Survey: Who’s Not Billing for PPP Services?

Some serving the greater good. Others are just confused.

By Sandi Leyva

Some 22 percent of respondents are not charging their clients for PPP services, and the overwhelming majority are doing it to increase client retention, build goodwill, and do their part to help their clients and the economy, according to the new survey sent out by CPA Trendlines and Accountant’s Accelerator

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With over 600 accountants responding, many give away services such as loan acquisition, loan forgiveness, review of Form 3508, tracing assistance, and risk management advice.

Goodwill and Client Retention

“I want my clients to survive” was a frequent comment when we asked why accountants decided not to charge them for PPP advice. Here are some other comments from survey participants.

“I was in a position to help. When a client’s house is burning down, how do you charge for helping?”

A few participants had a long-term agenda in mind. “Clients are already struggling and can’t afford any more fees. [Not charging them] builds loyalty, and I hope to increase fees later to compensate.”

“I did what I could to help my clients keep their business. This served everyone, even myself, as I kept them as clients.”

“My job is to do the best for my clients, and in these trying times, keeping them afloat, in the end, meant I stay afloat in the end.”

Other participants saw the big picture and served the greater good. “Clients applied for PPP because they were suffering financially and worried about the future of their business. This is my way of supporting the small business community.”

“[I was] trying to do my moral part to help the country.”

A minority of PPP survey respondents cited other reasons for not charging. One was that they had clients on fixed-fee monthly plans and considered PPP services to be covered under their existing plans. Another reason a few respondents cited was that they spent very little time advising on PPP, so it didn’t justify writing up an invoice.

A handful of respondents were confused about charging for PPP services. Some said they thought they couldn’t charge. One mentioned that they didn’t know what would be appropriate to charge. Another mentioned being concerned that the service scope might be outside their malpractice insurance.

A few others were just surprised by the time and scope of learning PPP. One said they “didn’t realize how much would be involved.” And another said they decided not to charge but now with the vision of a few months of PPP complexity hindsight, admitted, “Because I’m an idiot.”

 

6 Responses to “Survey: Who’s Not Billing for PPP Services?”

  1. Frank Stitely

    Do you not charge clients in bankruptcy? CPA firms are businesses. We have to charge for what we do. Not viewing CPA firms as businesses is why so many small firms struggle.

    Reply
  2. Gregg Lynch

    I cannot fathom doing the work that has been involved in relation to the PPP and not charge for it. I also cannot imagine that a client would not fully expect to be charged for the work. I spent a LOT of time learning the ins & outs of the program, reaching out to lenders to find some who’d work with businesses that were not current clients of that particular bank, etc. I provided an extremely valuable service to my clients, and I absolutely did so expecting to be compensated for my efforts. Not a single one hesitated at all. If you did work that provided a large chunk of money to a business, and were hesitant to charge even a minimal hourly fee for doing it, I can only ask “why?” You provided an extremely valuable service; charging a reasonable fee for your efforts isn’t going to be the difference in whether or not that business survives.

    Reply
  3. Tim Waters

    Our firm required each client to sign an engagement letter that defined the terms of engagement of applying for the PPP loan. The engagement did not cover the forgiveness application. The stated fee was a minimum fee of $500. We had two clients out of 75 complain about the fee. After those two clients tried to do the application themselves, each signed the engagement and paid the stated fee.

    We are getting ready to start the forgiveness applications. Our clients will be required to sign another engagement letter for this service. We have not determined what the minimum fee will be yet.

    Reply
    • Gregg Lynch

      Tim, we did something similar during the application process. Offered to do the entire application, or review the package if the client prepared it themselves; had a minimum stated fee but made it clear that it could/would be more than the minimum depending on the level of work, and gave them an estimate as to the amount prior to starting. Most had us prepare the application, but did have several who did that part on their own. Most were in industries that were “mandatory closure” – a dental office, a physical therapy clinic, a company that does maintenance work on vacation properties. The common theme with them was that their offices were closed & they had nothing to do anyway, so figured that they could do the application themselves – which made complete sense. With all three of them, they’ve asked us to do the forgiveness end. As the dentist said, “now that we’ve reopened, I’m six weeks behind on seeing my patients. I don’t have time to mess with the forgiveness paperwork.”

      Reply
  4. Lesley Lewis

    I decided not to charge my clients for this back in April to help my clients get through this crazy year. However, I’m paying the price for it. Each application it taking significant time. With Congress undecided as to if they will forgive the $150,000 or less loans, I’ve made the decision to finalize the applications within that limit now so that I am not dealing with this during tax season. Bankers do not like this decision because they have to finalize within 60 days.

    Overall….a total bust for my company and significant stress on me because of it. With Congress changing the rules and not making timely decisions, the last 6 months have been very stressful – all because of the PPP!

    Reply
  5. CHARLES

    Our firm took the position that we would not charge our business clients for PPP loan assistance. They needed the money in order to survive and even with the loans received we feel that some clients will never recover. Billing for these services would be like kicking a dog when he’s already down. Our approach is we consider our clients as in partnership to help them succeed.

    Reply

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