Note: The following is a letter from SCACPA CEO Chris Jenkins to South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster with a request to define accounting services as an essential service in the case of the issuance of a shelter-in-place order.
Friday, March 20, 2020
Thank you for your leadership as we navigate a crisis that none of us have experienced before.
My name is Chris Jenkins, and I am the CEO of the South Carolina Association of Certified Public Accountants. Since 1915, this Association has promoted for the awareness of CPAs as trusted advisors, and today we represent the more than 4,300 CPAs across our state who maintain annual certification to prove that they will protect the public.
As you continue to evaluate the spread of the COVID-19 virus and seek to mitigate its impact, you face many difficult decisions. Based on what we are seeing in other states, we suspect you may soon need to issue an order to shelter-in-place.
While health care, utilities, grocery stores and public safety are clearly essential services, we request that you consider accounting services as an essential service.
Accounting services are critical to financial markets, especially when considering legally mandated activities. Further, a precedent has been set in other states: Shelter-in-place orders issued by counties in California included accounting services as essential.
The following issues illustrate why accounting services should be considered essential:
- Accountants provide tax preparation services for individuals and businesses. Most South Carolina citizens require the help of a tax expert to complete and file an accurate tax return, especially considering the significant federal and state tax law changes enacted in the past two years.
- Accounting firms handle payroll processes for many businesses in the state. It is critical that there are no disruptions in pay during this stressful time.
- Banks and other lenders require current financial statements and information when reviewing loan requests or a financial restructuring. These requests are likely to increase throughout the COVID-19 crisis.
- Businesses are facing difficult decisions due to the major disruption caused by COVID-19. More than ever, business owners will rely on their CPAs to provide analysis and advice that allows them to make vital decisions, meet contractual obligations, pay employees and – ultimately – stay in business.
- Accounting professionals handle critical and sensitive information, requiring robust cybersecurity systems. While very large companies operate in paperless systems with secure remote access, many small to midsize companies and individuals continue to use paper documents. Even if all these documents could be digitally transmitted, cybersecurity remains a concern. Accounting firms have office IT systems in place for managing and protecting consumers’ data; these systems are not always as sophisticated (and, in some parts of the state, readily available) in a home-office environment.
- Disruptions to the tax filing process could result in rushed filings that contain errors, which would cause taxpayers to file amended returns when their operations do return to normal. This would cause additional costs and burdens on the Department of Revenue and slow their response to return to full capacity.
- The services provided by accounting professionals are used in all corners of South Carolina. By naming them as essential, many communities are and will continue to be served.
We are in an environment where the rules are changing hour-by-hour. We need calm and rational approaches to the problems ahead of us. By including the accounting profession as essential, you are ensuring that a key resource will be available to individuals and businesses to help them make critical financial decisions.
We appreciate your consideration and are happy to answer questions or provide more information. You can reach me at email@example.com or 614-440-9018.
We hope this crisis passes quickly and that South Carolina returns to a stable, prosperous and healthy environment.
Chris Jenkins, CEO
South Carolina Association of CPAs