Beneath the headlines of an outbreak, fatalities in the thousands and infecting tens of thousands worldwide sits other news: panic buying at grocery stores, whipsawing on Wall Street, and the specter of unprecedented disruption to everyday lives and business — all with less than five weeks to go before Tax Day.
So, how is DRDA planning on dealing with coronavirus just as the season heats up?
“We are taking a proactive approach to dealing with this issue,” said Doug Dickey, CPA, CEPA, Principle Partner of DRDA. “Like any other Hazard Preparedness or Disaster and Emergency Planning, we are committed to having a system in place to ensure the safety and security of our staff and clients with minimal disruption to our services.”
Being prepared to prevent, respond to, and recover rapidly from public health threats can save lives and protect the health and safety of the public. Though some people feel it is impossible to be prepared for unexpected events, the truth is that taking preparedness actions helps anyone deal with hazards of all types more effectively when they do occur.
The IRS is taking a wait-and-see approach: “Our internal working group will continue to closely watch this and promptly respond to any emerging situations to protect our employees and taxpayers interacting with the agency,” the agency said in a statement. “Normal IRS operations are continuing, and we are seeing a strong, smooth filing season for the nation.”
More than likely the IRS is developing contingency plans, as they did with the government shutdown. Historically they have developed a hierarchy of essential and non-essential services. Our belief is that return filing and the collection of tax due will be at the top of their essential service list.
Taking it seriously
“DRDA has had remote employees and work from home employees for years. We are ensuring that everyone on our Team is set to work from home if needed,” said Doug Dickey, CPA, CEPA. “
“Different” might be one word to describe the potential disruption. Living on the Texas Gulf Coast we think ahead in detail for weather or power outages. A new and largely unknown virus is a new and different disruption. Since there is very little known of COVID-19, it is being treated as a disaster or an event that would require a business to invoke their Emergency Plan. It is imperative to be prepared with a contingency plan for any natural or systemic challenge.
In the event of a citywide mandate for public safety which would require the staff to stay home; we will continue to serve you by enabling our staff with home workstations, along with constant communication with the entire firm and our clients. Our computer and phone systems have been in the cloud and VOIP for years. There is no difference in access from home or office.
Tax prep also often depends on face-to-face conferences with clients with little more than the width of a desk between us.
Most preparers complete hundreds of individual returns per year and have face-to-face meetings with about ten percent of the clients. The trend in our industry for the more substantial firms has been leading to digital productivity and remote access. As stated previously DRDA has been digitally in the cloud for years so the impact to our business will be minimal. Almost everything we do can be conducted remotely via phone, video conferencing, email, fax, secure portals and remote electronic signatures.
We encourage our clients who normally come in for an interview or drop off, pick up or mail their documents to upload their information through the secure client portal if you can. With less interviews, and traditional mailing routes, there would be less contact and increased safety for all. We are all human and human safety and well-being is always our first concern.
Technology will help
We have encouraged clients to use the portal and upload their documents since the beginning of Tax Season (click here to access our secure portal). We believe in these times, if more clients utilize this approach, it will foster a safer and better document delivery and acknowledgment process for everyone. We are currently enhancing our website with even more detailed information about how to use the portal if you choose this option (click here for help with our secure portal).
To make certain we can continue to serve you, DRDA has incorporated applications from the cloud, with two-factor authentication. In the event of a virus emergency, the firm’s e-workflow would involve alerts to clients in case of quarantine; instructions to use the firm’s encrypted portal; staff scheduling and payroll; monitoring of each stage of work; shipment to the client for e-signature and electronic payment; and e-filing.
Rest assured we are working diligently to ensure a seamless transition in the event of an emergency happening. Our primary endeavor is the safety and security of our staff, clients and community while serving you.
If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us directly.