As the coronavirus crisis continues to unfold, ChangeGPS and Change Accountants & Advisors founder Timothy Munro believes accountants will have a crucial role to play in keeping their SME clients in business.
He believes accountants can help unpack the federal government’s $17.6 billion fiscal stimulus package as well as help clients to focus on the long term and maintain their long-term strategies to make it easier to pick back up after the worst of the coronavirus fallout has passed.
“Tax planning this year is the most important thing… that you can do because you’ve got the government stimulus packages that you can roll out to help your clients with to get $2,000 or $25,000,” Mr Munro said in an online webinar.
“Now there are strategies that you can put in place to help your clients maximise getting that free money from the government.”
One of the planning strategies that Mr Munro suggested for accountants was getting clients to consider delaying payments to the ATO.
The ATO recently announced assistance measures to help businesses cope with the economic fallout of the coronavirus, including up to a four-month deferral of tax payments.
“Tell your clients it is vital to keep lodging your BAS on time, but some of the ATO tax relief options allow you to ring the ATO, explain how you’ve been affected by the coronavirus and negotiate payment arrangements,” Mr Munro said.
“Maybe you set up a second bank account, put all tax withholdings, super payments into that and that’s an emergency fund that your client dips into if it’s just last chance and you run out of everything.
“There’s no point making payments to the ATO if they would have given you payment arrangements, you can’t get that back… I’m not saying don’t pay the ATO; I’m saying if it means keeping your business alive and then making late payments to the ATO, keep the business alive at all costs.”
Mr Munro also noted it was important for an accountant to keep up constant communication with their clients, both to keep refining the tax planning to maximise business cash flow and to simply reassure clients.
“Talk to your clients about what they can do right now, and that’s why I keep saying your tax planning is essential,” Mr Munro said.
“Communication again is the key, let [customers and clients] know what is going on.
“This is what it means to become a true adviser. You don’t need special training or anything else, you can do it. You can give your clients peace of mind, guidance, support and a listening ear.
“Accountants, this is our time to shine right now.”