprehensible and unequitable in its current form. The fact that many of the potential benefits due to COVID-19’s effects are based on a drop in the “GST Turnover” is a reflection that our current system of robbing Australians based on the concept of “Taxable Income” is totally unfair. Your taxable income isn’t the same as how much money you have left over. It is solely based on the whims of each government which keeps changing the rules as to what it will allow you to claim in your tax return from year to year.
I have said for ages that the tax system can be easily simplified by scrapping the current dog’s breakfast of a tax system and only having a tax (eg GST system) based on your expenditure. So, when you go to a store, professional advisor, etc, you will be charged GST on the amount spent. This should be regardless of the goods or services provided (ie no exemptions). Scrub the PAYG Withholding system and this will reward those who are good at saving their money as they will only pay the GST if/when they spend any money. Maybe the GST rate will have to increase a bit but the government can save billions by getting rid of most of the bureaucrats running the tax racket on the Australian population as well as the many levels of government we have to answer to. It beats me why we have to pay Land Tax and Payroll Tax to state governments that bludge off the Federal Government each year and then bleed us dry with these ridiculous taxes of their own.
No doubt there will be people complaining about any increase in the GST rate (obviously those who are voluntarily unemployed as they aren’t paying any income tax. So I am not including pensioners and those laid off due to the current COVID-19 situation).
It would be great if the clowns running the professional bodies would stand up for their members and rip into the governments (of whatever persuasion) to push for a real review of the tax system. We don’t need another Royal Commission to state the obvious… just give me a call and I will be happy to tell them what I think! Anyway, here is what they said:
‘A hell of a ride’: The COVID-19 toll on the accounting profession
Long hours dragging into the weekend and over public holidays, unpaid billable hours, and constant pressure from clients are just some of the stressors accountants have had to face as frontline operators for the government’s economic stimulus measures.
The professional accounting bodies are now increasingly worried about the mental and physical strain felt by accountants across the country as hundreds of thousands of businesses turn to the profession for advice amid the COVID-19 crisis.
The JobKeeper scheme, the centrepiece of the government’s stimulus package, has relied heavily on accountants in its rollout, with the profession putting in a monumental effort to ensure over 768,000 entities were enrolled by the first week of May, covering more than 5 million Australian workers.
The profession has also been tasked to assist with the cash flow boost measure, which has now resulted in $7.5 billion in credits flowing out to eligible small and medium businesses.
Tax agents are also facing the pressure of helping with the supersized instant asset write-off and accelerated depreciation measures, and as a source of financial advice when it comes to the early access to superannuation measure.
A short time frame to absorb new tax legislation, drip-fed guidance from the ATO, and intense pressure from clients has resulted in a potent mix of pressure and stress that has the profession creaking.
“There is a human toll to this- practitioners are working 12 to 14 hours a day,” the Institute of Public Accountants general manager of technical policy Tony Greco told Accountants Daily.
“They don’t want to let their clients down and they are putting their health aside for their clients. They are suffering a huge mental and physical toll.
“It’s a bit unfortunate that it has fallen on this small army to help with what the clients require and they are absolutely feeling it.
“There is more certainty now but it has been a hell of a ride to get to this point and all that creates is tension, increased workload on the profession, and I don’t think that’s well understood by Treasury and how much pain and suffering and sheer hours are required to navigate clients through the maze.
“The ATO is aware of it- the human element is on their radar as well.”
The Tax Institute’s Professor Robert Deutsch believes practitioners will need to prioritise their health now as the government’s road to economic recovery will likely continue to hinge on the profession.
“There’s nothing worse than trying to handle this when you’re sick so I do urge everyone to take a break every now and then,” said Professor Deutsch.
“Take a few deep breaths and come back to it because the next few months are going to be a testing time, as have the last few months, but I don’t think it’s going to get better quickly and we need practitioners out there who are healthy and able to help.”
Likewise, Tax and Super Australia senior tax counsel John Jeffreys has urged practitioners to manage their workload.
“I know it’s pretty tough for you at the moment. You’re getting asked all sorts of questions, you’re getting a lot of pressure from your clients,” said Mr Jeffreys.
“I encourage you in what you are doing, the service that you are providing to the Australian community is absolutely essential at this time and the stimulus package simply wouldn’t work without accountants and tax agents so hang in there, do what you can do but don’t work 24 hours a day- take a bit of time off and have a break.”
Billable work, but who pays?
Accountants are also facing an unenviable decision to charge their distressed clients during the crisis or hold off and absorb a hit to their revenue.
“The question is whether their clients will pay for all this work and will the client be around to pay the bill because there’s no guarantee in this environment and some of those clients will fall over,” said Mr Greco.
With accountants not immune to a recession, the government has now been urged to consider a voucher scheme for cash-strapped businesses to use with an accountant to access professional advice.
“Such schemes will not only help ensure businesses can access professional information and support through the government’s packages, but will [also] help the integrity of the operation of those support packages,” said shadow minister for small business, Brendan O’Connor.
“Additionally, the accounting profession itself has been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, and this proposal has the additional benefit of being a form of industry support with many positive spillover effects.”
CPA Australia’s Paul Drum believes a government-backed voucher is a no-brainer in the current economic environment.
“One shouldn’t assume that the various governments’ fiscal stimulus measures equate to rivers of gold for professional services firms,” Mr Drum told Accountants Daily.
“When it comes to small businesses, priorities such as keeping the lights on, the doors open and stock on the shelves are of much higher priority than paying for professional advice.
“We are not talking about unbillable hours — we are talking about billable hours for which the adviser may not be paid.
“A government-backed voucher or grant to such businesses would encourage them to access the professional advice they need at this very critical time. Such advice would not only be beneficial to these businesses, but also indirectly to their employees and the broader economy.”