Local accountants respond to COVID-19

Pearl Lorentzen
Lakeside Leader

One of the early COVID-19 responses by the federal government was to change the income tax deadline from April 30th to June 30th.

This is very good news for people who normally get their taxes done by the Town of Slave Lake volunteer tax service. The closure of the Multi Rec Centre and then the town offices has closed this program for the time being.
The good news is that accountants and tax preparation services in Slave Lake and Kinuso are still up and running. These are listed on the Alberta government’s list of essential services under financial services.

All of these businesses are taking social distancing precautions. Most are using a drop box or electronic means to get paperwork and are communicating with clients solely by phone or electronic means.

“We are feeling very detached from our clients,” says Chasity Sand, at H & R Block, in Slave Lake. “We can’t let anyone into the office.”

Barry Boisvert runs the Kinuso Mercantile, which offers tax service along with a long list of other things.

“It’s (COVID-19) making it very difficult to do business as normal,” he says. Thankfully, many of the store’s normal tax clients had their taxes done before all of the changes happened.

The store is limiting access to five regular and five tax customers at a time. The customers give their tax information to the front clerk and wait in the waiting area.

“The biggest impact has been a change in the way we do business,” says Shane Rebryna, of Rebryna Dana LLP. “We’re still working. We’re very busy.”

Part of that work is fielding questions about the government’s financial assistance for those affected by COVID-19. These questions were a common theme for all accounting firms and tax preparation agencies. All of them are willing to do their best to answer these questions.

“We’ve definitely slowed down,” says Shannon Colli, at Liberty Tax. “We’ve had to revamp our process in the office. It’s impacted our customer service and the way we do business.”

Colli encourages anyone who is going to need federal or provincial assistance to sign up for the needed accounts ASAP.

“It’s been hectic,” says Angel Meinecke of Celestial Accounting Services Limited.

Meinecke has been fielding calls and using Facebook and other means to keep her clients informed about the changing financial announcements made by the government.

“It looks like a lot on paper,” she says, but other than deferrals, there isn’t much. Deferrals and loans require a quick economic recovery after this is over in order to pay them off, so many of her clients are staying away from them. Especially the loans. Many of her clients are waiting to see what the 75 per cent wage subsidy turns into.

Lyla Smith, of Mutch More Accounting and Bookkeeping and Ruecker and Ruecker, has a better opinion of the governmental aid plans. Some of the subsidies are growing, like the way the 10 per cent taxable wage subsidy turned into a 75 per cent subsidy. The idea behind this is that once people are laid off there’s no guarantee they’ll be rehired or want to work. The slowest part is the government figuring out how to make its promises a reality. This is the reason for the lag time between announcements and workable programs.

“Everyone’s overwhelmed,” Smith says. “I’m trying to be calm. We’re all in the same situation, and we all need to have patience. Patience and a little bit of compassion for each other.”

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