Today, many banks are working with struggling borrowers on loan modifications. Recent guidance from the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) confirms that short-term modifications due to the COVID-19 pandemic won’t be subject to the complex accounting rules for troubled debt restructurings (TDRs). Here are the details.
Accounting for TDRs
Under Accounting Standards Codification (ASC) Topic 310-40, Receivables — Troubled Debt Restructurings by Creditors, a debt restructuring is considered a TDR if:
Banks generally must account for TDRs as impaired loans. Impairment is typically measured using the discounted cash flow method. Under this method, the bank calculates impairment as the decline in the present value of future cash flows resulting from the modification, discounted at the original loan’s contractual interest rate. This calculation may be further complicated if the contractual rate is variable.
Under U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), examples of loan modifications that may be classified as a TDR include:
The concession to a troubled borrower may include a restructuring of the loan terms to alleviate the burden of the borrower’s near-term cash requirements, such as a modification of terms to reduce or defer cash payments to help the borrower attempt to improve its financial condition.
Earlier this year, the FASB confirmed that short-term modifications made in good faith to borrowers experiencing short-term operational or financial problems as a result of COVID-19 won’t automatically be considered TDRs if the borrower was current on making payments before the relief. Borrowers are considered current if they’re less than 30 days past due on their contractual payments at the time a modification program is implemented.
The relief applies to short-term modifications from:
In addition, loan modifications or deferral programs mandated by a federal or state government in response to COVID-19, such as financial institutions being required to suspend mortgage payments for a period of time, won’t be within the scope of ASC Topic 310-40.
For more information
The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented situation that continues to present challenges to creditors and borrowers alike. Contact your CPA for help accounting for loan modifications and measuring impairment, if necessary. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
COVID-19 has changed our lives in many ways, and some of the changes have tax implications. Here is basic information about two common situations.
1. Working from home.
Many employees have been told not to come into their workplaces due to the pandemic. If you’re an employee who “telecommutes” — that is, you work at home, and communicate with your employer mainly by telephone, videoconferencing, email, etc. — you should know about the strict rules that govern whether you can deduct your home office expenses.
Unfortunately, employee home office expenses aren’t currently deductible, even if your employer requires you to work from home. Employee business expense deductions (including the expenses an employee incurs to maintain a home office) are miscellaneous itemized deductions and are disallowed from 2018 through 2025 under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
However, if you’re self-employed and work out of an office in your home, you can be eligible to claim home office deductions for your related expenses if you satisfy the strict rules.
2. Collecting unemployment
Millions of Americans have lost their jobs due to COVID-19 and are collecting unemployment benefits. Some of these people don’t know that these benefits are taxable and must be reported on their federal income tax returns for the tax year they were received. Taxable benefits include the special unemployment compensation authorized under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
In order to avoid a surprise tax bill when filing a 2020 income tax return next year, unemployment recipients can have taxes withheld from their benefits now. Under federal law, recipients can opt to have 10% withheld from their benefits to cover part or all their tax liability. To do this, complete Form W4-V, Voluntary Withholding Request, and give it to the agency paying benefits. (Don’t send it to the IRS.)
We can help
We can assist you with advice about whether you qualify for home office deductions, and how much of these expenses you can deduct. We can also answer any questions you have about the taxation of unemployment benefits as well as any other tax issues that you encounter as a result of COVID-19. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
Most for-profit companies compensate the directors who serve on their boards. But not-for-profit board members generally serve on a voluntary basis. However, there are circumstances in which you might want to consider compensating those who serve on your board.
Advantages and drawbacks
Board member compensation comes with several pros and cons to consider. Your organization might, for example, find it worthwhile to offer compensation to attract individuals who are: prominent or bring highly specialized expertise; are expected to invest significant time and effort; or who represent diverse backgrounds.
Also, if your nonprofit has a business model that competes with for-profit organizations, such as a nonprofit hospital, board compensation may be appropriate. In general, providing compensation can improve board member performance and promote professionalism. It may incentivize meeting attendance and accountability.
But there are several drawbacks. First, it can look bad. Donors expect their funds to go to program services, and board compensation represents resources diverted from your organization’s mission. Further, there are legal and IRS implications. For example, in some states volunteer board members are protected from legal liability, while compensated members may not be.
If you decide to compensate board members, make sure your arrangement complies with the Internal Revenue Code’s private inurement and excess benefit regulations, as well as the IRS rules about “reasonable compensation.” Failure to do so can result in excise taxes, penalties and even the loss of your tax-exempt status.
Independent directors, an independent governance or compensation committee, or an independent consultant should set the amount of, or formula for, board compensation. Whoever sets the amount should be guided by a formal compensation policy and make the amount comparable to that paid by similar nonprofits.
Put it in your policy
Make sure your compensation policy includes four elements:
Also document all compensation discussions. This includes your board’s formal vote approving the policy and compensation amounts.
Arriving at an amount
If you decide to compensate board members, you may find the most difficult aspect is arriving at an amount. Contact us for help. We can make suggestions based on what comparable organizations pay as well as the nature of your nonprofit and its revenues. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
Here are some of the key tax-related deadlines affecting businesses and other employers during the fourth quarter of 2020. Keep in mind that this list isn’t all-inclusive, so there may be additional deadlines that apply to you. Contact us to ensure you’re meeting all applicable deadlines and to learn more about the filing requirements.
Thursday, October 15
Monday, November 2
Tuesday, November 10
Tuesday, December 15
Thursday, December 31
Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
Many companies are struggling as a result of shutdowns and restructurings during the COVID-19 crisis. To add insult to injury, some have also fallen victim to arson, looting or natural disasters in 2020.
Lenders and investors want to know how your business has weathered these adverse conditions and where it currently stands. While stakeholders understand that it’s been a tough year for many sectors of the economy, they may presume the worst if you’re late issuing your financial statements. Here are some assumptions people could make when your financial statements are late.
Your business is failing
No one wants to be the bearer of bad news. Deferred financial reporting can lead lenders and investors to presume that the company isn’t going to recover from the economic downturn — and that a bankruptcy filing may be in the works.
Even if your 2020 results have fallen below historical levels or what was forecast at the beginning of the year, issuing your financial statements on time can help reassure stakeholders. They want to know that you’re on top of what’s happening and you’re taking steps to recover.
Management is ineffective
Some stakeholders may assume that your management team is hopelessly disorganized and can’t pull together the requisite data to finish the financials. Late financials are common when the accounting department is understaffed or a major accounting rule change has gone into effect. Both are very real possibilities today.
Delayed statements may also signal that management doesn’t consider financial reporting a priority. This lackadaisical mindset implies that no one is monitoring financial performance throughout the year.
Internal controls are weak
A strong system of internal controls is your company’s first line of defense against fraud. A key component of strong internal controls is management review and internal audits.
If financial statements aren’t timely or prioritized by the company’s owners, unscrupulous employees may see it as a golden opportunity to steal from the company. Fraud is more difficult to hide if you insist on timely financial statements and take the time to review them.
Let’s work together
Sometimes delays in financial reporting happen because management realizes that the company has violated its loan covenants — and they’re worried that the bank will call the loan when they review the financials. In today’s unprecedented conditions, however, many lenders are willing to temporarily waive covenant violations and even restructure debt — if the company can show a good faith effort to preserve cash flow, make timely loan payments and revise its business model, if possible.
We can help you prepare timely financial reports — and forecast how your business will perform in the coming months. Being proactive and forthcoming can help preserve goodwill with lenders and investors. Contact us for more information. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports that existing home sales and prices are up nationwide, compared with last year. One of the reasons is the pandemic: “With the sizable shift in remote work, current homeowners are looking for larger homes…” according to NAR’s Chief Economist Lawrence Yun.
If you’re buying a home, or you just bought one, you may wonder if you can deduct mortgage points paid on your behalf by the seller. Yes, you can, subject to some important limitations described below.
Points are upfront fees charged by a mortgage lender, expressed as a percentage of the loan principal. Points, which may be deductible if you itemize deductions, are normally the buyer’s obligation. But a seller will sometimes sweeten a deal by agreeing to pay the points on the buyer’s mortgage loan.
In most cases, points a buyer pays are a deductible interest expense. And IRS says that seller-paid points may also be deductible.
Suppose, for example, that you bought a home for $600,000. In connection with a $500,000 mortgage loan, your bank charged two points, or $10,000. The seller agreed to pay the points in order to close the sale.
You can deduct the $10,000 in the year of sale. The only disadvantage is that your tax basis is reduced to $590,000, which will mean more gain if — and when — you sell the home for more than that amount. But that may not happen until many years later, and the gain may not be taxable anyway. You may qualify for an exclusion for up to $250,000 ($500,000 for a married couple filing jointly) of gain on the sale of a principal residence.
There are some important limitations on the rule allowing a deduction for seller-paid points. The rule doesn’t apply:
We can review with you in more detail whether the points in your home purchase are deductible, as well as discuss other tax aspects of your transaction. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio www.sbcpaohio.com
Financial audits conducted by outside experts are among the most effective tools for revealing risks in not-for-profits. They help assure donors and other stakeholders about your stability — so long as you respond to the results appropriately. In fact, failing to act on issues identified in an audit could threaten your organization’s long-term viability.
Working with the draft
Once outside auditors complete their work, they typically present a draft report to an organization’s audit committee, executive director and senior financial staffers. Those individuals should take the time to review the draft before it’s presented to the board of directors.
Your organization’s audit committee and management also should meet with the auditors prior to the board presentation. Often auditors will provide a management letter (also called “communication with those charged with governance”), highlighting operational areas and controls that need improvement. Your nonprofit’s team can respond to these comments, indicating ways they plan to improve the organization’s operations and controls, to be included in the final letter. The audit committee also can use the meeting to ensure the audit is properly comprehensive.
Executive director’s role
One important audit committee task is to obtain your executive director’s impression of the auditors and audit process. Were the auditors efficient, or did they perform or require redundant work? Did they demonstrate the requisite expertise, skills and understanding? Were they disruptive to operations? Consider this input when deciding whether to retain the same firm for the next audit.
The committee also might want to seek feedback from employees who worked most closely with auditors. In addition to feedback on the auditors, they may have suggestions on how to streamline the process for the next audit.
No material misrepresentation
The final audit report will state whether your organization’s financial statements present its financial position in accordance with U.S. accounting principles. The statements must be presented without any inaccuracies or “material” — meaning significant — misrepresentation.
The auditors also will identify, in a separate letter, specific concerns about material internal control issues. Adequate internal controls are critical for preventing, catching and remedying misstatements that could compromise the integrity of financial statements. The auditors’ other suggestions, presented in the management letter, should include your organization’s responses.
If the auditors find your internal controls weak, promptly shore them up. You could, for example, implement new controls or new accounting practices.
Contact us if you have questions about audits and post-audit procedures. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
The IRS has provided guidance to employers regarding the recent presidential action to allow employers to defer the withholding, deposit and payment of certain payroll tax obligations.
The three-page guidance in Notice 2020-65 was issued to implement President Trump’s executive memorandum signed on August 8.
Private employers still have questions and concerns about whether, and how, to implement the optional deferral. The President’s action only defers the employee’s share of Social Security taxes; it doesn’t forgive them, meaning employees will still have to pay the taxes later unless Congress acts to eliminate the liability. (The payroll services provider for federal employers announced that federal employees will have their taxes deferred.)
President Trump issued the memorandum in light of the COVID-19 crisis. He directed the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury to use his authority under the tax code to defer the withholding, deposit and payment of certain payroll tax obligations.
For purposes of the Notice, “applicable wages” means wages or compensation paid to an employee on a pay date beginning September 1, 2020, and ending December 31, 2020, but only if the amount paid for a biweekly pay period is less than $4,000, or the equivalent amount with respect to other pay periods.
The guidance postpones the withholding and remittance of the employee share of Social Security tax until the period beginning on January 1, 2021, and ending on April 30, 2021. Penalties, interest and additions to tax will begin to accrue on May 1, 2021, for any unpaid taxes.
“If necessary,” the guidance states, an employer “may make arrangements to collect the total applicable taxes” from an employee. But it doesn’t specify how.
Be aware that under the CARES Act, employers can already defer paying their portion of Social Security taxes through December 31, 2020. All 2020 deferred amounts are due in two equal installments — one at the end of 2021 and the other at the end of 2022.
Many employers opting out
Several business groups have stated that their members won’t participate in the deferral. For example, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and more than 30 trade associations sent a letter to members of Congress and the U.S. Department of the Treasury calling the deferral “unworkable.”
The Chamber is concerned that employees will get a temporary increase in their paychecks this year, followed by a decrease in take-home pay in early 2021. “Many of our members consider it unfair to employees to make a decision that would force a big tax bill on them next year… Therefore, many of our members will likely decline to implement deferral, choosing instead to continue to withhold and remit to the government the payroll taxes required by law,” the group explained.
Businesses are also worried about having to collect the taxes from employees who may quit or be terminated before April 30, 2021. And since some employees are asking questions about the deferral, many employers are also putting together communications to inform their staff members about whether they’re going to participate. If so, they’re informing employees what it will mean for next year’s paychecks.
How to proceed
Contact us if you have questions about the deferral and how to proceed at your business. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
Marketplace changes during the COVID-19 crisis have caused many companies to make major strategic shifts in their operations — and some changes are expected to be permanent. In certain cases, these pivot strategies may need to be reported under the complex discontinued operations rules under U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles.
What are discontinued operations?
The scope of what’s reported as discontinued operations was narrowed by Accounting Standards Update (ASU) No. 2014-08, Reporting Discontinued Operations and Disclosures of Disposals of Components of an Entity. Since the updated guidance went into effect in 2015, the disposal of a component (including business activities) must be reported in discontinued operations only if the disposal represents a “strategic shift” that has or will have a major effect on the company’s operations and financial results.
A component comprises operations and cash flows that can be clearly distinguished, both operationally and for financial reporting purposes, from the rest of the company. It could be a reportable segment, an operating segment, a reporting unit, a subsidiary or an asset group.
Examples of a qualifying strategic shift include disposal of a major geographic area, a line of business or an equity method investment. When such a strategic shift occurs, a company must present, for each comparative period, the assets and liabilities of a disposal group that includes a discontinued operation separately in the asset and liability sections of the balance sheet.
On the income statement, the results of discontinued operations are reported separately (net of income tax) from continuing operations in both the current and comparative periods. Allocating costs between discontinued and continuing operations is often challenging because only direct costs may be associated with a discontinued operation.
What disclosures are required?
Under GAAP, companies also must provide detailed disclosures when reporting discontinued operations. The goal is to show the financial effect of such a shift to the users of the entity’s financial statements — allowing them to better understand continuing operations.
The following disclosures must be made for the periods in which the operating results of the discontinued operation are presented in the income statement:
Additional disclosures may be required if the company plans significant continuing involvement with a discontinued operation or if a disposal doesn’t qualify for discontinued operations reporting.
Today’s conditions — including shifts to work-from-home arrangements, domestic supply chains and online distribution methods — have disrupted traditional business models in many sectors of the economy. These kinds of strategic changes don’t happen often, and in-house personnel may be unfamiliar with the latest guidance when preparing your company’s year-end financial statements. Contact us to help ensure you’re in compliance. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, students are going back to school this fall, either remotely, in-person or under a hybrid schedule. In any event, parents may be eligible for certain tax breaks to help defray the cost of education.
Here is a summary of some of the tax breaks available for education.
1. Higher education tax credits. Generally, you may be able to claim either one of two tax credits for higher education expenses — but not both.
For these reasons, the AOTC is generally preferable to the LLC. But parents have still another option.
2. Tuition-and-fees deduction. As an alternative to either of the credits above, parents may claim an above-the-line deduction for tuition and related fees. This deduction is either $4,000 or $2,000, depending on the taxpayer’s MAGI, before it is phased out. No deduction is allowed for MAGI above $80,000 for single filers and $160,000 for joint filers.
The tuition-and-fees deduction, which has been extended numerous times, is currently scheduled to expire after 2020. However, it’s likely to be revived again by Congress.
In addition to these tax breaks, there are other ways to save and pay for college on a tax advantaged basis. These include using Section 529 plans and Coverdell Education Savings Accounts. There are limits on contributions to these saving vehicles.
Note: Thanks to a provision in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, a 529 plan can now be used to pay for up to $10,000 annually for a child’s tuition at a private or religious elementary or secondary school.
Typically, parents are able to take advantage of one or more of these tax breaks, even though some benefits are phased out above certain income levels. Contact us to maximize the tax breaks for your children’s education. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
Does your private foundation have a detailed conflict-of-interest policy? If it doesn’t — and if it doesn’t follow the policy closely — you could face IRS attention that results in penalties and even the revocation of your tax-exempt status. Here’s how to prevent accusations of self-dealing.
Conflict-of-interest policies are critical for all not-for-profits. But foundations are subject to stricter rules and must go the extra mile to avoid anything that might be perceived as self-dealing. Specifically, transactions between private foundations and disqualified persons are prohibited.
The IRS casts a wide net when defining “disqualified persons,” including substantial contributors, managers, officers, directors, trustees and people with large ownership interests in corporations or partnerships that make substantial contributions to the foundation. Their family members are disqualified, too. In addition, when a disqualified person owns more than 35% of a corporation or partnership, that business is considered disqualified.
What transactions are prohibited?
Prohibited transactions can be hard to identify because there are many exceptions. But, in general, you should ensure that disqualified persons don’t engage in: selling, exchanging or leasing property; making or receiving loans or extending credit; providing or receiving goods, services or facilities; and receiving compensation or reimbursed expenses. Disqualified persons also shouldn’t agree to pay money or property to government officials on your behalf.
What happens if you violate the rules? Your foundation’s manager and the disqualified person may be subject to an initial excise tax (5% and 10%, respectively) of the amount involved and, if the transaction isn’t corrected quickly, an additional tax of up to 200% of the amount. Although liability is limited for foundation managers ($40,000 for any one act), self-dealing individuals enjoy no such limits. In some cases, private foundations that engage in self-dealing lose their tax-exempt status.
Your foundation likely has good intentions, but that may not protect you. For example, you might assume that transactions with insiders are acceptable so long as they benefit your foundation. But you’d be wrong. Most activities that the IRS describes as self-dealing are off-limits.
Because the rules can be complicated, talk with us before executing any transaction that could violate IRS rules. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
Under current law, 100% bonus depreciation will be phased out in steps for property placed in service in calendar years 2023 through 2027. Thus, an 80% rate will apply to property placed in service in 2023, 60% in 2024, 40% in 2025, and 20% in 2026, and a 0% rate will apply in 2027 and later years.
For certain aircraft (generally, company planes) and for the pre-January 1, 2027 costs of certain property with a long production period, the phaseout is scheduled to take place a year later, from 2024 to 2028.
Of course, Congress could pass legislation to extend or revise the above rules.
2. Bonus depreciation is available for new and most used property
In the past, used property didn’t qualify. It currently qualifies unless:
3. Taxpayers should sometimes make the election to turn down bonus depreciation
Taxpayers can elect to reject bonus depreciation for one or more classes of property. The election out may be useful for sole proprietorships, and business entities taxed under the rules for partnerships and S corporations, that want to prevent “wasting” depreciation deductions by applying them against lower-bracket income in the year property was placed in service — instead of against anticipated higher bracket income in later years.
Note that business entities taxed as “regular” corporations (in other words, non-S corporations) are taxed at a flat rate.
4. Bonus depreciation is available for certain building improvements
Before the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), bonus depreciation was available for two types of real property:
The TCJA inadvertently eliminated bonus depreciation for qualified improvement property.
However, the 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) made a retroactive technical correction to the TCJA. The correction makes qualified improvement property placed in service after December 31, 2017, eligible for bonus depreciation.
5. 100% bonus depreciation has reduced the importance of “Section 179 expensing”
If you own a smaller business, you've likely benefited from Sec. 179 expensing. This is an elective benefit that — subject to dollar limits — allows an immediate deduction of the cost of equipment, machinery, off-the-shelf computer software and some building improvements. Sec. 179 has been enhanced by the TCJA, but the availability of 100% bonus depreciation is economically equivalent and has greatly reduced the cases in which Sec. 179 expensing is useful.
We can help
The above discussion touches only on some major aspects of bonus depreciation. This is a complex area with tax implications for transactions other than simple asset acquisitions. Contact us if you have any questions about how to proceed in your situation. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
Has your organization laid off employees this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but you plan to rehire some of them before the end of 2020? Or maybe you already have? If so, and you offer a qualified retirement plan, the IRS recently issued an important clarification regarding whether partial termination of a qualified plan occurs under such circumstances.
Partial plan termination
According to Internal Revenue Code Section 411(d)(3), a qualified plan must provide that, upon its “partial termination,” the rights of all affected employees to benefits accrued to the date of the partial termination are nonforfeitable. This applies to the extent a plan is funded on that date or to amounts credited to the account.
The IRS determines whether a partial termination of a qualified plan has occurred (and the time of the termination) by looking at the facts and circumstances of each case. Facts and circumstances include:
Impact of COVID-19
The clarification provided by the IRS comes in the form of a question and answer. The agency asks, “Are employees who participated in a business’s qualified retirement plan, then laid off because of COVID-19 and rehired by the end of 2020, treated as having an employer-initiated severance from employment for purposes of determining whether a partial termination of the plan occurred?” The IRS answers:
Generally, no. Subject to the facts and circumstances of each case, participating employees generally are not treated as having an employer-initiated severance from employment for purposes of calculating the turnover rate used to help determine whether a partial termination has occurred during an applicable period, if they’re rehired by the end of that period. That means participating employees terminated due to the COVID-19 pandemic and rehired by the end of 2020 generally would not be treated as having an employer-initiated severance from employment for purposes of determining whether a partial termination of the retirement plan occurred during the 2020 plan year.
Easy to overlook
The COVID-19 crisis has led many employers to temporarily reduce the size of their workforces with the hope of bringing back some employees when safe and feasible. One easy-to-overlook way this is affecting organizations is the compliance impact on employee benefits. Please contact us for assistance in understanding the qualified plan rules. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
If you’re getting close to retirement, you may wonder: Are my Social Security benefits going to be taxed? And if so, how much will you have to pay?
It depends on your other income. If you’re taxed, between 50% and 85% of your benefits could be taxed. (This doesn’t mean you pay 85% of your benefits back to the government in taxes. It merely that you’d include 85% of them in your income subject to your regular tax rates.)
Crunch the numbers
To determine how much of your benefits are taxed, first determine your other income, including certain items otherwise excluded for tax purposes (for example, tax-exempt interest). Add to that the income of your spouse, if you file joint tax returns. To this, add half of the Social Security benefits you and your spouse received during the year. The figure you come up with is your total income plus half of your benefits. Now apply the following rules:
1. If your income plus half your benefits isn’t above $32,000 ($25,000 for single taxpayers), none of your benefits are taxed.
2. If your income plus half your benefits exceeds $32,000 but isn’t more than $44,000, you will be taxed on one half of the excess over $32,000, or one half of the benefits, whichever is lower.
Here’s an example
For example, let’s say you and your spouse have $20,000 in taxable dividends, $2,400 of tax-exempt interest and combined Social Security benefits of $21,000. So, your income plus half your benefits is $32,900 ($20,000 + $2,400 +1/2 of $21,000). You must include $450 of the benefits in gross income (1/2 ($32,900 − $32,000)). (If your combined Social Security benefits were $5,000, and your income plus half your benefits were $40,000, you would include $2,500 of the benefits in income: 1/2 ($40,000 − $32,000) equals $4,000, but 1/2 the $5,000 of benefits ($2,500) is lower, and the lower figure is used.)
Important: If you aren’t paying tax on your Social Security benefits now because your income is below the floor, or you’re paying tax on only 50% of those benefits, an unplanned increase in your income can have a triple tax cost. You’ll have to pay tax on the additional income, you’ll have to pay tax on (or on more of ) your Social Security benefits (since the higher your income the more of your Social Security benefits that are taxed), and you may get pushed into a higher marginal tax bracket.
For example, this situation might arise if you receive a large distribution from an IRA during the year or you have large capital gains. Careful planning might be able to avoid this negative tax result. You might be able to spread the additional income over more than one year, or liquidate assets other than an IRA account, such as stock showing only a small gain or stock with gain that can be offset by a capital loss on other shares.
If you know your Social Security benefits will be taxed, you can voluntarily arrange to have the tax withheld from the payments by filing a Form W-4V. Otherwise, you may have to make estimated tax payments. Contact us for assistance or more information. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
Employees or independent contractors? It’s not only for-profit companies that struggle with the question of how to classify workers for federal tax purposes. Not-for-profit organizations must withhold and pay Social Security, Medicare and unemployment taxes for employees, but not for contractors. (There may also be state tax responsibilities.) But be careful before you decide that most of your staffers must be contractors. The IRS may not agree.
When determining whether a worker is an employee or contactor, the IRS looks at whether an employer has the right to direct or control how the person does his or her work. In general, it’s not necessary that your nonprofit directs or controls how work is done — it just matters whether it has the right to do so. The existence of detailed instructions, training on specific procedures and methods, and evaluation systems generally will support a finding that an employment relationship exists.
Evidence that your nonprofit has the right to control the economic aspects of a staffer’s work also indicates an employment relationship. The IRS is more likely to deem individuals as contractors if they:
The IRS also considers payment methods. Independent contractors typically are paid a flat fee for the contract or job, while employees generally are guaranteed a regular wage amount for an hourly, weekly or biweekly period.
Relationship type matters
How do you and the worker regard your relationship? For example, if you provide traditional employee benefits — such as health and disability insurance, a retirement plan and paid vacation days — it signals your intent to treat him or her as an employee. Note, though, that the lack of benefits alone doesn’t necessarily mean a worker is an independent contractor.
The duration of the relationship is relevant, too. Is it expected to continue indefinitely or only for the run of a specific project or period? Similarly, if workers provide services that are a critical part of your operations, your nonprofit is more likely to have the right to control their activities. Thus, these workers are more likely to be classified as employees.
If you’re still not such whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor, see IRS Form SS-8, “Determination of Worker Status for Purposes of Federal Employment Taxes and Income Tax Withholding.” But contact us before filing this form. We can help you document reasons supporting your decision for treating a worker as an independent contractor or employee. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act made changes to excess business losses. This includes some changes that are retroactive and there may be opportunities for some businesses to file amended tax returns.
If you hold an interest in a business, or may do so in the future, here is more information about the changes.
Deferral of the excess business loss limits
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) provided that net tax losses from active businesses in excess of an inflation-adjusted $500,000 for joint filers, or an inflation-adjusted $250,000 for other covered taxpayers, are to be treated as net operating loss (NOL) carryforwards in the following tax year. The covered taxpayers are individuals, estates and trusts that own businesses directly or as partners in a partnership or shareholders in an S corporation.
The $500,000 and $250,000 limits, which are adjusted for inflation for tax years beginning after calendar year 2018, were scheduled under the TCJA to apply to tax years beginning in calendar years 2018 through 2025. But the CARES Act has retroactively postponed the limits so that they now apply to tax years beginning in calendar years 2021 through 2025.
The postponement means that you may be able to amend:
Note that the excess business loss limits also don’t apply to tax years that begin in 2020. Thus, such a 2020 year can be a window to start a business with large up-front-deductible items (for example capital items that can be 100% deducted under bonus depreciation or other provisions) and be able to offset the resulting net losses from the business against investment income or income from employment (see below).
