Tax & Super Australia (TSA) conducts regular surveys of its membership base, taking a “litmus test” of members on issues that affect both their own working lives as practitioners and also the feedback they receive from their many and varied clients.
TSA’s latest “Tax Temperature” survey has been published in Outlook — our magazine delivered regularly to members (see details here, and download a free preview edition). The latest Tax Temperature survey asked members about how their clients fared during the COVID-19 pandemic and how they were feeling about the year ahead.
Of business clients, a slim majority of members (57%) reported that most clients seem to be operating at “business as usual” levels, but about a third of members (27%) said this was the case only for about half of their client base.
As to how these clients felt about the year ahead, 56% of members said their business clients still generally remained “cautious”. A further 32% said their clients were “optimistic”, with a small proportion (7%) who said clients were “pessimistic”.
Members were asked to select the factors (they could choose more than one) they believed could pose the biggest risks to the economy this year. The first of these was the “threat of further COVID-19 outbreaks” followed by “trade tensions with China”. At equal third was an “insecure job market/ gig economy” and “international travel being halted”, followed by “problems with the vaccine rollout”.
In terms of the Federal Government stimulus measures, and which were most beneficial, 62% nominated JobKeeper, 32% said the cash flow boost and 3.6% said the instant asset write off extension.
Of members with clients who have been on JobKeeper (which winds up at the end of this month), just half (52%) said most of these clients should cope with that support being withdrawn, pending no further shutdowns. About a quarter of members (26%) said “about half will go OK yet half will struggle”, and 12% said they have clients who will “definitely go under”.
About one third (30%) said they already had clients who wound up earlier (including going into early retirement) than they expected to because of the pandemic. When asked if they thought this year would see a significant number of businesses becoming insolvent, 40% said they didn’t expect this to happen, with 30% predicting more insolvencies (but in businesses that were already operating poorly pre-pandemic).
Considering the ATO’s contribution to pandemic survival and its performance over the year just passed, just over half of members (54%) said it did a “good” job and 16% said it was “excellent”. Some 19% of members reported “satisfactory” dealings with the ATO, yet 10% said they had “poor” experiences.
Finally, members were asked what they had learned from the pandemic. Many said that it was paramount that businesses remain flexible and diverse, and that managing debt levels and ensuring some cash reserves is vital. Others reported that working from home is a viable option going forward. Importantly, it seems that members have learned the importance of being prepared for the unexpected.