Nearly one in two accountants are “fairly” or “extremely” worried about the state of the economy, with accountants in locked-down areas said to be generally more concerned, a new survey by accounting body CPA has revealed.
“It’s clear that lockdowns create a lot of referred pain for businesses no matter where they’re located,” said CPA Australia chief executive Andrew Hunter.
“This highlights the challenges associated with implementing different business support programs on a state-by-state or territory basis.”
Although as many as 60 per cent of surveyed accountants are fairly confident in the state of business performance over the next three to six months, a majority reported that many of their business clients are currently experiencing high to very high levels of financial distress.
Nearly 54 per cent expect their business clients to find it “difficult” or “very difficult” to pay debts over the next three months.
Meanwhile, over 46 per cent of surveyed accountants said enquiries they have received regarding financial distress have increased in the past month. Even in non-lockdown areas, nearly 38 per cent of surveyed accountants report an increase in these inquiries.
According to the survey, the leading cause of pain for businesses is uncertainty around lockdowns, followed by attracting and retaining the right staff and the speed of the vaccine rollout.
“Governments can reduce the pain of lockdowns by announcing business supports at the same time as a lockdown is announced,” Mr Hunter opined.
“We’ve grown increasingly frustrated with failures by governments to plan for lockdowns and with red tape holding up the delivery of vital financial support to businesses.”
The CPA also found that nearly three-quarters of surveyed accountants are “unclear” or “unaware” of the government’s National COVID-19 Plan, noting that to effectively advise business clients, accountants need to understand how the government will respond to future outbreaks.
“Forewarned is forearmed; if the business community and their advisers are better informed, they can prepare for the public and social health measures they’re likely to face,” he said.
Moreover, CPA revealed that close to 80 per cent of surveyed accountants think governments should be doing more to increase vaccinations. This figure is similar across both lockdown and non-lockdown areas.
The survey was conducted from 9 to 15 August and captures the views of nearly 200 CPA Australia members working in accounting practices and Australian businesses.