Changes to the excess business loss limits
The CARES Act made several retroactive corrections to the excess business loss rules as they were originally stated in the 2017 TCJA.
Most importantly, the CARES Act clarified that deductions, gross income or gain attributable to employment aren’t taken into account in calculating an excess business loss. This means that excess business losses can’t shelter either net taxable investment income or net taxable employment income. Be aware of that if you’re planning a start-up that will begin to generate, or will still be generating, excess business losses in 2021.
Another change provides that an excess business loss is taken into account in determining any NOL carryover but isn’t automatically carried forward to the next year. And a generally beneficial change states that excess business losses don’t include any deduction under the tax code provisions involving the NOL deduction or the qualified business income deduction that effectively reduces income taxes on many businesses.
And because capital losses of non-corporations can’t offset ordinary income under the NOL rules:
Contact us with any questions you have about this or other tax matters. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
Increasing diversity is a key initiative at many companies in 2020. This movement goes beyond social responsibility — it can lead to better-informed decision-making, improved productivity and enhanced value. Congress has also jumped on the diversity-and-inclusion bandwagon: Legislation is in the works that would require public companies to expand their disclosures about diversity.
Good for business
Even though it’s not reported on the balance sheet, an assembled workforce is one of your most valuable business assets. From the boardroom to the production line, people are essential to converting hard assets into revenue. However, the tone of any organization starts at the top, where key decisions are made.
Academic research has found that boards with diverse members have better financial reporting quality and are more likely to hold management accountable for poor financial performance. This concept also extends to private companies: Management teams with people from diverse backgrounds and functional areas expand the business’s abilities to respond to growth opportunities and potential threats.
Bills to expand disclosures
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) currently requires limited disclosures on boardroom diversity. Under current SEC rules, a public company must disclose whether and how it considers diversity in identifying board of director nominees. However, the rules don’t provide a definition of diversity.
In recent years, the SEC rules have been criticized for failing to provide useful information to investors. Critics want broader rules that provide more information about corporate board diversity.
In response, Congress is currently considering legislation to expand the SEC disclosure requirements. In November 2019, the House passed the Improving Corporate Governance Through Diversity Act. It would require public companies’ proxy materials to disclose additional diversity information on directors and board nominees.
The Senate introduced a similar bill in March 2020. In addition to expanding proxy statement disclosures, the Senate’s Diversity in Corporate Leadership Act would set up a diversity advisory group within the SEC to recommend ways to increase “gender, racial and ethnic diversity” on public company boards. The group would be tasked with studying strategies to improve diversity on boards of directors and would be required within nine months of its creation to report its findings and recommendations to the SEC, the Senate Banking Committee and the House Financial Services Committee.
In late July, a coalition of industry groups that included the American Bankers Association and U.S. Chamber of Commerce urged the Senate Banking Committee to pass the bill. “Our associations and members support efforts to increase gender, racial, and ethnic diversity on corporate boards of directors, as diversity has become increasingly important to institutional investors, pension funds, and other stakeholders,” the groups said.
Be a leader, not a follower
For now, Congressional legislation on diversity matters appears to have taken a backseat to more pressing matters related to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the meantime, many companies are planning to voluntarily expand their disclosures for 2020. We can help assess your level of boardroom or management team diversity — and provide cutting-edge disclosures that showcase your commitment to race, gender and ethnic diversity in the workplace. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
While you probably don’t have any problems paying your tax bills, you may wonder: What happens in the event you (or someone you know) can’t pay taxes on time? Here’s a look at the options.
Most importantly, don’t let the inability to pay your tax liability in full keep you from filing a tax return properly and on time. In addition, taking certain steps can keep the IRS from instituting punitive collection processes.
The “failure to file” penalty accrues at 5% per month or part of a month (to a maximum of 25%) on the amount of tax your return shows you owe. The “failure to pay” penalty accrues at only 0.5% per month or part of a month (to 25% maximum) on the amount due on the return. (If both apply, the failure to file penalty drops to 4.5% per month (or part) so the combined penalty remains at 5%.) The maximum combined penalty for the first five months is 25%. Thereafter, the failure to pay penalty can continue at 0.5% per month for 45 more months. The combined penalties can reach 47.5% over time in addition to any interest.
Undue hardship extensions
Keep in mind that an extension of time to file your return doesn’t mean an extension of time to pay your tax bill. A payment extension may be available, however, if you can show payment would cause “undue hardship.” You can avoid the failure to pay penalty if an extension is granted, but you’ll be charged interest. If you qualify, you’ll be given an extra six months to pay the tax due on your return. If the IRS determines a “deficiency,” the undue hardship extension can be up to 18 months and in exceptional cases another 12 months can be added.
If you don’t think you can get an extension of time to pay your taxes, borrowing money to pay them should be considered. You may be able to get a loan from a relative, friend or commercial lender. You can also use credit or debit cards to pay a tax bill, but you’re likely to pay a relatively high interest rate and possibly a fee.
Another way to defer tax payments is to request an installment payment agreement. This is done by filing a form and the IRS charges a fee for installment agreements. Even if a request is granted, you’ll be charged interest on any tax not paid by its due date. But the late payment penalty is half the usual rate (0.25% instead of 0.5%), if you file by the due date (including extensions).
The IRS may terminate an installment agreement if the information provided in applying is inaccurate or incomplete or the IRS believes the tax collection is in jeopardy. The IRS may also modify or terminate an installment agreement in certain cases, such as if you miss a payment or fail to pay another tax liability when it’s due.
Avoid serious consequences
Tax liabilities don’t go away if left unaddressed. It’s important to file a properly prepared return even if full payment can’t be made. Include as large a partial payment as you can with the return and work with the IRS as soon as possible. The alternative may include escalating penalties and having liens assessed against your assets and income. Down the road, the collection process may also include seizure and sale of your property. In many cases, these nightmares can be avoided by taking advantage of options offered by the IRS. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
Not-for-profits increasingly are adopting a corporate world tool: financial dashboards. A dashboard is a summary of an organization’s progress toward a specific goal over time — or a snapshot of its current situation. Dashboards are designed to help boards and other constituents visualize important metrics, or key performance indicators (KPIs). But to facilitate informed, timely decisions, it’s critical to select the right KPIs.
Choosing the right KPIs
A nonprofit’s financial KPIs will depend largely on factors such as its revenue streams, key expense factors, budget and strategic goals. To include the most useful metrics, identify your organization’s “business” drivers and solicit input from your audience.
Additionally, determine which factors affect the reliability of your revenue streams — and which influence expense levels. Then create KPIs that monitor those factors. Think, too, about the level at which you want to track your KPIs. You could monitor them by individual program or function, or at the organizational level.
Looking at an example
Say that a performing arts organization’s board is concerned about financial stability and liquidity. The nonprofit’s primary business drivers are proper pricing and maximum attendance. Its dashboard might include KPIs such as an increase or decrease in operating results, the level of liquid unrestricted net assets, current debt ratio (total liabilities / total assets), and progress toward a desired number of months’ cash on hand (cash on hand + current unrestricted investments / average monthly expenses). The organization also would want to monitor the number of tickets sold and average revenue per performance.
Over time, this nonprofit likely would need to adjust its KPIs as its strategies, priorities or programs change. As many organizations have learned recently, what was “key” last year isn’t necessarily key in today’s challenging environment.
Considering popular KPIs
Certain KPIs are popular among nonprofits. These include:
Current ratio. This reflects your organization’s ability to satisfy debts coming due within the year. Divide current assets by current liabilities. A ratio of “1” or more generally means you can meet those obligations.
Projected year-end cash. Based on the current cash position plus budgeted cash flows through the end of the fiscal year, this projects liquidity and ability to satisfy upcoming commitments.
Year-to-date revenue and expense. This KPI measures actual results against a budget and lets you know separately if revenues and expenses are in line with expectations or within a reasonable range.
Program efficiency ratio. The ratio assesses an organization’s mission efficiency by showing the amount of funding that goes to programs vs. administrative or other expenses. Calculate it by dividing a program’s expenses by its overall expenses.
By providing a target such as budgeted amounts, chronological trends or external benchmarks, you’ll make the metrics more meaningful for your audiences. Contact us for help creating a dashboard with appropriate KPIs. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
On August 8, President Trump signed four executive actions, including a Presidential Memorandum to defer the employee’s portion of Social Security taxes for some people. These actions were taken in an effort to offer more relief due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The action only defers the taxes, which means they’ll have to be paid in the future. However, the action directs the U.S. Treasury Secretary to “explore avenues, including legislation, to eliminate the obligation to pay the taxes deferred pursuant to the implementation of this memorandum.”
On March 18, 2020, President Trump signed into law the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. A short time later, President Trump signed into law the Coronavirus, Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Both laws contain economic relief provisions for employers and workers affected by the COVID-19 crisis.
The CARES Act allows employers to defer paying their portion of Social Security taxes through December 31, 2020. All 2020 deferred amounts are due in two equal installments — one at the end of 2021 and the other at the end of 2022.
New bill talks fall apart
Discussions of another COVID-19 stimulus bill between Democratic leaders and White House officials broke down in early August. As a result, President Trump signed the memorandum that provides a payroll tax deferral for many — but not all — employees.
The memorandum directs the U.S. Treasury Secretary to defer withholding, deposit and payment of the tax on wages or compensation, as applicable, paid during the period of September 1, 2020, through December 31, 2020. This means that the employee’s share of Social Security tax will be deferred for that time period.
However, the memorandum contains the following two conditions:
The Treasury Secretary was ordered to provide guidance to implement the memorandum.
The memorandum (and the other executive actions signed on August 8) note that they’ll be implemented consistent with applicable law. However, some are questioning President Trump’s legal ability to implement the employee Social Security tax deferral.
Employers have questions and concerns about the payroll tax deferral. For example, since this is only a deferral, will employers have to withhold more taxes from employees’ paychecks to pay the taxes back, beginning January 1, 2021? Without a law from Congress to actually forgive the taxes, will employers be liable for paying them back? What if employers can’t get their payroll software changed in time for the September 1 start of the deferral? Are employers and employees required to take part in the payroll tax deferral or is it optional?
Contact us if you have questions about how to proceed. And stay tuned for more details about this action and any legislation that may pass soon. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
During the COVID-19 crisis, you can’t afford to lose sight of other ongoing risk factors, such as cyberthreats, fraud, emerging competition and natural disasters. A so-called “stress test” can help reveal blind spots that threaten to disrupt your business. A comprehensive stress test requires the following three steps.
1. Identify the risks your business faces
Here are the main types of risks to consider:
If you’ve conducted a risk analysis in prior years, beware: Current risk factors may be different due to changes in market conditions, business operations and technology. For example, if your business pivoted to more online orders or remote working arrangements during the pandemic, it may now be more exposed to cyberattacks than it previously was.
2. Establish a risk management strategy
Meet with managers from all functional lines of business — including sales and marketing, human resources, operations, procurement, IT, and finance and accounting — to discuss the risks that have been identified. The goal is to improve your team’s understanding of business threats and to brainstorm ways to manage those risks.
For example, if your company operates in an area prone to natural disasters, such as earthquakes or wildfires, you should have a disaster recovery plan in place. Review copies of the disaster recovery plan and ask when it was last updated.
In addition to asking for feedback about identified risks, encourage managers to share any additional risk factors and projections regarding the potential financial impact. Their frontline experience can be eye-opening, especially during these unprecedented times.
3. Review and update your strategy
Managing risk is a continuous process. After creating your initial risk mitigation strategy, your management team should meet periodically to review whether it’s working. If it isn’t, brainstorm ways to fortify it.
For example, if your company’s disaster recovery plan has been activated recently, ask your management team to assess its effectiveness. Then consider making changes based on that assessment.
While risk is part of operating a business, some organizations are more prepared to handle the unexpected than others. To ensure your company falls into the “more prepared” category, implement a stress test. We can help you assess current risks and develop a plan that’s right for you. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
In the COVID-19 era, many parents are hiring nannies and babysitters because their daycare centers and summer camps have closed. This may result in federal “nanny tax” obligations.
Keep in mind that the nanny tax may apply to all household workers, including housekeepers, babysitters, gardeners or others who aren’t independent contractors.
If you employ someone who’s subject to the nanny tax, you aren’t required to withhold federal income taxes from the individual’s pay. You only must withhold if the worker asks you to and you agree. (In that case, ask the nanny to fill out a Form W-4.) However, you may have other withholding and payment obligations.
Withholding FICA and FUTA
You must withhold and pay Social Security and Medicare taxes (FICA) if your nanny earns cash wages of $2,200 or more (excluding food and lodging) during 2020. If you reach the threshold, all of the wages (not just the excess) are subject to FICA.
However, if your nanny is under 18 and childcare isn’t his or her principal occupation, you don’t have to withhold FICA taxes. Therefore, if your nanny is really a student/part-time babysitter, there’s no FICA tax liability.
Both employers and household workers have an obligation to pay FICA taxes. Employers are responsible for withholding the worker’s share of FICA and must pay a matching employer amount. FICA tax is divided between Social Security and Medicare. Social Security tax is 6.2% for the both the employer and the worker (12.4% total). Medicare tax is 1.45% each for both the employer and the worker (2.9% total).
If you prefer, you can pay your nanny’s share of Social Security and Medicare taxes, instead of withholding it from pay.
Note: It’s unclear how these taxes will be affected by the executive order that President Trump signed on August 8, which allows payroll taxes to be deferred from September 1 through December 31, 2020.
You also must pay federal unemployment (FUTA) tax if you pay $1,000 or more in cash wages (excluding food and lodging) to your worker in any calendar quarter of this year or last year. FUTA tax applies to the first $7,000 of wages. The maximum FUTA tax rate is 6%, but credits reduce it to 0.6% in most cases. FUTA tax is paid only by the employer.
Reporting and paying
You pay nanny tax by increasing your quarterly estimated tax payments or increasing withholding from your wages — rather than making an annual lump-sum payment.
You don’t have to file any employment tax returns, even if you’re required to withhold or pay tax (unless you own a business, see below). Instead, you report employment taxes on Schedule H of your tax return.
On your return, you include your employer identification number (EIN) when reporting employment taxes. The EIN isn’t the same as your Social Security number. If you need an EIN, you must file Form SS-4.
However, if you own a business as a sole proprietor, you must include the taxes for your nanny on the FICA and FUTA forms (940 and 941) that you file for your business. And you use the EIN from your sole proprietorship to report the taxes. You also must provide your nanny with a Form W-2.
Maintain careful tax records for each household employee. Keep them for at least four years from the later of the due date of the return or the date the tax was paid. Records include: employee name, address, Social Security number; employment dates; wages paid; withheld FICA or income taxes; FICA taxes paid by you for your worker; and copies of forms filed.
Contact us for help or with questions about how to comply with these requirements. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
Current financial pressures mean that your not-for-profit probably can’t afford to pass up offers of support. Yet you need to be careful about blindly accepting grants. Smaller nonprofits that don’t have formal grant evaluation processes are at risk of accepting grants with unmanageable burdens and costs. But large organizations also need to be careful because they have significantly more grant opportunities — including for grants that are outside their current expertise and experience.
Here’s how accepting the wrong grant may backfire in costly and time-consuming ways.
Some grants could result in excessive administrative burdens. For example, you could be caught off guard by the reporting requirements that come with a grant as small as $5,000. You might not have staff with the requisite reporting experience, or you may lack the processes and controls to collect the necessary data. Often government funds passed through to your nonprofit still carry the requirements that are associated with the original funding, which can be quite extensive.
Grants that go outside your organization’s original mission can pose problems, too. Managing the grant may involve a steep learning curve. You could even face an IRS challenge to your exempt status.
Another risk is cost inefficiencies. A grant can create unforeseen expenses that undermine its face value. For example, new grants from either federal or foundation sources may have explicit administrative requirements your organization must satisfy.
Additionally, your nonprofit might run up expenses to complete the program that aren’t allowable or reimbursable under the grant. Before saying “yes” to a grant, net all these costs against the original grant amount to determine its true benefit.
For any unreimbursed costs associated with new grants, consider other ways your organization might spend that money (and staff resources). Could you get more mission-related bang for your buck if you spend it on existing programs?
Quantifying the benefit of a new grant or program can be equally or more challenging than identifying its costs. Evaluate every program to quantify its impact on your mission. This will allow you to answer the critical question when evaluating a potential grant: Are there existing programs that can be expanded using the same funds to yield a greater benefit to your mission?
Do your homework
Grants from the government or a foundation can help your nonprofit expand its reach and improve its effectiveness in both the short and long term. But they also can hamstring your organizations in unexpected ways. Contact us for help or more information. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
If your business was fortunate enough to get a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan taken out in connection with the COVID-19 crisis, you should be aware of the potential tax implications.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was enacted on March 27, 2020, is designed to provide financial assistance to Americans suffering during the COVID-19 pandemic. The CARES Act authorized up to $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses for job retention and certain other expenses through the PPP. In April, Congress authorized additional PPP funding and it’s possible more relief could be part of another stimulus law.
The PPP allows qualifying small businesses and other organizations to receive loans with an interest rate of 1%. PPP loan proceeds must be used by the business on certain eligible expenses. The PPP allows the interest and principal on the PPP loan to be entirely forgiven if the business spends the loan proceeds on these expense items within a designated period of time and uses a certain percentage of the PPP loan proceeds on payroll expenses.
An eligible recipient may have a PPP loan forgiven in an amount equal to the sum of the following costs incurred and payments made during the covered period:
An eligible recipient seeking forgiveness of indebtedness on a covered loan must verify that the amount for which forgiveness is requested was used to retain employees, make interest payments on a covered mortgage, make payments on a covered lease or make eligible utility payments.
Cancellation of debt income
In general, the reduction or cancellation of non-PPP indebtedness results in cancellation of debt (COD) income to the debtor, which may affect a debtor’s tax bill. However, the forgiveness of PPP debt is excluded from gross income. Your tax attributes (net operating losses, credits, capital and passive activity loss carryovers, and basis) wouldn’t generally be reduced on account of this exclusion.
Expenses paid with loan proceeds
The IRS has stated that expenses paid with proceeds of PPP loans can’t be deducted, because the loans are forgiven without you having taxable COD income. Therefore, the proceeds are, in effect, tax-exempt income. Expenses allocable to tax-exempt income are nondeductible, because deducting the expenses would result in a double tax benefit.
However, the IRS’s position on this issue has been criticized and some members of Congress have argued that the denial of the deduction for these expenses is inconsistent with legislative intent. Congress may pass new legislation directing IRS to allow deductions for expenses paid with PPP loan proceeds.
Be aware that leaders at the U.S. Treasury and the Small Business Administration recently announced that recipients of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans of $2 million or more should expect an audit if they apply for loan forgiveness. This safe harbor will protect smaller borrowers from PPP audits based on good faith certifications. However, government leaders have stated that there may be audits of smaller PPP loans if they see possible misuse of funds.
Contact us with any further questions you might have on PPP loan forgiveness. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
There’s a bright side to today’s unprecedented market conditions: Agile people may discover opportunities to start new business ventures. Start-ups need a comprehensive business plan, including detailed financial forecasts, to drum up capital from investors and lenders. Entrepreneurs may also use forecasts as yardsticks for evaluating and improving performance over time.
However, forecasting can be challenging for a business with no track record, especially during today’s unprecedented conditions. Here’s an objective approach to developing forecasts based on realistic, market-based assumptions.
Revenue is a critical line item in the forecast, because it drives many other accounts, such as direct costs, accounts receivable and inventory. To create a credible estimate of your start-up’s revenue-generating potential, consider the following questions:
It’s generally a good idea to develop multiple revenue scenarios — best, worst and most likely case. Then weight each scenario based on how likely it is to happen.
Costs and investments
Next, the costs directly attributable to producing revenue, such as materials, utilities and labor, need to be identified and quantified. These variable costs are typically stated as a percentage of forecasted revenue.
Some expenses — such as rent, insurance and administrative salaries — are fixed. That is, they remain constant over the short run, though they often have limited capacity. For example, you might need to add office space and headcount once a start-up grows beyond a certain level.
Besides expenses that are recorded on the income statement, start-ups may need working capital to ramp up operations. They may also need to invest in fixed assets, such as equipment, furniture and software. These expenditures are typically capitalized (reported) on the balance sheet and gradually depreciated their useful lives.
Finally, it’s time to focus on the missing puzzle piece: financing. You may need an initial round of capital to acquire (or produce) inventory, purchase essential assets and generate buzz about your new offering. Plus, start-ups often need ongoing access to capital — such as a revolving line of credit — to help fund the cash conversion cycle as the business grows.
Don’t let a competitor beat you to the punch!
Time is of the essence if you want to capitalize on emerging opportunities. So that you can focus on starting the business, we can help create an objective, defensible financial forecast for your start-up and benchmark your forecasted results against other successful businesses. This diligence will help impress prospective investors and lenders — and build value over the long run. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
Does your employer provide you with group term life insurance? If so, and if the coverage is higher than $50,000, this employee benefit may create undesirable income tax consequences for you.
The first $50,000 of group term life insurance coverage that your employer provides is excluded from taxable income and doesn’t add anything to your income tax bill. But the employer-paid cost of group term coverage in excess of $50,000 is taxable income to you. It’s included in the taxable wages reported on your Form W-2 — even though you never actually receive it. In other words, it’s “phantom income.”
What’s worse, the cost of group term insurance must be determined under a table prepared by IRS even if the employer’s actual cost is less than the cost figured under the table. Under these determinations, the amount of taxable phantom income attributed to an older employee is often higher than the premium the employee would pay for comparable coverage under an individual term policy. This tax trap gets worse as the employee gets older and as the amount of his or her compensation increases.
Check your W-2
What should you do if you think the tax cost of employer-provided group term life insurance is undesirably high? First, you should establish if this is actually the case. If a specific dollar amount appears in Box 12 of your Form W-2 (with code “C”), that dollar amount represents your employer’s cost of providing you with group-term life insurance coverage in excess of $50,000, less any amount you paid for the coverage. You’re responsible for federal, state and local taxes on the amount that appears in Box 12 and for the associated Social Security and Medicare taxes as well.
But keep in mind that the amount in Box 12 is already included as part of your total “Wages, tips and other compensation” in Box 1 of the W-2, and it’s the Box 1 amount that’s reported on your tax return
Consider some options
If you decide that the tax cost is too high for the benefit you’re getting in return, you should find out whether your employer has a “carve-out” plan (a plan that carves out selected employees from group term coverage) or, if not, whether it would be willing to create one. There are several different types of carve-out plans that employers can offer to their employees.
For example, the employer can continue to provide $50,000 of group term insurance (since there’s no tax cost for the first $50,000 of coverage). Then, the employer can either provide the employee with an individual policy for the balance of the coverage, or give the employee the amount the employer would have spent for the excess coverage as a cash bonus that the employee can use to pay the premiums on an individual policy.
Contact us if you have questions about group term coverage or how much it is adding to your tax bill. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
Does your not-for-profit have a code of ethical conduct? According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, establishing and enforcing an ethical code is associated with 50% lower fraud losses. Codes of conduct aren’t just about fraud prevention, though. Holding staffers and board members to an ethical code helps your nonprofit communicate its values to the public and reassures supporters.
Your organization probably already has a mission statement that explains its values and goals. So why would you also need a code of ethics? Think of it as a statement about how you practice ideals. A code not only guides your organization’s day-to-day operations but also your employees’ and board members’ conduct.
The first step in creating a code is determining your values. To that end, review your strategic plan and mission statement to identify the ideals specific to your organization. Then look at peer nonprofits to see which values you share, such as fairness, justice and commitment to the community. Also consider ethical and successful behaviors in your industry. For example, if your staff must be licensed, you may want to incorporate those requirements into your written code.
Now you’re ready to document your expectations and the related policies for your staff and board members. Most nonprofits should address such general areas as mission, governance, legal compliance and conflicts of interest.
But depending on the type and size of your organization, also consider addressing the responsible stewardship of funds; openness and disclosure; inclusiveness and diversity; program evaluation; and professional integrity. For each topic, discuss how your nonprofit will abide by the law, be accountable to the public and responsibly handle resources.
Communicating the code
When the code of ethics is final, your board must formally approve it. To implement and communicate it to staffers, present hypothetical examples of situations that they might encounter. For example, what should an employee do if a board member exerts pressure to use his or her company as a vendor? Also address real-life scenarios and how your organization handled them.
To help ensure accountability, ask staffers and board members to sign the code of ethical conduct. Instruct them to report any suspicions or concerns to a supervisor or HR or via a confidential reporting mechanism, such as a fraud hotline.
Contact us with questions or if you need assistance to create an ethical culture. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
Does your business receive large amounts of cash or cash equivalents? You may be required to submit forms to the IRS to report these transactions.
Each person engaged in a trade or business who, in the course of operating, receives more than $10,000 in cash in one transaction, or in two or more related transactions, must file Form 8300. Any transactions conducted in a 24-hour period are considered related transactions. Transactions are also considered related even if they occur over a period of more than 24 hours if the recipient knows, or has reason to know, that each transaction is one of a series of connected transactions.
To complete a Form 8300, you will need personal information about the person making the cash payment, including a Social Security or taxpayer identification number.
You should keep a copy of each Form 8300 for five years from the date you file it, according to the IRS.
Reasons for the reporting
Although many cash transactions are legitimate, the IRS explains that “information reported on (Form 8300) can help stop those who evade taxes, profit from the drug trade, engage in terrorist financing and conduct other criminal activities. The government can often trace money from these illegal activities through the payments reported on Form 8300 and other cash reporting forms.”
What’s considered “cash”
For Form 8300 reporting, cash includes U.S. currency and coins, as well as foreign money. It also includes cash equivalents such as cashier’s checks (sometimes called bank checks), bank drafts, traveler’s checks and money orders.
Money orders and cashier’s checks under $10,000, when used in combination with other forms of cash for a single transaction that exceeds $10,000, are defined as cash for Form 8300 reporting purposes.
Note: Under a separate reporting requirement, banks and other financial institutions report cash purchases of cashier’s checks, treasurer’s checks and/or bank checks, bank drafts, traveler’s checks and money orders with a face value of more than $10,000 by filing currency transaction reports.
E-filing and batch filing
Businesses required to file reports of large cash transactions on Form 8300 should know that in addition to filing on paper, e-filing is an option. The form is due 15 days after a transaction and there’s no charge for the e-file option. Businesses that file electronically get an automatic acknowledgment of receipt when they file.
The IRS also reminds businesses that they can “batch file” their reports, which is especially helpful to those required to file many forms.
Setting up an account
To file Form 8300 electronically, a business must set up an account with FinCEN’s BSA E-Filing System. For more information, interested businesses can also call the BSA E-Filing Help Desk at 866-346-9478 (Monday through Friday from 8 am to 6 pm EST) or email them at BSAEFilingHelp@fincen.gov. Contact us with any questions or for assistance. Sam Brown, CPA, Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
Starting in 2019, auditors’ reports for certain public companies must contain a new element: critical audit matters (CAMs). The requirement was in effect for audits of large accelerated filers (with market values of $700 million or more) in fiscal years ending on or after June 30, 2019. It goes into effect for smaller public companies in fiscal years ending on or after December 15, 2020.
Regardless of where you are in the implementation process, anticipating the CAMs that will appear in your auditor’s report may be especially challenging given the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 crisis.
The auditor’s report offers an opinion as to whether the financial statements fairly present the company’s financial position, results of operations and cash flows in conformity with U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles or another applicable financial reporting framework. In 2017, the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) expanded the pass-fail format of the auditor’s report.
