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Business Observer Wednesday, Mar. 25, 2020 1 week ago

CPA firm reacts to coronavirus in midst of tax season

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Cavanaugh & Co. is offering clients and employees tax prep options.
by: Grier Ferguson Sarasota-Manatee Editor

Tax season is a busy time of year before you add in a pandemic.

Coronavirus has caused a double whammy for CPA firms around the country dealing with the usual rush of the season along with fallout from the virus.

“This is unprecedented,” says David Hochsprung, a partner at Cavanaugh & Co. LLP, with offices in Sarasota and Venice. “We know how to prepare for hurricanes. We don’t know how to prepare for this.”

In the wake of the virus, Hochsprung says Cavanaugh & Co. has taken several precautions and is making a variety of options available to its clients and employees. “We are encouraging staff to not be at the office — to work remote if at all possible,” he says. 

The plan is to keep the office open as long as it can and to take every precaution to protect clients and staff. The firm is frequently cleaning surfaces in the office, all the way out to the front door handle. It’s also keeping track of people who come into the office by having them fill out a sign-in sheet in case anyone has to be tracked down later.

Some clients are still coming in for tax appointments, but others are choosing to relay information via the firm’s online portal. Because of coronavirus, the deadline for filing taxes has been moved from April 15 to July 15. 

Cavanaugh & Co. is conveying information to clients through emails that explain some additional options. “In situations like this, we’re trying to over-communicate,” Hochsprung says. One option, he says, is for clients to drive into the firm’s parking lot and have an employee meet them outside to pick up papers from them so clients don’t have to enter the office.

The company is part of a network of CPA firms called BDO Alliance USA, which gives it access to training information, research capabilities, plans for certain scenarios and memos. Cavanaugh & Co. hasn’t had to write coronavirus-related messaging to clients from scratch. It’s used memos from the alliance as a basis, tailoring them to the specifics of the firm.

Leaders of the firm are also seeking advice closer to home. “We have been in touch with our peer group firms throughout state and locally,” Hochsprung says. They’re reaching out to see what those firms are doing to react to coronavirus, too. He says, “Now is a time to throw competition out the door and work on this together.”

Moving forward, Cavanaugh & Co. partners are keeping their eyes on the news. “This is changing day to day, hour to hour,” Hochsprung says. “We’re keeping in touch with what the CDC and World Health Organization guidelines are. One of the things we’re hypersensitive to is our client base. We want to get ahead of the curve instead of behind.”

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