UK firms prepare for coronavirus hit

UK firms prepare for coronavirus hit

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to evolve, accountants across the UK and Ireland are preparing measures to adapt

UK firms prepare for coronavirus hit

As coronavirus (COVID-19) cases soar across the UK and Ireland, accounting firms are taking action to contain the pandemic’s spread and prepare for the months ahead.

At the beginning of March, Deloitte had a confirmed case of coronavirus in its London office, and each of the Big Four have issued statements asking staff to practice hygiene, avoid unnecessary travel and seek out virtual solutions.

However, the epidemic’s impact is being felt deep within accountancy as firms scramble to adapt to a new normal.

“As the UK reviews expert advice and medical evidence on delaying the impact of COVID-19, Irish schools, colleges and other public facilities are closed due to coronavirus,” said Maggie McGhee, ACCA’s executive director – governance, over email. “This will have a significant impact on UK and Irish businesses, particularly those operating cross-border.

“Accountants must therefore take the lead in guiding their organisations through the logistical and multiple financial pitfalls that are likely to result from the coronavirus pandemic.”

Deloitte has published information warning accountants that the value of financial instruments will become more volatile, noting that “financial reporting and related financial statement disclosures need to convey all material effects of COVID-19.”

With this in mind, accountants are being encouraged to safeguard both their health and businesses from the pandemic’s effects for the foreseeable future.

Preparing for changes

“As professional accountants, our members are at the forefront of managing, safeguarding and advising on the financial stability and integrity of businesses and organisations worldwide,” the ACCA said in a press release.

While the Government has encouraged anyone showing certain symptoms to self-isolate themselves, those who solely use desktop software may struggle to adapt.

Ahead of any changes, accountants should consider switching to Cloud-based software that can sync with their desktop, and meet with clients over the phone or Internet, instead of in-person.

Beyond this, they should also pay attention to Government announcements on tax deadlines, as the Treasury Department has already moved to push Tax Day back from April 15 in the United States.

The volatile nature of coronavirus makes it difficult to prepare for, so accountants should also hone their communication skills and dialogue with clients about their changing needs.

“Companies should face up to the virus as a material risk,” McGhee said. “The FRC has consistently been encouraging them to do so and has also issued impairments guidance. ACCA would agree with this advice, despite it still being unclear as to short or long-term impact of the coronavirus.

“It is important to take all reasonable steps as quickly as possible.”

In advance of any financial crashes or crises, accountants may also want to prepare “emergency” plans for their own firm’s needs, bolstered by Rishi Sunak’s Budget promises.

As the UK enters the Government’s “delay” phase, change can be expected each day with no guarantees. The World Health Organization’s recommendations are still to self-isolate where appropriate, practice good hygiene and mindful hand washing, and continue life as normally as possible.

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