The PCAOB rule requires auditors to describe CAMs, which are matters that, from the auditor’s point of view, require especially challenging, subjective or complex judgment. CAMs aren’t necessarily meant to reflect negatively on the company or indicate that the auditor found a misstatement or internal control deficiencies. But they can raise a red flag to stakeholders.
Close-up on CAMs
When identifying CAMs, the auditor must:
In May, research firm Audit Analytics reported that the four most common CAMs in auditors’ reports issued for large accelerated filers through April 30, 2020, were: 1) goodwill and intangible assets, 2) revenue recognition, 3) structure events (valuation of acquiring assets), and 4) income taxes. Together, these topics accounted for more than half of all CAMs. These matters are expected to continue to present auditing challenges during the COVID-19 crisis.
CAMs may change from year to year, based on audit complexity, changing risk environments and new accounting standards. Each year, auditors determine and communicate CAMs in connection with the audit of the company’s financial statements for the current period.
A significant event — such as a cybersecurity breach, a hurricane or the COVID-19 pandemic — may cause the auditor to report new CAMs. Though such an event itself may not be a CAM, it may be a principal consideration in the auditor’s determination of whether a CAM exists. And such events may affect how CAMs were addressed in the audit.
Management and the audit committee should know what to expect when the financial statements are delivered. A dry run before year end can help you anticipate the CAMs that will appear on your auditor’s report for fiscal year 2020, so you can provide clear, consistent messaging to stakeholders. Contact us for more information. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
COVID-19 is changing the landscape for many schools this fall. But many children and young adults are going back, even if it’s just for online learning, and some parents will be facing tuition bills. If your child has been awarded a scholarship, that’s cause for celebration! But be aware that there may be tax implications.
Scholarships (and fellowships) are generally tax-free for students at elementary, middle and high schools, as well as those attending college, graduate school or accredited vocational schools. It doesn’t matter if the scholarship makes a direct payment to the individual or reduces tuition.
Tuition and related expenses
However, for a scholarship to be tax-free, certain conditions must be satisfied. A scholarship is tax-free only to the extent it’s used to pay for:
For example, if a computer is recommended but not required, buying one wouldn’t qualify. Other expenses that don’t qualify include the cost of room and board, travel, research and clerical help.
To the extent a scholarship award isn’t used for qualifying items, it’s taxable. The recipient is responsible for establishing how much of an award is used for tuition and eligible expenses. Maintain records (such as copies of bills, receipts and cancelled checks) that reflect the use of the scholarship money.
Award can’t be payment for services
Subject to limited exceptions, a scholarship isn’t tax-free if the payments are linked to services that your child performs as a condition for receiving the award, even if the services are required of all degree candidates. Therefore, a stipend your child receives for required teaching, research or other services is taxable, even if the child uses the money for tuition or related expenses.
What if you, or a family member, is an employee of an education institution that provides reduced or free tuition? A reduction in tuition provided to you, your spouse or your dependents by the school at which you work isn’t included in your income and isn’t subject to tax.
Returns and recordkeeping
If a scholarship is tax-free and your child has no other income, the award doesn’t have to be reported on a tax return. However, any portion of an award that’s taxable as payment for services is treated as wages. Estimated tax payments may have to be made if the payor doesn’t withhold enough tax. Your child should receive a Form W-2 showing the amount of these “wages” and the amount of tax withheld, and any portion of the award that’s taxable must be reported, even if no Form W-2 is received.
These are just the basic rules. Other rules and limitations may apply. For example, if your child’s scholarship is taxable, it may limit other higher education tax benefits to which you or your child are entitled. As we approach the new school year, best wishes for your child’s success in school. And please contact us if you wish to discuss these or other tax matters further. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
Not-for-profits sometimes team up with other entities to boost efficiency, save money and better serve both organizations’ constituencies. This can be a smart move — so long as your accounting staff knows how to report the activities of the two organizations. How you handle reporting depends on the nature of your new relationship.
The simplest relationship between nonprofits for accounting purposes may be a collaborative arrangement. These typically are contractual agreements in which two or more organizations actively participate in a joint operating activity.
The nonprofit that’s considered the “principal” for the transaction should report costs incurred and revenues generated from transactions with third parties on a gross basis in a statement of activities. The principal is usually the entity that has control of the goods or services provided in the transaction. Payments between participants are presented according to their “nature,” following accounting guidance for the type of revenue or expense the transaction involves. Participants in collaborative arrangements also must make certain financial statement disclosures, such as the purpose of the arrangement.
Acquisitions and mergers
Another collaborative option is for the board of one organization to cede control of its operations to another entity as part of its decision to engage in a cooperative activity. This is an acquisition, and no new legal entity is created. The remaining organization is considered the acquirer and must determine how to record the acquisition based on the fair value of the acquired nonprofit’s assets and liabilities.
If the value of the assets net of the liabilities received is greater than the amount paid in the acquisition, the difference should be recorded as a contribution. If the value is lower than the price paid by the acquirer, the difference is generally recorded as goodwill. But, if the operations of the acquired organization are expected to be predominantly supported by contributions and return on investments, the difference should be recorded as a separate charge in the acquirer’s statement of activities.
If it’s your nonprofit that cedes control of its operations to another entity, that organization may need to consolidate your organization (including the cooperative activity) beginning on the “acquisition” date. If your nonprofit will present separate financial statements, you must determine whether to establish a new basis for reporting assets and liabilities based on the other entity’s basis.
Finally, what if your organization merges with another and forms a new legal entity? In such situations, the two entities’ assets and liabilities are combined as of the merger date.
Financial reporting practices must change when you collaborate with another entity. But these rules can be complicated, so contact us with your questions. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
If you’re a partner in a business, you may have come across a situation that gave you pause. In a given year, you may be taxed on more partnership income than was distributed to you from the partnership in which you’re a partner.
Why is this? The answer lies in the way partnerships and partners are taxed. Unlike regular corporations, partnerships aren’t subject to income tax. Instead, each partner is taxed on the partnership’s earnings — whether or not they’re distributed. Similarly, if a partnership has a loss, the loss is passed through to the partners. (However, various rules may prevent a partner from currently using his share of a partnership’s loss to offset other income.)
While a partnership isn’t subject to income tax, it’s treated as a separate entity for purposes of determining its income, gains, losses, deductions and credits. This makes it possible to pass through to partners their share of these items.
A partnership must file an information return, which is IRS Form 1065. On Schedule K of Form 1065, the partnership separately identifies income, deductions, credits and other items. This is so that each partner can properly treat items that are subject to limits or other rules that could affect their correct treatment at the partner’s level. Examples of such items include capital gains and losses, interest expense on investment debts and charitable contributions. Each partner gets a Schedule K-1 showing his or her share of partnership items.
Basis and distribution rules ensure that partners aren’t taxed twice. A partner’s initial basis in his partnership interest (the determination of which varies depending on how the interest was acquired) is increased by his share of partnership taxable income. When that income is paid out to partners in cash, they aren’t taxed on the cash if they have sufficient basis. Instead, partners just reduce their basis by the amount of the distribution. If a cash distribution exceeds a partner’s basis, then the excess is taxed to the partner as a gain, which often is a capital gain.
Here’s an example
Two individuals each contribute $10,000 to form a partnership. The partnership has $80,000 of taxable income in the first year, during which it makes no cash distributions to the two partners. Each of them reports $40,000 of taxable income from the partnership as shown on their K-1s. Each has a starting basis of $10,000, which is increased by $40,000 to $50,000. In the second year, the partnership breaks even (has zero taxable income) and distributes $40,000 to each of the two partners. The cash distributed to them is received tax-free. Each of them, however, must reduce the basis in his partnership interest from $50,000 to $10,000.
Other rules and limitations
The example and details above are an overview and, therefore, don’t cover all the rules. For example, many other events require basis adjustments and there are a host of special rules covering noncash distributions, distributions of securities, liquidating distributions and other matters. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
Timely, relevant financial data is critical to managing a business in today’s unprecedented conditions. Similar to the control panel in a vehicle or machine, dashboard reports provide a real-time snapshot of how your business is performing.
Why you need a dashboard report
Everything in a dashboard report can typically be found elsewhere in the company’s financial reporting systems, just in a less user-friendly format. Rather than report new information, a dashboard report captures the most critical data, based on the nature of the business. It can provide an early warning system for potential problems, allowing you to pivot as needed to minimize losses and jump on emerging opportunities in the marketplace.
To maximize the effectiveness of dashboard reports, make them accessible to managers across your organization via the company’s internal website or weekly email blasts. Widespread, easy access will allow your management team to quickly identify trends that require immediate attention. Additionally, businesses that are struggling during a reorganization or debt restructuring sometimes share these reports with their lenders as a condition of their continued support.
Metrics that matter
When deciding which information to target, look at your company’s loan covenants — lenders usually have a good sense of which metrics are worth monitoring. Then conduct your own risk assessment. What’s relevant varies depending on your industry, general economic conditions and the nature of your business operations.
In addition to tracking cash balances and receipts, most dashboard reports include the following ratios:
From here, consider adding a handful of company- or industry-specific performance metrics. For example, a warehouse might report daily shipments and inventory turnover. A hotel that’s struggling to reopen might provide a schedule of net operating income, average room rates and vacancy rates compared to the previous week or month. A law firm might report each partner’s realization rate.
A diagnostic test
Comprehensive financial statements are the best source of information about your company’s long-term stability and profitability — especially for external stakeholders. But dashboard reporting is critical for internal purposes, too. These reports can help assess a sudden change in market conditions, interim performance or potential downward trend in your financial performance. Contact us to help you compile a meaningful dashboard reporting process for your organization. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
Last week, the Federal Reserve announced that not-for-profit organizations now may apply for loans under the $600 billion Main Street Lending Program. Previously open only to for-profit businesses with more than 100 employees, the program offers low-interest loans with relatively relaxed repayment terms. If your organization needs funding to keep operating during this difficult period, a Main Street loan may be an option.
Initially, the Main Street program offered loans through three credit facilities but has added two more specifically for nonprofits: Nonprofit Organization New Loan Facility and Nonprofit Expanded Loan Facility. The difference between the two is that the Expanded Facility makes larger loans to qualified applicants, such as universities and hospitals.
Eligible banks accept applications and extend loans, but the Fed takes a 95% stake in them. Like the Paycheck Protection Act, Main Street is funded in part by CARES Act funds. It is designed to help keep organizations operating and able to retain and hire employees.
Rules for applicants
To qualify for a Main Street loan, nonprofit organizations must be tax exempt and have:
Loans have a five-year term and interest rate of LIBOR plus 3%. Interest payments are deferred for one year. Loan size depends, of course, on the size and financial health of your nonprofit, but amounts generally run from $250,000 to $300 million.
Right for you?
Even if your nonprofit has never taken out a loan, it may be necessary now during the COVID-19 crisis. But you’ll need to think carefully about your nonprofit’s ability to repay any loan. We can help evaluate your creditworthiness and repayment capacity. We can also suggest alternate funding options, including other loan programs. Contact us. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many small businesses are strapped for cash. They may find it beneficial to barter for goods and services instead of paying cash for them. If your business gets involved in bartering, remember that the fair market value of goods that you receive in bartering is taxable income. And if you exchange services with another business, the transaction results in taxable income for both parties.
For example, if a computer consultant agrees to exchange services with an advertising agency, both parties are taxed on the fair market value of the services received. This is the amount they would normally charge for the same services. If the parties agree to the value of the services in advance, that will be considered the fair market value unless there is contrary evidence.
In addition, if services are exchanged for property, income is realized. For example, if a construction firm does work for a retail business in exchange for unsold inventory, it will have income equal to the fair market value of the inventory. Another example: If an architectural firm does work for a corporation in exchange for shares of the corporation’s stock, it will have income equal to the fair market value of the stock.
Joining a club
Many businesses join barter clubs that facilitate barter exchanges. In general, these clubs use a system of “credit units” that are awarded to members who provide goods and services. The credits can be redeemed for goods and services from other members.
Bartering is generally taxable in the year it occurs. But if you participate in a barter club, you may be taxed on the value of credit units at the time they’re added to your account, even if you don’t redeem them for actual goods and services until a later year. For example, let’s say that you earn 2,000 credit units one year, and that each unit is redeemable for $1 in goods and services. In that year, you’ll have $2,000 of income. You won’t pay additional tax if you redeem the units the next year, since you’ve already been taxed once on that income.
If you join a barter club, you’ll be asked to provide your Social Security number or employer identification number. You’ll also be asked to certify that you aren’t subject to backup withholding. Unless you make this certification, the club will withhold tax from your bartering income at a 24% rate.
Forms to file
By January 31 of each year, a barter club will send participants a Form 1099-B, “Proceeds from Broker and Barter Exchange Transactions,” which shows the value of cash, property, services and credits that you received from exchanges during the previous year. This information will also be reported to the IRS.
By bartering, you can trade away excess inventory or provide services during slow times, all while hanging onto your cash. You may also find yourself bartering when a customer doesn’t have the money on hand to complete a transaction. As long as you’re aware of the federal and state tax consequences, these transactions can benefit all parties. Contact us if you need assistance or would like more information. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
Your nonprofit organization may be required to hire an independent outside CPA to audit its books, depending on its annual gross receipts and other factors. Even when external audits aren’t mandated, however, they’re often recommended. These audits can provide assurance to donors and other stakeholders that your organization is operating with integrity and within acceptable accounting guidelines.
Most nonprofits conduct internal audits on a regular basis, perhaps quarterly or annually. These audits are typically performed by a board member or a member of the organization’s staff. The objective is to review the organization’s financial statements, accounting policies and spending habits.
Internal audits promote fiscal responsibility and are essential to good governance. But they’re often conducted by people who don’t have extensive audit training and who have a vested interest in issuing a clean bill of health.
Outside auditors may be in a better position to determine whether your statements offer a fair picture of your finances. In an external audit, a CPA examines your organization’s financial statements and issues an opinion on whether those statements adhere to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) or another reporting framework.
To support this opinion, the auditor tests underlying records such as your nonprofit’s bank reconciliations, accounts payable records and contribution classifications. The auditor also evaluates your organization’s internal controls, including procedures for fraud prevention and detection.
This type of audit is completely separate from an internal audit. Though external audits are optional for nonprofits in some states, they’re required in others. Be sure you learn the rules that apply to your organization.
Preparing for the audit
You can facilitate external audit fieldwork by anticipating information requests and inquiries from your auditor. He or she will ask for various financial documents, including:
Your auditor also may ask to review records related to loans, leases, grants, donations and fundraising activities. In addition, be ready to answer questions about such issues as how money and other resources are received and spent, what the organization does to comply with applicable laws, and how financial transactions are recorded.
We can help
Internal audits are essential. But they’re no substitute for an external audit by a qualified CPA, especially in light of the major changes to GAAP in recent years and increasing government scrutiny of nonprofits. Contact us to discuss whether you’re required to obtain an external audit under state or federal guidelines. Even if your organization isn’t required to submit CPA-audited statements, you’re sure to benefit from the expertise of an independent financial professional. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
If you’re planning your estate, or you’ve recently inherited assets, you may be unsure of the “cost” (or “basis”) for tax purposes.
Fair market value rules
Under the fair market value basis rules (also known as the “step-up and step-down” rules), an heir receives a basis in inherited property equal to its date-of-death value. So, for example, if your grandfather bought ABC Corp. stock in 1935 for $500 and it’s worth $5 million at his death, the basis is stepped up to $5 million in the hands of your grandfather’s heirs — and all of that gain escapes federal income tax forever.
The fair market value basis rules apply to inherited property that’s includible in the deceased’s gross estate, and those rules also apply to property inherited from foreign persons who aren’t subject to U.S. estate tax. It doesn’t matter if a federal estate tax return is filed. The rules apply to the inherited portion of property owned by the inheriting taxpayer jointly with the deceased, but not the portion of jointly held property that the inheriting taxpayer owned before his or her inheritance. The fair market value basis rules also don’t apply to reinvestments of estate assets by fiduciaries.
Step up, step down or carryover
It’s crucial for you to understand the fair market value basis rules so that you don’t pay more tax than you’re legally required to.
For example, in the above example, if your grandfather decides to make a gift of the stock during his lifetime (rather than passing it on when he dies), the “step-up” in basis (from $500 to $5 million) would be lost. Property that has gone up in value acquired by gift is subject to the “carryover” basis rules. That means the person receiving the gift takes the same basis the donor had in it (just $500), plus a portion of any gift tax the donor pays on the gift.
A “step-down” occurs if someone dies owning property that has declined in value. In that case, the basis is lowered to the date-of-death value. Proper planning calls for seeking to avoid this loss of basis. Giving the property away before death won’t preserve the basis. That’s because when property that has gone down in value is the subject of a gift, the person receiving the gift must take the date of gift value as his basis (for purposes of determining his or her loss on a later sale). Therefore, a good strategy for property that has declined in value is for the owner to sell it before death so he or she can enjoy the tax benefits of the loss.
These are the basic rules. Other rules and limits may apply. For example, in some cases, a deceased person’s executor may be able to make an alternate valuation election. Contact us for tax assistance when estate planning or after receiving an inheritance. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
Want to increase your not-for-profit’s revenue? First try analyzing current income as a professional auditor might. Then, you can apply your conclusions to setting annual goals, preparing your budget and managing other aspects of your organization.
Compare the donation dollars raised inpast years to pinpoint trends. For example, have individual contributions been increasing over the past five years? What campaigns have you implemented during that period? You might go beyond the totals and determine if the number of major donors has grown.
Also estimate what portion of contributions is restricted. If a large percentage of donations are tied up in restricted funds, you might want to re-evaluate your gift acceptance policy or fundraising materials.
Grants can vary dramatically in size and purpose — from covering operational costs, to launching a program, to funding client services. Pay attention to trends here, too. Did one funder supply 50% of total revenue in 2015, 75% in 2016, and 80% last year?
A growing reliance on a single funding source is a red flag to auditors and it should be to you, too. In this case, if funding stopped, your organization might be forced to close its doors.
Fees from clients, joint venture partners or other third parties can be similar to fees that for-profit organizations earn. They’re generally considered exchange transactions because the client receives a product or service of value in exchange for its payment.
Sometimes fees are charged on a sliding scale based on income or ability to pay. In other cases, fees are subject to legal limitations set by government agencies. You’ll need to assess whether these services are paying for themselves.
If your nonprofit is a membership organization and charges dues, determine whether membership has grown or declined in recent years. How does this compare with your peers? Do you suspect that dues income will decline? You might consider dropping dues altogether and restructuring. If so, examine other income sources for growth potential.
By performing these exercises, you should be able to gain a basic understanding of where funds are coming from and where greater potential lies. For specific tips and help applying revenue data strategically, contact us. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
There’s a new IRS form for business taxpayers that pay or receive nonemployee compensation.
Beginning with tax year 2020, payers must complete Form 1099-NEC, Nonemployee Compensation, to report any payment of $600 or more to a payee.
Why the new form?
Prior to 2020, Form 1099-MISC was filed to report payments totaling at least $600 in a calendar year for services performed in a trade or business by someone who isn’t treated as an employee. These payments are referred to as nonemployee compensation (NEC) and the payment amount was reported in box 7.
Form 1099-NEC was reintroduced to alleviate the confusion caused by separate deadlines for Form 1099-MISC that report NEC in box 7 and all other Form 1099-MISC for paper filers and electronic filers. The IRS announced in July 2019 that, for 2020 and thereafter, it will reintroduce the previously retired Form 1099-NEC, which was last used in the 1980s.
What businesses will file?
Payers of nonemployee compensation will now use Form 1099-NEC to report those payments.
Generally, payers must file Form 1099-NEC by January 31. For 2020 tax returns, the due date will be February 1, 2021, because January 31, 2021, is on a Sunday. There’s no automatic 30-day extension to file Form 1099-NEC. However, an extension to file may be available under certain hardship conditions.
Can a business get an extension?
Form 8809 is used to file for an extension for all types of Forms 1099, as well as for other forms. The IRS recently released a draft of Form 8809. The instructions note that there are no automatic extension requests for Form 1099-NEC. Instead, the IRS will grant only one 30-day extension, and only for certain reasons.
Requests must be submitted on paper. Line 7 lists reasons for requesting an extension. The reasons that an extension to file a Form 1099-NEC (and also a Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement) will be granted are:
If you have questions about filing Form 1099-NEC or any tax forms, contact us. We can assist you in staying in compliance with all rules. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
In 2016, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) published guidance that requires major changes to how leases are reported on financial statements. One area of the guidance that’s especially complicated relates to “embedded” leases.
Accounting Standards Update (ASU) No. 2016-02, Leases (Topic 842), requires organizations to report on the balance sheet the assets and liabilities associated with leasing office space, vehicles and other assets. Public companies implemented the updated guidance in 2019.
In June, the FASB extended the effective date for ASU 2016-02 for private companies and not-for-profit organizations. The one-year deferral is welcome news for smaller organizations that have been trying to get a handle on the complex new rules during the COVID-19 crisis.
Hidden in the fine print
In some cases, a contract that qualifies as a lease doesn’t have the word “lease” written across the top. Instead, a lease may be embedded in a contract’s terms.
Unless private companies and nonprofits adopted the changes early, they’re currently expensing operating lease payments as they’re incurred, as per prior guidance. Carving out embedded leases from supply or service contracts wasn’t a big deal under those rules; the costs would be classified as operating expenses either way. But the updated guidance requires service contract payments to continue being expensed while embedded leases are reported on the balance sheet.
The updated guidance is clear about the identification and criteria for an embedded lease: A contract contains a lease if it conveys the right to control the use of an identified asset in exchange for cash or other consideration. This includes the right to obtain substantially all the economic benefits from the asset for a specific period.
Equipment leases may be buried in supply and service contracts with equipment manufacturers. Likewise, lease agreements may contain nonlease components, such as maintenance and property taxes.
During the implementation phase for the updated guidance, you’ll need to train other departments, such as procurement, sales, operations and information technology, to recognize when contract terms convey the right to control the use of a specific asset. After implementation, you’ll need to execute controls or processes to identify embedded leases when contracts are signed.
To simplify matters, consider adopting the practical expedient in the updated accounting guidance that allows lessors to combine lease and nonlease components. While this treatment will increase the lease liability reported on your balance sheet, simplified reporting may be worthwhile, depending on the size and duration of the embedded leases.
For private companies and private not-for-profits, the updated lease guidance now goes into effect for fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2021 (or interim periods beginning after December 15, 2022). For public not-for-profits, the updated guidance now goes into effect for fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2019, including interim reporting periods.
A one-year deferral isn’t an excuse to procrastinate. The issue of embedded leases shows how implementing the updated guidance can be challenging and may require significant changes to systems and procedures. We can help. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
The tax filing deadline for 2019 tax returns has been extended until July 15 this year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After your 2019 tax return has been successfully filed with the IRS, there may still be some issues to bear in mind. Here are three considerations.
1. Some tax records can now be thrown away
You should keep tax records related to your return for as long as the IRS can audit your return or assess additional taxes. In general, the statute of limitations is three years after you file your return. So you can generally get rid of most records related to tax returns for 2016 and earlier years. (If you filed an extension for your 2016 return, hold on to your records until at least three years from when you filed the extended return.)
However, the statute of limitations extends to six years for taxpayers who understate their gross income by more than 25%.
You’ll need to hang on to certain tax-related records longer. For example, keep the actual tax returns indefinitely, so you can prove to the IRS that you filed a legitimate return. (There’s no statute of limitations for an audit if you didn’t file a return or you filed a fraudulent one.)
When it comes to retirement accounts, keep records associated with them until you’ve depleted the account and reported the last withdrawal on your tax return, plus three (or six) years. And retain records related to real estate or investments for as long as you own the asset, plus at least three years after you sell it and report the sale on your tax return. (You can keep these records for six years if you want to be extra safe.)
2. You can check up on your refund
The IRS has an online tool that can tell you the status of your refund. Go to irs.gov and click on “Get Your Refund Status” to find out about yours. You’ll need your Social Security number, filing status and the exact refund amount.
3. You can file an amended return if you forgot to report something
In general, you can file an amended tax return and claim a refund within three years after the date you filed your original return or within two years of the date you paid the tax, whichever is later. So for a 2019 tax return that you file on July 15, 2020, you can generally file an amended return until July 15, 2023.
However, there are a few opportunities when you have longer to file an amended return. For example, the statute of limitations for bad debts is longer than the usual three-year time limit for most items on your tax return. In general, you can amend your tax return to claim a bad debt for seven years from the due date of the tax return for the year that the debt became worthless.
We can help
Contact us if you have questions about tax record retention, your refund or filing an amended return. We’re not just available at tax filing time — we’re here all year! Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
Your not-for-profit has a board of directors — so why would it need an additional advisory board? There are a few reasons. Some organizations assemble advisory boards to provide expertise for a specific project, such as a fundraising campaign. Other organizations use them to give roles to major donors and prestigious supporters who may not be a good fit for a governing board. Here are some other ways to use an advisory board and how to set one up.
Opening the door
Look at your general board members’ demographics and collective profile. Does it lack representation from certain groups — particularly relative to the communities that your organization serves? An advisory board offers an opportunity to add diversity to your leadership. Also consider the skills current board members bring to the table. If your board of directors lacks extensive fundraising or grant writing experience, for example, an advisory board can help fill gaps.
Adding advisory board members can also open the door to funding opportunities. If, for example, your nonprofit is considering expanding its geographic presence, it makes sense to find an advisory board member from outside your current area. That person might be connected with business leaders and be able to introduce board members to appropriate people in his or her community.
Creating a pool
The advisory role is a great way to get people involved who can’t necessarily make the time commitment that a regular board position would require. It also might appeal to recently retired individuals or stay-at-home parents wanting to get involved with a nonprofit on a limited basis.
This also can be an ideal way to “test out” potential board members. If a spot opens on your current board and some of your advisory board members are interested in making a bigger commitment, you’ll have a ready pool of informed individuals from which to choose.
Understanding their role
It’s important that advisory board members understand the role they’ll play. They aren’t involved in the governance of your organization and can’t introduce motions or vote on them. But they can propose ideas, make recommendations and influence voting board members. Often, advisory board members organize campaigns and manage short-term projects.
Advisory boards usually are disbanded after a project is complete. You may also want to consider eliminating an advisory board if it begins to require too much staff time and your organization can’t provide the support it needs. For more information on effective nonprofit governance, contact us. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
If you own or manage a business with employees, you may be at risk for a severe tax penalty. It’s called the “Trust Fund Recovery Penalty” because it applies to the Social Security and income taxes required to be withheld by a business from its employees’ wages.
Because the taxes are considered property of the government, the employer holds them in “trust” on the government’s behalf until they’re paid over. The penalty is also sometimes called the “100% penalty” because the person liable and responsible for the taxes will be penalized 100% of the taxes due. Accordingly, the amounts IRS seeks when the penalty is applied are usually substantial, and IRS is very aggressive in enforcing the penalty.
The Trust Fund Recovery Penalty is among the more dangerous tax penalties because it applies to a broad range of actions and to a wide range of people involved in a business.
Here are some answers to questions about the penalty so you can safely stay clear of it.
Which actions are penalized? The Trust Fund Recovery Penalty applies to any willful failure to collect, or truthfully account for, and pay over Social Security and income taxes required to be withheld from employees’ wages.
