As a result, accountants have been hit with a “double peak” in business as they simultaneously juggle the tax needs of their clients, while helping them navigate the wave of new government stimulus measures announced in recent weeks.
Data NSW service shows that more than 292,000 business support requests had been filed by August 2021. About 82% of those requests were approved, for a total of $ 2.3 billion in payments. Of that amount, only $ 1.8 billion has been released, which means that many companies are still waiting for their stimulus payments.
Rising vaccination rates suggest there is light at the end of the tunnel, but until restrictions are relaxed, our small businesses are not yet out of the woods. In the meantime, accountants can play a vital role in helping small businesses access this support, not only for the benefit of individual livelihoods, but also the economy in general.
Keep up to date with new incentives
Keeping up to date with new regulations and government announcements is integral to being an accountant, but it has never been more important than during the pandemic. Since the start of the Delta epidemic, many new stimulus packages have been announced, with regular updates being made to these grants via daily press conferences.
In NSW alone, there are three types of grants available to businesses, all with different eligibility criteria, in addition to reductions in social charges.
In Victoria, companies also have access to a one-time government grant, while the Queensland government has also announcement financial support for small and medium-sized businesses impacted by containment.
These grants are a lifeline for many small businesses; however, they can be notoriously difficult to understand and access. To provide the best possible support to clients, accountants need to stay on top of developments in stimulus plans and, most importantly, have a thorough understanding of the eligibility requirements for each of these grants.
Overcome the eligibility barrier
It is not enough to understand the eligibility criteria, accountants must also know how to prove it. A common eligibility criteria for COVID-19 government grants is that companies demonstrate a decline in revenue over a period of time. For many firms, identifying corporate clients that have experienced this drop in revenue can be a time-consuming process. This means that firms find it difficult to proactively offer their clients support with business grants, and instead rely on clients to contact them.
Additionally, for firms with client data spread across multiple accounting solutions, it is difficult to quickly compare their clients’ business performance over time. They are forced to manually go through each customer account one by one or run reports from different accounting applications. Fortunately, there are tools specifically designed for accountants that can consolidate and analyze client data in one place – and thus notify accountants of clients eligible for specific grants in real time.
Not only can these technologies help accountants save time, but they also help proactively engage client companies that may be eligible for a trade grant, and thus provide them with the advice they need as well as better client experience.
Technology is here to support, not to replace
Since the start of the pandemic, accountants across the country have worked tirelessly to support their corporate clients. For many practices that still work on legacy systems and outdated processes, much of this work has been manual and therefore incredibly time consuming.
With new Mechanisms such as cloud computing, automated payrolls, and blockchain technology make it increasingly easy for accountants to remain agile and adjust the way they work, even in an ever-changing COVID environment.
The industry is undergoing a monumental shift towards digitalization and this is something we need to embrace as a whole. Automation and other data-driven technologies are meant to free accountants, not constrain them. Companies that understand the potential and importance of these technologies – and invest in the tools and training necessary to help their accountants take full advantage of them – can deliver real added value to their clients over the long term and stay on top of them. ‘advance.
Businesses will reap the rewards – whether that’s by accessing COVID grants or making the most of tax time, while for accountants, it will free up time for what matters most – by providing the best customer service possible.
Kerry Agiasotis, President, The Access Group Asia-Pacific