Managing cash flow is essential to business management. Revenue can fluctuate, and expenses need to be paid on time to maintain a positive working relationship with vendors, utility companies, and employees.
Thankfully, there’s a way to know what your cash flow could look like down the road so you can plan appropriately, and forecasting can provide these insights for business leaders.
What is forecasting?
Forecasting is the practice of using existing business data to create a model for what your business looks like now, as well as weeks, months, and even years down the road. This essential reporting is what allows business leaders to make real-time decisions based on the health of the business.
While there are different types of forecasting, rolling forecasting provides more information about the future by using existing data to predict performance in a certain time period. Whichever method you choose, building accurate models using complete data is essential.
Tips for accurate forecasting
As a business leader, you can make decisions on the direction of your business all day. If the data you’re using to make those decisions is not accurate, you could end up with less than stellar results or unexpected cash flow issues. Here are some tips to ensure you have the right numbers to base your decisions on.
- Keep detailed records. Every expense should be tracked down to the penny. Don’t round or estimate when recording them. In addition, accurately categorize all your expenses.
- Consider upgrading from manual tracking. While spreadsheets can be an amazing tool, there’s a point where they can become a hindrance to your operations. Using time management or bookkeeping software to help track expenses, payroll, and other operations can be more efficient for your business.
- Adjust your forecasting process as your business grows. When your business starts to reach new heights, forecasts could involve more complex numbers (or a greater number of categories to review). If your business is experiencing growing pains, you may want to consider outsourcing to a trusted accountant or knowledgeable part-time CFO who can provide new insights and more efficiencies for you as a business leader.
What to include in forecasting
When creating your forecasts, you should include certain elements to ensure sure you’re getting the most accurate outlook possible. This includes:
- Current expenses
- Current revenue
- Expected future liquid cash
- Potential future capital purchases
- Upcoming marketing and travel expenses
- Accounts receivable: both outstanding invoice amounts and the expected pay date
- Accounts payable: amount owed to others and when it must be paid by
- Long- and short-term debt payoff
- Future quarterly tax payments
While it’s important to create a budget and stick to it, forecasting is an equally important business function that can help direct the future of your company. Forecasts will allow you to foresee upcoming roadblocks or cash flow concerns so you can plan for and adjust around them.
Our firm is available to help you with regular forecasting data, setting up a system for you to create forecasts, audit your current system, and provide outsourced CFO services. Reach out to us to discuss how we can help you today!
Low interest rates and other factors have caused global merger and acquisition (M&A) activity to reach new highs in 2021, according to Refinitiv, a provider of financial data. It reports that 2021 is set to be the biggest in M&A history, with the United States accounting for $2.14 trillion worth of transactions already this year. If you’re considering buying or selling a business — or you’re in the process of an M&A transaction — it’s important that both parties report it to the IRS and state agencies in the same way. Otherwise, you may increase your chances of being audited.
If a sale involves business assets (as opposed to stock or ownership interests), the buyer and the seller must generally report to the IRS the purchase price allocations that both use. This is done by attaching IRS Form 8594, “Asset Acquisition Statement,” to each of their respective federal income tax returns for the tax year that includes the transaction.
Here’s what must be reported
If you buy business assets in an M&A transaction, you must allocate the total purchase price to the specific assets that are acquired. The amount allocated to each asset then becomes its initial tax basis. For depreciable and amortizable assets, the initial tax basis of each asset determines the depreciation and amortization deductions for that asset after the acquisition. Depreciable and amortizable assets include:
- Buildings and improvements,
- Furniture, fixtures and
- Intangibles (including customer lists, licenses, patents, copyrights and goodwill).
In addition to reporting the items above, you must also disclose on Form 8594 whether the parties entered into a noncompete agreement, management contract or similar agreement, as well as the monetary consideration paid under it.
What the IRS might examine
The IRS may inspect the forms that are filed to see if the buyer and the seller use different allocations. If the tax agency finds that different allocations are used, auditors may dig deeper and the examination could expand beyond the transaction. So, it’s best to ensure that both parties use the same allocations. Consider including this requirement in your asset purchase agreement at the time of the sale.
The tax implications of buying or selling a business are complex. Price allocations are important because they affect future tax benefits. Both the buyer and the seller need to report them to the IRS in an identical way to avoid unwanted attention. To lock in the best results after an acquisition, consult with us before finalizing any transaction.
If you’re a business owner and you’re getting a divorce, tax issues can complicate matters. Your business ownership interest is one of your biggest personal assets and in many cases, your marital property will include all or part of it.
Tax-free property transfers
You can generally divide most assets, including cash and business ownership interests, between you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse without any federal income or gift tax consequences. When an asset falls under this tax-free transfer rule, the spouse who receives the asset takes over its existing tax basis (for tax gain or loss purposes) and its existing holding period (for short-term or long-term holding period purposes).
Let’s say that under the terms of your divorce agreement, you give your house to your spouse in exchange for keeping 100% of the stock in your business. That asset swap would be tax-free. And the existing basis and holding periods for the home and the stock would carry over to the person who receives them.
