Parminder Singh Ahuja CPA is an accounting and tax preparation firm found in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Since 1992, this firm has worked to specifically help businesses and people through values such as “efficiency, growth, and profitability.” This locally owned business has thrived for many years but the recent COVID-19 crisis has provided a major obstacle for the firm as Sonny explains down below.
[Moniola] How has this crisis affected your business financially and was this financial effect gradual or abrupt?
[Sonny] I am a CPA, so this crisis has really affected me. I am always busy from March 15 to April 15 preparing taxes for companies, individuals, non-profits, partnerships, etc. Most CPAs, including me, earn most of their revenue for the year in these two months. Last year I did almost 150 tax returns from March 15 to April 15, so far, due to this crisis, I have prepared only 15 to 20 taxes. This is a major financial crisis for me an[d] many CPAs. This was so sudden that I, along with others, were totally caught [off] guard.
[Moniola] What steps have you now put in place to combat the financial obstacles that have come in these times, and have they have been effective?
[Sonny] [I] make sure the work I do is paid at the time of delivery. I am a business just like the business I serve, therefore, I should be paid for the services when they are rendered. My biggest problem is trusting people to pay me latter and when latter comes, there is always an excuse for delaying the payment. This is one of the biggest changes I have made to combat the financial obstacles.
[Moniola] What overall changes, if any, will your business make to be ready for a similar situation in the future?
[Sonny] What I have done for my self is 1) make sure home set-up is up and working, 2) internet connection is the best in terms of speed, 3) [I] bought the necessary technical equipment for working from home and at the same time making sure all my employees have the same capabilities at their house. This made me realize how important it is to be paperless. I am from old school, where I prefer paper in order to do my work but now I am working with scanned documents and thus saving TREES!!!
[Moniola] Is there anything that you believe the government or every day people can do to support local businesses, in these times, that has not been done already?
[Sonny] In terms of government, I believe they have done a tremendous job for the local community. With the various grants that they offered to the local business, churches, and other non-profit[s] some relief has been achieved. With that said, I feel more can be done. Our government at the federal level gives aid to so many foreign countries but this was the time to give all that aid to its own people. Yes they gave out 2.2 trillion dollars, but the amount of devastation this crisis has caused to the local businesses, not everyone got a “piece of the pie” so to speak. The process was not streamlined; was not clear; confusion was rampant; or some didn’t have the technology to get online and apply. First come first serve, did not serve the people.
[Moniola] What do you think is the best approach a business can take when faced with such an unexpected obstacle like COVID-19?
[Sonny] What [do] I think is the best approach? It’s actually is a great and at the same time a very hard question. It’s easy to say because I am not [in the] government, but sometimes very hard decisions have to be made so that fear factor is kept low in the masses. However, I do feel, letting the people know in a timely manner of the calamity that is facing them, is a must. It’s okay to keep restrictions, like, staying home, but people will do whatever is necessary to protect themselves and their family. So what do I think is the best approach? Be straight with the people!!
[Moniola] Do you think that, as a result of a crisis like this, the future of business lies online and in a virtual world; if so, how long do you think it will take us to fully achieve this?
[Sonny] Even though I have been fighting it, this IS the way to go and be. Personally, I have already set my office at home with every technical gadget I will need to work from home (computer, dual monitors, all in one heavy-duty printer, fax and scanner, HDMI cables for connections, high-speed business internet, cloud hosting for all my employee and client data, a very secure portal for my clients to upload their tax information, etc.) I never want to be caught with my pants down again!
[Moniola] Is there anything else you would like to say about business, finances, COVID-19, or anything in general?
[Sonny] Even though this COVID-19 has hit us very hard, this too shall pass. However, it has made us realize how important life is and what we need to do keep ourselves safe and alive. Accordingly, businesses have to do the same. They have to monitor their cash flow even more so than before. If this continues to be an annual issue, we are in for a long haul. Life is precious, we need to respect others and make sure we, as citizens of earth, do our part in making sure the world survives.
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