Who is at risk? The penalty can be imposed on anyone “responsible” for collection and payment of the tax. This has been broadly defined to include a corporation’s officers, directors and shareholders under a duty to collect and pay the tax as well as a partnership’s partners, or any employee of the business with such a duty. Even voluntary board members of tax-exempt organizations, who are generally excepted from responsibility, can be subject to this penalty under certain circumstances. In addition, in some cases, responsibility has been extended to family members close to the business, and to attorneys and accountants.
IRS says responsibility is a matter of status, duty and authority. Anyone with the power to see that the taxes are (or aren’t) paid may be responsible. There’s often more than one responsible person in a business, but each is at risk for the entire penalty. Although a taxpayer held liable can sue other responsible people for contribution, this is an action he or she must take entirely on his or her own after he or she pays the penalty. It isn’t part of the IRS collection process.
Here’s how broadly the net can be cast: You may not be directly involved with the payroll tax withholding process in your business. But if you learn of a failure to pay over withheld taxes and have the power to pay them but instead make payments to creditors and others, you become a responsible person.
What’s considered “willful?” For actions to be willful, they don’t have to include an overt intent to evade taxes. Simply bending to business pressures and paying bills or obtaining supplies instead of paying over withheld taxes that are due the government is willful behavior. And just because you delegate responsibilities to someone else doesn’t necessarily mean you’re off the hook. Your failure to take care of the job yourself can be treated as the willful element.
Avoiding the penalty
You should never allow any failure to withhold and any “borrowing” from withheld amounts — regardless of the circumstances. All funds withheld must also be paid over to the government. Contact us for information about the penalty and making tax payments. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
The costs to set up cloud computing services can be significant, and many companies would prefer not to immediately expense these setup costs. Updated guidance on accounting for cloud computing costs aims to reduce differences in the accounting treatment for these arrangements. In a nutshell, the changes will spread more of the costs of implementing a cloud computing contract over the contract’s life than under existing guidance.
Accounting Standards Update (ASU) No. 2015-05, Intangibles — Goodwill and Other — Internal-Use Software (Subtopic 350-40): Customer’s Accounting for Fees Paid in a Cloud Computing Arrangement, differentiated between agreements involving a software license and those involving a hosted service. However, it didn’t discuss how to record the associated implementation costs, which lead to differences in the accounting treatment.
Under ASU 2015-05, when a cloud computing arrangement doesn’t include a software license, the arrangement must be accounted for as a service contract. This means businesses must expense the costs as incurred.
On the other hand, when an arrangement does include such a license, the customer must account for the software license by recognizing an intangible asset. To the extent that the payments attributable to the software license are made over time, a liability is also recognized.
ASU 2018-15, Intangibles — Goodwill and Other — Internal-Use Software (Subtopic 350-40): Customer’s Accounting for Implementation Costs Incurred in a Cloud Computing Arrangement That Is a Service Contract, instructs companies to apply the same approach to the capitalization of implementation costs associated with the adoption of a cloud computing agreement and an on-premises software license.
When companies implement ASU 2018-15, they can capitalize and amortize certain costs associated with the application-development phase over the duration of the hosting arrangement. However, companies should expense costs incurred during the preliminary project and post-implementation phases.
Implementing the updated guidance will require the following steps:
Identify cloud computing arrangements. Each line of business, as well as the supply chain management and payables departments, should be instructed to notify the accounting department of any new cloud computing agreements.
Decide whether to capitalize or expense implementation costs. ASU 2018-15 requires that companies follow the guidance in Subtopic 350-40 to determine which implementation costs to capitalize as an asset and which to expense.
Forecast the financial implications. For each contract, model the impact on your company’s financial statements. Because the standard allows for the deferral of implementation costs vs. expensing the costs as incurred, there will be a corresponding impact on your company’s financial ratios.
Public companies must start the implementation process now to ensure compliance for annual reporting periods beginning on or after December 15, 2019. Private companies and nonprofits have an extra year to comply — or they may choose to adopt the changes early to spread more set-up costs over the duration of their contracts. If you’re unsure how to account for cloud computing arrangement, contact us. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
The IRS and the U.S. Treasury had disbursed 160.4 million Economic Impact Payments (EIPs) as of May 31, 2020, according to a new report. These are the payments being sent to eligible individuals in response to the economic threats caused by COVID-19. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports that $269.3 billion of EIPs have already been sent through a combination of electronic transfers to bank accounts, paper checks and prepaid debit cards.
Eligible individuals receive $1,200 or $2,400 for a married couple filing a joint return. Individuals may also receive up to an additional $500 for each qualifying child. Those with adjusted gross income over a threshold receive a reduced amount.
However, the IRS says some payments were sent erroneously and should be returned. For example, the tax agency says an EIP made to someone who died before receipt of the payment should be returned. Instructions for returning the payment can be found here: https://bit.ly/31ioZ8W
The entire EIP should be returned unless it was made to joint filers and one spouse hadn’t died before receipt. In that case, you only need to return the EIP portion made to the decedent. This amount is $1,200 unless your adjusted gross income exceeded $150,000. If you cannot deposit the payment because it was issued to both spouses and one spouse is deceased, return the check as described in the link above. Once the IRS receives and processes your returned payment, an EIP will be reissued.
The GAO report states that almost 1.1 million payments totaling nearly $1.4 billion had been sent to deceased individuals, as of April 30, 2020. However, these figures don’t “reflect returned checks or rejected direct deposits, the amount of which IRS and the Treasury are still determining.”
In addition, the IRS states that EIPs sent to incarcerated individuals should be returned.
Payments that don’t have to be returned
The IRS notes on its website that some people receiving an erroneous payment don’t have to return it. For example, if a child’s parents who aren’t married to each other both get an additional $500 for the same qualifying child, one of them isn’t required to pay it back.
But each parent should keep Notice 1444, which the IRS will mail to them within 15 days after the EIP is made, with their 2020 tax records.
Some individuals still waiting
Be aware that the government is still sending out EIPs. If you believe you’re eligible for one but haven’t received it, you will be able to claim your payment when you file your 2020 tax return.
If you need the payment sooner, you can call the IRS EIP line at 800-919-9835 but the Treasury Department notes that “call volumes are high, so call times may be longer than anticipated.” Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
Factors such as wealth level, education and even whether people volunteer, probably will tell you more about potential donors than their generation. But some broad generalizations about age can help not-for-profits target particular groups for support. The newest generation of adults belong to what’s being called Generation Z, and it’s possible to draw some conclusions about this otherwise diverse demographic.
Charitably inclined digital natives
Members of Generation Z typically are either in school or just beginning to launch careers. According to a study conducted by one market research firm, their contributions represent only about 2% of total giving. And their average donation tops out at $341 per year. Yet approximately 44% of Gen Zers have given to charity and they may be more driven to pursue social impact than earlier generations at their age. Many young people are hyperaware of what’s going on both in the world and their own communities.
As digital natives immersed in social media, Gen Zers make good peer-to-peer fundraisers. You might be able to harness the energy of this generation by sponsoring fun runs and similar events that require participants to solicit funds from friends and family members.
Many in this demographic volunteer or perform paid work for more politically oriented causes that they see affecting their own lives, such as gun control, climate change and racial inequality. Consider, for example, the teenagers and young adults who mobilized ongoing gun control campaigns in the wake of the Parkland shooting. Or the Black Lives Matter protests that have been largely led by young adults.
Content tailored to their interests
To reach Gen Z, forget Facebook and even Twitter. Teens and young adults favor platforms such as Snapchat, Instagram and TikTok, so you may need to develop different types of content for these more visual channels. The good news is that younger people tend to be more receptive to digital ads than their parents. But they expect outreach to be narrowly tailored to their interests, so be sure you rely on good data.
Members of Generation Z usually want to be more involved in charitable causes than earlier generations. They may not be satisfied with making one-time donations to nonprofits they barely know. To provide young adults with hands-on roles, create formal volunteer programs and consider setting up a junior board of directors.
Although most young adults aren’t in a position to make major donations now, you should regard this group as your nonprofit’s future. Cultivating their support and loyalty can pay big dividends down the road. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
The extended federal income tax deadline is coming up fast. As you know, the IRS postponed until July 15 the payment and filing deadlines that otherwise would have fallen on or after April 1, 2020, and before July 15.
Retroactive COVID-19 business relief
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which passed earlier in 2020, includes some retroactive tax relief for business taxpayers. The following four provisions may affect a still-unfiled tax return — or you may be able to take advantage of them on an amended return if you already filed.
Liberalized net operating losses (NOLs). The CARES Act allows a five-year carryback for a business NOL that arises in a tax year beginning in 2018 through 2020. Claiming 100% first-year bonus depreciation on an affected year’s return can potentially create or increase an NOL for that year. If so, the NOL can be carried back, and you can recover some or all of the income tax paid for the carryback year. This factor could cause you to favor claiming 100% first-year bonus depreciation on an unfiled return.
Since NOLs that arise in tax years beginning in 2018 through 2020 can be carried back five years, an NOL that’s reported on a still-unfiled return can be carried back to an earlier tax year and allow you to recover income tax paid in the carry-back year. Because federal income tax rates were generally higher in years before the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) took effect, NOLs carried back to those years can be especially beneficial.
Qualified improvement property (QIP) technical corrections. QIP is generally defined as an improvement to an interior portion of a nonresidential building that’s placed in service after the date the building was first placed in service. The CARES Act includes a retroactive correction to the TCJA. The correction allows much faster depreciation for real estate QIP that’s placed in service after the TCJA became law.
Specifically, the correction allows 100% first-year bonus depreciation for QIP that’s placed in service in 2018 through 2022. Alternatively, you can depreciate QIP placed in service in 2018 and beyond over 15 years using the straight-line method.
Suspension of excess business loss disallowance. An “excess business loss” is a loss that exceeds $250,000 or $500,000 for a married couple filing a joint tax return. An unfavorable TCJA provision disallowed current deductions for excess business losses incurred by individuals in tax years beginning in 2018 through 2025. The CARES Act suspends the excess business loss disallowance rule for losses that arise in tax years beginning in 2018 through 2020.
Liberalized business interest deductions. Another unfavorable TCJA provision generally limited a taxpayer’s deduction for business interest expense to 30% of adjusted taxable income (ATI) for tax years beginning in 2018 and later. Business interest expense that’s disallowed under this limitation is carried over to the following tax year.
In general, the CARES Act temporarily and retroactively increases the limitation from 30% to 50% of ATI for tax years beginning in 2019 and 2020. (Special rules apply to partnerships and LLCs that are treated as partnerships for tax purposes.)
Assessing the opportunities
These are just some of the possible tax opportunities that may be available if you haven’t yet filed your 2019 tax return. Other rules and limitations may apply. Contact us for help determining how to proceed in your situation. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
The Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission (COSO) recently published new guidance on how companies can promote “risk appetite” as part of decision-making. It’s especially relevant in today’s uncertain marketplace.
Digesting the new guidance
The COSO guidance, “Risk Appetite — Critical to Success: Using Risk Appetite to Thrive in a Changing Word,” explains that management must learn how to anticipate and understand their risk when change happens. It defines risk appetite as, “The types and amount of risk, on a broad level, an organization is willing to accept in pursuit of value.”
This definition is intentionally broad to apply across an organization. The risk appetite may differ within various parts of your organization to remain relevant in changing business conditions. When establishing your risk appetite, the goal is to enhance long-term growth and innovation.
“Risk appetite is a fundamental part of setting strategy and objectives, providing context as the organization pursues a given level of performance,” said COSO Chairman Paul Sobel. He stressed the importance of recognizing that the choice of strategies and objectives requires an understanding of the appetite for risk.
In volatile times — like during the COVID-19 pandemic or when facing regulatory uncertainty from a contentious upcoming election — a business may need to alter its risk appetite to take advantage of growth opportunities as market conditions evolve.
Combining the ingredients
COSO lists six things to remember:
Risk appetite applies through development of strategy and objective-setting. It focuses on overall goals of the business. Risk tolerance, on the other hand, applies to the execution of strategy and focuses on objectives and variation from plan.
To be effective, your company’s risk appetite should permeate its culture. To get the message out across the organization, management should consider creating an appetite statement that includes measurable benchmarks. For example, you might say, “ABC Co. isn’t comfortable accepting more than a 10% probability that it will incur losses of more than $200,000 in pursuit of emerging market opportunities.”
The choice of language and length of an appetite statement will vary by organization. Some statements require several sentences to balance brevity with clarity.
Recipe for success
Taking risks is essential to growing your business. However, risks can’t go unchecked. Setting and understanding risk appetite is an important element of corporate governance, strategic planning and decision-making. We can help you better understand and apply this concept, communicate your risk appetite to stakeholders and monitor progress. Contact us for more information. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
As you may have heard, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act allows “qualified” people to take certain “coronavirus-related distributions” from their retirement plans without paying tax.
So how do you qualify? In other words, what’s a coronavirus-related distribution?
Early distribution basics
In general, if you withdraw money from an IRA or eligible retirement plan before you reach age 59½, you must pay a 10% early withdrawal tax. This is in addition to any tax you may owe on the income from the withdrawal. There are several exceptions to the general rule. For example, you don’t owe the additional 10% tax if you become totally and permanently disabled or if you use the money to pay qualified higher education costs or medical expenses
Under the CARES Act, you can take up to $100,000 in coronavirus-related distributions made from an eligible retirement plan between January 1 and December 30, 2020. These coronavirus-related distributions aren’t subject to the 10% additional tax that otherwise generally applies to distributions made before you reach age 59½.
What’s more, a coronavirus-related distribution can be included in income in installments over a three-year period, and you have three years to repay it to an IRA or plan. If you recontribute the distribution back into your IRA or plan within three years of the withdrawal date, you can treat the withdrawal and later recontribution as a totally tax-free rollover.
In new guidance (Notice 2020-50) the IRS explains who qualifies to take a coronavirus-related distribution. A qualified individual is someone who:
As you can see, the rules allow many people — but not everyone — to take retirement plan distributions under the new exception. If you decide to take advantage of it, be sure to keep good records to show that you qualify. Be careful: You’ll be taxed on the coronavirus-related distribution amount that you don’t recontribute within the three-year window. But you won’t have to worry about owing the 10% early withdrawal penalty if you’re under 59½. Other rules and restrictions apply. Contact us if you have questions or need assistance. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
There are many ways for a not-for-profit organization to lose its tax-exempt status — including participating in lobbying and campaign activities, receiving excessive unrelated business income and allowing board members to financially benefit from their positions. But the most common reason nonprofits lose their status is failure to file an annual Form 990 or 990-N for three consecutive years. If your organization has landed on the IRS’s revocation list for this reason, don’t panic. The process for reinstatement is relatively simple.
Getting good with the IRS
Assuming you lost your exempt status for failing to file, you can regain it with another filing. Contact us about submitting either Form 1023, “Application for Recognition of Exemption Under Section 501(c)(3)” or Form 1024, “Application for Recognition of Exemption Under Section 501(a),” based on your type of nonprofit.
Unless you apply for retroactive reinstatement, all of your organization’s activities between the revocation and the reinstatement date will be considered taxable. And all contributions made during that period won’t be deductible by donors. You may apply for retroactive reinstatement, effective the date of the automatic revocation, by filing the applicable form within 15 months or the later of the date of 1) the IRS revocation letter, or 2) the date the IRS posted your organization’s name on its website.
Providing reasonable cause
When you file the correct form, attach a detailed statement that provides reasonable cause for failing to file required returns in each of the three consecutive years. You should state the facts that led to each failure and the continual failure, discovery of the failures and steps taken to avoid or mitigate them.
You will also need to attach:
To expedite your application, write “AUTOMATICALLY REVOKED” at the top of the form and envelope and include the specified fee.
Losing your tax-exempt status can have serious repercussions. You’d likely owe corporate tax on any revenue as well as back taxes and penalties, and donors can no longer make tax-exempt gifts. So if your nonprofit’s status has been revoked, address the matter immediately. Contact us for help. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
While the COVID-19 crisis has devastated many existing businesses, the pandemic has also created opportunities for entrepreneurs to launch new businesses. For example, some businesses are being launched online to provide products and services to people staying at home.
Entrepreneurs often don’t know that many expenses incurred by start-ups can’t be currently deducted. You should be aware that the way you handle some of your initial expenses can make a large difference in your tax bill.
How expenses must be handled
If you’re starting or planning a new enterprise, keep these key points in mind:
Expenses that qualify
In general, start-up expenses include all amounts you spend to:
To be eligible for the election, an expense also must be one that would be deductible if it were incurred after a business began. One example is money you spend analyzing potential markets for a new product or service.
To qualify as an “organization expense,” the expenditure must be related to creating a corporation or partnership. Some examples of organization expenses are legal and accounting fees for services related to organizing a new business and filing fees paid to the state of incorporation.
If you have start-up expenses that you’d like to deduct this year, you need to decide whether to take the elections described above. Recordkeeping is critical. Contact us about your start-up plans. We can help with the tax and other aspects of your new business. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
Some companies are expected to report impairment losses in fiscal year 2020 because of the COVID-19 crisis. Depending on the nature of your operations and assets, the pandemic could be considered a “triggering event” that warrants interim impairment testing.
Examples of assets that may become impaired include long-lived assets (such as equipment and real estate), acquired goodwill and other intangibles (such as customer lists and brands). Here’s what you should know if your organization’s balance sheet includes these types of assets.
What’s a triggering event?
Under U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), goodwill testing must be performed at least annually for public companies that report goodwill on their balance sheet, and for private companies and not-for-profit organizations that don’t elect to amortize goodwill. Goodwill also must be tested for impairment “if an event occurs or circumstances change that would more likely than not reduce the fair value of a reporting unit below its carrying amount.” This situation is referred to as a so-called “triggering event.”
There are no bright-line rules for which events trigger a goodwill impairment test. However, the accounting rules outline the following elements to consider:
For public companies, a sustained decrease in share price — considered in both absolute terms and relative to peers — may qualify as a triggering event.
Entities that follow GAAP also should consider whether to test their other intangibles and long-lived assets for impairment. Triggering events for these assets are similar to those considered for goodwill. Triggering events must be evaluated within the context of your specific organization.
To test or not to test?
Private entities and nonprofits that have elected the accounting alternative to amortize goodwill don’t get a break from impairment testing when a triggering event occurs. Given the current economic environment, some business and not-for-profit entities are unexpected to conclude that it’s necessary to perform interim impairment tests for goodwill and other assets.
However, impairment testing isn’t a foregone conclusion. During the pandemic, some organizations may experience an increase in demand and profitability for their products and services, despite the overall decline in the macroeconomic conditions of the overall economy. These entities may not be required to perform interim impairment tests.
How to report and measure losses
If an asset is impaired, the amount reported on the balance sheet for that asset is reduced to its fair value. In addition, a loss is reported under other operating income and expenses on the income statement, reducing the organization’s earnings by a proportionate amount.
Quantifying impairment can be complicated in today’s uncertain marketplace. Estimating fair value may require external market analyses and complex discounted cash flow techniques. We can help you get it right. Contact us for more information. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
Traditionally, spring and summer are popular times for selling a home. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 crisis has resulted in a slowdown in sales. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports that existing home sales in April decreased year-over-year, 17.2% from a year ago. One bit of good news is that home prices are up. The median existing-home price in April was $286,800, up 7.4% from April 2019, according to the NAR.
If you’re planning to sell your home this year, it’s a good time to review the tax considerations.
Some gain is excluded
If you’re selling your principal residence, and you meet certain requirements, you can exclude up to $250,000 ($500,000 for joint filers) of gain. Gain that qualifies for the exclusion is also excluded from the 3.8% net investment income tax.
To be eligible for the exclusion, you must meet these tests:
In addition, you can’t use the exclusion more than once every two years.
What if you have more than $250,000/$500,000 of profit when selling your home? Any gain that doesn’t qualify for the exclusion generally will be taxed at your long-term capital gains rate, provided you owned the home for at least a year. If you didn’t, the gain will be considered short term and subject to your ordinary-income rate, which could be more than double your long-term rate.
Here are two other tax considerations when selling a home:
If you’re selling a second home (for example, a beach house), it won’t be eligible for the gain exclusion. But if it qualifies as a rental property, it can be considered a business asset, and you may be able to defer tax on any gains through an installment sale or a Section 1031 like-kind exchange. In addition, you may be able to deduct a loss.
For many people, their homes are their most valuable asset. So before selling yours, make sure you understand the tax implications. We can help you plan ahead to minimize taxes and answer any questions you have about your home sale. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
The 2020 presidential election is fast approaching and your not-for-profit has a stake in its outcome. But that doesn’t mean your organization is free to participate in campaign activities. In general, Section 501(c)(3)s risk losing their tax-exempt status if they participate in campaigning. However, there’s more nuance in the rules than you might suspect.
5 potential traps
Tax-exempt organizations can’t directly or indirectly act in federal, state or local campaigns either for or against a candidate or party. Here are several examples of activities that are generally off-limits:
1. Supporting a candidate or party for election. Your organization can’t get behind or oppose a declared candidate or third-party movement, engage in efforts to draft candidates, or perform advance exploratory work for a candidate or party.
2. Contributing to a campaign or endorsing a candidate. This includes direct financial support and indirect support, such as having your staff make calls on a candidate’s behalf.
3. Providing monetary support. Organizations are barred from donating funds to a candidate or party, and they can’t use another event to raise funds. Section 501(c)(3) not-for-profits are also barred from making loans to candidates or parties.
4. Offering support for support. You can’t ask for “support” from a candidate, political party or other political organization in exchange for your endorsement.
5. Distributing materials. Your nonprofit can’t distribute campaign materials or anything that tells recipient how to vote. This includes online communications.
5 acceptable activities
Of course, there are ways your nonprofit can participate in elections. For example, you can:
1. Sponsor a candidate appearance. If a candidate is invited for nonpolitical reasons — say, as a supporter of your charitable mission — make sure the appearance doesn’t turn into a campaign stop or fundraiser.
2. Hold a debate. If your nonprofit hosts a candidate forum, invite all the candidates, have an independent panel prepare the questions and provide every candidate with equal speaking opportunities. An impartial moderator should state that the views expressed within the debate don’t represent those of your organization.
3. Advocate a political issue. You can try to sway candidates to your way of thinking and encourage them to take a public stand. But you can’t endorse any of them.
4. Help build party platform planks. Your nonprofit can deliver testimony to a party’s platform committee, so long as you clarify that the testimony is strictly educational.
5. Launch a “get out the vote” drive. The drive must be designed solely to educate the public about voting and can’t promote or oppose a candidate or party.
Campaign-related offenses are punishable by revocation of tax-exempt status, but first-time offenders may be able to negotiate a less severe penalty. For example, you might agree to change procedures and stipulate that the violation won’t occur again. If your nonprofit spent funds on the banned activity, the IRS may impose excise taxes.
If you’re unsure about the acceptability of a proposed election-related activity, contact us. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
If you operate a small business, or you’re starting a new one, you probably know you need to keep records of your income and expenses. In particular, you should carefully record your expenses in order to claim the full amount of the tax deductions to which you’re entitled. And you want to make sure you can defend the amounts reported on your tax returns if you’re ever audited by the IRS or state tax agencies.
Certain types of expenses, such as automobile, travel, meals and office-at-home expenses, require special attention because they’re subject to special recordkeeping requirements or limitations on deductibility.
It’s interesting to note that there’s not one way to keep business records. In its publication “Starting a Business and Keeping Records,” the IRS states: “Except in a few cases, the law does not require any specific kind of records. You can choose any recordkeeping system suited to your business that clearly shows your income and expenses.”
That being said, many taxpayers don’t make the grade when it comes to recordkeeping. Here are three court cases to illustrate some of the issues.
Case 1: Without records, the IRS can reconstruct your income
If a taxpayer is audited and doesn’t have good records, the IRS can perform a “bank-deposits analysis” to reconstruct income. It assumes that all money deposited in accounts during a given period is taxable income. That’s what happened in the case of the business owner of a coin shop and precious metals business. The owner didn’t agree with the amount of income the IRS attributed to him after it conducted a bank-deposits analysis.
But the U.S. Tax Court noted that if the taxpayer kept adequate records, “he could have avoided the bank-deposits analysis altogether.” Because he didn’t, the court found the bank analysis was appropriate and the owner underreported his business income for the year. (TC Memo 2020-4)
Case 2: Expenses must be business related
In another case, an independent insurance agent’s claims for a variety of business deductions were largely denied. The Tax Court found that he had documentation in the form of cancelled checks and credit card statements that showed expenses were paid. But there was no proof of a business purpose.
For example, he made utility payments for natural gas, electricity, water and sewer, but the records didn’t show whether the services were for his business or his home. (TC Memo 2020-25)
Case number 3: No records could mean no deductions
In this case, married taxpayers were partners in a travel agency and owners of a marketing company. The IRS denied their deductions involving auto expenses, gifts, meals and travel because of insufficient documentation. The couple produced no evidence about the business purpose of gifts they had given. In addition, their credit card statements and other information didn’t detail the time, place, and business relationship for meal expenses or indicate that travel was conducted for business purposes.
“The disallowed deductions in this case are directly attributable to (the taxpayer’s) failure to maintain adequate records,“ the court stated. (TC Memo 2020-7)
We can help
Contact us if you need assistance retaining adequate business records. Taking a meticulous, proactive approach to how you keep records can protect your deductions and help make an audit much less painful. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
Outsourcing may appeal to organizations that are currently struggling with mounting overhead costs during the COVID-19 crisis. By outsourcing, you convert certain fixed overhead costs associated with compensating and supporting employees into variable costs that can be scaled back in an economic downturn — or dialed up in times of growth and transition.
One department that’s ripe with outsourcing opportunities is finance and accounting. There are many external providers of such specialized, time-consuming services as payroll processing, tax preparation and bookkeeping. You can even outsource your controller or CFO function. But do the benefits of outsourcing these tasks outweigh the potential downsides?
Recognize the upsides
Outsourcing finance and accounting functions allows you to work with financial professionals of varying levels of experience and expertise tailored to the functions they’ll perform. These responsibilities could include:
Depending on your needs and budget, you can outsource the tasks that make sense for your organization. You also may benefit from occasionally using other firm experts — investment advisors, HR and IT support, and valuation specialists, as necessary.
Another benefit that many smaller organizations derive in working with external accounting and financial service providers is reduced fees for year-end audit and tax services — because of the professional attention to accounting and finance functions received throughout the year. And most of the accounting questions that typically arise in an audit already will have been resolved.
Be aware of the trade-offs
Cost is a top concern when outsourcing these functions. But keep in mind that, with an outside firm, you pay only for the amount and level of services you require.
For example, an in-house accountant may spend some time doing work that someone at a lower pay level could handle equally well. Outsourcing also will spare your organization the expenses associated with a regular employee, such as payroll taxes, health insurance, paid leave and training to stay atop any tax law or regulatory changes and continuing education requirements.
If you use an outsider to perform the duties of your CFO or controller, that person may not be at your immediate disposal whenever a financial question arises. Meetings with the CPA firm will need to be planned and scheduled. You’ll also need to determine how financial data will flow between your company and the accountant who’s providing these services. Some tasks may be difficult to perform remotely.
To outsource or not to outsource?
Outsourcing finance and accounting functions is a smart move for many organizations — but it’s not right for everyone. Contact us to discuss the pros and cons of using this strategy in your organization. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
If you’re age 65 and older, and you have basic Medicare insurance, you may need to pay additional premiums to get the level of coverage you want. The premiums can be costly, especially if you’re married and both you and your spouse are paying them. But there may be a silver lining: You may qualify for a tax break for paying the premiums.
