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2020 community review: A long, hard slog

At the end of a year unlike any other, we highlight the biggest issues raised by community members during 2020. They all seem to share a common theme...

29th Dec 2020
Community Assistant AccountingWEB
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Coronavirus 2020
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Whatever challenges the world has faced this year, we’ve come out the other end wiser and more aware of the importance of coming together. The AccountingWEB community has embraced this spirit wholeheartedly, with members sharing their struggles, worries and advice on a daily basis since the pandemic took hold in March.

The discussions on Any Answers throughout this year have focused overwhelmingly on the coronavirus, whether people were asking for help with ever-changing government guidelines or just needing a shoulder to lean on during the never-ending furlough slog.

As 2020 draws to a close, we highlight some of the most popular and helpful Covid-19 discussions this year.

Small business grant

The elusive small business grants were a huge point of intrigue this year; AccountingWEB member John Stone wanted to know exactly which businesses were eligible for the loan after hearing the Chancellor mention £3,000 grants in his Budget speech on 12 March.

“Small ones I presume,” advised Lone_Wolf.

Other readers seemed just as perplexed, reflecting back on earlier days when details of government guidance would be outlined clearly as soon as they announced any changes. The storm of perpetually shifting schemes had only just begun, but already the industry was coming together to share their struggles.

Our own John Stokdyk responded with a get the details right guide to the finer details of the small business grant and rates relief schemes for accountants to pass on to their clients.

Resignation during furlough

The most read thread on Any Answers this year, posted during April drew almost 70,000 readers. The question came fom Matrix, whose client’s furloughed employee had resigned with a month’s notice. While Matrix assumed the furlough would cease as a result, the client and their HR lawyer disagreed, since there was no access to the office to work.

“What do others think about furlough during notice period?” Matrix asked after failing to find any help from the furlough guidance.

Other accountants had encountered similar problems with their clients and before long they were speculating what constituted proper redundancy during furlough. Some members insisted the client had to pay the employee his normal wage for the period up to the end of the notice period. Matrix was concerned, however, that the client would have to pay a month’s wages to the departing employee just for sitting at home.

But why would the employee even want to resign if they could stay claiming furlough payments, asked another member. It was a career move, Matrix replied.

Meanwhile, hannahh2 sought advice about the legalities of claiming furlough for one job while getting paid to work from another and was advised to check both her employee contracts for confirmation.

A few weeks later, Matrix confirmed that the HR lawyer had advised that the resignation did not affect the furlough claims, allowing the employee to claim until the last day of notice.

Would anyone like to check my furlough calculation?

With so much information flying around about furlough calculations, many accountants were confused about the exact ways in which to complete them. Tom123 turned to Any Answers to ask other members to sanity check whether his might have gone wrong.

Everything looked in order, but members were quick to complain about the messy state of the furlough guidance. “It doesn’t help at the moment that the guidance to employers says that employment contracts prevail, but the guidance to employees suggests the 20% is optional!” protested Arthur Putey.

Other readers argued that any discussion of the details was pointless until HMRC clarified the guidance. There were some grumbles that the page had turned into Any Furlough Answers, with these types of questions becoming the “new normal” for daily readers.

In a response that captured the spirit of 2020, lionofludesch advised: “Nobody knows the answer, although we all have opinions. Go with your gut feeling.”

Coronavirus email sign offs

Following the first burst of virus announcements in March, AnnAccountant came to the forum to voice frustration with the tedious parade of email sign-offs.

“Every year I have a rant about the extra effort involved in complying with the social niceties of adding Xmas and NY wishes to the bottom of emails,” they explained. 

Since the pandemic, this annual tradition had been replaced with a similar rendition of “stay safe during these uncertain times” sign-offs on client correspondence.

They hoped that the novelty would wear off once the new series of Love Island started, which proved to be a fruitless wish after the reality TV show became one of victims of the pandemic.

Other members shared AnnAccountant’s woe, but Bob Loblaw thought they needed to toughen up: “You must have skin as thin as the off brand one ply I horded if that's something that's actually going to bother you.”

Memyself-eye advised the OP not to worry and to just go to the pub while they still could.

Reader Duhamel simply replied: “Hope you are staying safe at this difficult time.”

From all of us at AccountingWEB, we hope that 2021 brings you more happiness and less stress than this year - but whatever happens, the community is here to help.

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