You Can Take Advantage of Financial Services Virtually During COVID-19
Due to various laws and standards, most people have historically had to go into an accountant or CPA's office for a sit-down appointment to discuss most matters. However, as COVID-19 hit and shuttered businesses, these professionals were given legal latitude in almost every state to continue practicing virtually. Most states even allow full notarization to take place virtually now.
If you're looking for a financial or money management service provider, now might be the time to do it. COVID-19 has certainly placed many hardships on working people and their families, but it has also demonstrated that many processes can be virtual. However, it is unclear how long these services will be available legally and virtually, so you'll need to strike when the iron is hot!
There have been online tax preparation services for uncomplicated tax returns for years. Some of these services even have a "CPA on demand" service, where you can talk to a tax professional for advice. However, these have historically been limited in scope to superficial issues.
Now, due to the pandemic, tax professionals in almost every state can do everything that you had to go to their offices to do before. For example, if you run a business and have complex corporate taxes, your accountant and CPA will be able to help prepare your taxes securely and fully online. Regardless of whether you prefer a virtual visit due to COVID-19 or simply for its convenience, the option is there.
Investment services were some of the first "fintech" (the intersection of finance and technology) services to pop up on the Internet. Due to the quickly changing nature of investments, real-time online tickers can be greatly beneficial to those looking to invest.
However, there's always been one common theme behind all online investment services: they do not provide investment advice. This is largely as a legal shield, since they can be held liable in certain circumstances if they provide bad advice that results in a loss of revenue.
However, most states have either an executive order on file or a formal law passed by their legislatures that shield businesses from these types of liability when they're providing online services during the COVID-19 public emergency. This is a mixed bag for investors. On one hand, it makes the entire process easier, since you can make a few clicks and have a real-time chat with a financial advisor who can give you formal "investment advice". On the other hand, the liability shield means that even if you receive faulty advice, you'll likely have little to no recourse if it was virtual.
Countless Other Services
It appears that COVID-19 is permanently altering some of the fintech industry. It's already led to great advances in automation for many processes that used to require humans. The one variable that remains outstanding is whether states are going to decide that these services shouldn't be allowed to be virtual once the public emergency is over.
Many experts have said that it's likely there will be approximately a 50/50 split among states that do allow these services to continue virtually and states that don't. In particular, states looking to avoid historic traffic congestion are among the most likely to allow virtual services. States with "use tax" for these visits are also much more likely to be inclined to allow fiscal services to continue virtually.
In the end, there isn't really an excuse for not allowing them to continue virtually, other than simply wanting to go back to what old tradition dictated. However, since the fact that many states will do just this is inevitable, now is a great time to review your finances. Things like estate planning that had required long, painful visits to financial specialists are now available remotely in almost every state.
Given the transient nature of the federally and state-declared emergency, there's reason to believe that these services will, at least temporarily, be suspended once the emergency has formally ended. Since it looks likely that a COVID-19 vaccine will be available quite soon, and many other countries are easing up on restrictions and ending emergencies, there likely isn't much time left to take advantage of this odd time in our nation's history.
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