Tax deductions for Medicare premiums
You can combine premiums for Medicare health insurance with other qualifying health care expenses for purposes of claiming an itemized deduction for medical expenses on your tax return. This includes amounts for “Medigap” insurance and Medicare Advantage plans. Some people buy Medigap policies because Medicare Parts A and B don’t cover all their health care expenses. Coverage gaps include co-payments, co-insurance, deductibles and other costs. Medigap is private supplemental insurance that’s intended to cover some or all gaps.
Many people no longer itemize
Qualifying for a medical expense deduction may be difficult for a couple of reasons. For 2020 (and 2019), you can deduct medical expenses only if you itemize deductions and only to the extent that total qualifying expenses exceeded 7.5% of AGI.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act nearly doubled the standard deduction amounts for 2018 through 2025. As a result, fewer individuals are claiming itemized deductions. For 2020, the standard deduction amounts are $12,400 for single filers, $24,800 for married couples filing jointly and $18,650 for heads of household. (For 2019, these amounts were $12,200, $24,400 and $18,350, respectively.)
However, if you have significant medical expenses, including Medicare health insurance premiums, you may itemize and collect some tax savings.
Note: Self-employed people and shareholder-employees of S corporations can generally claim an above-the-line deduction for their health insurance premiums, including Medicare premiums. So, they don’t need to itemize to get the tax savings from their premiums.
Medical expense deduction basics
In addition to Medicare premiums, you can deduct various medical expenses, including those for dental treatment, ambulance services, dentures, eyeglasses and contacts, hospital services, lab tests, qualified long-term care services, prescription medicines and others.
There are also many items that Medicare doesn’t cover that can be written off for tax purposes, if you qualify. In addition, you can deduct transportation expenses to get to medical appointments. If you go by car, you can deduct a flat 17-cents-per-mile rate for 2020 (down from 20 cents for 2019), or you can keep track of your actual out-of-pocket expenses for gas, oil and repairs.
We can help
Contact us if you have additional questions about Medicare coverage options or claiming medical expense deductions on your personal tax return. We can help determine the optimal overall tax-planning strategy based on your situation. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
In times of turmoil, your board of directors should be your not-for-profit’s rock-solid foundation. But what if your board is understaffed or simply doesn’t provide the leadership your nonprofit requires? Think about rebuilding it — and the sooner the better. Financial, public health and other challenges are likely to remain a reality for the foreseeable future.
Assess what you have
Start the rebuilding effort by assessing your current board. Ask the following questions:
Does the board have too few, too many or the right number of members? The right board size depends on many factors, including your organization’s size and complexity of operations.
Does its makeup represent a range of diversity and inclusiveness? Diversity can cover gender, race, religion, geography, age, expertise and other factors. Inclusiveness is how well the board’s makeup mirrors your organization’s mission.
How does each member align with your nonprofit’s mission? Ask members to provide personal statements that define their passion for your cause and your nonprofit’s specific approach to the cause.
How does each member contribute? Some nonprofits ask board members to sign contracts outlining their commitment — including the time they’ll commit, the funds they promise to donate or raise, and the duties they’ll perform. If you choose to have your board members sign such a contract, you’ll want to make sure they hold up their end of the bargain.
Before recruiting new members, identify the talents your organization needs — for example financial expertise or local government experience. In general, qualified board members are enthusiastic about your mission, are good team players and are willing to commit the time to attend all or most board functions. Good communications and public speaking skills are desirable.
Find qualified candidates
Just as you would for a paid leadership position, assemble a pool of candidates for each board seat. In many organizations, current board members supply candidates’ names. If you’re finding it difficult to find the right people, try these strategies:
After you’ve identified a group of prospective candidates, have each fill out an application that outlines at least some of your expectations. Also invite prospects to attend a board meeting to meet current members, see how the board functions, and be interviewed one-on-one.
Select the best
This process should provide you with enough information to select the best candidates and assemble a board capable of meeting current and future challenges. But if you’re still struggling with governance issues, contact us for advice. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
The recent riots around the country have resulted in many storefronts, office buildings and business properties being destroyed. In the case of stores or other businesses with inventory, some of these businesses lost products after looters ransacked their property. Windows were smashed, property was vandalized, and some buildings were burned to the ground. This damage was especially devastating because businesses were reopening after the COVID-19 pandemic eased.
A commercial insurance property policy should generally cover some, or all, of the losses. (You may also have a business interruption policy that covers losses for the time you need to close or limit hours due to rioting and vandalism.) But a business may also be able to claim casualty property loss or theft deductions on its tax return. Here’s how a loss is figured for tax purposes:
Your adjusted basis in the property
Any salvage value
Any insurance or other reimbursement you receive (or expect to receive).
Losses that qualify
A casualty is the damage, destruction or loss of property resulting from an identifiable event that is sudden, unexpected or unusual. It includes natural disasters, such as hurricanes and earthquakes, and man-made events, such as vandalism and terrorist attacks. It does not include events that are gradual or progressive, such as a drought.
For insurance and tax purposes, it’s important to have proof of losses. You’ll need to provide information including a description, the cost or adjusted basis as well as the fair market value before and after the casualty. It’s a good time to gather documentation of any losses including receipts, photos, videos, sales records and police reports.
Finally, be aware that the tax code imposes limits on casualty loss deductions for personal property that are not imposed on business property. Contact us for more information about your situation. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
Many companies struggle to close the books at the end of the month. The month-end close requires accounting personnel to round up data from across the organization. Under normal conditions, this process can strain internal resources.
However, in recent years the accounting and tax rules have undergone major changes — many of which your personnel and software may not be ready to handle. This state of flux may be pushing your accounting department to its breaking point. Fortunately, there are five simple ways to make your monthly closing process more efficient.
1. Create a standardized, repeatable process. Gathering accounting data involves many moving parts throughout the organization. To minimize the stress, aim for a consistent approach that applies standard operating procedures and robust checklists. This minimizes the use of ad-hoc processes and helps ensure consistency when reporting financial data month after month.
2. Allow time for data analysis. Too often, the accounting department dedicates most of the time allocated to closing the books to the mechanics of the process. But spending some time analyzing the data for integrity and accuracy is critical. Examples of review procedures include:
Without adequate due diligence, the probability of errors (or fraud) in the financial statements increases. Failure to evaluate the data can result in more time being spent correcting errors that could have been caught with a simple review, before they’re memorialized in your financial records.
3. Adopt a continuous improvement mindset. Workers who are actively involved in closing out the books often may be best equipped to recognize trouble spots and bottlenecks. Brainstorm as a team, then assign responsibility for adopting changes to an employee with the follow-through and authority to drive change in your organization.
4. Build flexibility into your staffing model. Often accounting departments require certain specialized staff to be present during the month-end close. If an employee is unavailable, the department may be shorthanded and unable to complete critical tasks. Implementing a cross-training program for key steps can help minimize frustration and delays. It may also help identify inefficiencies in the financial reporting process.
5. Minimize manual processes. Your accounting department may rely on manual processes to extract, manipulate and report data. Manual processes create opportunities for errors and omissions in the financial records. Fortunately, modern accounting software can automate certain routine, repeatable tasks, such as invoicing, accounts payable management and payroll administration. In some cases, you’ll need to upgrade your current accounting package to take full advantage of the power of automation.
Keep it simple
Closing the books doesn’t have to be a stressful, labor-intensive chore. We can help you simplify the process and give your accounting staff more time to focus on value-added tasks that take your company’s financial reporting to the next level. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
It’s often difficult for married couples to save as much as they need for retirement when one spouse doesn’t work outside the home — perhaps so that spouse can take care of children or elderly parents. In general, an IRA contribution is allowed only if a taxpayer has compensation. However, an exception involves a “spousal” IRA. It allows a contribution to be made for a nonworking spouse.
Under the spousal IRA rules, the amount that a married couple can contribute to an IRA for a nonworking spouse in 2020 is $6,000, which is the same limit that applies for the working spouse.
Two main benefits
As you may be aware, IRAs offer two types of benefits for taxpayers who make contributions to them.
As long as the couple together has at least $12,000 of earned income, $6,000 can be contributed to an IRA for each, for a total of $12,000. (The contributions for both spouses can be made to either a regular IRA or a Roth IRA, or split between them, as long as the combined contributions don’t exceed the $12,000 limit.)
In addition, individuals who are age 50 or older can make “catch-up” contributions to an IRA or Roth IRA in the amount of $1,000. Therefore, in 2020, for a taxpayer and his or her spouse, both of whom will have reached age 50 by the end of the year, the combined limit of the deductible contributions to an IRA for each spouse is $7,000, for a combined deductible limit of $14,000.
There’s one catch, however. If, in 2020, the working spouse is an active participant in either of several types of retirement plans, a deductible contribution of up to $6,000 (or $7,000 for a spouse who will be 50 by the end of the year) can be made to the IRA of the non-participant spouse only if the couple’s AGI doesn’t exceed $104,000. This limit is phased out for AGI between $196,000 and $206,000.
Contact us if you’d like more information about IRAs or you’d like to discuss retirement planning. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
Every two years, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) publishes what has become the definitive guide for preventing and detecting workplace fraud. The recently released Report to the Nations: 2020 Global Study on Occupational Fraud and Abuse draws conclusions from more than 2,500 fraud incidents — including 191 in not-for-profit organizations.
In fact, this year’s report devotes a special section to fraud in nonprofits. Although nonprofit fraud isn’t necessarily worse than fraud in for-profit companies, it can be different in important ways.
According to the ACFE report, the median loss for defrauded nonprofits is $75,000, considerably less than the $125,000 median for all organizations. However, nonprofits generally have much less to lose than, say, the average bank or manufacturer.
Indeed, it’s a general lack of financial and staff resources — in addition to less vigorous oversight and enforcement of internal controls — that may make nonprofits fertile ground for fraud. Although many try to foster a trusting, familial culture, this can lead to risky lapses. Executives and managers may, for example, override internal controls, allow unproven staffers to accept cash donations, rubber-stamp expense reimbursement reports or neglect to segregate accounting duties.
Controls and cost
The ACFE found that nonprofits adhere at lower rates than for-profit companies to four primary internal controls:
Some of these controls can be costly, of course. But not all effective antifraud measures are expensive. According to the study, adopting a code of conduct is the control most closely associated with lower fraud losses in all types of organizations. Writing a code and requiring staffers to read and sign it can reduce losses by as much as 50%.
Corruption is common
As with all types of organizations, nonprofits most often fall victim to corruption schemes (41% of cases), with financial statement fraud being relatively rare (11%). Although corruption is associated with lower losses than financial statement fraud (a $200,000 median loss vs. $954,000 median loss in all organizations), conflicts of interest, bribery and other forms of corruption can destroy a nonprofit’s reputation — and its future.
Most nonprofit fraud schemes are found out when someone says something. Approximately 40% are revealed by tips from staffers, board members, vendors, clients and the public. To make whistleblowing as easy as possible, consider establishing an anonymous fraud hotline. And because tips via email and online forms have become more common in recent years, the ACFE recommends offering multiple communication channels.
Act on the data
No doubt you’ve thought about your nonprofit’s fraud risk. But if you haven’t put controls in place and ensured they’re followed consistently, your organization could become yet another statistic. Talk to us about cost-effective ways to protect your nonprofit’s resources. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
Restaurants and entertainment venues have been hard hit by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. One of the tax breaks that President Trump has proposed to help them is an increase in the amount that can be deducted for business meals and entertainment.
It’s unclear whether Congress would go along with enhanced business meal and entertainment deductions. But in the meantime, let’s review the current rules.
Before the pandemic hit, many businesses spent money “wining and dining” current or potential customers, vendors and employees. The rules for deducting these expenses changed under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), but you can still claim some valuable write-offs. And keep in mind that deductions are available for business meal takeout and delivery.
One of the biggest changes is that you can no longer deduct most business-related entertainment expenses. Beginning in 2018, the TCJA disallows deductions for entertainment expenses, including those for sports events, theater productions, golf outings and fishing trips.
50% meal deductions
Currently, you can deduct 50% of the cost of food and beverages for meals conducted with business associates. However, you need to follow three basic rules in order to prove that your expenses are business related:
It’s a good idea to set up detailed recordkeeping procedures to keep track of business meal costs. That way, you can prove them and the business connection in the event of an IRS audit.
What if you spend money on food and beverages at an entertainment event? The IRS has clarified that taxpayers can still deduct 50% of food and drink expenses incurred at entertainment events, but only if business was conducted during the event or shortly before or after. The food-and-drink expenses should also be “stated separately from the cost of the entertainment on one or more bills, invoices or receipts,” according to the guidance.
Another related tax law change involves meals provided to employees on the business premises. Before the TCJA, these meals provided to an employee for the convenience of the employer were 100% deductible by the employer. Beginning in 2018, meals provided for the convenience of an employer in an on-premises cafeteria or elsewhere on the business property are only 50% deductible. After 2025, these meals won’t be deductible at all.
As you can see, the treatment of meal and entertainment expenses became more complicated after the TCJA. It’s possible the deductions could increase substantially under a new stimulus law, if Congress passes one. We’ll keep you updated. In the meantime, we can answer any questions you may have concerning business meal and entertainment deductions. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
Private companies and most nonprofits were supposed to implement updated revenue recognition guidance in fiscal year 2019 and updated lease guidance in fiscal year 2021. In the midst of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) has decided to give certain entities an extra year to make the changes, if they need it.
Expanded deferral option
On April 8, the FASB agreed to issue a proposal that would have postponed the effective dates for the revenue recognition guidance for franchisors only and the lease guidance for private companies and nonprofit organizations that haven’t already adopted them. In a surprise move, on May 20, the FASB voted to extend the delay for the revenue rules beyond franchisors to all privately owned companies and nonprofits that haven’t adopted the changes. FASB members affirmed a similar delay on the lease rules.
The optional “timeout” is designed to help resource-strapped private companies, the nation’s largest business demographic, better navigate reporting hurdles amid the COVID-19 crisis. A final standard will be issued in early June.
Under the changes, all private companies and nonprofits that haven’t yet filed financial statements applying the updated revenue recognition rules can opt to wait to apply them until annual reporting periods beginning after December 15, 2019, and interim reporting periods within annual reporting periods beginning after December 15, 2020. Accounting Standards Update (ASU) No. 2014-09, Revenue from Contracts with Customers (Topic 606), replaces hundreds of pieces of industry-specific rules with a principles-based five step model for reporting revenue.
FASB members extended the revenue deferral to more private companies and nonprofits to help those that were in the process of closing their books when the COVID-19 crisis hit. Private entities told the board that having to adopt the standards amid the work upheaval created by the pandemic layered on unforeseen challenges. In today’s conditions, compliance may need to take a backseat to operational issues.
Last year, the FASB deferred ASU No. 2016-02, Leases (Topic 842), for private companies from 2020 to 2021. This standard requires companies to report — for the first time — the full magnitude of their long-term lease obligations on the balance sheet.
The FASB’s recent deferral will allow private companies and private nonprofits that haven’t already adopted the updated lease rules to wait to apply them until fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2021, and interim periods within fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2022. Public nonprofits that haven’t yet filed financial statements applying the updated lease rules can opt to wait to apply the changes until fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2019, including interim periods within those fiscal years.
The new revenue recognition and lease accounting rules will require major changes to your organization’s systems and procedures. If you haven’t yet adopted these rules, we can help facilitate the transition. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
The economic impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is unprecedented and many taxpayers with student loans have been hard hit.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act contains some assistance to borrowers with federal student loans. Notably, federal loans were automatically placed in an administrative forbearance, which allows borrowers to temporarily stop making monthly payments. This payment suspension is scheduled to last until September 30, 2020.
Tax deduction rules
Despite the suspension, borrowers can still make payments if they choose. And borrowers in good standing made payments earlier in the year and will likely make them later in 2020. So can you deduct the student loan interest on your tax return?
The answer is yes, depending on your income and subject to certain limits. The maximum amount of student loan interest you can deduct each year is $2,500. The deduction is phased out if your adjusted gross income (AGI) exceeds certain levels.
For 2020, the deduction is phased out for taxpayers who are married filing jointly with AGI between $140,000 and $170,000 ($70,000 and $85,000 for single filers). The deduction is unavailable for taxpayers with AGI of $170,000 ($85,000 for single filers) or more. Married taxpayers must file jointly to claim the deduction.
The interest must be for a “qualified education loan,” which means debt incurred to pay tuition, room and board, and related expenses to attend a post-high school educational institution. Certain vocational schools and post-graduate programs also may qualify.
The interest must be on funds borrowed to cover qualified education costs of the taxpayer, his or her spouse or a dependent. The student must be a degree candidate carrying at least half the normal full-time workload. Also, the education expenses must be paid or incurred within a reasonable time before or after the loan is taken out.
It doesn’t matter when the loan was taken out or whether interest payments made in earlier years on the loan were deductible or not. And no deduction is allowed to a taxpayer who can be claimed as a dependent on another taxpayer’s return.
The deduction is taken “above the line.” In other words, it’s subtracted from gross income to determine AGI. Thus, it’s available even to taxpayers who don’t itemize deductions.
Taxpayers should keep records to verify eligible expenses. Documenting tuition isn’t likely to pose a problem. However, take care to document other qualifying expenditures for items such as books, equipment, fees, and transportation. Documenting room and board expenses should be simple if a student lives in a dormitory. Student who live off campus should maintain records of room and board expenses, especially when there are complicating factors such as roommates.
Contact us if you have questions about deducting student loan interest or for information on other tax breaks related to paying for college. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc, Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
One of the strongest predictors of a not-for-profit’s long-term survival is multiple revenue streams. Many organizations with only one or two found that out that the hard way when they failed during the 2008 recession. The same is likely to be true for nonprofits that do — or don’t — survive the current novel coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.
Road map to diversification
Financially stable nonprofits have a good mix of revenue sources, with no one source accounting for more than 25% or 30% of the budget. If you aren’t there, take steps to achieve the proper mix:
Perform and present your initial evaluation. Your board should evaluate current revenue streams as well as future plans and associated expenses. You can help board members understand the benefits of diversification by presenting them with multiple scenarios where costs are compared to revenues with and without current revenue sources. Nudge reluctant directors to embrace greater diversification by showing them how eliminating a revenue stream could jeopardize your mission.
Determine additional revenue sources. Consider a wide range of potential sources, weighing the pros and cons of each, including implications for staffing and other resources, accounting processes, unrelated business income taxes and your organization’s exempt status. In addition, assess how well aligned potential sources are with your mission. For example, has that foundation grant you’re thinking about pursuing ever been awarded to another nonprofit serving your population? Does the company that has proposed a joint venture engage in practices that don’t jibe with your nonprofit’s values.
Develop strategies for each new source. You don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket, but you also don’t want to depend on too many “baskets,” because each new revenue stream will require its own strategy. Executing too many implementation plans can strain resources. Therefore, each plan should include initial and ongoing budgets, as well as any new systems, procedures and marketing campaigns that will be needed. It also should have a timeline.
Review and adjust as necessary. Take the time at the end of every month — don’t wait until year end — to closely review each revenue source. Is it living up to expectations? Is it costing more than expected or falling short of revenue projections?
Patience is crucial
The current pandemic environment has curtailed everything from major gifts to corporate giving, fundraising events to individual donations and foundation grants, so your nonprofit is likely hurting even if you have multiple revenue sources. But as society and the economy begin to recover, look for ways to make your organization more resilient. Diversification is an excellent way to do it. Contact us. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
The IRS recently released the 2021 inflation-adjusted amounts for Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).
An HSA is a trust created or organized exclusively for the purpose of paying the “qualified medical expenses” of an “account beneficiary.” An HSA can only be established for the benefit of an “eligible individual” who is covered under a “high deductible health plan.” In addition, a participant can’t be enrolled in Medicare or have other health coverage (exceptions include dental, vision, long-term care, accident and specific disease insurance).
In general, a high deductible health plan (HDHP) is a plan that has an annual deductible that isn’t less than $1,000 for self-only coverage and $2,000 for family coverage. In addition, the sum of the annual deductible and other annual out-of-pocket expenses required to be paid under the plan for covered benefits (but not for premiums) cannot exceed $5,000 for self-only coverage, and $10,000 for family coverage.
Within specified dollar limits, an above-the-line tax deduction is allowed for an individual's contribution to an HSA. This annual contribution limitation and the annual deductible and out-of-pocket expenses under the tax code are adjusted annually for inflation.
Inflation adjustments for 2021 contributions
In Revenue Procedure 2020-32, the IRS released the 2021 inflation-adjusted figures for contributions to HSAs, which are as follows:
Annual contribution limitation. For calendar year 2021, the annual contribution limitation for an individual with self-only coverage under a HDHP is $3,600. For an individual with family coverage, the amount is $7,200. This is up from $3,550 and $7,100, respectively, for 2020.
High deductible health plan defined. For calendar year 2021, an HDHP is a health plan with an annual deductible that isn’t less than $1,400 for self-only coverage or $2,800 for family coverage (these amounts are unchanged from 2020). In addition, annual out-of-pocket expenses (deductibles, co-payments, and other amounts, but not premiums) can’t exceed $7,000 for self-only coverage or $14,000 for family coverage (up from $6,900 and $13,800, respectively, for 2020).
A variety of benefits
There are many advantages to HSAs. Contributions to the accounts are made on a pre-tax basis. The money can accumulate year after year tax free and be withdrawn tax free to pay for a variety of medical expenses such as doctor visits, prescriptions, chiropractic care and premiums for long-term-care insurance. In addition, an HSA is "portable." It stays with an account holder if he or she changes employers or leaves the work force. For more information about HSAs, contact your employee benefits and tax advisor. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
Many people are currently working from home to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Your external auditors are no exception. Fortunately, in recent years, most audit firms have been investing in technology and training to facilitate remote audit procedures. These efforts have helped lower audit costs, enhance flexibility and minimize disruptions to business operations. But auditors haven’t faced a situation where everything might have to be done remotely — until now.
Re-engineering the audit process
Traditionally, audit fieldwork has involved a team of auditors camping out for weeks (or even months) in a conference room at the headquarters of the company being audited. Thanks to technological advances — including cloud storage, smart devices, teleconferencing, drones with cameras and secure data-sharing platforms — audit firms have been gradually expanding their use of remote audit procedures.
But remote auditing still isn’t ideal for everything. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) has identified the following aspects of audit work that may present challenges when done remotely:
Internal controls testing. Auditing standards require an understanding of how employees process transactions plus testing to determine whether controls are adequately designed and effective. If employees now work from home, your company’s control environment and risks may have changed from prior periods.
Inventory observations. Auditors usually visit the company’s facilities to observe physical inventory counting procedures and compare independent test counts to the company’s accounting records. Stay-at-home policies during the pandemic (whether government-imposed or company-imposed) may prevent both external auditors and company personnel from conducting physical counts.
Management inquiries. Auditors are trained to observe body language and judge the dynamics between co-workers as they interview company personnel to assess fraud risks.
Lending a hand
Moving to a remote audit format requires flexibility, including a willingness to embrace the technology needed to exchange, review and analyze relevant documents. You can facilitate this transition by:
Being responsive to electronic requests. Answer all remote requests from your auditors in a timely manner. If a key employee will be out of the office for an extended period, give the audit team the contact information for the key person’s backup.
Giving employees access to the requisite software. Before remote auditors start “fieldwork,” ask for a list of software and platforms that will be used to interact and share documents with in-house personnel. Provide the appropriate employees with access and authorization to share audit-related data from your company’s systems. Work with IT specialists to address any security concerns they may have about sharing data with the remote auditors.
Tracking audit progress. Ask the engagement partner to explain how the firm will track the performance of its remote auditors and communicate the team’s progress to in-house accounting personnel.
Ready or not
Remote working arrangements have suddenly become the “new normal” in these trying times. Contact us to discuss ways to manage remote auditing challenges and continue to report your company’s financial results in a timely, transparent manner. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
Nearly everyone has heard about the Economic Impact Payments (EIPs) that the federal government is sending to help mitigate the effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The IRS reports that in the first four weeks of the program, 130 million individuals received payments worth more than $200 billion.
However, some people are still waiting for a payment. And others received an EIP but it was less than what they were expecting. Here are some answers why this might have happened.
If you’re under a certain adjusted gross income (AGI) threshold, you’re generally eligible for the full $1,200 ($2,400 for married couples filing jointly). In addition, if you have a “qualifying child,” you’re eligible for an additional $500.
Here are some of the reasons why you may receive less:
Your child isn’t eligible. Only children eligible for the Child Tax Credit qualify for the additional $500 per child. That means you must generally be related to the child, live with them more than half the year and provide at least half of their support. A qualifying child must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or other qualifying resident alien; be under the age of 17 at the end of the year for the tax return on which the IRS bases the payment; and have a Social Security number or Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number.
Note: A dependent college student doesn’t qualify for an EIP, and even if their parents may claim him or her as a dependent, the student normally won’t qualify for the additional $500.
You make too much money. You’re eligible for a full EIP if your AGI is up to: $75,000 for individuals, $112,500 for head of household filers and $150,000 for married couples filing jointly. For filers with income above those amounts, the payment amount is reduced by $5 for each $100 above the $75,000/$112,500/$150,000 thresholds.
You’re eligible for a reduced payment if your AGI is between: $75,000 and $99,000 for an individual; $112,500 and $136,500 for a head of household; and $150,000 and $198,000 for married couples filing jointly. Filers with income exceeding those amounts with no children aren’t eligible and won’t receive payments.
You have some debts. The EIP is offset by past-due child support. And it may be reduced by garnishments from creditors. Federal tax refunds, including EIPs, aren’t protected from garnishment by creditors under federal law once the proceeds are deposited into a bank account.
If you receive an incorrect amount
These are only a few of the reasons why an EIP might be less than you expected. If you receive an incorrect amount and you meet the criteria to receive more, you may qualify to receive an additional amount early next year when you file your 2020 federal tax return. We can evaluate your situation when we prepare your return. And if you’re still waiting for a payment, be aware that the IRS is still mailing out paper EIPs and announced that they’ll continue to go out over the next few months. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
Charitable contributions aren’t always eligible for tax deductions — even when the not-for-profit recipient is tax exempt and the donor itemizes. Take “quid pro quo” donations. These transactions occur when your organization receives a payment that includes a contribution and you provide the donor with goods or services valued for less than the total payment. Let’s take a closer look.
Quid pro quo arrangements create an obligation for your nonprofit. If you receive more than $75 and you provide a benefit to the donor, you must advise the donor that it’s a quid pro quo contribution. In such cases, provide written notice to donors that they can deduct only the amount in excess of the value of the goods or services they receive in return. Also provide donors with a good faith estimate of the value of the goods or services provided in return.
This written acknowledgment must be provided when the donation is solicited or when it’s received. For example, if you’re holding a charity dinner each ticket sold should disclose the tax-deductible portion of the ticket price. Additionally, the disclosure must be in a readily visible format — in other words, no small print. Examples can be found in IRS Publication 1771, “Charitable Contributions — Substantiation and Disclosure Requirements.”
Valuing goods and services
Before you can inform donors of the value of goods or services, you must put a price on them. Let’s say your nonprofit hosts a dinner for top donors at a high-end restaurant and pays for their meals. The donors then make large gifts. Here, determining value is fairly simple. The amount your organization paid for the meal would be considered the fair market value, and only the amount of the contributions in excess of this value would be tax-deductible for the donor.
