With the JobKeeper extension due to begin on Monday, practitioners now face a momentous task in helping clients determine their eligibility, and assisting them with the new two-tiered payment rate.
The mental and physical toll on the accounting profession in assisting with a range of COVID-19 stimulus measures has not been lost on the regulators and the professional bodies, with practitioners now urged to look after themselves ahead of the next round of heightened activity.
“I think it’s a very simple issue, but keeping your physical and mental health is really, really important and it goes to providing competent and sound advice,” said Tax Practitioners Board member Greg Lewis.
“When you have a client under pressure and you’re calm and considered, and you can provide the balanced perspective, it’s enormously important.
“A lot of practitioners now are being used as potentially pseudo-psychologists, where clients are reaching out… and sometimes practitioners get burdened with that.
“Some people will be feeling anxious. Some people are potentially even feeling scared and very fearful, and I do recognise that. The Board recognises that. And, in this regard, I cannot stress the importance of reaching out and seeking mental health services, whether that be calling your GP or, in particular, going to Beyond Blue.”
ATO Assistant Commissioner Sylvia Gallagher said the pressures faced by the profession were well understood and reaffirmed the Tax Office’s commitment to helping practitioners in need of support.
“We recognise the pressure that tax and BAS agents are under, and we also recognise the pressure that tax professional associations are under trying to support members, clients and the community,” Ms Gallagher said on a recent ATO webcast.
“We are committed to providing support to those who need help, so please make sure that you do reach out to us. We have a range of options available to be able to provide support.”
‘The oxygen mask mentality’
The Institute of Public Accountants chief executive Andrew Conway also believes accountants will need to look after themselves first before they can assist clients.
“Sometimes we think we’ve got to be all things to all people, we’ve got to be on the phone, answer every query, be there at every stage for the client,” he said.
“At the end of the day, it is that oxygen mask mentality — how am I going to help others if I am not helping myself first?”
For Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand tax leader Michael Croker, he believes practitioners should actively plan for time away from their desks to unwind from the pressures of work.
“We’re all in this together, so your professional community is there to support you. Hopefully, you’ve got some good friends in the professional associations. Colleagues are so important at times like this because they understand the pressures you’re under,” Mr Croker said.
“Family and friends, obviously. Make time with them in your diary. Put it in the diary, get a happy thing happening in your diary every weekend, or after work if you can. Just something to look forward to where you can just unwind and find time to do activities.
“At a more formal level, I’m pretty sure every professional association like ours has created forums or areas for members to access care. The very same facilities that are available to me as an employee of Chartered Accountants, if I’m stressed or needing some confidential help, has been made available to our members, and can be accessed free of charge.”
If you or anyone you know is in need of support, you can contact:
Lifeline - 13 11 14
Beyond Blue - 1300 22 4636
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.