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Directors face 'reckless trading' rap if accounts skirt Covid impact

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Warning: Directors have been told they need to fully explain their assessment of their company’s prospects of survival. Stock image

Warning: Directors have been told they need to fully explain their assessment of their company’s prospects of survival. Stock image

Warning: Directors have been told they need to fully explain their assessment of their company’s prospects of survival. Stock image

Company directors face potentially dire consequences if they fail to robustly set out the risks Covid-19 poses to their business, according to auditors at Deloitte.

Regulators have allowed flexibility for when accounts for 2019 must be submitted to the Companies Office.

But the content, including the "going concern" section that must assess a company's prospects of survival, needs to be fully explained, according to Glenn Gillard, partner in audit and assurance at Deloitte.

"Directors can't just say the outlook is very uncertain because of Covid-19, they have to make a robust assessment or run the risk of being found to have been recklessly trading the business," he said.

A finding of reckless trading against a director can have dire consequences - including being made liable for the debts of a collapsed company and being restricted from serving as a director in future.

Michael Hartwell, Deloitte's head of audit and assurance, said that companies' core reporting obligations haven't changed but they face increased challenges to assess the impact of the current crisis on their financial strength, liquidity and viability.

"If more of your future revenue will be online what does that mean in terms of valuing bricks and mortar assets as recoverable assets?"

Documenting work and simply taking stock of assets is all more difficult, he said.

Tougher standards for auditors themselves following recent scandals in the UK mean the profession is obliged to push companies to be able to support specific financial judgments.

"Our advice to clients has been to take as many data points as you can and consider them against multiple scenarios," he said.

Irish Independent