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Mar 21, 2020

Recommendations for Small Firm and Small Business Operations During the COVID-19 Outbreak

By Megan Killian, vice president – member relations


These recommendations are provided to help small businesses adjust to remote working circumstances. Please note, this advice should be taken into consideration with the restrictions and health warnings of the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control, and federal, state, and local governments.

As of March 20, Governor Wolf has ordered all non-life sustaining businesses to close their physical locations. Since that time the governor’s office has deemed “accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping and payroll services” to be life-sustaining businesses that may still operate. This means that firms may continue to operate at their physical locations, however per the guidelines of the CDC social distancing should still be a priority.

Many small businesses are struggling with how to protect their staff and clients while maintaining business continuity. Even with the filing deadlines extended the business disruption for firms and most other businesses is unavoidable. Here are some basic guidelines and tips to help you navigate these unprecedented circumstances.

  • To the extent that your technology allows, you and your staff should be working remotely.
  • If you must have staff in the office to perform vital operational duties, consider rotating their schedules to minimize the number of people in the office at any given time.
  • Replace in-person meetings with virtual ones. You can use technology tools such as Webex and Zoom to interact with clients or staff when you need to share documents during a discussion. Both have free options and are easy to set up. Intercall, a PICPA affinity partner, offers a member discount and has some web-based options as well. FaceTime is an option if you don’t need to share documents but still want to interact beyond a basic phone call.
  • If you’re not already using one, now is a great time to set up a web portal for sharing documents. Dropbox and GoogleDrive are commonly used portals for sharing documents. Other paid services include Doc.it, Sharefile, and SendthisFile. Just be sure to use a secure portal with encryption. Do not send documents with financial or other sensitive information via email.
  • If you must receive hard copies of documents, designate a secure place and a specific time for clients to drop off documents. Documents can also be sent via priority mail, with tracking for added security.
  • A virtual private network (VPN) is a way to connect to your company’s network and any IT provider can assist with setting that up.
  • The PICPA technology team has compiled this list of simple technology tools that could be helpful to stay connected to your clients and staff while working remotely.
  • Clear and proactive client and customer communication is critical. Share your company’s current operations and include how and when they will be getting status updates. If firm clients are filing and making payments electronically, provide them with clear instructions and deadliness.
  • Maintain open and honest communication with your staff. They’re looking to firm leaders for direction. You may not have all the answers or know what tomorrow will look like, but be cognizant that this is a stressful and uncertain time for everyone.
  • Keep a running list of the things that you’re doing or things you wish you could do or would have prepared so that after all this is over you can use to create a more formalized business continuity plan. Look for more on this from PICPA in the future, too.

Please be sure to take care of yourself, too. Eat regular meals, get rest, and take breaks throughout the day as needed to clear your head and help mitigate stress. All these efforts may seem impossible right now, but it’s worth the reminder that these steps are important so that you remain healthy.

PICPA continues to advocate for all our members. Even if you can continue operations remotely this disruption will inhibit the ability for many companies to meet client and business obligations and deadlines. We have been working with government and regulatory agencies to get clarification on filing and payment deadlines at the local, state, and national levels. These efforts and other information are being shared on PICPA's COVID-19 resource page


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6 comments

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  • Accountants West Auckland | Sep 15, 2020
    What a beautiful content on the topic. This article is very helpful and informative. I loved reading this article. I am sure many people will come to read this article in future. Keep sharing such informative articles in future, will be appreciated.
  • Carlo Silvesti | Mar 23, 2020
    Thank you
  • Meg Killian | Mar 23, 2020

    John and Ray, 

    Thanks for the questions. We are working on getting answers to these and will be notifying all members as we get confirmations from the various agencies. You can also find updates on www.picpa.org/coronavirus

     

    Rodg,

    I'm glad you found this helpful!

     
  • Rodger Krause | Mar 23, 2020

    Thanks Meg.  That is helpful.  It's much what we were planning on doing.  It's nice to have that affirmation.

    Rodger

  • John Zygmont, CPA | Mar 23, 2020
    It appears that the deadline extension for returns and payments is specifically limited to individuals.  Is there any guidance for business returns and payments, and trust returns and payments?  
  • Ray Knaub | Mar 22, 2020

    Has the local tax collection system come on board with the newly extended federal and PA deadlines? My question extends to income tax, per capita tax, local services tax, mercantile tax and any other ancillary taxes that the local collectors receive returns and payments for. A release and subsequent updates to the general membership would seem appropriate. Thank you and stay healthy.

     Ray L. Knaub, Jr., CPA 

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    Disclaimer
    Statements of fact and opinion are the authors’ responsibility alone and do not imply an opinion on the part of PICPA officers or members. The information contained in herein does not constitute accounting, legal, or professional advice. For professional advice, please engage or consult a qualified professional.