COVID has rocked companies across all industries. Small businesses were perhaps hit the worst as few had resources to lean back on and had to close shop permanently. In fact, 67% were forced to stop trading at some point during the pandemic and around 234,000 SMEs have already permanently closed.

Government support packages sustained many small businesses, giving them urgent support to keep employed on payroll, albeit on furlough, and cover expenses. Yet, the frequent announcements and changing landscape equally created many unknowns, and many small businesses turned to their accountants for advice, support and guidance. 

Throughout the last year, accountants have been best placed to understand the financial impact and new government support packages while also helping small business owners plan for a brighter tomorrow.

Keep reading to discover:

  • The role of accountants in navigating COVID
  • Government grants available for small businesses
  • How accountants can help small businesses survive

The role of accountants in navigating COVID

Few people realised the financial impact COVID would have nor how long it would take for businesses to start recovery. After a year of lockdowns and restrictions, some industries can only begin planning for resuming service, and it will take even longer till businesses can operate as usual.

Accountants have been at the forefront of this evolving situation as accountants are equipped with insights into cash flow forecasts, inventory management, pricing, and business funding essential for planning and creating budgets to weather the financial storm.

Through this economic downturn, accountants have acted as an essential resource to give small business owners access to decades of industry experience, strategic advice and help managing complex processes like submitting furlough claims. Accountants have had to be alert to new announcements and then work out any inconsistencies.

 Given the drastic change and ongoing turmoil, it’s not surprising that the last year has caused an uptick in demand for accounting advisory services.

Whether businesses have thrived or struggled to survive, the pandemic has highlighted the important role accountants play in strategically managing small business finances and setting a roadmap for a company’s future.

What government grants are available to small businesses?

Small businesses grants, unlike loans, are dedicated to help grow businesses and don’t need to be paid back. Over the last year, the government has released several new COVID-related grants, but there are also non-COVID grants available.

COVID government support

COVID-19 support helps small businesses, sole traders and limited company directors in the form of loans, tax relief, and cash grants. 

The UK government has already spent £372 billion on relief efforts for support such as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) and Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS), business loan schemes and finance agreements like the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS and CLBILS), Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS), the Future Fund and COVID Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF), Eat to Help Out Scheme, business rates relief, grant funding and VAT deferrals.

Since the situation is constantly changing and the funds available depend on individual business circumstances, it’s worth using the government tool to see what your client may be eligible for.

Non-COVID Government Grants

The UK government has always sought to support small businesses and offers several grants outside of the pandemic.

  • National Lottery Heritage Fund. The heritage fund supports heritage projects that boost the local economy, promote skill development and job creation, and encourage positive wellbeing.
  • Innovate UK. Innovate UK provides government grants to help business owners bring exciting ideas to life and encourage innovation.
  • R&D tax relief. Businesses in the UK who are researching or developing a new concept/product that has potential to advance an industry qualify for tax credits.

How accountants can help small businesses survive & thrive

With the right processes and technology, accountants can help small businesses survive and thrive during and after COVID. 

Embrace automated accounting

Automated accounting allows accountants to spend more time advising on support packages, emotionally supporting clients and teaching clients about their finances. By getting away from number-crunching, clients can manage a bigger workload and better support clients without increasing costs.

Closely monitor cash flow & finances

For a struggling business, it’s essential to keep a very close eye on cash flow and finances. One of the biggest challenges for small businesses over the last year is not having enough cash to pay staff, covering operations and suppliers, and buying inventory. With many companies unable to open, real-time insights are essential for creating strategic plans and managing the situation.

Keeping up-to-date on government guidance & support

The last year has been anything but consistent. With frequent updates, changes and announcements, accountants need to help clients understand the available support and how it applies to their situation.

Supporting an extensive portfolio of clients can be difficult, but there are some clever ways you can streamline the process and provide the right support. Start by identifying the clients who may need the most help and may be close to foreclosing so you can direct your attention to them.

Once you know how each client stands, you can communicate in mass via educational, informational webinars that explain recent packages or email updates for breaking announcements.

Streamline your accounting operations with Countingup

Save your practice time on manual admin and help your clients keep organised records with Countingup’s free accounting software. Our software is MTD-compatible and full of features for accountants to review and manage client accounts efficiently with direct access to their real-time organised data. Find out more here.

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