Smart Company

Accounting groups are meeting with state governments to iron out the issues affecting coronavirus business support payments amid growing frustration among their members.

CPA Australia, Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, and the Institute of Public Accountants have begun providing feedback to state governments about how the eligibility requirements fail to reflect the situations business owners find themselves in as well as constantly shifting criteria.

Susan Franks, senior tax advocate Chartered Accountants ANZ, attended a meeting last Tuesday with the NSW government, where she provided feedback about the challenges her members are experiencing.

“Our members need to be able to get through to Service NSW on a phone call, we need clear online guidance and we need better tracking of when guidance changes,” Franks tells SmartCompany.

Franks said micro businesses are confused whether they qualify for business grants or whether they should be accessing income assistance through Service Australia, including the COVID-19 Disaster payments.

Gavan Ord, policy advisor at CPA Australia, has been in contact with the NSW, Queensland, ACT and Victorian governments about their grant applications.

Ord says there are a whole range of issues that are holding up the applications, including the definition of an employee, issues around resubmitting applications and the comparison periods for the decline in turnover test.

“These issues are important to us because I know our members are sitting on applications they can’t lodge because they don’t know whether their clients are eligible,” Ord tells SmartCompany.

Streamlining the eligibility process is a priority for accountant groups, which say their members are dealing with increased workloads as they assist their small business clients, many of which are experiencing financial distress.

Stacey Price, accountant and BAS agent at Healthy Business Finance, says she has spent days understanding the eligibility criteria of different grant programs, which generally cannot be billed to her clients.

Price says she would like state governments to clarify on the accountant’s letter, the letter that confirms a business’ eligibility, that it involves the assessment of a businesses suitability for a grant and not simply a signature at the bottom of a template.

“Clients don’t want to pay for us to sign the letter because they are in financial hardship and they see it as just a signature,” Price tells SmartCompany.

A spokesperson from Service NSW confirmed that more than 292,000 applications for business support have been lodged.

About 82% of those applications have been approved, which is a total of $2.3 billion in payments.

However, only $1.8 billion has already been paid to businesses, with the remainder to be paid in the future.

“Service NSW is working seven days a week to assess applications, clear the backlog and ensure eligible businesses receive funding as quickly as possible,” the spokesperson said.

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