All nine professional bodies of the Tax Practitioners Stewardship Group have now called on Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews to allow accountants, tax practitioners, bookkeepers and related professionals to continue to operate and see clients in their business premises, where there is no practical alternative, in the event of a stage 4 lockdown in Victoria.
The nine bodies include Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, CPA Australia, Institute of Public Accountants, the Tax Institute, The Institute of Certified Bookkeepers, Tax & Super Australia, National Tax and Accountants’ Association Ltd, Australian Bookkeepers Association and the Association of Accounting Technicians.
The request comes as Victoria recorded 428 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, its highest single-day increase, and just shy of the 469 highest total daily number of cases across Australia on 28 March.
Mr Andrews and Victoria chief health officer Brett Sutton have refused to rule out stage 4 restrictions, with residents in metropolitan Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire now required to wear face coverings in public from midnight on Wednesday.
The joint submission notes that practitioners are a necessary service, with tax time having now commenced, and businesses and individuals heavily relying on professional advice during the pandemic.
“COVID-19 [has] meant that many taxpayers are struggling with their finances and are dependent on tax return refunds for their living expenses. There are additional complexities where non-business tax advice is sought, such as in relation to investments and superannuation, which are time-critical given the volatile markets and precarious financial position of many Victorians,” the submission said.
“Business clients also require ongoing advice from their tax practitioner to prepare income tax returns, continue to access the benefits of governments’ stimulus packages, and determine eligibility for the Victorian Business Support Fund Expansion grant.
“Potentially, businesses will also be needing to seek advice on further announcements arising from the federal government’s Economic Statement Update on 23 July and the 2020–21 federal budget in October.”
The submission notes that while many accountants and bookkeepers have effectively delivered their services while working remotely, there will be circumstances where “an in-person meeting may be the only available option for practitioners to be able to comply with their legislative and regulatory requirements”.
“We recommend that the Victorian government publicly recognise that these professionals be permitted to continue practising and that any limitations imposed be carefully considered and allow for practical implementation under a stage 4 lockdown,” the joint bodies said.
“It is essential that accountants, tax practitioners and related professionals can continue to support taxpayers during this very difficult time.”
The joint accounting bodies had previously lobbied for practitioners to be recognised as an essential service during the height of the crisis earlier this year, but Australia ultimately avoided progressing beyond stage 3 restrictions.
Jotham Lian is the editor of Accountants Daily, the leading source of breaking news, analysis and insight for Australian accounting professionals.
Before joining the team in 2017, Jotham wrote for a range of national mastheads including the Sydney Morning Herald, and Channel NewsAsia.