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If you haven’t converted to cloud-based accounting, it’s likely that COVID-19 may prompt you to make the switch. With more and more businesses and industries operating virtually, cloud access and real-time data has become more important than ever for making the best business decisions possible in uncertain times. With so much up in the air, you don’t want to be caught with a static accounting system that cannot keep up and provide the answers you need.

If you’re on the fence, we’ve put together the top 11 benefits of cloud-based accounting and the real-time data it provides.

1. Drill down on business performance – Real-time data through cloud-based accounting allows you to drill down on the key components of your business’s performance. You can get global or granular on factors such as location, project, customer, vendor, or department and see how each part is impacting your business in real-time. Additionally, you can use snapshots of your cash flow, revenue, expenses, and more to see how they compare year-over-year and how they are measuring up to your goals for this year.

2. Make better data-driven, real-time decisions – You’ve likely experience that last year’s or even last month’s data is irrelevant during these uncertain times. With real-time data, you can see clearly what’s holding you back now, or what’s working, and adjust accordingly. Without the real, hard data, these decisions can feel like a guessing game with a wait-and-see outcome, which is something most businesses cannot afford right now.

3. Make accurate predictions and forecasts – This accurate, up-to-date data allows you to feel more confident in the forecasting for the future your business. You have the facts in front of you to make more strategic predictions over the course of the year. Through the real-time data and historical facts, you can assess past performance, identify trends, and set goals and plans, making adjustments as needed along the way.

4. Automate processes – More and more, businesses are focused on automation, and there’s no better place to start than with your accounting. With cloud-based solutions, you can create automated workflows that handle much of the busy work for you like invoicing and paying vendors. This all funnels back into your real-time data so you can stay on top of your revenue and expenses.

5. Mitigate fraud and reduce errors – Mistakes and fraudulent activity can be more quickly and easily identified when you can see the transactions in real-time. The simplification of the software means less memorization of accounting practices, formulas, and Excel shortcuts – all of which can contribute to errors. And, the automatic reconciliation can help you detect fraud early. Being able to take timely action on errors and fraud can save your business big in the long run.

6. Simplify your reporting and EOY – Have you ever scrambled when a stakeholder asked for an up-to-date report on your business? Cloud-based accounting allows you to present an accurate, timely report in no time, simplifying the process for you and your stakeholders. Additionally, you avoid the end-of-year rush because you’ve been entering your information and tracking all year long, so tax bills aren’t as much of a surprise.

7. Simplify GST compliance – If you have general sales tax to track and monitor, you know it can be a challenge to assemble and file your GST returns. Cloud-based accounting tracks and applies GST automatically for you and allows you to pull a quick report when you’re ready to file.

8. Get access from anywhere – One of the best benefits of cloud-based accounting is that you can access your data from anywhere at any time. In the age of COVID-19 and working from home, this is especially beneficial for you and your team so everyone can stay on track and on task.

9. Collaborate with your accountant – Cloud-based accounting has simplified the transfer process of client information to accountant and saved both sides time and energy in equal measure. Gone are the days of having to download everything to a CD or flash drive and delivering it to your accountant. Now, you can collaborate together virtually and trust you’re both on the same page.

10. Simplify your technology – Cloud-based accounting eliminates hard downloads across multiple computers and saves your IT department (or you) the headache of making sure everyone is up-to-date across the company. Thanks to online hosting, IT doesn’t have to worry about updating the software either, so they can focus on other projects.

11. Get the tech support you need – Most cloud-based accounting platforms offer regular tech support to help you any hour of the day. You’ll also have access to forums of thousands of other users so you can discuss issues and share best practices. Keeping your program up and running and optimized contributes to better real-time data.

For assistance with choosing the right cloud-based accounting platform for your business, contact us today.

The unprecedented global pandemic and record unemployment has resulted in a dramatic drop in interest rates. Many people focus on the Fed rate and mortgage rates, and rightfully so, but for some, the focal point should be on the historically low IRS interest rates.

The IRS posts various interest rates, generally on a monthly basis. The Applicable Federal Rate (“AFR”) and the Internal Revenue Code Section 7520 Rate (“7520 Rate”) are among the most important. Many tax strategies are a function of calculations driven by the AFR and 7520 rates. Some strategies work best in high rate environments while other work best in low rate environments. Accordingly, any time the IRS rates dramatically rise or fall, we should take notice and consider tax planning.

