By Wendell Ganhinhin
In December 2019, a novel strain of the corona virus (COVID-19) was reported to have surfaced in China. The World Health Organization declared the outbreak as a “public health emergency of international concern.” COVID-19 started to spread in the Philippines in early March 2020, causing the government to declare the country in a state of public health emergency followed by the implementation of enhanced quarantine and social distancing measures and restrictions across the country.
After more than two years since the pandemic hit, the question is – how are we doing? For some, the pandemic has paved the way for new business ventures and better career opportunities. For others, on the other hand, it has caused business closures and job losses. But one thing is certain: the pandemic has affected everyone in all walks of life regardless of profession, including accountants who are considered as economic front liners.
Merriam Webster defined accounting as “a system of recording and summarizing business and financial transactions and analyzing, verifying, and reporting the results.” When the pandemic hit, this “system” was greatly affected. To cope with the situation, accountants and others working in the accounting field, just like all other professionals, restructured their way of doing things through the use of technology. Digitalization and technology played a major role in the accounting profession, much more during the pandemic. Many businesses have shifted to using digital business models and implementing work-from-home (WFH) arrangements. WFH setups have provided employers and employees the flexibility to continue business operations without sacrificing their health and safety. However, this may have also posed increased cybersecurity and privacy threats to organizations.
The government has also implemented various programs to help alleviate the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. One of them is the signing of Republic Act No. 11534 or the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) Act. Specific regulations and issuances are released by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) every now and then to implement the changes and clarify any issues introduced under the CREATE Act. Other government agencies, including the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), have also released various issuances that accounting professionals need to be aware of.
With the shift to digitalization and release of accounting and tax updates, everything seems to be overwhelming considering the psychological challenges that we face. The situation we are all currently in seems to be a combination of complexity and uncertainty.
Our firm, P&A Grant Thornton, is also taking part in helping organizations address these changes. Our advisory practice division, for instance, has developed Vigil@nt Cybersecurity, a platform that helps businesses design, implement, and monitor internal cybersecurity training programs for employees to strengthen their cybersecurity position and help them make informed decisions. The Tax Advisory and Compliance team launched its “tax education and advocacy offering”, which focuses on interpreting laws and regulations, suggesting measures to enhance tax compliance, and protecting taxpayers’ rights as they have been actively participating in consultation and public hearings conducted by the BIR on proposed tax rules and regulations, serving as a bridge between our clients and the BIR. The Audit & Assurance practice division also performs other related services such as technical advice and training, which includes the offering of in-house seminars and trainings on audit and tax-related matters, like updates on Accounting Standards, new pronouncements and BIR issuances, as well as other developments that directly address the specific issues of clients’ industries and the training needs of their personnel. On top of this is SEC reporting and compliance, which includes requests for the preparation of General Form for Financial Statements and other reports submitted to the SEC on an as-the-need-arises or annual basis as embodied in the Securities Regulation Code (R.A. 8799).
Help comes in any form we could imagine, offer, and provide. In these trying times, help is not defined by one’s professional achievement and social status but on the genuineness of one’s heart while extending it.
Mr. Ganhinhin is a partner and head of P&A Grant Thornton’s Cebu Office. P&A Grant Thornton is one of the leading audit, tax, advisory, and outsourcing firms in the Philippines, with 24 partners and more than 900 staff members. Email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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