But what if your charity sponsors a gala dinner with live music where the banquet facility discounts the food and the band performs gratis — both as contributions to your organization? To establish the value to be reported to donors, determine what it would cost someone to attend a similar event. In this instance, you’d need to research comparable costs at local restaurants or hotels for a dinner with entertainment. Or you could ask the banquet facility and the band to tell you what they normally charge customers that aren’t charities.
For donated auction items, ask what a willing buyer would pay for them in an “arm’s length” transaction — that is, in the marketplace. Report each item’s value on the item bid cards.
There are some exceptions to these quid pro quo rules. But in most cases, nonprofits risk financial penalties if they fail to furnish proper acknowledgment and disclosure to donors. Contact us if you have questions or need clarification. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
The IRS has issued guidance clarifying that certain deductions aren’t allowed if a business has received a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan. Specifically, an expense isn’t deductible if both:
The CARES Act allows a recipient of a PPP loan to use the proceeds to pay payroll costs, certain employee healthcare benefits, mortgage interest, rent, utilities and interest on other existing debt obligations.
A recipient of a covered loan can receive forgiveness of the loan in an amount equal to the sum of payments made for the following expenses during the 8-week “covered period” beginning on the loan’s origination date: 1) payroll costs, 2) interest on any covered mortgage obligation, 3) payment on any covered rent, and 4) covered utility payments.
The law provides that any forgiven loan amount “shall be excluded from gross income.”
So the question arises: If you pay for the above expenses with PPP funds, can you then deduct the expenses on your tax return?
The tax code generally provides for a deduction for all ordinary and necessary expenses paid or incurred during the taxable year in carrying on a trade or business. Covered rent obligations, covered utility payments, and payroll costs consisting of wages and benefits paid to employees comprise typical trade or business expenses for which a deduction generally is appropriate. The tax code also provides a deduction for certain interest paid or accrued during the taxable year on indebtedness, including interest paid or incurred on a mortgage obligation of a trade or business.
No double tax benefit
In IRS Notice 2020-32, the IRS clarifies that no deduction is allowed for an expense that is otherwise deductible if payment of the expense results in forgiveness of a covered loan pursuant to the CARES Act and the income associated with the forgiveness is excluded from gross income under the law. The Notice states that “this treatment prevents a double tax benefit.”
More possibly to come
Two members of Congress say they’re opposed to the IRS stand on this issue. Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and his counterpart in the House, Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard E. Neal (D-MA), oppose the tax treatment. Neal said it doesn’t follow congressional intent and that he’ll seek legislation to make certain expenses deductible. Stay tuned. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
Sustainability reports explain the impact of an organization’s activities on the economy, environment and society. During the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, stakeholders continue to expect robust, transparent sustainability reports, with a stronger emphasis on the social and economic impacts of the company’s current operations than on environmental matters.
Investors, lenders and even the public at large may pressure companies to issue these supplemental reports. But the information they provide isn’t based on U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). So, is it worth the time and effort? One way to make your company’s report more meaningful and reliable is to obtain an external audit of it.
What is a sustainability report?
In general, a sustainability report focuses on a company’s values and commitment to operating in a sustainable way. It provides a mechanism for communicating sustainability goals and how the company plans to meet them. The report also guides management when evaluating corporate actions and their impact on the economy, environment and society.
During the COVID-19 crisis, stakeholders want to know how your company is handling such issues as public health and safety, supply chain disruptions, strategic resilience and human resources. For example:
Stakeholders want assurance that companies are engaged in responsible corporate governance in their COVID-19 responses. Sustainability reports can showcase good corporate citizenship during these challenging times.
Why do you need an external audit?
There aren’t currently any mandatory attestation requirements for sustainability reporting. That means companies can produce reports without engaging an external auditor to review the document for its accuracy and integrity. However, without independent, external oversight, stakeholders may view sustainability reports with a significant degree of skepticism. That’s where audits come into play.
Many organizations have developed standardized sustainability frameworks, including the:
External auditors can verify whether sustainability reports meet the appropriate standards, and, if not, adjust them accordingly. In addition, numerous attestation standards govern the audit of a sustainability report, including those from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the International Standard on Assurance Engagements and the International Organization for Standardization.
Many companies agree that a sustainability report is an important part of their communications with stakeholders. But there’s little consensus on the approach, topics or non-GAAP metrics that should appear in sustainability reports. We understand the standards that apply to these supplemental reports and can help you report sustainability matters in a reliable, transparent manner. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
Do you want to save more for retirement on a tax-favored basis? If so, and if you qualify, you can make a deductible traditional IRA contribution for the 2019 tax year between now and the extended tax filing deadline and claim the write-off on your 2019 return. Or you can contribute to a Roth IRA and avoid paying taxes on future withdrawals.
You can potentially make a contribution of up to $6,000 (or $7,000 if you were age 50 or older as of December 31, 2019). If you’re married, your spouse can potentially do the same, thereby doubling your tax benefits.
The deadline for 2019 traditional and Roth contributions for most taxpayers would have been April 15, 2020. However, because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the IRS extended the deadline to file 2019 tax returns and make 2019 IRA contributions until July 15, 2020.
Of course, there are some ground rules. You must have enough 2019 earned income (from jobs, self-employment, etc.) to equal or exceed your IRA contributions for the tax year. If you’re married, either spouse can provide the necessary earned income.
Also, deductible IRA contributions are reduced or eliminated if last year’s modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is too high.
Two contribution types
If you haven’t already maxed out your 2019 IRA contribution limit, consider making one of these three types of contributions by the deadline:
1. Deductible traditional. With traditional IRAs, account growth is tax-deferred and distributions are subject to income tax. If you and your spouse don’t participate in an employer-sponsored plan such as a 401(k), the contribution is fully deductible on your 2019 tax return. If you or your spouse do participate in an employer-sponsored plan, your deduction is subject to the following MAGI phaseout:
Taxpayers with MAGIs within the applicable range can deduct a partial contribution. But those with MAGIs exceeding the applicable range can’t deduct any IRA contribution.
2. Roth. Roth IRA contributions aren’t deductible, but qualified distributions — including growth — are tax-free, if you satisfy certain requirements.
Your ability to contribute, however, is subject to a MAGI-based phaseout:
You can make a partial contribution if your 2019 MAGI is within the applicable range, but no contribution if it exceeds the top of the range.
3. Nondeductible traditional. If your income is too high for you to fully benefit from a deductible traditional or a Roth contribution, you may benefit from a nondeductible contribution to a traditional IRA. The account can still grow tax-deferred, and when you take qualified distributions, you’ll only be taxed on the growth.
Because of the extended deadline, you still have time to make traditional and Roth IRA contributions for 2019 (and you can also contribute for 2020). This is a powerful way to save for retirement on a tax-advantaged basis. Contact us to learn more. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis has put enormous financial stress on many not-for-profits — whether they’re temporarily shut down or actively fighting the pandemic. If cash flow has dried up, your organization may need to do more than trim expenses. Here’s how to assess your financial condition and take appropriate action.
Put your board in charge
Ask your board of directors to lead your review and retrenchment efforts. In addition to having oversight experience and financial expertise, board members have a passion for your organization and will do whatever they can to assist. They may already have employer backing for your nonprofit, and those companies may be willing to step up their financial support. Or board members may be able to tap their social networks.
The first order of business should be to review programs relative to your nonprofit’s mission. If you identify one that isn’t critical to your mission and is a drain on cash balances and staff resources, consider cutting it. Terminating a non-mission-critical program frees up funds for other initiatives or administrative necessities. If you can redirect clients to similar programs offered by other organizations, such changes can be made without a break in service.
Your board may also be able to liberate cash from your investment portfolio. Your nonprofit may have investments or idle assets that aren’t generating operating income — for example, donated real estate, collections and other nonmarketable holdings. Divesting these possessions can raise critical operating funds.
Look to your endowment
Another potential source of operating funds is your organization’s permanently restricted endowment funds. Under the Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act (UPMIFA), you may be able to spend what was once considered the untouchable original principal (or historical balance) of funds.
Access generally is available when the donor of the original gift is silent about restrictions or hasn’t specified that UPMIFA provisions don’t apply. In some cases, an original condition or restriction may no longer be practicable or possible to achieve. Your nonprofit should consult an attorney to learn whether this is an option.
If UPMIFA provisions don’t open up a source of funds, there’s another potential route — approach the original donor. Your organization can ask the donor to lift all or some of the spending restrictions so you may use a portion of the funds for operating costs.
We can help
These are only a few possible solutions for struggling nonprofits. If you know your nonprofit is in trouble, but don’t know how to start fixing it, contact us. We can work with your board to assess your situation and determine the best way to move forward. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
In light of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many businesses are interested in donating to charity. In order to incentivize charitable giving, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act made some liberalizations to the rules governing charitable deductions. Here are two changes that affect businesses:
The limit on charitable deductions for corporations has increased. Before the CARES Act, the total charitable deduction that a corporation could generally claim for the year couldn’t exceed 10% of corporate taxable income (as determined with several modifications for these purposes). Contributions in excess of the 10% limit are carried forward and may be used during the next five years (subject to the 10%-of-taxable-income limitation each year).
What changed? Under the CARES Act, the limitation on charitable deductions for corporations (generally 10% of modified taxable income) doesn’t apply to qualifying contributions made in 2020. Instead, a corporation’s qualifying contributions, reduced by other contributions, can be as much as 25% of taxable income (modified). No connection between the contributions and COVID-19 activities is required.
The deduction limit on food inventory has increased. At a time when many people are unemployed, your business may want to contribute food inventory to qualified charities. In general, a business is entitled to a charitable tax deduction for making a qualified contribution of “apparently wholesome food” to an organization that uses it for the care of the ill, the needy or infants.
“Apparently wholesome food” is defined as food intended for human consumption that meets all quality and labeling standards imposed by federal, state, and local laws and regulations, even though it may not be readily marketable due to appearance, age, freshness, grade, size, surplus, or other conditions.
Before the CARES Act, the aggregate amount of such food contributions that could be taken into account for the tax year generally couldn’t exceed 15% of the taxpayer’s aggregate net income for that tax year from all trades or businesses from which the contributions were made. This was computed without regard to the charitable deduction for food inventory contributions.
What changed? Under the CARES Act, for contributions of food inventory made in 2020, the deduction limitation increases from 15% to 25% of taxable income for C corporations. For other business taxpayers, it increases from 15% to 25% of the net aggregate income from all businesses from which the contributions were made.
CARES Act questions
Be aware that in addition to these changes affecting businesses, the CARES Act also made changes to the charitable deduction rules for individuals. Contact us if you have questions about making charitable donations and securing a tax break for them. We can explain the rules and compute the maximum deduction for your generosity. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
Imagine this scenario: A company’s controller is hospitalized for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), and she’s the only person inside the company who knows how its accounting and payroll software works. She also is the only person with check signing authority, besides the owner, who is in lockdown at his second home out of state. Meanwhile, payroll needs to be processed soon and unpaid bills are piling up.
Of course the health of the controller is what’s most important, but this situation also highlights the importance of cross-training your staff to handle critical tasks. Doing so offers numerous benefits that generally outweigh the investment in the time it takes to get employees up to speed.
Whether due to illness, resignation, vacation or family leave, accounting personnel may sometimes be unavailable to perform their job duties. The most obvious benefit to cross-training is having a knowledgeable, flexible staff who can rise to the occasion when a staff member is out.
Another benefit is that cross-training nurtures a team-oriented environment. If a staff member has a vested interest in the jobs of others, he or she likely will better understand the department’s overall business processes — and this, ultimately, both improves productivity and encourages collaboration.
Cross-training also facilitates internal promotions because employees will already know the challenges of, and skills needed for, an open position. In addition, cross-trained employees are generally better-rounded and feel more useful.
Additionally, the accounting department is at high risk for fraud, especially payment tampering and billing scams, according to the 2020 Report to the Nations by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE). If employees are familiar with each other’s duties and take over when a co-worker calls in sick or takes vacation, it creates a system of checks and balances that may help deter dishonest behaviors. Cross-training, plus mandatory vacation policies and regular job rotation, equals strong internal controls in the accounting department.
How to cross-train?
The best way to cross-train is usually to have employees take turns at each other’s jobs. The learning itself need not be overly in-depth. Just knowing the basic, everyday duties of a co-worker’s position can help tremendously in the event of a lengthy or unexpected absence.
Whether personnel switch duties for one day or one week, they’ll be better prepared to take over important responsibilities when the time arises. Also, encourage your CFO and controller to informally “reverse-train” within the department. This will prepare them to fill in or train others in the event of an unexpected employee loss or absence.
When to start?
Regardless of when your accounting team returns to the office, get started with cross-training now — much training can be done virtually if necessary. Then make it an ongoing process. We can help you cross-train your accounting personnel to minimize business interruptions and deter fraud, along with implementing other internal control procedures. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has affected many Americans’ finances. Here are some answers to questions you may have right now.
My employer closed the office and I’m working from home. Can I deduct any of the related expenses?
Unfortunately, no. If you’re an employee who telecommutes, there are strict rules that govern whether you can deduct home office expenses. For 2018–2025 employee home office expenses aren’t deductible. (Starting in 2026, an employee may deduct home office expenses, within limits, if the office is for the convenience of his or her employer and certain requirements are met.)
Be aware that these are the rules for employees. Business owners who work from home may qualify for home office deductions.
My son was laid off from his job and is receiving unemployment benefits. Are they taxable?
Yes. Unemployment compensation is taxable for federal tax purposes. This includes your son’s state unemployment benefits plus the temporary $600 per week from the federal government. (Depending on the state he lives in, his benefits may be taxed for state tax purposes as well.)
Your son can have tax withheld from unemployment benefits or make estimated tax payments to the IRS.
The value of my stock portfolio is currently down. If I sell a losing stock now, can I deduct the loss on my 2020 tax return?
It depends. Let’s say you sell a losing stock this year but earlier this year, you sold stock shares at a gain. You have both a capital loss and a capital gain. Your capital gains and losses for the year must be netted against one another in a specific order, based on whether they’re short-term (held one year or less) or long-term (held for more than one year).
If, after the netting, you have short-term or long-term losses (or both), you can use them to offset up to $3,000 ordinary income ($1,500 for married taxpayers filing separately). Any loss in excess of this limit is carried forward to later years, until all of it is either offset against capital gains or deducted against ordinary income in those years, subject to the $3,000 limit.
I know the tax filing deadline has been extended until July 15 this year. Does that mean I have more time to contribute to my IRA?
Yes. You have until July 15 to contribute to an IRA for 2019. If you’re eligible, you can contribute up to $6,000 to an IRA, plus an extra $1,000 “catch-up” amount if you were age 50 or older on December 31, 2019.
What about making estimated payments for 2020?
The 2020 estimated tax payment deadlines for the first quarter (due April 15) and the second quarter (due June 15) have been extended until July 15, 2020.
These are only some of the tax-related questions you may have related to COVID-19. Contact us if you have other questions or need more information about the topics discussed above. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
Limited staff and financial resources during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic may have your not-for-profit looking for new ways to achieve your mission. Partnering with a like-minded organization potentially enables you to pool funds, staff and supporters — temporarily or permanently.
2 primary arrangements
There are many types of partnership arrangements between nonprofit organizations. But the two terms you’ll hear most often are:
1. Strategic alliance. This is a blanket term typically used to represent a wide range of affiliations. A strategic alliance can involve a relationship with another nonprofit, a for-profit or a governmental entity. Such alliances can take the form of joint programming, collective impact collaborations, cost sharing and many other arrangements.
2. Joint venture. A joint venture is a specific type of strategic alliance involving a contractual arrangement with another nonprofit, a for-profit entity or a governmental agency. The two entities become engaged in a solitary enterprise without incorporating or forming a legal partnership. A joint venture is otherwise similar to a business partnership, except that the relationship typically has a single focus and is often temporary.
No matter what type of alliance you make, many of the considerations are the same. To select the appropriate partnership model, examine your motivation for linking up. Do you want to save money by sharing administrative expenses? Will the union enable you to expand your reach? Will the collaboration involve a single initiative or involve multiple projects over a long period?
Sharing goals and expectations
The best alliances involve partners with similar goals and expectations — including financial ones. Ask, for example, whether your prospective collaborator has the necessary means. An alliance between a nonprofit and another entity, regardless of type, is like any business partnership: Your partner should have a good net asset balance and be able to live up to its financial commitments.
Then, make sure your values align. Does the entity have similar ethics and strong internal controls? Two working as one requires openness and trust between the parties. Remember, you’ll be sharing credit and responsibility. Also ask how donors — particularly corporate donors — will feel about your alliance. Be prepared to explain your newly defined or broadened target groups and causes.
If your nonprofit has shied away from alliances because you safeguard your autonomy, today’s challenging conditions may provide a new incentive to team up. We can help you weigh the pros and cons of an alliance and analyze a potential partner’s financial situation. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act eliminates some of the tax-revenue-generating provisions included in a previous tax law. Here’s a look at how the rules for claiming certain tax losses have been modified to provide businesses with relief from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.
Basically, you may be able to benefit by carrying a net operating loss (NOL) into a different year — a year in which you have taxable income — and taking a deduction for it against that year’s income. The CARES Act includes favorable changes to the rules for deducting NOLs. First, it permanently eases the taxable income limitation on deductions.
Under an unfavorable provision included in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), an NOL arising in a tax year beginning in 2018 and later and carried over to a later tax year couldn’t offset more than 80% of the taxable income for the carryover year (the later tax year), calculated before the NOL deduction. As explained below, under the TCJA, most NOLs arising in tax years ending after 2017 also couldn’t be carried back to earlier years and used to offset taxable income in those earlier years. These unfavorable changes to the NOL deduction rules were permanent — until now.
For tax years beginning before 2021, the CARES Act removes the TCJA taxable income limitation on deductions for prior-year NOLs carried over into those years. So NOL carryovers into tax years beginning before 2021 can be used to fully offset taxable income for those years.
For tax years beginning after 2020, the CARES Act allows NOL deductions equal to the sum of:
As you can see, this is a complex rule. But it’s more favorable than what the TCJA allowed and the change is permanent.
Carrybacks allowed for certain losses
Under another unfavorable TCJA provision, NOLs arising in tax years ending after 2017 generally couldn’t be carried back to earlier years and used to offset taxable income in those years. Instead, NOLs arising in tax years ending after 2017 could only be carried forward to later years. But they could be carried forward for an unlimited number of years. (There were exceptions to the general no-carryback rule for losses by farmers and property/casualty insurance companies).
Under the CARES Act, NOLs that arise in tax years beginning in 2018 through 2020 can be carried back for five years.
Important: If it’s beneficial, you can elect to waive the carryback privilege for an NOL and, instead, carry the NOL forward to future tax years. In addition, barring a further tax-law change, the no-carryback rule will come back for NOLs that arise in tax years beginning after 2020.
Past year opportunities
These favorable CARES Act changes may affect prior tax years for which you’ve already filed tax returns. To benefit from the changes, you may need to file an amended tax return. Contact us to learn more. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
Financial statements aren’t particularly meaningful without a relevant basis of comparison. There are two types of “benchmarks” that a company’s financials can be compared to — its own historical performance and the performance of other comparable businesses.
Before you conduct a benchmarking study, however, it’s important to make normalizing adjustments to avoid any misleading comparisons. This is especially important when looking at periods that include atypical financial results due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. But there are a variety of factors that require normalizing adjustments.
Some normalizing adjustments are needed to distinguish between historical results that represent potential ongoing earning power and those that don’t. A one-time revenue (or expense) or gain (or loss) will temporarily distort the company’s results. To more accurately reflect the company’s future earnings potential, you would add back expenses and losses (or subtract the revenues and gains) that aren’t expected to recur.
For example, if a retailer temporarily closed its brick-and-mortar stores during the COVID-19 pandemic, you’d add back the temporary losses to get a clearer picture of operating performance under normal conditions. Likewise, if a company won a $10 million lawsuit, you’d subtract the gain. Other nonrecurring items might include discontinued product lines or expenses incurred in an acquisition.
Other normalizing adjustments compensate for the use of different accounting methods. Because companies’ accounting practices vary widely, comparing them without adjusting their financial statements is like comparing apples to oranges.
Even within the broad confines of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), it’s rare for two companies to follow exactly the same accounting practices. When comparing a company’s results to industry benchmarks, you need to understand how they report transactions.
A small firm, for example, might report earnings when cash is received (cash basis accounting), but its competitor might record a sale when it sends out the invoice (accrual basis accounting). Differences in inventory reporting, pension reserves, depreciation methods, tax accounting practices and cost capitalization vs. expensing policies also are common.
Another type of normalizing adjustment focuses on closely held businesses. They often pay owners based on the company’s cash flow or the owners’ personal needs, not on the market value of services the owners provide. Small businesses also may employ family members, conduct business with affiliates and extend loans to company insiders.
To get a clearer picture of the company’s performance, you’ll need to identify all related-party transactions and inquire whether they occur at “arm’s length.” Also consider reconciling for unusual perquisites provided to insiders, such as season tickets to sporting events, college tuition or company vehicles.
We can help
To complicate matters, normalizing adjustments can affect multiple accounts. While most normalizing adjustments are made to the income statement, some may flow through to the balance sheet. Our accounting professionals can help with these critical adjustments to a company’s financial statements, enabling you to make better-informed business decisions. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has caused the value of some retirement accounts to decrease because of the stock market downturn. But if you have a traditional IRA, this downturn may provide a valuable opportunity: It may allow you to convert your traditional IRA to a Roth IRA at a lower tax cost.
The key differences
Here’s what makes a traditional IRA different from a Roth IRA:
Traditional IRA. Contributions to a traditional IRA may be deductible, depending on your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) and whether you (or your spouse) participate in a qualified retirement plan, such as a 401(k). Funds in the account can grow tax deferred.
On the downside, you generally must pay income tax on withdrawals. In addition, you’ll face a penalty if you withdraw funds before age 59½ — unless you qualify for a handful of exceptions — and you’ll face an even larger penalty if you don’t take your required minimum distributions (RMDs) after age 72.
Roth IRA. Roth IRA contributions are never deductible. But withdrawals — including earnings — are tax-free as long as you’re age 59½ or older and the account has been open at least five years. In addition, you’re allowed to withdraw contributions at any time tax- and penalty-free. You also don’t have to begin taking RMDs after you reach age 72.
However, the ability to contribute to a Roth IRA is subject to limits based on your MAGI. Fortunately, no matter how high your income, you’re eligible to convert a traditional IRA to a Roth. The catch? You’ll have to pay income tax on the amount converted.
This is where the “benefit” of a stock market downturn comes in. If your traditional IRA has lost value, converting to a Roth now rather than later will minimize your tax hit. Plus, you’ll avoid tax on future appreciation when the market goes back up.
It’s important to think through the details before you convert. Some of the questions to ask when deciding whether to make a conversion include:
Do you have money to pay the tax bill? If you don’t have enough cash on hand to cover the taxes owed on the conversion, you may have to dip into your retirement funds. This will erode your nest egg. The more money you convert and the higher your tax bracket, the bigger the tax hit.
What’s your retirement horizon? Your stage of life may also affect your decision. Typically, you wouldn’t convert a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA if you expect to retire soon and start drawing down on the account right away. Usually, the goal is to allow the funds to grow and compound over time without any tax erosion.
Keep in mind that converting a traditional IRA to a Roth isn’t an all-or-nothing deal. You can convert as much or as little of the money from your traditional IRA account as you like. So, you might decide to gradually convert your account to spread out the tax hit over several years.
Of course, there are more issues that need to be considered before executing a Roth IRA conversion. If this sounds like something you’re interested in, contact us to discuss with us whether a conversion is right for you. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has forced many of us to work differently — whether it’s isolated at home or in-person wearing facial masks and other protective gear. Even if your not-for-profit’s board of directors usually meets in person, current events strongly suggest the need for a Plan B. Here are some best practices for holding virtual board meetings.
With many board members under continued stay-at-home or quarantine orders, virtual meetings can enable more people to attend and your board to achieve a quorum. But before you set up a Zoom, WebEx or other online video meeting, check your state’s laws. Some states, for example, allow nonprofit boards to hold teleconferences but not videoconferences. Your organization’s bylaws might also prohibit virtual meetings.
Even if your state’s laws and nonprofits’ bylaws give you the go-ahead, consider potential communication issues. For example, in teleconferences, participants won’t be able to read each other’s facial expressions and body language. Even in videoconferences, board members may be unable to observe these cues as easily as they could in person — potentially leading to misunderstandings or conflicts.
In addition, the chair might find it difficult to shepherd discussion, especially if your board is bigger. Confidentiality is a concern, too. You must be able to trust that participants are alone and that their family members aren’t listening in to the conversation.
Get member buy-in
Don’t spring a virtual meeting on board members without first discussing with them the implications of such a change. Some board members may prefer to wait until stay-at-home orders are lifted and delay a meeting rather than conduct one remotely.
You’ll also need to ensure that all participants have the equipment they need. Test the system you’ve decided to use ahead of time and establish backup plans in the event of technological failures. Also, plan to send board members any supporting materials well in advance of your meeting and make them available online during the event.
Recognize that voting on any issue will need to be verbal and not anonymous, with each board member identifying himself or herself. Also, straightforward issues — such as updates from development staff or the formal approval of a policy — are better suited to virtual discussion than potentially controversial ones. Of course, given current circumstances, your board may have no choice but to consider emergency measures via tele- or videoconference.
Lean on your board
Board members have likely already been in touch as your nonprofit confronts pandemic-related challenges. However you decide to hold board meetings, make sure you’re in constant touch with your directors and soliciting their advice when any difficult decisions need to be made. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
As a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, your business may be using independent contractors to keep costs low. But you should be careful that these workers are properly classified for federal tax purposes. If the IRS reclassifies them as employees, it can be an expensive mistake.
The question of whether a worker is an independent contractor or an employee for federal income and employment tax purposes is a complex one. If a worker is an employee, your company must withhold federal income and payroll taxes, pay the employer’s share of FICA taxes on the wages, plus FUTA tax. Often, a business must also provide the worker with the fringe benefits that it makes available to other employees. And there may be state tax obligations as well.
These obligations don’t apply if a worker is an independent contractor. In that case, the business simply sends the contractor a Form 1099-MISC for the year showing the amount paid (if the amount is $600 or more).
No uniform definition
Who is an “employee?” Unfortunately, there’s no uniform definition of the term.
The IRS and courts have generally ruled that individuals are employees if the organization they work for has the right to control and direct them in the jobs they’re performing. Otherwise, the individuals are generally independent contractors. But other factors are also taken into account.
Some employers that have misclassified workers as independent contractors may get some relief from employment tax liabilities under Section 530. In general, this protection applies only if an employer:
Note: Section 530 doesn’t apply to certain types of technical services workers. And some categories of individuals are subject to special rules because of their occupations or identities.
Asking for a determination
Under certain circumstances, you may want to ask the IRS (on Form SS-8) to rule on whether a worker is an independent contractor or employee. However, be aware that the IRS has a history of classifying workers as employees rather than independent contractors.
Businesses should consult with us before filing Form SS-8 because it may alert the IRS that your business has worker classification issues — and inadvertently trigger an employment tax audit.
It may be better to properly treat a worker as an independent contractor so that the relationship complies with the tax rules.
