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Q&A: Strategies for Financial Security During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Denise L. Tumblin, CPA, WTA Veterinary Consultants, Columbus, Ohio

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Editor's note: This is a developing situation. Readers are encouraged to check back frequently for updates.
Published April 6, 2020, at 5:02 PM CST

What are ways to keep cash flowing into the clinic with pandemic-related changes to the economy?

Continue to physically see patients within the parameters allowed by federal and state mandates and within your own comfort levels. If you haven’t already, start using telehealth and telemedicine, and bill for your time and services.

Poll

Has your practice scaled back expenses in light of the COVID-19 pandemic (eg, decreased inventory, postponed equipment purchases)?


Practice websites can be set up to sell preventives and medications, therapeutic diets, and retail items to bring in income. Clients can be directed to the practice website to refill medications or purchase therapeutic diets without contact.

Securing a line of credit loan may be beneficial, but spending should also be tightened.

Top 5 Ways to Tighten Spending

1. Inventory management

Minimize how much is carried in in-house pharmacy and expand use of online sales for your practice.

2. Payroll

Government relief is available through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, CARES Act, and Economic Injury Disaster Loans.

3. Proactive conversations

Vendors, banks, landlord, and other lenders may be willing to offer extensions or defer payments due during this crisis.

4. Subscription services

Eliminate services and subscriptions that aren’t bringing a strong return on investment.

5. Postpone purchases.

Delay any big-ticket or nonessential purchases.

What about taxes and government assistance?

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act includes measures to help slow the spread of the virus and provide relief for the American workforce—including mandatory paid leave for employees that are impacted by COVID-19. Read more about the Families First Coronavirus Response Act here.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act contains multiple relief and aid programs, including unemployment programs, the Paycheck Protection Program loan, and Economic Injury Disaster Loans. Read more about the CARES Act here.

Employees who receive student loan repayment benefits from their employer will be able to exclude this benefit from their taxable income, and student loan payments have been deferred without penalty until September 30, 2020. Employees may also withdraw money from their tax-favored retirement plans without a tax penalty for COVID-19 related needs.

The deadline for federal tax payments due has been extended to July 15. Some states and cities are following suit; veterinary clinics should work with their accountants to determine deadline extensions.

How can I help my staff? Are there resources I can share with my employees?

Information about the Families First Coronavirus Response Act should be shared with staff. Employees who earn $75,000 or less will receive a direct payment of $1,200 (single) or $2,400 (family) plus $500 per child. Married taxpayers filing jointly with up to $150,000 income would receive the full $2,400. This payment will be gradually phased out for people filing as single with incomes between $75,000 and $99,000, and filing jointly phases out at an income of $198,000. The $500 per child is currently defined as ages 16 and under, but a bill was introduced on April 4, 2020, that would expand the definition to include dependents 17 and older, including college students.

Unemployment benefits are available to laid off or furloughed employees. Unemployment benefits are typically available for up to 26 weeks of unemployment; this has been extended for up to an additional 13 weeks, along with other benefit enhancements. Information on unemployment benefits should be accessed on individual state government websites.

Finally, veterinary team members should be prepared, both financially and mentally. Resources like these mental well-being exercises can help veterinary teams manage stress.

For global readers, a calculator to convert laboratory values, dosages, and other measurements to SI units can be found here.

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