Practice support

Accountants are key advisers to the business community, and never more so than now, when businesses are struggling to respond, and they turn to their accountants for help and reassurance. Chartered Accountants in practice like everyone else, are rushing to keep up with the speed of the spread and impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, in the knowledge that the worst is yet to come. The challenge is to stay ahead of what is a very -moving situation and be in a position to give the best advice to clients. 

Prioritise

When the immediate demand might be to stay in contact with worried clients, don’t forget that your first responsibilities are to yourself, your own business and staff. We advise the following: 

  • Make a plan and plan to change it
  • Plan scenarios that assume progressively more or less restrictive environment going forward
  • Plan for staff non-availability due to illness or quarantine

So far as possible, most practitioners and their staff are working from home. You may find that your systems were not designed to cope with all staff working from home, or other current demands, but now is the time to formulate new solutions and workarounds.  

  • Encourage staff to contribute ideas.  
  • In many cases, work practices may need to change extensively.  
  • Concentrate on what can be done and do it. Certain tasks may be impossible right now, but development work that had been put off can now be prioritised. Auditing can prove problematic, as it is typically carried out at clients’ premises. See the advice below from the FRC. 

Cash Flow 

You are focused on cash flow because that is what suffers first in times of uncertainty. Again, start with a plan: 

  • Bring your financial information and accounts up to date so that you know where you stand.  
  • Identify what you can change to improve your own cash flow.  
  • Identify what cost can be cut and what expenditure you can defer. Are there sources of cash that can be drawn on? Is there work that you can prioritise where clients will be in a position to make payments?  
  • Engage with your lenders. We will bring you more information as it becomes available to us regarding the main banks’ response to the crisis. 

Client Relations 

Clients expect and demand your advice and support right now, and your relationship as trusted adviser was never so important. The crisis affects clients in different ways and with different levels of severity. In some cases, supply chain issues and staff unavailability are difficult but manageable challenges. On the other end of the spectrum, some clients have been forced to close their doors, and in some cases businesses may not survive. Your expertise, judgement and experience are now invaluable to them as each client deals with their unique journey through the crisis. The same advice applies, as above, that clients should: 

  • rapidly take stock of their situations 
  • make plans for how to address issues and scenarios; and  
  • concentrate on protecting cash flow

Familiarise yourself with the resources that are available to help you through the crisis. 

So how can the Institute help you? 

In addition to assisting with queries on regulatory and government updates, taxation, insolvency and boards and corporate governance, we provide employer advice, supports for business and interpret the implications of the COVID-19 outbreak for members and firms in practice.  

Practice Consulting is providing advice through its phone line (below) and has begun an outbound phone campaign to assess members’ needs. We have set up and are running webinars on auditing issues arising from the COVID-19 outbreak, and will continue to run webinars for members to attend or view recordings.  

Practice Consulting will also publish helpsheets on key topics, starting with guidance for auditors on attendance of stocktakes of SMEs. 

We will continue to engage and communicate with members in practice, with further and more detailed advice, as the situation develops. In the meantime, remember that your Institute and the Practice Consulting Team are here to help you. If there are specific issues where you need help, or if you want to share ideas or insights, please contact us at the following: 

Conal Kennedy +353 1 637 7396 and 

Jeremy Twomey +353 1 523 3972 

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