Brought to you by CA ANZ
As COVID-19 sent shockwaves through the economy, chartered accountants raced to bridge the gap between evolving government stimulus plans and the alarmed businesses and clients who needed them.
Within a few short weeks, accountants were determining eligibility for wage subsidies, small business loans and finance guarantees, while others were forecasting uncertain cash flows and advising about operational efficiencies during one of the most difficult economic periods in living memory.
The shifting economic and political landscape across Australia and New Zealand meant there needed to be timely and accurate information flowing between government officials and chartered accountants.
“This period was remarkably challenging for our members... and our ‘business as usual’ wasn’t as much disrupted as it was fundamentally altered,” says Simon Grant FCA, group executive – advocacy and international, at Chartered Accountants ANZ.
“Our members came through, though, as they always do… Backing the members was the advocacy team, which was working on live issues that were changing daily and weekly, and talking to the highest levels in government.
“The pace was frenetic and continues to be as we strive to build good policy changes that are sensible for the membership and fit for the country as we move to reset our lives.”
Picture: Simon Grant FCA.
“The pace was frenetic and continues to be as we strive to build out good policy changes.”
Providing critical feedback to government
Chartered Accountants ANZ played a powerful connective role during the COVID-19 lockdowns, leveraging its strong ties with government to provide critical feedback as policies unfolded.
“We used these channels to provide information to members on the nuances of government support and to provide feedback to officials on operational challenges with their policies,” says Charlotte Evett CA, CA ANZ’s New Zealand government relations leader.
“Many of these agencies have actively sought out our feedback on their policies post-lockdown, which illustrated that they, too, valued the working relationships developed during lockdown.”
CA ANZ took advantage of the widespread use of video conferencing to roll out a suite of online webinars that proved to be extremely popular. Thousands of chartered accountants tuned in to sessions hosted by subject matter experts who explained the nuances of government support, as well as sessions with tax officials focused on COVID-19 tax relief.
Evett says members enjoyed submitting questions in advance, while also asking them in real time. Engagement numbers were high when the team ran one-on-one expert interviews covering banking, financial advice, leadership and emotional stress.
An unprecedented reporting season
Amir Ghandar FCA, reporting and assurance leader at CA ANZ, says the abrupt changes in asset valuations, going concern, and other subsequent events wreaked havoc with the 2020 reporting season.
“Those involved in financial reporting faced some of the most trying year-end conditions ever,” says Ghandar.
“Unprecedented economic uncertainty has confounded the estimates permeating financial reports.”
To combat the new uncertainty, Ghandar’s team used the webinar training sessions, and countless workshops, to create a comprehensive trans-Tasman guide to reporting and auditing during the pandemic.
“We brought together the main sources in plain language and have been proud to see the impact this has had in helping members navigate this year like no other,” he says.
[crosshead] Quick and agile responses
Karen McWilliams FCA, business reform leader at CA ANZ, says there was acute pressure on members, their businesses and their clients to transition quickly from the traditional bricks-and-mortar model to a largely virtual model.
“Mostly, our members demonstrated their agility and were able to shift quickly,” she says. “And we followed suit so we could support our members virtually.”
Picture: Karen McWilliams FCA.
“Our members demonstrated their agility and were able to shift quickly. And we followed suit so we could support our members virtually.”
McWilliams says the entire experience was an opportunity to test the agility and adaptability of the CA ANZ team, which responded with a committed focus to support members during changing economic environments.
Michael Croker CA, CA ANZ’s tax leader, Australia, worked closely with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) to offer guidance on lodgements and tax debt collections. His team also provided rapid submissions to Treasury on the design and implementation of CashBoost and JobKeeper.
“We worked fast on getting up to speed on new laws and guidance, and worked with our colleagues to contribute resources to CA ANZ’s COVID-19 Hub,” Croker says.
“We were also able to help some CAs on client matters by intervening successfully in a number of difficult scenarios, either with the ATO or the Inspector-General of Taxation.”
A worthwhile collaboration
In addition to advocating for members to the government and tax office, John Cuthbertson FCA, CA ANZ’s New Zealand tax leader, brought senior presenters from Inland Revenue to broadcast new information across the Sharing Knowledge webinars.
“Three separate pieces of legislation passing under urgency meant our team had very tight time frames to provide stakeholder consultation, often overnight,” says Cuthbertson.
“Reaching a wide range of members on a timely basis with accurate and up-to-date information was our priority, and we were able to facilitate several webinars with senior Inland Revenue presenters at short notice.”
As the community braced for waves of insolvencies, the New Zealand government rolled out a suite of alternate responses to the pandemic, including a mandatory licensing regime for insolvency practitioners.
“The law reform was timely,” says Peter Vial, CA ANZ’s New Zealand country head, who worked with the government through the lockdowns to ensure insolvency practitioner members could transition smoothly to the new plan.
“It recognised the critical role insolvency practitioners play in the economy, particularly in times of crisis and recession.”
While Vial’s team ensured the New Zealand government understood the realities of members’ needs, they also spent countless hours communicating the changes and helping insolvency practitioners offer their own clients the best advice.
“It was all worth it,” says Vial, of the extra collaboration and flexibility required by COVID-19.
“The regime is ‘good to go’ and we can be sure that ethics and integrity will continue to be front and centre of insolvency practice in New Zealand in the uncertain times ahead.”
Supporting you through COVID-19
This site is regularly updated to ensure members are equipped with CPD and other useful resources to navigate personal, business and economic impacts from this pandemic.Read more