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The hidden toll: Accountants’ health in the crucible of the tax season

Business

As we head into June, those in the accounting sector are gearing up or re-arming themselves for the annual tax time ‘marathon’.

By Brian Pillemer 11 minute read

The end of the fiscal year and the beginning of a new tax season demands the annual ramp-up of tax and audit expertise, bringing with it heavy workloads, long hours, and increased mental exertion.

Beyond the numbers and client calls, a deeper concern looms—does the annual exertion take a heavy toll on accountants’ mental and physical wellbeing? Some alarming global statistics suggest we need to heed the impact of stress and the issue of professional and personal burnout. Some 58 per cent of public sector accountants reported stress and mental health concerns in a 2023 global survey by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA).

We all know the story here in Australia: dedicated accountants navigating the complexities of tax law and business strategies while simultaneously ensuring compliance and managing client expectations. The weight of these responsibilities coupled with the pressure of deadlines and accuracy creates the pre-conditions for high stress, often leading to a cascade of negative effects on overall wellbeing.

Amidst the ‘balancing act’ of tax season, it can be easy for accountants to forget the hidden costs of the risks of ill health and stress.

Balancing the books and health without burnout

Burnout was recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a medical condition for the first time in 2019, defining it as “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”.

Chronic stress can manifest in various ways, including anxiety, sleep disturbances, mood swings, and decreased concentration. Prolonged exposure to high levels of stress, with little time to decompress or recharge, may result in emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion. The cumulative effect can lead to decreased productivity and poor job performance but also spills over into personal relationships, further deteriorating overall wellbeing.

The toll on mental and physical health should not be underestimated. 

According to research by the National Library of Medicine, the effects of burnout can include cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal pain, weakened immune function, depression and job dissatisfaction, while The Black Dog Institute estimates the financial impact — caused by stress-related work absenteeism and presenteeism — costs Australia a staggering A$14.8 billion per year.

The long-term health issues associated with chronic stress and burnout can create a substantial financial burden, with expenses incurred from medical treatments, therapy, and potential loss of income due to extended periods of ill health.

The financial impact can be detrimental not only to accountants but also to their employers and the overall productivity of the organisation as burned-out accountants are likely to experience decreased productivity, reduced attention to detail, and impaired decision-making capabilities.

Ignoring the challenges accountants face is a ticking time bomb that threatens their wellbeing, business success, and financial stability.

Insurance for success: A pause for accountants to consider their health

It simply makes sense to acknowledge the need for proactive measures that protect one’s mental and physical wellbeing but also financial stability. The months of May and June offer an opportune time for accountants to reflect on their circumstances.

Accountants are well-versed in the importance of financial security, and they also know firsthand just how easily life can derail carefully laid financial plans. In a fast-paced world, where unforeseen challenges can arise at any moment, life insurance stands as a valuable shield, providing support and protection.

Speaking to a risk adviser is the best way for accountants to obtain insurance options that cater to their specific needs.

These professionals specialise in assessing individual circumstances and tailoring insurance policies accordingly – whether it’s income protection, life insurance, business expenses insurance or total and permanent disability, a risk adviser can guide accountants through the available options, ensuring they have the necessary coverage to safeguard their financial wellbeing and ensure peace of mind.

It’s even more important for accountants who have debts such as a mortgage or dependent family members – all of which will continue to need financial support even if a regular income is no longer possible. The right insurance products can be a safety net that helps guarantee the family won’t be put under undue financial stress if one can no longer earn an income due to death, injury, or illness.

Chartered accountants who take out their life insurance policy via an SMSF (self-managed super fund) may also access tax benefits depending on their circumstances. It may allow members to reduce their out-of-pocket personal income protection premium costs. However, it is vital to seek personalised advice from qualified risk advisers who can navigate the intricacies of tax laws and regulations.

For accountants, reflecting on their health and wellbeing isn’t just a luxury, it’s a necessity. Take charge of your future by speaking to an adviser about risk insurance – it’s a small step that can make a world of difference.

Protecting the protectors: A call to action for accountants’ health and wellbeing

In our industry, tax season is by far the most demanding and mentally taxing time of year.

While accountants dedicate their expertise to safeguarding the financial stability of others, it is equally important for them to ensure their stability in the face of potential risks.

The months of May and June serve as a timely reminder to pause, reflect, and act.

By prioritising their health, wellbeing and insuring against risks, accountants can continue to thrive and serve the important role of supporting SMEs and business clients across Australia.

Brian Pillemer is director of distribution at PPS Mutual.

 

 

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