May 25th, 2024

Accountants recalculate procedures during pandemic

By Beeber, Al on April 14, 2020.

Al Beeber

Lethbridge Herald

The COVID-19 crisis has prompted Ottawa to delay the number-crunching time for filing personal income taxes and it’s also affecting how accountants are doing their work.

Harvey Labuhn, managing partner at Avail CPA in Lethbridge, says that company has modified its way of doing business to ensure safety of staff.

All taxes being physically dropped off are quarantined for 24 hours before they are touched since the virus can survive that long on porous surfaces such as paper, cardboard and fabric. It can also survive up to 72 hours on surfaces that are hard and shiny.

After quarantine, documents are scanned into electronic files.

While accountants do more work behind the scenes than people may realize, the virus has impacted how the firm works with its clients, he said Friday.

“The big change is people are working from home as much as possible,” he said. And staff are doing more work by email and Zoom video-conferencing, he added.

“The technology was already there but we’re using it more now … we don’t need to meet face-to-face in a lot of cases.”

With Ottawa delaying until June 1 the need to file personal income taxes, Labuhn thought he would see more clients delaying but that hasn’t necessarily turned out to be the case.

“It’s slowed down a little bit but not as much as I thought.”

Labuhn said people expecting a tax refund may be more inclined to file sooner than those who have to pay.

Because of the crisis, Canadians who do owe the Canadian Revenue Agency money now have until Sept. 1 to pay up. That includes “the June 15, 2020 instalment payment for those who have to pay by instalments,” says the CRA website.

According to the CRA website, penalties and interest will not be charged if payment is received by Sept. 1 but penalties and relief will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

The due date for corporations to file taxes for the current year has also been extended to June 1. The date for tax payment is also Sept. 1, says the CRA website.

Trusts have until May 1 to file while charities have until Dec. 31.

Labuhn says the CRA is also encouraging Canadians to register at its “My Account” page.

“They’re trying to do more electronically,” said Labuhn. “I have to give CRA kudos; its system has gotten quite good over the years.”

That system allows accountants to get some needed documents from the CRA for doing taxes online. Labuhn can foresee the day in five to 10 years when clients won’t need to bring any slips to an accountant because it will also be available from the CRA.

“People have been great,” he said of the changes his firm has implemented.

“We miss the personal contact because that’s the fun thing. But it is what it is.”

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