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SMEs reporting greater levels of stress, says ACCA

More than one in 10 businesses have said it may be “impossible” to reopen following lockdown, according to the latest ACCA UK and The Corporate Finance Network (The CFN) SME Recovery Tracker.

The tracker, which features insights from accountants working with small businesses, found that more SMEs have reported greater levels of stress and anxiety in light of the pandemic. 

The survey of accountants, representing more than 22,000 SME clients, revealed “tension and strain” amongst SMEs ahead of the further lockdown easing on 4 July. 

Some 71% of accountants reported that their SME clients had “shared feelings of being more stressed and anxious than usual”, up from the 69% reported two weeks ago.

According to ACCA businesses are reporting “significant concerns” over future finances, with the tracker revealing that more than two thirds of businesses will be unable to meet deferred tax liabilities within the next six months.

The results also found that 2.9% of SMEs said they have decided to liquidate their business, while 15% said that social distancing requirements “as they currently stand” would make it impossible or unviable to reopen their business.

Kirsty McGregor, founder of The CFN network, said: “The reality for business owners is becoming all the more stark now that a greater number are attempting to grow their business again. 

“Supporting the release of lockdown for the economy in general, albeit whilst potentially still being loss-making, is incredibly stressful. I would encourage all businesses to critically assess both their short and longer-term cashflow projections.” 

She added: “A written plan and some clear strategies will allow for a calmer mindset during this period, and should take some of the worry away.”

Claire Bennison, head of ACCA UK, said: “The results from this week’s tracker represent the legitimate concerns thousands of small businesses face. 

“Thoughts are turning towards economic recovery and concerns they have over supply chains, tax liabilities and wellbeing in general. Navigating these obstacles requires resilience, 4 July is a significant step in the post-Covid journey.”

She added: “Many businesses await Rishi Sunak’s economic statement next week, and whether there will be an emergency budget or spending review. Businesses owners need to be clear about exactly what they need to do in order to move forward with confidence, save jobs and reboot their business.

“Uncertainty breeds inaction, this is something businesses simply cannot afford in these difficult times.”

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