The May 2020 IRS Rates include:

Short-Term AFR: 0.25%

Mid-Term AFR: 0.58%

Long-Term AFR: 1.15%

7520 Rate: 0.80%

These rates are exceptionally low. To provide some context for comparison, the May 2019 Rates were: Short-Term AFR 2.39%, Mid-Term AFR 2.37%, and Long Term AFR 2.74%. Viewing this from a historical perspective, the May 2019 rates were low in their own right, but clearly the rates today, just one year later, are materially lower.

The remainder of this paper outlines three strategies that work particularly well in low interest rate environments. Although we have elected to highlight three strategies specifically, low interest rate tax strategies are not limited to just these three. Accordingly, we encourage you to contact our office to discuss your specific set of circumstances.

Charitable Lead Trusts

A Charitable Lead Trust (“CLT”) is a split interest trust, meaning there are two categories of beneficiaries: (1) a current beneficiary and (2) a remainder beneficiary. The current beneficiary receives distributions from the CLT for a period of time (the “Term”) and must be a charitable organization, such as a public charity, a church, most schools and universities, and even a private foundation operated by the donor. The remainder beneficiary receives all the assets remaining in the CLT after the Term expires and is generally the donor or the donor’s children. Depending on the design of the CLT, the donor may receive an income tax deduction in the tax year the CLT is established in an amount equal to the present value of all payments that will go to charity during the CLT’s term. Accordingly, it can generate a substantial income tax deduction for gifts that have not yet gone to the charity. This gives the donor the ability to continue investing and growing the CLT assets, thereby ultimately benefiting the donor who will receive the assets back upon expiration of the CLT term.

Why CLTs during low interest rates?

The donor’s income tax deduction is a present-value calculation. We take the sum of all scheduled future charitable distributions and discount that number to present value using a calculation based on the 7520 Rate. The lower the 7520 Rate, the lower the discount. The lower the discount, the greater the deduction. Accordingly, in today’s environment, all other factors being exactly the same (i.e. same growth rate, same amount to charity, etc.), a CLT today will generate a significantly higher income tax deduction, than the same CLT when interest rates are higher.

Grantor Retained Annuity Trusts

Grantor Retained Annuity Trusts (“GRATs”) are estate planning trusts that provide a tremendous opportunity to transfer wealth from one generation (“Generation 1”) to the next (“Generation 2”), often without incurring gift or estate taxes. GRATs are established with Generation 1 assets for a period of time (the “Term”). During the Term, the GRAT makes distributions to Generation 1. At the end of the Term, if designed properly, the assets remaining in the GRAT transfer to Generation 2 free of gift, estate, or transfer taxes. Many individuals will establish a series of GRATs in order to provide necessary lifetime cash flow to Generation 1.

Why GRATs during low interest rates?

Payments made from the GRAT to Generation 1 are based on the IRS rates. The donor makes the “bet” that the assets inside the GRAT will grow at a rate higher than the IRS rates. Lower rates mean a lower hurdle, a lower hurdle means more wealth can transfer to Generation 2 tax-free.

Sales to Intentionally Defective Grantor Trusts

Intentionally Defective Grantor Trusts (“IDGTs”), are irrevocable estate planning trusts that are generally utilized by high net worth business owners and those with assets likely to significantly increase in value (such as stock and real estate). The IDGT will purchase the asset from the individual primarily in exchange for a promissory note (there are no income taxes due on the sale because the IDGT is disregarded for income tax purposes). The IDGT will make installment payments to the individual for the term of the promissory note. The assets in the IDGT are outside of the individual’s estate, therefore any growth in the asset from the time it is sold remains outside of the individual’s estate for estate tax purposes.

Why IDGTs during low interest rates?

Similar to any traditional lending arrangement, the IDGT promissory note must yield interest. Because this is a related-party transaction, the IRS mandates a certain minimum interest rate, which is based on the AFR. The lower the AFR, the lower the required monthly payments, and thus more taxable wealth remains outside of the Grantor’s estate.

Next Steps?

