While many countries have extended filing deadlines by, one, two, three and sometimes more months, the reality is that as countries endure repeated and ever-changing government lockdown rules, pressure is mounting. Mulberry was one of many companies to delay the publication of its results. The luxury handbag maker blamed “the complexities resulting from both the company’s and its auditors staff working remotely”. There is growing concern in some countries regarding the pressure for meeting even delayed audits and publication of results. Accountants in some countries face a huge backlog of work and staff are under pressure as a result of school and childcare closures. Firms have the added challenge of endeavouring to determine whether they can give directors, staff, investors, and customers assurance that their businesses are viable through “going concern” statements. Finance directors, audit committees and auditors face the challenge of whether companies are fit for purpose as going concerns. This is also of massive significance for suppliers who need to carry on their business, but can they be certain of being paid? A conundrum that worries SME owners. No one wishes to envisage bad debts – especially not large ones.
Accountants admirably came to the rescue in March last year to assist clients with government rescue packages. By then a good proportion of the December 2019 work was either completed or well on the way. However, with the December 2020 year end work, we face a wide range of ongoing challenges.
Paul Drum, the General Manager of External Affairs at CPA Australia tells it like this, “This has been a torrid time for many in the accounting profession and firms are struggling with a tsunami of work.”
No Shortage of Work
Today, many countries are in peak audit and accounts season with December year end work. Tax departments are, in many countries, facing tax reporting deadlines. Closure of schools and the demands of home-schooling are reducing the working hours for many accounting professionals. It is also so demanding for those who have the responsibility of teaching the children. In some countries the days’ work plan is not even received until the beginning of the ‘school’ day. Some of the Big 4 have written to clients and their audit committees to advise of possible audit delays. Kevin Eilis senior partner of PWC has said that it is important to have discussions now if there are problems on the horizon. Many small and medium sized accountants have done the same. One thing is clear and that is that the demand for accounting and advisory services is unlikely to ease off in the future, even taking into account lost work due to this invisible killer. Further, many countries are evidencing rapid legislative and regulatory change which is likely to continue through 2021. The consequence of this is more pressure and less time to consider implications and appropriate responses.
I have clients across Europe and South Africa who report staff having mental health issues. Some staff have been signed off ill, others have themselves suffered from COVID and are finding recovery taking longer than expected. So, while accountants have been critical to helping their clients survive financially, it was inevitable that this increased pressure would take a toll on the mental health of some in the profession. Drum, again said that CPA Australia’s message to these accountants is that “it is ok to not be ok” and that there are support resources available.
And the good news? Vaccines are continuing apace in many countries in this race against time. All of us need to see the end to this pandemic – let us all hope and pray that we will all be able to move around, travel and work safely soon.
A few working from home tips:
- Encourage everyone to create a home office space that is uniquely theirs
- Get dressed- not so sure that reports about people working from bed is a great idea
- Stick to a schedule – plan your day at least the day before. Be as proactive as possible
- Go easy on yourself
- Socialise with others in the firm – be an encourager
- Plan ahead and do all you can to ensure you can access the information you will need
- Do all you can to deliver ahead of any deadline
- Maintain regular hours and update time records – daily
- Schedule breaks – take in some fresh air
- Turn up at online meetings – listen and be heard
- If unwell – take sick time so you will fully recover as early as possible
- Finally, do all you can to stay positive