Be aware that workers who want an official determination of their status can also file Form SS-8. Disgruntled independent contractors may do so because they feel entitled to employee benefits and want to eliminate self-employment tax liabilities.
If a worker files Form SS-8, the IRS will send a letter to the business. It identifies the worker and includes a blank Form SS-8. The business is asked to complete and return the form to the IRS, which will render a classification decision.
Contact us if you receive such a letter or if you’d like to discuss how these complex rules apply to your business. We can help ensure that none of your workers are misclassified. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has adversely affected the global economy. Companies of all sizes in all industries are faced with closures of specific locations or complete shutdowns; employee layoffs, furloughs or restrictions on work; liquidity issues; and disruptions to their supply chains and customers. These negative impacts have brought the “going concern” issue to the forefront.
One-year look-forward period
Financial statements are generally prepared under the assumption that the entity will remain a going concern. That is, it’s expected to continue to generate a positive return on its assets and meet its obligations in the ordinary course of business.
Under Accounting Standards Codification Topic 205, Presentation of Financial Statements — Going Concern, the continuation of an entity as a going concern is presumed as the basis for reporting unless liquidation becomes imminent. Even if liquidation isn’t imminent, conditions and events may exist that, in the aggregate, raise substantial doubt about the entity’s ability to continue as a going concern.
Management is responsible for evaluating the going concern assumption. Going concern issues arise when it’s probable that the entity won’t be able to meet its obligations as they become due within one year after the date the financial statements are issued — or available to be issued. (The alternate date prevents financial statements from being held for several months after year end to see if the company survives.)
Making the call
The going concern assumption is evaluated when preparing annual and interim financial statements under U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). The evaluation is based on qualitative and quantitative information about relevant conditions and events that are known (or reasonably knowable) at the time the evaluation is made.
Examples of warning signs that an entity’s long-term viability may be questionable include:
If management concludes that there’s substantial doubt about the entity’s ability to continue as a going concern, it must consider whether mitigation plans can be effectively implemented within the one-year look-forward period to alleviate the going concern issues.
Reporting going concern issues
Few businesses will escape negative repercussions of the COVID-19 crisis. If your business is struggling, contact us to discuss the going concern assessment. Our auditors can help you understand how the evaluation will affect your balance sheet and disclosures. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
Millions of eligible Americans have already received their Economic Impact Payments (EIPs) via direct deposit or paper checks, according to the IRS. Others are still waiting. The payments are part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Here are some answers to questions you may have about EIPs.
Who’s eligible to get an EIP?
Eligible taxpayers who filed their 2018 or 2019 returns and chose direct deposit of their refunds automatically receive an Economic Impact Payment. You must be a U.S. citizen or U.S. resident alien and you can’t be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return. In general, you must also have a valid Social Security number and have adjusted gross income (AGI) under a certain threshold.
The IRS also says that automatic payments will go to people receiving Social Security retirement or disability benefits and Railroad Retirement benefits.
How much are the payments?
EIPs can be up to $1,200 for individuals, or $2,400 for married couples, plus $500 for each qualifying child.
How much income must I have to receive a payment?
You don’t need to have any income to receive a payment. But for higher income people, the payments phase out. The EIP is reduced by 5% of the amount that your AGI exceeds $75,000 ($112,500 for heads of household or $150,000 for married joint filers), until it’s $0.
The payment for eligible individuals with no qualifying children is reduced to $0 once AGI reaches:
Each of these threshold amounts increases by $10,000 for each additional qualifying child. For example, because families with one qualifying child receive an additional $500 Payment, their $1,700 Payment ($2,900 for married joint filers) is reduced to $0 once adjusted gross income reaches:
How will I know if money has been deposited into my bank account?
The IRS stated that it will send letters to EIP recipients about the payment within 15 days after they’re made. A letter will be sent to a recipient’s last known address and will provide information on how the payment was made and how to report any failure to receive it.
Is there a way to check on the status of a payment?
The IRS has introduced a new “Get My Payment” web-based tool that will: show taxpayers either their EIP amount and the scheduled delivery date by direct deposit or paper check, or that a payment hasn’t been scheduled. It also allows taxpayers who didn’t use direct deposit on their last-filed return to provide bank account information. In order to use the tool, you must enter information such as your Social Security number and birthdate. You can access it here: https://bit.ly/2ykLSwa
I tried the tool and I got the message “payment status not available.” Why?
Many people report that they’re getting this message. The IRS states there are many reasons why you may see this. For example, you’re not eligible for a payment or you’re required to file a tax return and haven’t filed yet. In some cases, people are eligible but are still getting this message. Hopefully, the IRS will have it running seamlessly soon. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
As unemployment and financial insecurity become widespread during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, many not-for-profit donors find themselves unable to provide monetary support to favorite charities. Instead, your organization may receive offers of gifts in kind (GIK) or donated services. Although you likely welcome these gifts, you may be unsure about how to record and value them. Here’s a brief summary.
Gifts take many forms
GIKs generally are pieces of tangible property or property rights. They can take many forms, including: free or discounted use of facilities; free advertising; collections, such as artwork to display; and property, such as office furniture or medical supplies.
To record GIKs, determine whether the item can be used to carry out your mission or sold to fund operations. In other words, does it have a value to your nonprofit? If so, it should be recorded as a donation and a related receivable once it’s unconditionally pledged to your organization.
To value the gift, assess its fair value — or what your organization would pay to buy it from an unrelated third party. In many cases, it’s easy to assign a fair value to property. But when the gift is a collection or something that doesn’t otherwise have a readily determinable market value, its fair value is more difficult to assign. For smaller gifts, you may need to rely on a good faith estimate from the donor. But if the value is more than $5,000, the donor must obtain an independent appraisal for tax purposes.
Ask questions about donations
To determine the fair value of a donated service, ask whether it meets one of the following two criteria:
First, does the service create a nonfinancial asset (in other words, a tangible asset) or enhance a nonfinancial asset that already exists? Such services are capitalized at fair value on the date of the donation.
Second, does the service require specialized skills, is it provided by someone with those skills and would the service have been purchased if it hadn’t been donated? Such services are accounted for by recording contribution income for its fair value. You also must record it as a related expense, in the same amount, for the professional service provided.
These are just the basics. For more information about handling GIKs and donated services, contact us. Also ask us about tax breaks, government assistance and other COVID-19-related aid for nonprofits. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
The law providing relief due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic contains a beneficial change in the tax rules for many improvements to interior parts of nonresidential buildings. This is referred to as qualified improvement property (QIP). You may recall that under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), any QIP placed in service after December 31, 2017 wasn’t considered to be eligible for 100% bonus depreciation. Therefore, the cost of QIP had to be deducted over a 39-year period rather than entirely in the year the QIP was placed in service. This was due to an inadvertent drafting mistake made by Congress.
But the error is now fixed. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law on March 27, 2020. It now allows most businesses to claim 100% bonus depreciation for QIP, as long as certain other requirements are met. What’s also helpful is that the correction is retroactive and it goes back to apply to any QIP placed in service after December 31, 2017. Unfortunately, improvements related to the enlargement of a building, any elevator or escalator, or the internal structural framework continue to not qualify under the definition of QIP.
In the current business climate, you may not be in a position to undertake new capital expenditures — even if they’re needed as a practical matter and even if the substitution of 100% bonus depreciation for a 39-year depreciation period significantly lowers the true cost of QIP. But it’s good to know that when you’re ready to undertake qualifying improvements that 100% bonus depreciation will be available.
And, the retroactive nature of the CARES Act provision presents favorable opportunities for qualifying expenditures you’ve already made. We can revisit and add to documentation that you’ve already provided to identify QIP expenditures.
For not-yet-filed tax returns, we can simply reflect the favorable treatment for QIP on the return.
If you’ve already filed returns that didn’t claim 100% bonus depreciation for what might be QIP, we can investigate based on available documentation as discussed above. We will evaluate what your options are under Revenue Procedure 2020-25, which was just released by the IRS.
If you have any questions about how you can take advantage of the QIP provision, don’t hesitate to contact us. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed into law on March 27, 2020, contains several tax-related provisions for businesses hit by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. Those provisions will also have an impact on financial reporting.
Companies that issue financial statements under U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) are required to follow Accounting Standards Codification (ASC) Topic 740, Income Taxes. This complicated guidance requires companies to report the effects of new tax laws in the period they’re enacted. As a result, companies — especially those that issue quarterly financial statements or that have fiscal year ends in the coming months — are scrambling to interpret the business tax relief measures under the new law.
Overview of business tax law changes
The CARES Act suspends several revenue-generating provisions of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). These changes aim to help improve operating cash flow for businesses during the COVID-19 crisis. Specifically, the new law temporarily scales back TCJA deduction limitations on:
The CARES Act also accelerates the recovery of credits for prior-year corporate alternative minimum tax (AMT) liability. And it fixes a TCJA drafting error for real estate qualified improvement property (QIP). The fix retroactively allows a 15-year depreciation period for QIP, making it eligible for first-year bonus depreciation in tax years after the TCJA took effect. The correction allows businesses to choose between first-year bonus depreciation for QIP expenditures and 15-year depreciation.
These changes are subject to numerous rules and restrictions. So, it’s not always clear whether a business will benefit from a particular change. In some cases, businesses may need to file amended federal income tax returns to take advantage of retroactive changes in the law. In addition, a company’s tax obligations may be impacted by relief measures provided in the states and countries where it operates.
Impact on financial reporting
Under ASC 740, companies must adjust deferred tax assets and liabilities for the effect of a change in tax laws or tax rates. On the income statement side, the adjustment is included in income from continuing operations.
If your business follows U.S. GAAP, you’ll need to account for the effect of the CARES Act on deferred tax assets and liabilities for interim and annual reporting periods that include March 27, 2020 (the date the law was signed by President Trump). Also, certain provisions, such as the modified NOL and business interest deduction rules, may impact a company’s current taxes payable. Unfortunately, some companies may have difficulty accurately forecasting income or loss in the current period due to the economic disruptions caused by COVID-19.
In the coming months, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) plans to focus on supporting businesses as they navigate the impact of the COVID-19 crisis and providing guidance to clarify financial reporting issues as they arise. We are atop the latest developments and can help guide you through your tax and financial reporting challenges. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
In the midst of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Americans are focusing on their health and financial well-being. To help with the impact facing many people, the government has provided a range of relief. Here are some new announcements made by the IRS.
More deadlines extended
As you probably know, the IRS postponed the due dates for certain federal income tax payments — but not all of them. New guidance now expands on the filing and payment relief for individuals, estates, corporations and others.
Under IRS Notice 2020-23, nearly all tax payments and filings that would otherwise be due between April 1 and July 15, 2020, are now postponed to July 15, 2020. Most importantly, this would include any fiscal year tax returns due between those dates and any estimated tax payments due between those dates, such as the June 15 estimated tax payment deadline for individual taxpayers.
Economic Impact Payments for nonfilers
You have also likely heard about the cash payments the federal government is making to individuals under certain income thresholds. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act will provide an eligible individual with a cash payment equal to the sum of: $1,200 ($2,400 for eligible married couples filing jointly) plus $500 for each qualifying child. Eligibility is based on adjusted gross income (AGI).
On its Twitter account, the IRS announced that it deposited the first Economic Impact Payments into taxpayers’ bank accounts on April 11. “We know many people are anxious to get their payments; we’ll continue issuing them as fast as we can,” the tax agency added.
The IRS has announced additional details about these payments:
This only describes new details in a couple of the COVID-19 assistance provisions. Members of Congress are discussing another relief package so additional help may be on the way. We’ll keep you updated. Contact us if you have tax or financial questions during this challenging time. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
One of the many challenges of operating a not-for-profit organization during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is that just when you desperately need financial support, many donors are unable to help. Widespread unemployment, stock market volatility and general uncertainty make even dependable donors reluctant to part with their money.
Then there’s the fact that donors are receiving a staggering number of charitable solicitations right now. If your nonprofit doesn’t directly serve constituencies harmed by COVID-19, your appeals are likely to go to the bottom of donors’ piles. Here are some ideas for keeping your organization’s needs top of mind.
Avoid mass appeals
Now is generally not the time to make mass appeals for donations. If you do contact your entire mailing list, use the opportunity to express concern for your supporters’ well-being and to update them on how your organization is faring under the circumstances. Also let donors know that charitable donations made in 2020 are deductible up to $300, even if donors don’t itemize.
To keep supporters engaged, stay on top of your social media accounts. Use Twitter, Facebook and other platforms to announce program suspensions and reopening dates and to share success stories — either recent or, if your nonprofit is temporarily closed, from the past.
Reach out to significant donors in person. Obviously, face-to-face meetings are out of the question, so give major supporters a phone call or arrange for a videoconference. Be sensitive to donors’ financial challenges and prepare to be flexible. If donors express the desire to help but can’t commit to an amount right now, suggest they might want to make a multi-year gift or include your nonprofit in their estate plans.
Donors might also be able to provide your group with professional services — such as PR expertise or legal advice — or be willing to contribute an item to an online fundraising auction. It’s a great time to learn more about major donors and ask them how they want to help, now and in the future. You may be surprised by their answers.
Chances are these supporters are well established in the community and have friends and colleagues they can introduce to your nonprofit. If these well-connected donors aren’t already on your board, invite them to become members — or ask them to chair a future event.
Resist the temptation
Although you may be tempted to throw yourself on the mercy of donors, desperate appeals may not be wise right now. Donors generally want to invest in fiscally sound nonprofits that will be around for the long haul. So long as your nonprofit has adequate operating reserves and a contingency plan, you should be able to weather the current storm. Contact us if you need help getting over any hurdles in the meantime. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
The IRS has issued guidance providing relief from failure to make employment tax deposits for employers that are entitled to the refundable tax credits provided under two laws passed in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The two laws are the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which was signed on March 18, 2020, and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act, which was signed on March 27, 2020.
Employment tax penalty basics
The tax code imposes a penalty for any failure to deposit amounts as required on the date prescribed, unless such failure is due to reasonable cause rather than willful neglect.
An employer’s failure to deposit certain federal employment taxes, including deposits of withheld income taxes and taxes under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) is generally subject to a penalty.
COVID-19 relief credits
Employers paying qualified sick leave wages and qualified family leave wages required by the Families First Act, as well as qualified health plan expenses allocable to qualified leave wages, are eligible for refundable tax credits under the Families First Act.
Specifically, provisions of the Families First Act provide a refundable tax credit against an employer’s share of the Social Security portion of FICA tax for each calendar quarter, in an amount equal to 100% of qualified leave wages paid by the employer (plus qualified health plan expenses with respect to that calendar quarter).
Additionally, under the CARES Act, certain employers are also allowed a refundable tax credit under the CARES Act of up to 50% of the qualified wages, including allocable qualified health expenses if they are experiencing:
This credit is limited to $10,000 per employee over all calendar quarters combined.
An employer paying qualified leave wages or qualified retention wages can seek an advance payment of the related tax credits by filing Form 7200, Advance Payment of Employer Credits Due to COVID-19.
The Families First Act and the CARES Act waive the penalty for failure to deposit the employer share of Social Security tax in anticipation of the allowance of the refundable tax credits allowed under the two laws.
IRS Notice 2020-22 provides that an employer won’t be subject to a penalty for failing to deposit employment taxes related to qualified leave wages or qualified retention wages in a calendar quarter if certain requirements are met. Contact us for more information about whether you can take advantage of this relief.
More breaking news
Be aware the IRS also just extended more federal tax deadlines. The extension, detailed in Notice 2020-23, involves a variety of tax form filings and payment obligations due between April 1 and July 15. It includes estimated tax payments due June 15 and the deadline to claim refunds from 2016. The extended deadlines cover individuals, estates, corporations and others. In addition, the guidance suspends associated interest, additions to tax, and penalties for late filing or late payments until July 15, 2020. Previously, the IRS postponed the due dates for certain federal income tax payments. The new guidance expands on the filing and payment relief. Contact us if you have questions. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
Efforts to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) have led to suspension of many economic activities, putting unprecedented strain on businesses. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently issued guidance to help public companies provide investors and other stakeholders with useful, accurate financial statement disclosures in today’s uncertain marketplace.
New disclosure guidance
On March 25, the SEC issued interpretive guidance, Coronavirus (COVID-19), CF Disclosure Guidance: Topic No. 9. It highlights best practices in disclosing the risks and effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The guidance recommends using a principles-based disclosure system rooted on the concept of materiality. This means companies should disclose information that a reasonable person would find important in the total mix of information considered when making a decision to sell or buy a company’s stock.
The SEC guidance offers the following 10 questions for companies to consider when making COVID-19-related disclosures:
This list of open-ended questions isn’t intended to be exhaustive. Each company will need to customize COVID-19-related disclosures using forward-looking information that’s based on assumptions about what may or may not happen in the future. In many situations, the impact will depend on factors beyond management’s control and knowledge.
We can help
The SEC has separately provided 45-day relief for certain reports that need to be filed by public companies. This will give management extra breathing room to assess the evolving situation and estimate the probable effects of the pandemic. Contact us for assistance crafting COVID-19 disclosures in these unprecedented conditions. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
As we all try to keep ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities safe from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, you may be wondering about some of the recent tax changes that were part of a tax law passed on March 27.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act contains a variety of relief, notably the “economic impact payments” that will be made to people under a certain income threshold. But the law also makes some changes to retirement plan rules and provides a new tax break for some people who contribute to charity.
Waiver of 10% early distribution penalty
IRAs and employer sponsored retirement plans are established to be long-term retirement planning accounts. As such, the IRS imposes a penalty tax of an additional 10% if funds are distributed before reaching age 59½. (However, there are some exceptions to this rule.)
Under the CARES Act, the additional 10% tax on early distributions from IRAs and defined contribution plans (such as 401(k) plans) is waived for distributions made between January 1 and December 31, 2020 by a person who (or whose family) is infected with COVID-19 or is economically harmed by it. Penalty-free distributions are limited to $100,000, and may, subject to guidelines, be re-contributed to the plan or IRA. Income arising from the distributions is spread out over three years unless the employee elects to turn down the spread-out.
Employers may amend defined contribution plans to provide for these distributions. Additionally, defined contribution plans are permitted additional flexibility in the amount and repayment terms of loans to employees who are qualified individuals.
Waiver of required distribution rules
Depending on when you were born, you generally must begin taking annual required minimum distributions (RMDs) from tax-favored retirement accounts — including traditional IRAs, SEP accounts and 401(k)s — when you reach age 70½ or 72. These distributions also are subject to federal and state income taxes. (However, you don’t need to take RMDs from Roth IRAs.)
Under the CARES Act, RMDs that otherwise would have to be made in 2020 from defined contribution plans and IRAs are waived. This includes distributions that would have been required by April 1, 2020, due to the account owner’s having turned age 70½ in 2019.
New charitable deduction tax breaks
The CARES Act makes significant liberalizations to the rules governing charitable deductions including:
The CARES Act goes far beyond what is described here. The new law contains many different types of tax and financial relief meant to help individuals and businesses cope with the fallout. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
Although most not-for-profits have been hurt by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, your organization’s specific challenges probably depend on your mission, constituency and other factors. For example, social distancing rules have forced most arts organization to temporarily shut down and furlough employees. Many social services charities, on the other hand, have remained open and are struggling to meet surging demand for services.
What unites the nonprofit sector right now is financial insecurity. Without reserves and a resilient revenue model, you may be unable to continue operations. Here’s how your leadership needs to act to keep your organization afloat.
First, determine your nonprofit’s cash position and how long you can continue operating if no new revenue comes in. If you’ve built an emergency reserve fund, you may be able to continue for six or more months. Unfortunately, most charities have much thinner cash cushions — perhaps only enough to cover a few weeks of bills.
Next assess (or reassess) future cash flows. Say, for example, that your mental health clinic uses a fee-for-services model, but your out-of-work clients can no longer afford the fees. Or perhaps your school raises 30% of its annual income with a gala that you’ve had to reschedule from April to October. You’re probably looking at some big shortfalls.
Be careful not to underestimate cash needs — particularly if demand for services has increased. Assume that funding sources that were already shaky will evaporate and that usually reliable donors won’t be able to come to your rescue due to competing demands and their own financial concerns.
Now look for alternative sources of financial support. If you haven’t already, see if your nonprofit qualifies for a loan under the federal government’s new Paycheck Protection Program. Loans to nonprofits with less than 500 employees can be forgiven so long as you keep people on the payroll and adhere to other guidelines.
Community foundations are another key source of emergency funding. More than 250 community foundations in all 50 states have created COVID-19 relief funds. Built for speed and flexibility, these funds have already announced $64 million in grants to local nonprofits directly addressing the crisis. Many private foundations and government funders have also stepped up to the plate by removing grant restrictions. Get in touch with current grantmakers to see if they can help ease burdens and increase monetary support.
Now is also the time to touch base with restricted gift donors. Explain that by removing restrictions, they enable your nonprofit to deploy funds where they’re most needed now. Finally, let all donors know that federal tax rules have been relaxed for certain charitable contributions.
It’s impossible to predict how long and severe the COVID-19 crisis will be, so prepare your organization for a tough fight. Contact us for help assessing your financial position and for advice about the new tax provisions. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbpaohio.com
The recently enacted Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provides a refundable payroll tax credit for 50% of wages paid by eligible employers to certain employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. The employee retention credit is available to employers, including nonprofit organizations, with operations that have been fully or partially suspended as a result of a government order limiting commerce, travel or group meetings.
The credit is also provided to employers who have experienced a greater than 50% reduction in quarterly receipts, measured on a year-over-year basis.
IRS issues FAQs
The IRS has now released FAQs about the credit. Here are some highlights.
How is the credit calculated? The credit is 50% of qualifying wages paid up to $10,000 in total. So the maximum credit for an eligible employer for qualified wages paid to any employee is $5,000.
Wages paid after March 12, 2020, and before Jan. 1, 2021, are eligible for the credit. Therefore, an employer may be able to claim it for qualified wages paid as early as March 13, 2020. Wages aren’t limited to cash payments, but also include part of the cost of employer-provided health care.
When is the operation of a business “partially suspended” for the purposes of the credit?The operation of a business is partially suspended if a government authority imposes restrictions by limiting commerce, travel or group meetings due to COVID-19 so that the business still continues but operates below its normal capacity.
Example: A state governor issues an executive order closing all restaurants and similar establishments to reduce the spread of COVID-19. However, the order allows establishments to provide food or beverages through carry-out, drive-through or delivery. This results in a partial suspension of businesses that provided sit-down service or other on-site eating facilities for customers prior to the executive order.
Is an employer required to pay qualified wages to its employees? No. The CARES Act doesn’t require employers to pay qualified wages.
Is a government employer or self-employed person eligible?No.Government employers aren’t eligible for the employee retention credit. Self-employed individuals also aren’t eligible for the credit for self-employment services or earnings.
Can an employer receive both the tax credits for the qualified leave wages under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and the employee retention credit under the CARES Act? Yes, but not for the same wages. The amount of qualified wages for which an employer can claim the employee retention credit doesn’t include the amount of qualified sick and family leave wages for which the employer received tax credits under the FFCRA.
Can an eligible employer receive both the employee retention credit and a loan under the Paycheck Protection Program? No. An employer can’t receive the employee retention credit if it receives a Small Business Interruption Loan under the Paycheck Protection Program, which is authorized under the CARES Act. So an employer that receives a Paycheck Protection loan shouldn’t claim the employee retention credit.
For more information
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law on March 27. Among other economic relief measures, the new law allows large public banks to temporarily postpone the controversial current expected credit loss (CECL) standard. Here are the details.
Updated accounting rules
The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) issued Accounting Standards Update No. 2016-13, Financial Instruments — Credit Losses (Topic 326): Measurement of Credit Losses on Financial Instruments, in response to the financial crisis of 2007–2008. The updated CECL standard relies on estimates of probable future losses. By contrast, existing guidance relies on an incurred-loss model to recognize losses.
In general, the updated standard will require entities to recognize losses on bad loans earlier than under current U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). It’s scheduled to go into effect for most public companies in 2020. In October 2019, the deadline for smaller reporting companies was extended from 2021 to 2023, and, for private entities and nonprofits, it was extended from 2022 to 2023.
Option to delay
Under the CARES Act, large public insured depository institutions (including credit unions), bank holding companies, and their affiliates have the option of postponing implementation of the CECL standard until the earlier of:
Many public banks have made significant investments in systems and processes to comply with the CECL standard, and they’ve communicated with investors about the changes. So, some may decide to stay the course. But many large banks are expected to take advantage of the option to delay implementation.
Congress decided to provide a temporary reprieve from implementing the changes for a variety of reasons. Notably, the COVID-19 pandemic has created a volatile, uncertain lending environment that may result in significant credit losses for some banks.
To measure those losses, banks must forecast into the foreseeable future to predict losses over the life of a loan and immediately book those losses. But making estimates could prove challenging in today’s unprecedented market conditions. And, once a credit loss has been recognized, it generally can’t be recouped on the financial statements. Plus, there’s some concern that the CECL model would cause banks to needlessly hold more capital and curb lending when borrowers need it most.
So far, the FASB hasn’t delayed the CECL standard. But the COVID-19 crisis has front-loaded concerns about the CECL standard, prompting critics in both the House and Senate to step up their efforts to block the standard. Contact us for the latest developments on this issue. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
A new law signed by President Trump on March 27 provides a variety of tax and financial relief measures to help Americans during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This article explains some of the tax relief for individuals in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
Individual cash payments
Under the new law, an eligible individual will receive a cash payment equal to the sum of: $1,200 ($2,400 for eligible married couples filing jointly) plus $500 for each qualifying child. Eligibility is based on adjusted gross income (AGI).
Individuals who have no income, as well as those whose income comes entirely from Social Security benefits, are also eligible for the payment.
The AGI thresholds will be based on 2019 tax returns, or 2018 returns if you haven’t yet filed your 2019 returns. For those who don’t qualify on their most recently filed tax returns, there may be another option to receive some money. An individual who isn’t an eligible individual for 2019 may be eligible for 2020. The IRS won’t send cash payments to him or her. Instead, the individual will be able to claim the credit when filing a 2020 return.
The income thresholds
The amount of the payment is reduced by 5% of AGI in excess of:
But there is a ceiling that leaves some taxpayers ineligible for a payment. Under the rules, the payment is completely phased-out for a single filer with AGI exceeding $99,000 and for joint filers with no children with AGI exceeding $198,000. For a head of household with one child, the payment is completely phased out when AGI exceeds $146,500.
Most eligible individuals won’t have to take any action to receive a cash payment from the IRS. The payment may be made into a bank account if a taxpayer filed electronically and provided bank account information. Otherwise, the IRS will mail the payment to the last known address.
Other tax provisions
There are several other tax-related provisions in the CARES Act. For example, a distribution from a qualified retirement plan won’t be subject to the 10% additional tax if you’re under age 59 ½ — as long as the distribution is related to COVID-19. And the new law allows charitable deductions, beginning in 2020, for up $300 even if a taxpayer doesn’t itemize deductions.
These are only a few of the tax breaks in the CARES Act. We’ll cover additional topics in coming weeks. In the meantime, please contact us if you have any questions about your situation. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
On March 27, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law. How is this massive $2 trillion recovery package poised to help your not-for-profit organization? It depends on your group’s size, financial condition and other factors. But most nonprofits affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak are eligible for some relief under the CARES Act.