Don’t let this exceptionally low interest rate environment get away. Please contact your Heritage financial advisor, CPA, or attorney to schedule a planning session.

This article has been edited by Hamilton Tharp LLP. This article originally appeared on the HWM newsletter.

As consumers become more conscious in their environmental footprint, and look for ways to save money, more and more electric vehicles can be seen on the roads today stretching from coast to coast. At this point, most taxpayers know or have heard of an electric vehicle tax credit program, but what they may not know is that there are specific conditions and limitations that must be met, and that some vehicles have actually phased out of the program. So, before you consider an electric vehicle for your next purchase, make sure it qualifies.

Here’s a rundown of what you need to know about the electric vehicle tax credit, how it works, and what qualifies.

What vehicles qualify for the electric vehicle tax credit?

The new car or truck must:

· Have at least four wheels and gross vehicle weight of less than 14,000 pounds

· Draw energy from a better with at least 4 kWh hours and recharged from an external source

· Purchased after 2010 and begun driving in the year claiming the credit

· Be primarily used in the U.S.

Two or three-wheeled vehicles purchased in 2012 or 2013 and used within that year may qualify under section 30D(g) if they draw from a batter with at least 25 kWh and charged from an external source.

How much is the electric vehicle tax credit?

The tax credit for an electric vehicle can range from $2,500 to $7,500 depending on the vehicle with higher credit amounts for specific battery capacities and vehicle sizes. For two or three-wheeled vehicles, the credit is 10% of the purchase price up to $2,500.

How is the tax credit applied to me?

The non-refundable tax credit is filed on your federal tax return (for individuals on your 1040), and your liability determines how much credit you qualify for. The non-refundable caveat means that in order to receive the full $7,500 credit, your tax liability must be at least that much. If your liability is only $3,000, you’ll only receive $3,000. You won’t receive the difference in a refund check.

Can I get a tax credit on a used or leased vehicle?

Unfortunately, the answer is no to both of those circumstances. The credit only applies to the new purchase and the person who actually owns it. Used vehicle purchases, even transfers to family members don’t qualify, and if you lease, the credit actually goes to the manufacturer

offering the lease. Some manufacturer dealers offer lower prices on leased electric vehicles as a result of the incentive, but are not forced to do so.

Does the tax credit run out?

As sales of electric vehicles increase, the tax credit will phase out. Once a manufacturer reaches 200,000 qualified vehicles, the credit begins to phase out with a step-down process over the course of a year. No tax credits are available for Tesla vehicles as they hit their mark in July 2018, and no credits are available for GM as they hit their mark as well. You can see a list of the vehicles available for credits at fueleconomy.gov.

Are there state tax credits available?

Some states and regions do offer tax credits for electric vehicles and alternative-fuel vehicles, but these often apply to businesses. Individuals may receive incentives such as carpool lane access or free parking. Some states offer rebates for retail buyers. The U.S. Department of Energy offers a chart of state incentives.

For Californians, a $2,000 or $1,000 rebate is available depending on which type of electric car you purchase. Fully electric cards usually receive the higher rebate with hybrids on the lower end. Hydrogen fuel vehicles are eligible for a $4,500 rebate in California. These rebates are in addition to the federal tax credit and can reduce the out of pocket cost for a car by close to $10,000. You can learn more about California’s Clean Vehicle Rebate Project on their website.

For assistance with the electric vehicle tax credit and determining any extra state or local incentives, reach out to us.

Employers can now defer payroll tax withholding on employee compensation for the last four months of 2020 and then withhold the deferred amounts in the first four months of 2021, confirms a recent update from the IRS. President Trump’memorandum on Aug. 8 gave employers the ability to defer payroll taxes for employees affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in an effort to provide financial relief  

The guidance directs that employers can defer the withholding, deposit, and payment of the employee portion of the old-age, survivors, and disability insurance (OASDI) tax under Sec. 3102(a) and Railroad Retirement Act Tier 1 under Sec. 3201 from employee wages from Sept. 1 to Dec. 31, 2020.  

Employers must then withhold and pay the deferred taxes from wages and compensation during the period from Jan. 1, 2021, and April 30, 2021, with interest, penalties, and additions to tax to begin accruing starting May 1, 2021. Included in the notice is a line that indicates, if necessary, employers can “make arrangements to otherwise collect the total Applicable Taxes from the employee,” such as if an employee leaves the company before the end of April 2021, but does not provide details on what that entails.  

