Nearly 90% of tax agents and accountants want the lodgment date for all 2018-19 tax returns to be extended to at least 30 June 2020, with more than a third saying COVID-19 has caused their workload to blow out by four weeks or more, according to a Tax & Super Australia (TSA) member survey.
The survey, which captured responses from almost 530 tax and accounting professionals, revealed that 96% had experienced increased workloads due to COVID-19. This includes the extra work needed to understand and help clients apply for the Federal Government’s stimulus measures, particularly JobKeeper and the cash flow boost.
More than a third (35%) estimated their workload had increased by four weeks or more, and 30% said they’d experienced an extra three to four weeks of work. Just 4% said they had less than a one-week increase in workload.
The rise in workloads is affecting their usual lodgment rate, with 72% saying they were behind on lodgments compared to this time last year.
The survey also asked members about their wellbeing and mental health. A significant number of respondents (37%) said they were “quite stressed” and doubted if they could get all their work done.
As well as extra time specifically helping clients with stimulus package measures, members said stressed clients were taking longer to provide them with information needed to complete tax returns, with many also having to take time to home school children.
TSA tax counsel John Jeffreys said that tax, accounting and super professionals have been operating under heightened and escalating pressure for weeks.
“The first stimulus package was announced more than two months ago. Since then, the pressure on our members has been relentless,” he says. “They’ve had to take time to understand the new measures, assess what clients are eligible, and then help with the application.”
“This is all while being a sounding board for very stressed clients who are worried about losing their livelihoods. And this is not even taking into account the business or personal demands that our members are facing themselves.”
“We’re only just seeing JobKeeper payments arrive into bank accounts now. But it’s not over,” Jeffreys says. “There’s still much coronavirus-related work to do, and we know there could still be more changes and work relating to this ever-evolving situation.”
He says that while TSA appreciates the ATO’s decision to extend the lodgment date to 5 June 2020 for most tax returns, it doesn’t quite go far enough. “A blanket deferral to the deadline for all tax returns to at least 30 June 2020 would go much further to help ease the pressure on accounting and tax professionals, and their clients.”
For a PDF version of the above, click here.
Selected comments from the survey are published below.
On the question: “If you would like an extended deferral time, please state why.”
- We are constantly dealing with client queries regarding drastic business downturn, eligibility for JobKeeper and Cashflow Boost, etc. Clients don’t know how to keep a roof over their heads and aren’t able to devote time to gathering their tax records to bring and and answering any queries. We don’t have time to be doing the tax work with so many hours devoted to urgent Coronavirus issues that just can’t wait.
- Between the work load, non-stopping calls from clients asking & explaining all the cash flow boost, subsidies, government grant, filling out & lodging all the forms, Update the changes of rules & requirements, it is really time consuming. Have to put aside all the tax return works & do all the subsidies & grants first.
- Most Accountants have lost a month of work – working on virus related work instead of getting 2019 Tax Returns done. I knew they would extend to 5th June – they always do if there is problems etc. But an extra 3 wks is not going to help very much – an extra couple of weeks AFTER the 5th June would be more helpful to recognise all the UNPAID WORK WE DO FOR THE GOVERNMENT ON THEIR BEHALF. So YES a lodgement date of say 26th June for all Returns would be good, seeing as all the March & April BAS were lodged super early due to the lovely Jobkeeper Enrolments/Applications! Thank you for having these surveys, so we can be heard (vent).
- Our team is under pressure not only from the increased workload from Covid queries and support, but also decreased productivity due to the need to work from home and have children home from school etc.
On the question: “If you don’t think an extended deferral time should be granted by the ATO, please state why.”
- If a “cut off date” was 30 June 2020, for 2019 tax returns then you just work towards that deadline. Making the date after 30 June 2020 will end up being a “double whammy” of all my clients wanting their 2020 tax returns lodged ASAP after 1 July 2020 so they can get their tax refunds. 2020 tax returns would then be my priority as well as June 2020 qtr BASs.
- The 30th June would be good but NO LONGER as 2020 tax work will need to be started too
- It has been difficult to keep up , but further deferral will just make life difficult again next year
- COVID hit late March/April. Most accountants should have had lodgements sorted and the ones who were on the list to lodge they can apply for an extension for another month to make up for lost time. I think an extension deferral will be rewarding lazy accountants who aren’t managing their client list.
- I only speak from a personal perspective but fully understand, and support, practitioners who want an extended deferral time. The JobKeeper and Cash Boost programs have certainly involved many unbillable hours (days, weeks!) but we have cemented client relationships by helping them out. Many clients have been to the brink and beyond. We haven’t charged the worst affected and feel it’s a way the accounting community can contribute.