Melbourne Accountants and Bookkeepers forced to shutter amid stage 4 restrictions

Aug 7, 2020 | News

After a failed bid from the Tax Practitioners Stewardship group to have accountants, legal services, advisors and bookkeepers listed as essential services, it has been confirmed by Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews that these services will be forced to close for onsite work and consultations.

All professional firms in metropolitan Melbourne closed their doors as of 11:59pm Wednesday 5 August. The initial term for this Stage 4 lockdown and professional firm business closure will extend to 13 September. This can be thought of as the minimum term and there’s no telling if it will be extended or not. It would be prudent to be cautious and plan for an even longer period of shutdowns if COVID-19 case numbers don’t drop enough.

Undoubtedly this is a significant blow to professional firms and practices across Melbourne and, after coming off the back of earlier business restrictions, the burden is particularly heavy. However, the situation at hand leaves little recourse and there are necessary changes to work practices which must be realised.

“Truthfully, I never thought I’d find myself in a position where I’d have to ask people not to go to work,” said Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews.

But if we’re serious about driving this thing down — and we absolutely must be — we need to take unprecedented steps in limiting the movement of people, and therefore limiting the movement of this virus.”

There’s always a silver lining, however, and through government assistance, savvy retooling of business models and shifts to remote ways of working, this too can be conquered.

What assistance is available to Victoria’s practices?

For those affected by this shutdown, there’s an extra government grant available for your firm, in addition to earlier packages.

“Businesses in regional Victoria can apply for a $5,000 grant while those in Melbourne and Mitchell Shire can apply for up to $10,000 in recognition of spending longer under restrictions,” said Mr. Andrews, before adding, “honestly, this will be an imperfect process.”

This will mean that, taken in addition to previous round one grants, businesses in regional Victoria will have received $10,000.

For Melbourne metropolitan businesses and firms, it will finish up being in the order of $20,000

These grants come alongside a number of other waivers of taxes and charges.

JobKeeper, of course, is still in play and should be taken full advantage of. There are also various tax and payroll incentives previously announced by state and federal governments.

See further information on grants from Business Victoria here.

Advisors rise in importance

Coincidentally, even as practices and firms shut their doors across Melbourne, it can be said that businesses and individuals will need advisory services more than ever.

The value of business advice has been raised due to economic strain, trepidation over various government schemes as well as changes to income, payroll and property.

This renewed importance for such services and business advice could very well result in a glut of new clients and ways to work with them.

Businesses are facing unprecedented levels of pressure and this will undoubtedly be reflected in the importance they place on the advice of accountants and business advisors. General advice may be increasingly sought by those who have never used the services of business advisors in the past.

With constantly shifting ATO guidelines and government advice, business owners will also be also be seeking increased levels of taxation advice in this time of confusion and uncertainty.

The virtual and digital advisor

This new client potential for advisors doesn’t come without its parallel challenges.

The nature of Melbourne’s practices will need to radically shift gears to comply with consumer demands, new ways of doing business and, of course, ever evolving government mandated restrictions and advice.

Work-from-home conditions have already begun to transform practices and firms across Australia and no doubt Victoria’s Stage 4 shutdown will sharpen the change.

You will need to be sure you have setup your own modern digital practice with the technology, communication platforms and workflows in place to thrive in a new world of remote working with your employees or colleagues.

Working remotely with clients will now be expected and inevitable.

Embrace being a digital and virtual practice with solutions and apps that allow the following:

  • virtual chat and rich communication
  • team workflow and task management
  • cloud documents and shared collaboration
  • cloud CRM
  • complete elimination of manual processes
  • abandonment of face-to-face practices

Becoming a digital practice means not only improving the business life of your client through time savings and automation, it also assists in maintaining resilience and compliance in the face of COVID-19 regulations.


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