Employees with pretax wages or compensation during any biweekly pay period totally less than $4,000 qualify for the deferral. Amounts normally excluded from wages or compensation under Secs. 3121(a) or 3231(e) are not included in calculating the applicable wages. The determination of applicable wages should be made on a period-by-period basis.  

Companies may choose whether or not to enact the payroll tax deferral. We are closely monitoring updates related this and other presidential executive orders and will communicate if more information becomes available. For questions or assistance with this payroll tax deferral, contact us.  

On Aug. 24, the Small Business Administration (SBA) and Treasury issued the latest interim final rule update to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) that seeks to clarify guidance related to owner-employee compensation and non-payroll costs. This guidance has been long-awaited and clears up several questions borrowers have had about forgiveness. Here are the main points: 

1. Owner-employees of C or S corporations are exempt from the PPP owner-employee compensation rule for loan forgiveness if they have a less than 5% stake in the business. The intent is to provide forgiveness for compensation of owner-employees who do not have a considerable or meaningful ability to influence decisions over loan allocations. This clarifies earlier guidance that capped the owner-employee compensation regardless of what stake they have in the business.  

2. Loan forgiveness for non-payroll costs may not include amounts attributable to the business operation of a tenant or subtenant of the PPP borrower. The SBA provides a few examples of what this means: 

3. To achieve loan forgiveness on rent or lease payments to a related thirdparty, borrowers must ensure that (1) the amount of loan forgiveness requested does not exceed the amount of mortgage interest owed on the property attributable to the business’s rented space during the covered period, and (2) the lease and mortgage meet the Feb. 15, 2020, requirement for establishment. Earlier guidance had not addressed related third-party leases. 

It’s important to note that mortgage interest payments to a related party are not eligible for forgiveness as PPP loans are not intended to cover payments to a business’s owner because of how the business is structured – they are intended to help businesses cover non-payroll costs owed to third parties. 

For questions on any of these rules or assistance with your PPP loan forgiveness application, contact us today. 

CFOs are playing more pivotal roles in modern corporations than ever before, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is shedding light on how CFOs can impact short and long-term financial stability. While growth is frequently considered the ultimate goal for a business, economic downturns like the one created by the pandemic show us that CFOs with eyes on long-term financial stability, and not just on growth, will be able to better help their organizations weather the storms of an economic crisis.   

A CFO’s strategy for long-term success should incorporate thorough cost management protocols, a comprehensive and holistic approach to increasing value, and stewardship and championship of the bigger picture. Here’s what that means. 

How CFOs impact direct costs 

As the financial head of the organization, the CFO naturally serves as the rightful guardian of business’s expenses. It’s through these direct costs that CFOs can implement stronger internal controls and recover lost revenue for long-term benefit. A CFO can improve long-term viability by analyzing:  

Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) – COGS are a key area for reduction as they represent the largest operating expense for the business. Depending on the industry, these costs can be complex, and the biggest expense can come in the form of purchased components and materials. CFOs can optimize this area with help from sourcing programs that consolidate costs by choosing more goal-aligned suppliers. 

Indirect Taxes – Indirect taxes are aoften-overlooked area of opportunity for many businesses. These taxes can be found in areas like R&D, procurement, labor, utilities, and manufacturing and can represent 25% of personnel expenses. Making indirect taxes a regular component of your tax strategy allows you to reduce costs in this area by 10-20% with quick realization rates. Bonus: “Look-back” provisions can help you save even more. 

Real Estate – With real estate, take a holistic inventory of your business and consolidate where possible. The COVID-19 pandemic showed us how much can be done at home or in fewer locations. Consider whether you need all your locations, your facility management costs, and negotiating your contractsAlso, plan for a future workforce that may expect a more flexible work-from-home situation. Just because you‘re growing doesn’t mean you will actually need all that extra space. 

Product Optimization – If you haven’t invested and implemented benchmarking and KPIs for your products, you need to now. Data and analytics are key to understanding how you can improve margins and grow profit. With product rationalization, you can drill down into what is really profitable and make decisions on what to cut and what to expand. Look at customer buying habits and your company overhead and determine what’s really worth keeping on the shelves.  

