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Workload peaks as profession weathers crisis


The accounting profession has weathered the revenue impact of the COVID-19 crisis better than most, but it is suffering on the mental health front under a heavy workload, new research has found.

By Jotham Lian 10 minute read

The COVID-19 Business Confidence Survey, commissioned by Accountants Daily sister title MyBusiness and Momentum Intelligence, surveyed participants across a range of Momentum Media’s professional services titles — accounting, financial services, law, mortgage and finance broking, real estate, aviation and defence.

A total of 6,740 responses were received, including 1,715 from business owners and employees working in the accounting profession.

While accountants were not immune from revenue impacts from the economic downturn, just 40 per cent indicated that they had taken a revenue hit, with 7 per cent expecting a revenue increase and 36 per cent expecting no impact on their revenue take.

This compared favourably to the hardest hit industries such as the real estate sector, which saw 67 per cent indicating a drop in revenue, or the legal industry, with 55 per cent saying that revenue had taken a hit.

However, accountants were less optimistic about the next three months, with 54 per cent expecting their revenue to fall despite the traditionally busy tax-time period.

With the bulk of the government’s stimulus measures running through the tax system, it comes as little surprise that accountants have seen an immediate increase in their workload.

More than half of all accounting practices surveyed said they have seen an increase in workload, the highest across all industries.

“As an accountant in practice, I am absolutely deluged by client queries and requests for assistance. Deadlines are a major issue as all normal work has been pushed back as I deal with the COVID-19 emergency, both from a staff management issue as they deal with working from home and from a client perspective,” one respondent said.

Another respondent said: “As an accountant and tax agent, I cannot remember being this busy since the introduction of GST. Clients are confused and need assistance, but the difference this time is that they don’t have the cash flow to pay you the fees you should be charging.”

The sudden increase in workload and a less than optimistic outlook for the future have resulted in the accounting profession faring poorly on the mental health front, with 22 per cent reporting that their mental health was in a negative state, compared to 18 per cent across all industries.

“As accountants, the burden of explaining and administering the government’s response has fallen on our shoulders. It will be largely unchargeable and leads to high levels of anxiety. Our clients are likewise anxious, and some of them are financially ruined,” one respondent said.

The survey comes after the professional accounting bodies expressed their concern over the mental and physical strain the profession was facing amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Further lodgement deferrals and extensions have continued to be sought, with respondents noting that looming lodgement deadlines are continuing to weigh heavily on them.

“A blanket deferral of tax returns would be really helpful! We are snowed under doing other things at the moment and trying to keep our clients in business,” one respondent said.

“As a tax agent, we need extensions to lodge tax returns in order to reduce the anxiety of late lodgement penalties,” an accountant said.

The dynamic COVID-19 Business Confidence Survey aims to serve as a barometer of how businesses and working Australians are adapting to the changed working and social environment throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

By surveying industry participants over time, the report will help map attitudes, confidence and business activities as they evolve by revealing which industries and professions are adapting most effectively to the “new normal”.

You can view the full report here.

Jotham Lian

Jotham Lian


Jotham Lian is the editor of Accountants Daily, the leading source of breaking news, analysis and insight for Australian accounting professionals.

Before joining the team in 2017, Jotham wrote for a range of national mastheads including the Sydney Morning Herald, and Channel NewsAsia.

You can email Jotham at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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