Paycheck Protection Program (PPC)
This $349 billion loan program (administered by the Small Business Administration) is intended to help U.S. employers, including nonprofits, keep workers on their payrolls. To potentially qualify, you must be a 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(19) organization with less than 500 full- or part-time employees. PPC loans can be as large as $10 million. But most organizations will receive smaller amounts — usually equal to 2.5 times their average monthly payroll costs.
If you receive a loan through the program, proceeds may be used only for paying certain expenses, including:
You can’t use these loans to pay your mortgage principal or to prepay mortgage interest.
Perhaps the most reassuring aspect of PPC loans is that they can be forgiven — so long as you follow the rules. To have your full loan amount forgiven (except for loan interest), you must retain employees and not reduce their regular salary or wages more than 25%. If you’ve already laid off staffers, rehiring them by June 30 may enable you to qualify for full loan forgiveness.
Industry Stabilization Fund (ISF)
Nonprofits with more than 500 employees, such as hospitals and educational institutions, may be eligible for ISF low-interest loans. When applying for one, you’ll be required to certify (among other things) that loan proceeds will be used to retain (or rehire) at least 90% of your workforce at full pay and benefits through at least September 30.
Unlike PPP loans, ISF loans won’t be forgiven. However, you aren’t required to pay principal or interest for at least the first six months after receiving an ISF loan. There’s a 2% interest-rate cap on these loans.
If you’d like to apply for financial assistance under the CARES Act, talk directly to your bank. And contact us for help navigating the many provisions of recent legislation — including other lending programs, emergency grants and new payroll tax breaks. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
On March 27, President Trump signed into law another coronavirus (COVID-19) law, which provides extensive relief for businesses and employers. Here are some of the tax-related provisions in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act).
Employee retention credit
The new law provides a refundable payroll tax credit for 50% of wages paid by eligible employers to certain employees during the COVID-19 crisis.
Employer eligibility. The credit is available to employers with operations that have been fully or partially suspended as a result of a government order limiting commerce, travel or group meetings. The credit is also provided to employers that have experienced a greater than 50% reduction in quarterly receipts, measured on a year-over-year basis.
The credit isn’t available to employers receiving Small Business Interruption Loans under the new law.
Wage eligibility. For employers with an average of 100 or fewer full-time employees in 2019, all employee wages are eligible, regardless of whether an employee is furloughed. For employers with more than 100 full-time employees last year, only the wages of furloughed employees or those with reduced hours as a result of closure or reduced gross receipts are eligible for the credit.
No credit is available with respect to an employee for whom the employer claims a Work Opportunity Tax Credit.
The term “wages” includes health benefits and is capped at the first $10,000 paid by an employer to an eligible employee. The credit applies to wages paid after March 12, 2020 and before January 1, 2021.
The IRS has authority to advance payments to eligible employers and to waive penalties for employers who don’t deposit applicable payroll taxes in anticipation of receiving the credit.
Payroll and self-employment tax payment delay
Employers must withhold Social Security taxes from wages paid to employees. Self-employed individuals are subject to self-employment tax.
The CARES Act allows eligible taxpayers to defer paying the employer portion of Social Security taxes through December 31, 2020. Instead, employers can pay 50% of the amounts by December 31, 2021 and the remaining 50% by December 31, 2022.
Self-employed people receive similar relief under the law.
Temporary repeal of taxable income limit for NOLs
Currently, the net operating loss (NOL) deduction is equal to the lesser of 1) the aggregate of the NOL carryovers and NOL carrybacks, or 2) 80% of taxable income computed without regard to the deduction allowed. In other words, NOLs are generally subject to a taxable-income limit and can’t fully offset income.
The CARES Act temporarily removes the taxable income limit to allow an NOL to fully offset income. The new law also modifies the rules related to NOL carrybacks.
Interest expense deduction temporarily increased
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) generally limited the amount of business interest allowed as a deduction to 30% of adjusted taxable income.
The CARES Act temporarily and retroactively increases the limit on the deductibility of interest expense from 30% to 50% for tax years beginning in 2019 and 2020. There are special rules for partnerships.
Bonus depreciation for qualified improvement property
The TCJA amended the tax code to allow 100% additional first-year bonus depreciation deductions for certain qualified property. The TCJA eliminated definitions for 1) qualified leasehold improvement property, 2) qualified restaurant property, and 3) qualified retail improvement property. It replaced them with one category called qualified improvement property (QIP). A general 15-year recovery period was intended to have been provided for QIP. However, that period failed to be reflected in the language of the TCJA. Therefore, under the TCJA, QIP falls into the 39-year recovery period for nonresidential rental property, making it ineligible for 100% bonus depreciation.
The CARES Act provides a technical correction to the TCJA, and specifically designates QIP as 15-year property for depreciation purposes. This makes QIP eligible for 100% bonus depreciation. The provision is effective for property placed in service after December 31, 2017.
Careful planning required
This article only explains some of the relief available to businesses. Additional relief is provided to individuals. Be aware that other rules and limits may apply to the tax breaks described here. Contact us if you have questions about your situation. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
Thanks to the Internet and social media, we’re bombarded daily with all kinds of information. As a result, most people prefer clear, concise snippets of data over lengthy text. Have your financial statements kept up with today’s data-consumption trends?
Show and tell
Humans are visual learners. In business, the use of so-called “infographics” started with product marketing. Combining images with written text, these data visualizations can draw readers in and evoke emotion. They can breathe life into content that could otherwise be considered boring or dry.
Annual reports are traditionally lengthy and text heavy. So, businesses are now using visual aids to present critical financial information to investors and other stakeholders. In this context, infographics help stakeholders digest complex information and retain key points.
In financial reporting
Examples of data visualizations that might be appropriate in financial reporting include:
Time-series line graphs. These visual aids can be used to show financial metrics, such as revenue and cost of sales, over time. They can help stakeholders identify trends, like seasonality and rates of growth (or decline), that can be used to interrupt historical performance and project it into the future.
Bar graphs. Here, data is grouped into rectangular bars in lengths proportionate to the values they represent so data can be compared and contrasted. A company might use this type of infographic to show revenue by product line or geographic region to determine what (or who) is selling the most.
Pie charts. These circular models show parts of a whole, dividing data into slices like a pizza. They might be used in financial reporting to show the composition of a company’s operating expenses to use in budgeting or cost-cutting projects.
Effective visualizations avoid “chart junk.” That is, unnecessary elements — such as excessive use of color, icons or text — that detract from the value of the data presentation. Ideally, each infographic should present one or two ideas, simply and concisely. The information also should be timely and relevant. Too many infographics can become just as overwhelming to a reader as too much text.
Beyond annual reports
In addition to using infographics in financial statements, management may decide to create data visualizations for other financial purposes, such as:
Nonprofits can also use infographics to create an emotional connection with donors. If effective, this outreach may encourage additional contributions for the nonprofit’s cause.
Let’s get visual
Infographics can’t completely replace text in financial statements, but they can be used to supplement the financials by highlighting key issues and accomplishments. Certain entities, such as nonprofits and private businesses, generally have more flexibility in how they present their financial data than public ones do. Contact us to help decide on the optimal visual aids to drive home key points in an effective, organized manner. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
Taxpayers now have more time to file their tax returns and pay any tax owed because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The Treasury Department and IRS announced that the federal income tax filing due date is automatically extended from April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020.
Taxpayers can also defer making federal income tax payments, which are due on April 15, 2020, until July 15, 2020, without penalties and interest, regardless of the amount they owe. This deferment applies to all taxpayers, including individuals, trusts and estates, corporations and other non-corporate tax filers as well as those who pay self-employment tax. They can also defer their initial quarterly estimated federal income tax payments for the 2020 tax year (including any self-employment tax) from the normal April 15 deadline until July 15.
No forms to file
Taxpayers don’t need to file any additional forms to qualify for the automatic federal tax filing and payment relief to July 15. However, individual taxpayers who need additional time to file beyond the July 15 deadline, can request a filing extension by filing Form 4868. Businesses who need additional time must file Form 7004. Contact us if you need assistance filing these forms.
If you expect a refund
Of course, not everybody will owe the IRS when they file their 2019 tax returns. If you’re due a refund, you should file as soon as possible. The IRS has stated that despite the COVID-19 outbreak, most tax refunds are still being issued within 21 days.
New law passes, another on the way
On March 18, 2020, President Trump signed the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act,” which provides a wide variety of relief related to COVID-19. It includes free testing, waivers and modifications of Federal nutrition programs, employment-related protections and benefits, health programs and insurance coverage requirements, and related employer tax credits and tax exemptions.
If you’re an employee, you may be eligible for paid sick leave for COVID-19 related reasons. Here are the specifics, according to the IRS:
As of this writing, Congress was working on passing another bill that would provide additional relief, including checks that would be sent to Americans under certain income thresholds. We will keep you updated about any developments. In the meantime, please contact us with any questions or concerns about your tax or financial situation. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
Whether your not-for-profit is newly deluged with demand for services or you’ve closed doors temporarily, it’s important to keep up with legislation responding to the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. On March 18, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act was signed into law to provide American workers affected by the pandemic with extended sick and family leave benefits.
The new law applies to your nonprofit if you have fewer than 500 employees, although you may be exempt if you have fewer than 50. Here are some details.
3 things to know
There are three important components of the new law:
1. Paid sick leave. If a staffer is ill, is instructed to be isolated by a physician or government authority or is caring for a sick family member or child whose school has closed, your organization must provide two weeks of paid leave. Pay part-time workers based on their average hours over a two-week period. Benefits are capped at $511 per day and $5,110 total for employees on leave because of their own health issue, or $200 per day and $2,000 total to care for others.
2. Job-protected leave. You must provide 12 weeks of job-protected leave for employees who need to take care of a child due to the closure of a school or day care center. This provision updates existing rules under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Employers are now required to pay workers two-thirds of their regular wages, not to exceed $200 per day and $10,000 total. You aren’t required to pay employees during the first 10 days off; however, they may choose to use accrued time off benefits at this time.
3. Employer payroll tax credits. To help employers pay for time off, the law enables tax credits. You may claim a 100% refundable payroll tax credit on wages associated with paid sick and medical leave and other expenditures associated with health benefit contributions. Additional wages paid to staffers due to the law’s leave requirement aren’t subject to the employer portion of the payroll tax.
Congress has also provided $1 billion in emergency grants to states to process and pay unemployment insurance benefits. So if you need to lay off staffers during the extended COVID-19 crisis, this provision can help them manage the financial burden.
Of course, more is likely to be needed. Legislators are currently working out a deal to provide furloughed and laid-off workers with direct financial assistance as well as loans and other financial support for employers. Keep your eye on the news.
If you have questions about how the Families First Act applies to your nonprofit, please contact us. Also, because many nonprofits operate on thin margins at the best of times, you may worry about staying afloat. We can analyze your position and help you come up with possible survival strategies. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
Businesses across the country are being affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19). Fortunately, Congress recently passed a law that provides at least some relief. In a separate development, the IRS has issued guidance allowing taxpayers to defer any amount of federal income tax payments due on April 15, 2020, until July 15, 2020, without penalties or interest.
On March 18, the Senate passed the House's coronavirus bill, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. President Trump signed the bill that day. It includes:
Tax filing and payment extension
In Notice 2020-18, the IRS provides relief for taxpayers with a federal income tax payment due April 15, 2020. The due date for making federal income tax payments usually due April 15, 2020 is postponed to July 15, 2020.
Important: The IRS announced that the 2019 income tax filing deadline will be moved to July 15, 2020 from April 15, 2020, because of COVID-19.
Treasury Department Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced on Twitter, “we are moving Tax Day from April 15 to July 15. All taxpayers and businesses will have this additional time to file and make payments without interest or penalties.”
Previously, the U.S. Treasury Department and the IRS had announced that taxpayers could defer making income tax payments for 2019 and estimated income tax payments for 2020 due April 15 (up to certain amounts) until July 15, 2020. Later, the federal government stated that you also don’t have to file a return by April 15.
Of course, if you’re due a tax refund, you probably want to file as soon as possible so you can receive the refund money. And you can still get an automatic filing extension, to October 15, by filing IRS Form 4868. Contact us with any questions you have about filing your return.
Any amount can be deferred
In Notice 2020-18, the IRS stated: “There is no limitation on the amount of the payment that may be postponed.” (Previously, the IRS had announced dollar limits on the tax deferrals but then made a new announcement on March 21 that taxpayers can postpone payments “regardless of the amount owed.”)
In Notice 2020-18, the due date is postponed only for federal income tax payments for 2019 normally due on April 15, 2020 and federal estimated income tax payments (including estimated payments on self-employment income) due on April 15, 2020 for the 2020 tax year.
As of this writing, the IRS hasn’t provided a payment extension for the payment or deposit of other types of federal tax (including payroll taxes and excise taxes).
This only outlines the basics of the federal tax relief available at the time this was written. New details are coming out daily. Be aware that many states have also announced tax relief related to COVID-19. And Congress is working on more legislation that will provide additional relief, including sending checks to people under a certain income threshold and providing relief to various industries and small businesses.
We’ll keep you updated. In the meantime, contact us with any questions you have about your situation. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
Traditionally, audit procedures for private companies tend to focus on the balance sheet. That is, auditors evaluate whether the book values of the company’s assets are overstated and its liabilities are understated. However, the income statement needs attention, too, especially in light of the updated guidance on recognizing revenue from contracts and the potential for misstatement.
New guidance in effect
In 2014, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) issued Accounting Standards Update (ASU) No. 2014-09, Revenue from Contracts with Customers. The revenue recognition standard erases reams of industry-specific accounting guidance and provides a five-step model for recognizing revenue for most businesses worldwide. The updated guidance went into effect in fiscal year 2018 for public companies and in fiscal year 2019 for private ones.
In many cases, the revenue a company reports under the new guidance won’t differ much from what it reported under the old rules. But the timing of when a company can record revenues may be affected, particularly for long-term, multi-part arrangements. The result is a recognition process that offers fewer bright-line rules and more judgment calls compared to the old rules.
Potential for misstatement
For many companies, revenue is one of the largest financial statement accounts. It has a major effect on operating results and presents a significant fraud risk.
According to the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations (COSO) of the Treadway Commission, improper revenue recognition is the most common method used to falsify financial statement information. Common methods of improperly boosting revenue include creating fictitious transactions or recording revenue prematurely. The risk of material misstatement — either due to fraud or unintentional error — is particularly high as companies implement ASU 2014-09.
Audit procedures that are relevant for testing revenue vary from company to company. Expect your auditors to ask questions about your company, its environment and its internal controls. This includes becoming familiar with its key products and services and the contractual terms of its sales transactions. With this knowledge, the auditor can identify key terms of standardized contracts and evaluate the effects of nonstandard terms.
For instance, with construction-type or production-type contracts, auditors might test:
Auditors also must evaluate accounting cutoffs to decide whether the company recognized revenue in the correct period. A typical cutoff procedure might involve testing sales transactions by comparing sales data for a sufficient period before and after year end to sales invoices, shipping documentation, or other evidence. This helps auditors determine whether revenue recognition criteria were met and sales were recorded in the proper period.
A custom approach
Contact us to discuss revenue testing approaches given the risks associated with revenue reporting and the recent changes to accounting standards for revenue recognition. We can help you get it right. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
If you have a life insurance policy, you probably want to make sure that the life insurance benefits your family will receive after your death won’t be included in your estate. That way, the benefits won’t be subject to the federal estate tax.
Under the estate tax rules, life insurance will be included in your taxable estate if either:
The first situation is easy to avoid. You can just make sure your estate isn’t designated as beneficiary of the policy.
The second situation is more complicated. It’s clear that if you’re the owner of the policy, the proceeds will be included in your estate regardless of the beneficiary. However, simply having someone else possess legal title to the policy won’t prevent this result if you keep so-called “incidents of ownership” in the policy. If held by you, the rights that will cause the proceeds to be taxed in your estate include:
Keep in mind that merely having any of the above powers will cause the proceeds to be taxed in your estate even if you never exercise the power.
If life insurance is obtained to fund a buy-sell agreement for a business interest under a “cross-purchase” arrangement, it won’t be taxed in your estate (unless the estate is named as beneficiary). For example, say Andrew and Bob are partners who agree that the partnership interest of the first of them to die will be bought by the surviving partner. To fund these obligations, Andrew buys a life insurance policy on Bob’s life. Andrew pays all the premiums, retains all incidents of ownership, and names himself as beneficiary. Bob does the same regarding Andrew. When the first partner dies, the insurance proceeds aren’t taxed in the first partner’s estate.
Life insurance trusts
An irrevocable life insurance trust (ILIT) is an effective vehicle that can be set up to keep life insurance proceeds from being taxed in the insured’s estate. Typically, the policy is transferred to the trust along with assets that can be used to pay future premiums. Alternatively, the trust buys the insurance with funds contributed by the insured person. So long as the trust agreement gives the insured person none of the ownership rights described above, the proceeds won’t be included in his or her estate.
The three-year rule
If you’re considering setting up a life insurance trust with a policy you own now or you just want to assign away your ownership rights in a policy, contact us to help you make these moves. Unless you live for at least three years after these steps are taken, the proceeds will be taxed in your estate. For policies in which you never held incidents of ownership, the three-year rule doesn’t apply. Don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions about your situation. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
It’s all too easy to let not-for-profit programs that have outlived their effectiveness to continue, even as they consume budget resources. To help ensure your resources are being deployed efficiently and effectively, consider using the tradition of spring cleaning to review and, potentially, replace older programs.
Go to the sources
Instead of relying on old assumptions about your programs’ effectiveness, perform new research. Start by surveying participants, members, donors, employees, volunteers and community leaders about which of your nonprofit’s programs are the most — and least — effective and why.
You may get mixed responses regarding the same program, so consider their source. Employees and volunteers who work directly with program participants are more likely to know if your current efforts are off target than is a donor who attends a fundraising event once a year.
Use the right measurements
If you don’t already have goals for each program, you need to set them. Also put in place an evaluation system with metrics that are strategic, realistic and timely. For example, a charity that provides tutoring to high school students in low-income neighborhoods might measure the program’s success by considering exam and class grades and graduation rates as well as the students’ and teachers’ feedback.
Apply several measures, including subjective ones, before deciding to cut or fund a program. Numerical data might suggest that a program isn’t worth the money spent on it, but those who benefit from the program may be so vocal about its success that eliminating it could harm your reputation.
If you meet resistance from major donors and other influential stakeholders, reassure them that you value their input. Provide them with numbers that illustrate the ineffectiveness of current programs and projections for possible replacements.
Make it better
It’s usually easier to identify obsolete programs than to decide on new ones. If one of your programs is clearly ineffective and another is wildly exceeding expectations, the decision to redeploy funds is simple.
Keep in mind that new programs can be variations of old ones, but they must better serve your basic mission, values and goals. Also, no matter how much good programs do, they can’t be successful if they overspend. For every new program, make a tight budget and stick to it. You might want to start small and, if your soft launch gets positive results, simply revise your budget.
What to keep
Naturally, programs that continue to further your nonprofit’s mission and meet constituents’ needs should stay in place. But your nonprofit likely harbors a few cobwebs that should be cleared to make way for more effective initiatives. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
Do you own a business but haven’t gotten around to setting up a tax-advantaged retirement plan? Fortunately, it’s not too late to establish one and reduce your 2019 tax bill. A Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) can still be set up for 2019, and you can make contributions to it that you can deduct on your 2019 income tax return. Even better, SEPs keep administrative costs low.
Deadlines for contributions
A SEP can be set up as late as the due date (including extensions) of your income tax return for the tax year for which the SEP first applies. That means you can establish a SEP for 2019 in 2020 as long as you do it before your 2019 return filing deadline. You have until the same deadline to make 2019 contributions and still claim a potentially substantial deduction on your 2019 return.
Generally, most other types of retirement plans would have to have been established by December 31, 2019, in order for 2019 contributions to be made (though many of these plans do allow 2019 contributions to be made in 2020).
Contributions are optional
With a SEP, you can decide how much to contribute each year. You aren’t required to make any certain minimum contributions annually.
However, if your business has employees other than you:
The contributions go into SEP-IRAs established for each eligible employee. As the employer, you’ll get a current income tax deduction for contributions you make on behalf of your employees. Your employees won’t be taxed when the contributions are made, but at a later date when distributions are made — usually in retirement.
For 2019, the maximum contribution that can be made to a SEP-IRA is 25% of compensation (or 20% of self-employed income net of the self-employment tax deduction), subject to a contribution cap of $56,000. (The 2020 cap is $57,000.)
How to proceed
To set up a SEP, you complete and sign the simple Form 5305-SEP (“Simplified Employee Pension — Individual Retirement Accounts Contribution Agreement”). You don’t need to file Form 5305-SEP with the IRS, but you should keep it as part of your permanent tax records. A copy of Form 5305-SEP must be given to each employee covered by the SEP, along with a disclosure statement.
Although there are rules and limits that apply to SEPs beyond what we’ve discussed here, SEPs generally are much simpler to administer than other retirement plans. Contact us with any questions you have about SEPs and to discuss whether it makes sense for you to set one up for 2019 (or 2020). Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak — officially a pandemic as of March 11 — has prompted global health concerns. But you also may be worried about how it will affect your business and its financial statements for 2019 and beyond.
Close up on financial reporting
The duration and full effects of the COVID-19 outbreak are yet unknown, but the financial impacts are already widespread. When preparing financial statements, consider whether this outbreak will have a material effect on your company’s:
Also monitor your customers’ credit standing. A decline may affect a customer’s ability to pay its outstanding balance, and, in turn, require you to reevaluate the adequacy of your allowance for bad debts.
Additionally, risks related to the COVID-19 may be reported as critical audit matters (CAMs) in the auditor’s report. If your company has an audit committee, this is an excellent time to engage in a dialog with them.
Disclosure requirements and best practices
How should your company report the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak on its financial statements? Under U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), companies must differentiate between two types of subsequent events:
1. Recognized subsequent events. These events provide additional evidence about conditions, such as bankruptcy or pending litigation, that existed at the balance sheet date. The effects of these events generally need to be recorded directly in the financial statements.
2. Nonrecognized subsequent events. These provide evidence about conditions, such as a natural disaster, that didn’t exist at the balance sheet. Rather, they arose after that date but before the financial statements are issued (or available to be issued). Such events should be disclosed in the footnotes to prevent the financial statements from being misleading. Disclosures should include the nature of the event and an estimate of its financial effect (or disclosure that such an estimate can’t be made).
The World Health Organization didn’t declare the COVID-19 outbreak a public health emergency until January 30, 2020. However, events that caused the outbreak had occurred before the end of 2019. So, the COVID-19 risk was present in China on December 31, 2019. Accordingly, calendar-year entities may need to recognize the effects in their financial statements for 2019 and, if applicable, the first quarter of 2020.
There are many unknowns about the spread and severity of the COVID-19 outbreak. We can help navigate this potential crisis and evaluate its effects on your financial statements. Contact us for the latest developments. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
If you made large gifts to your children, grandchildren or other heirs last year, it’s important to determine whether you’re required to file a 2019 gift tax return. And in some cases, even if it’s not required to file one, it may be beneficial to do so anyway.
Who must file?
Generally, you must file a gift tax return for 2019 if, during the tax year, you made gifts:
Keep in mind that you’ll owe gift tax only to the extent that an exclusion doesn’t apply and you’ve used up your lifetime gift and estate tax exemption ($11.4 million for 2019). As you can see, some transfers require a return even if you don’t owe tax.
Who might want to file?
No gift tax return is required if your gifts for 2019 consisted solely of gifts that are tax-free because they qualify as:
But if you transferred hard-to-value property, such as artwork or interests in a family-owned business, you should consider filing a gift tax return even if you’re not required to. Adequate disclosure of the transfer in a return triggers the statute of limitations, generally preventing the IRS from challenging your valuation more than three years after you file.
April 15 deadline
The gift tax return deadline is the same as the income tax filing deadline. For 2019 returns, it’s April 15, 2020 — or October 15, 2020, if you file for an extension. But keep in mind that, if you owe gift tax, the payment deadline is April 15, regardless of whether you file for an extension. If you’re not sure whether you must (or should) file a 2019 gift tax return, contact us. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
Every nonprofit needs an executive search plan. Even if you aren’t facing an imminent vacancy, your organization is smart to prepare for what can be a long process. In fact, executive searches generally take several months — even if you end up hiring someone already known to your nonprofit. So make plans now.
Start by forming a search team made up of board members. Even if your current executive director isn’t leaving, the existence of a committee enables members to stay abreast of compensation trends and be on the lookout for potential successors to current executives.
One of your team’s objectives is to determine whether you’ll want to hire an executive search firm. The decision will hinge on many factors, including the position’s complexity and responsibility level. But before outsourcing a search, you’ll want to look around. The best person for the job may be a current board member, employee or volunteer.
To ensure the team will be ready to act when necessary, keep comprehensive, up-to-date job descriptions for key executive positions. They should detail the knowledge, skills, abilities and attitudes required. Your organization’s strategic goals should also be integrated into the descriptions. As part of ongoing succession planning efforts, your search team needs to periodically re-evaluate these descriptions. If, for example, your nonprofit is moving in a new direction, your next leader might need a different set of skills and experiences.
Also, think about how you’ll conduct the executive interview process. Who will be involved? What format will you use (such as one-on-one or group interviews)? Also prepare some thoughtful questions that reflect your organization’s needs and culture.
Different compensation philosophies
Although you may not be ready to discuss specific numbers, your nonprofit’s board and the search team should discuss and arrive at a common philosophy about compensation. Factors that influence compensation decisions include:
Consider whether your goal is to compensate in line with similar regional or national organizations, or with similar positions in the for-profit sector. Also, determine whether compensation will be fixed or have a variable pay component, such as bonuses or incentive pay.
Make it effective
Hiring the right executive is too important to leave until you’re under the gun. With a written plan, you can rest assured your organization is ready to conduct an effective search — whenever it becomes necessary. Contact us for more information. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
If you’re the owner of an incorporated business, you probably know that there’s a tax advantage to taking money out of a C corporation as compensation rather than as dividends. The reason is simple. A corporation can deduct the salaries and bonuses that it pays executives, but not its dividend payments. Therefore, if funds are withdrawn as dividends, they’re taxed twice, once to the corporation and once to the recipient. Money paid out as compensation is taxed only once, to the employee who receives it.
However, there’s a limit on how much money you can take out of the corporation this way. Under tax law, compensation can be deducted only to the extent that it’s reasonable. Any unreasonable portion isn’t deductible and, if paid to a shareholder, may be taxed as if it were a dividend. The IRS is generally more interested in unreasonable compensation payments made to someone “related” to a corporation, such as a shareholder or a member of a shareholder’s family.
How much compensation is reasonable?
There’s no simple formula. The IRS tries to determine the amount that similar companies would pay for comparable services under similar circumstances. Factors that are taken into account include:
There are some concrete steps you can take to make it more likely that the compensation you earn will be considered “reasonable,” and therefore deductible by your corporation. For example, you can:
Planning ahead can help avoid problems. Contact us if you’d like to discuss this further. Sam Brown, CPA, Inc., Troy, Ohio, www.sbcpaohio.com
The rules for reporting leasing transactions are changing. Though these changes have been delayed until 2021 for private companies (and nonprofits), it’s important to know the possible effects on your financial statements as you renew leases or enter into new lease contracts. In some cases, you might decide to modify lease terms to avoid having to report leasing liabilities on your balance sheet. Or you might opt to buy (rather than lease) property to sidestep being subject to the complex disclosure requirements.