Labor – The key to optimizing labor costs lies within efficiency. Do you have the right people in the right seats? Can current employees be retrained to fill open needs? Consider where you can use automation and outsourcing to save on salaries/benefits and overhead.  

Working Capital – Assessing your working capital for cost efficiency involves taking a look at:  

 How CFOs impact value 

CFOs not only help to optimize costs, but they are also integral in increasing company value because of their instinct and insight into the finances, the business, and how everything relates. Value is the ultimate determinate for long-term success in a business as it is the final measurement taken into consideration at the time of succession or buy-out. And, as any good business valuation professional will tell you, the business is not worth what you think it’s worth. The consensus among international accounting organizations is that value is defined by your customers/stakeholders and created and sustained through the responsible management of your organization’s tangible and intangible assets, resources, and relationships.: 

One can clearly see how the areas of impact for CFOs listed in the costs section above directly relates to value creation in a business and the management of financial resources. The CFO is the gatekeeper for value creation and thus long-term viability.  

How CFOs champion the big picture 

Because the CFO is intimately connected to the financial health of the organization, they are also the eyes of the market. They see the trends and shifts directly in the numbers and can advocate for the right kinds of measurements to make long-term decisionsCFOs should take an active role in their organization’s strategic planning process and use their knowledge to translate the ebbs and flows of the business into scalable growth.  

Now more than ever, CFOs are at the forefront of business viability and growth. Their knowledge is invaluable in times of crisis and prosperity, and their voice and action are essential for long-term financial stability.  

Our outsourced CFO services can help you establish and maintain a long-term financial strategy for your business. Contact us for more information. 

In an effort to help businesses cope with the impact of COVID-19, the CARES Act passed by Congress in March of this year eliminated some of the restrictions on the business interest deduction set in place in 2017 by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). Now, the IRS has released much-needed guidance and final regulations for business interest expense deductions.

Limiting the business interest deduction was originally a way of helping pay for the TCJA and began with tax years starting after Dec. 31, 2017. The deduction was limited to the sum of:

The final regulations state that the deduction does not apply to:

Taxpayers must use Form 8990 to calculate and report their deduction and the carry-forward amount of disallowed business interest expense.

Additional regulations released by the IRS cleared up some of the remaining questions including issues related to the CARES Act. These additional regulations can be used with limitations until the final regulations are published in the Federal Register.

Additionally, a safe harbor was created in Notice 2020-59 that allows taxpayers engaged in a trade or a business managing or operating qualified residential living facilities to treat that as a real property trade or businesses in order to qualify as an electing real property trade or business.

Reach out for assistance with understanding and reporting your business interest expense.

 

On August 8, 2020, President Trump signed an executive order extending certain aspects of COVID-19 relief in the absence of a new bill from Congress. The executive order includes several measures to protect individuals as provisions of the CARES Act expire or have expired.

Here’s what was in the order:

Payroll tax delay – The order authorizes the Treasury to consider methods to defer the employee share of Social Security taxes (IRC section 3101(a) and Railroad Retirement Act taxes under section 3201(a)) for employees earning up to $104,000 per year ($4,000 biweekly) for a period beginning Sept. 1, 2020, through Dec. 31, 2020. No interest, penalty, or additional assessment would be charged on the deferred amount. At this point, this is not effective. It means the Treasury can exercise authority and explore ways to achieve forgiveness on the deferred amounts, such as legislation. While nothing will be done until the Treasury issues guidance, employers will need to be mindful of this as the liability of this payment could fall on them depending on the final rule.

Unemployment benefits – The $600 per week unemployment benefit authorized by the CARES Act expired on July 31. The executive order retroactively authorizes $400 per week from Aug. 1; however, states must contribute $100 and the remaining $300 would come from the federal government. The funding for the federal portion would come from the FEMA Disaster Relief Funds and would continue until the earlier of Dec. 6, 2020, or a drop in the Fund balance to below $25 billion. The state portion is to come from federal funds already distributed to the states. Questions of whether the FEMA funds can be used for this purpose are still outstanding.

Evictions – The evictions portion of the executive order asks the secretary of HHS and director of CDC to consider whether halting residential evictions is reasonably necessary to help prevent further spread of COVID-19 and also authorizes the Treasury Secretary and HUD Secretary to consider potential financial assistance for renters. The CARES Act banned evictions through July 25 for properties with federal mortgage programs or HUD funds.

Student loans – The student loan interest deferral enacted by the CARES Act is set to expire Sept. 30, 2020. The executive order would waive student loan interest until Dec. 31, 2020, for loans held by the Department of Education only.

Final guidance is required from the respective agencies before some of these measures can be enacted. Contact us with questions.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) and Treasury released an updated Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) FAQ on Aug. 4 in an effort to address PPP loan forgiveness issues that have arisen as borrowers begin to complete their applications. The 23 FAQs address various aspects of PPP forgiveness including general loan forgiveness, payroll costs, non-payroll costs, and loan forgiveness reductions. Here is a brief overview of some of the most notable clarified guidance. 

General loan forgiveness 

Payroll costs forgiveness 

Non-payroll costs forgiveness 

Forgiveness reductions 

The FAQ document also includes several examples for making calculations related to the above questions. Contact us for questions and assistance with your PPP loan forgiveness application.  

Economic downturns are an almost inevitable reality for nearly every business owner. Decisions made far away from your community, catastrophic and unpredictable weather events, and even global pandemics as we’ve seen this year can disrupt the health and viability of a business. During these challenging times, business owners have to make difficult decisions about the future of their business that not only affect them but also their employees, vendors, clients, and communities. It’s an enormous responsibility to bear, but you don’t have to go it alone.

Your CPA advisor is your best resource for tackling the challenges of an economic downturn. As an outside party, they can help you make smart business decisions that protect your vision and mission while remaining financially responsible. Your CPA can help you:

Optimize your books

Never underestimate the power of good bookkeeping. By keeping your books in order, your CPA can help you plan and project for the future at each stage of an economic downturn. This includes planning for temporary closures and tiered re-openings (and potentially a back-and-forth of both depending on the state of the country and market). When your books are clean and up to date, you can better project how events and decisions will impact your finances on a weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis. Your CPA can help you flex the numbers on fixed and variable expenses to account for increases in costs, decreases in income, and potential changes to payroll. Knowing your numbers intimately can help you make better-informed decisions.

Minimize your tax burden

During times of economic crisis, staying abreast of new and changing tax legislation will be essential to projecting tax burden and uncovering tax savings opportunities. Your CPA is the best person to handle this because they know your business and your industry inside and out and can help you uncover tax savings opportunities that are unique to your circumstances. They do all the research, and you reap the rewards. With a CPA’s assistance, you achieve deductions and credits you may not have realized were available and develop a plan to defer costs where allowed depending on your business, industry, and location. Taxes are not an area you should or need to face alone during an economic downturn. Your CPA has done the homework, so you don’t have to.

Rationalize your decision making

When markets are in flux and your business is facing unprecedented challenges, the decisions you make can make or break your business. But you don’t have to go it alone. Your accountant can help you make data-informed decisions whether that be how to pay vendors, when and how to apply lines of credit, and the best ways to use your capital. Negotiating contracts with vendors that meet your needs and theirs during a downturn will not only achieve cost savings but also preserve relationships – your CPA can help develop a plan that makes sense. Knowing when to engage lines of credit can help you make better moves that you can either afford to pay back later, or maybe prevent you from taking on credit you can’t handle – your CPA can guide you in this process. Knowing where to allocate capital will be key to maintaining operations, and you may need guidance on what expenses to cut and what to keep such as marketing and payroll – your CPA can help you project the ramifications. With your CPA by your side, you don’t have to operate in a silo of decision-making.  

Maximize your sense of relief

Most of all, your CPA can provide perspective, alleviate business back-end burden, and help advise you on financially feasible and sound decisions when much of the world feels like it’s in chaos. You have a lot to focus on during a downturn including how to handle your customers and employees in a changing marketplace. Having someone who can help you stay fiscally viable as you work through tough times, and develop a plan for future success, provides a welcome peace of mind.

You don’t have to go through any economic downturn alone. Your CPA can help you shoulder the challenges and weather the storms so you can continue doing what you do best – running your business.