Tax-free transfers can occur before a divorce or at the time it becomes final. Tax-free treatment also applies to post-divorce transfers as long as they’re made “incident to divorce.” This means transfers that occur within:
- A year after the date the marriage ends, or
- Six years after the date the marriage ends if the transfers are made pursuant to your divorce agreement.
More tax issues
Later on, there will be tax implications for assets received tax-free in a divorce settlement. The ex-spouse who winds up owning an appreciated asset — when the fair market value exceeds the tax basis — generally must recognize taxable gain when it’s sold (unless an exception applies).
What if your ex-spouse receives 49% of your highly appreciated small business stock? Thanks to the tax-free transfer rule, there’s no tax impact when the shares are transferred. Your ex will continue to apply the same tax rules as if you had continued to own the shares, including carryover basis and carryover holding period. When your ex-spouse ultimately sells the shares, he or she will owe any capital gains taxes. You will owe nothing.
Note that the person who winds up owning appreciated assets must pay the built-in tax liability that comes with them. From a net-of-tax perspective, appreciated assets are worth less than an equal amount of cash or other assets that haven’t appreciated. That’s why you should always take taxes into account when negotiating your divorce agreement.
In addition, the beneficial tax-free transfer rule is now extended to ordinary-income assets, not just to capital-gains assets. For example, if you transfer business receivables or inventory to your ex-spouse in a divorce, these types of ordinary-income assets can also be transferred tax-free. When the asset is later sold, converted to cash or exercised (in the case of nonqualified stock options), the person who owns the asset at that time must recognize the income and pay the tax liability.
Plan ahead to avoid surprises
Like many major life events, divorce can have major tax implications. For example, you may receive an unexpected tax bill if you don’t carefully handle the splitting up of qualified retirement plan accounts (such as a 401(k) plan) and IRAs. And if you own a business, the stakes are higher. We can help you minimize the adverse tax consequences of settling your divorce.
The last few years have afforded quite a few changes in how the IRS allows businesses to handle meal and entertainment costs in relation to their taxes. The 2018 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) eliminated deductions for most business-related entertainment expenses. Since the pandemic, the IRS has temporarily changed the tax-deductible amount allowed for some business meals to encourage increased sales at restaurants. With the easing of restrictions, businesses may be considering company picnics for employee appreciation or starting up business lunches with clients again.
With all of these changes, putting a system in place to accurately track business food and entertainment expenses becomes essential. Best practices should include requesting detailed receipts and separately tracking which costs fall under the 50 percent deduction, 100 percent deduction, or not deductible categories.
In addition to keeping excellent records, below are some additional things to keep in mind about the business meal and entertainment deduction rules, including a helpful chart highlighting the deduction category particular meal and entertainment expenses fall under.
Meal and entertainment expense changes
Under the TCJA, the IRS no longer allows businesses to deduct most entertainment expenses even if they were a cost of doing business. Food and beverage related to entertainment venues are only covered with detailed receipts separately stating the cost of the meal.
Another change from the TCJA is that spouse or guest meals are not covered from travel unless the business employs the person. So, if your spouse accompanies you on a work trip, their meals are not deductible for the business.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 (CAA) has temporarily increased the deduction for business meals provided by restaurants to 100 percent for tax years 2021 and 2022. Not all meals are created equal, however. The 100 percent deduction is only available for meals provided by restaurants, which the IRS defines as: “A business that prepares and sells food or beverages to retail customers for immediate consumption, regardless of whether the food or beverages are consumed on the business’s premises.” Prepackaged food from a grocery, specialty, or convenience store is not eligible for the 100% deduction and would be limited to a 50% deduction.
Also, note that the expenses must be considered ordinary (common and accepted for your business) or necessary (helpful and appropriate) and cannot be considered lavish or extravagant. An employee of the business or the taxpayer must be present during the meal, as well.
A quick guide to business meal deductions
||Tax Code Reference
|Company social events and facilities for employees (e.g., holiday parties, team-building events)
||IRC Secs. 274(e)(4) and 274(n)(2)(A)
|Meals and entertainment included in employee or non-employee compensation
||IRC Secs. 274(e)(2) and (9)
|Reimbursed expenses under an accountable plan
||IRC Sec. 274(e)(3)
|Meals and entertainment made available to the public
||IRC Sec. 274(e)(7)
|Meals and entertainment sold to customers
||IRC Sec. 274(e)(8)
|Business travel meals
100% (1/1/2021 to 12/31/2022)*
|IRC Secs. 274(e)(3) and 274(e)(9)
|Client/customer business meals
100% (1/1/2021 to 12/31/2022)*
|Business meeting meals
100% (1/1/2021 to 12/31/2022)*
|IRC Secs 274(e)(5), 274(k)(1), and 274(e)(6)
|De minimis food and beverages provided in the workplace (e.g., bottled water, coffee, snacks)
|IRC Sec 274(e)(1)
|Meals provided for the convenience of the employer
||50% (through 12/31/2025)
0% (on or after 1/1/2026)
|IRC Sec. 274(n) and 274(o)
|Employer-operated eating facilities
||50% (through 12/31/2025)
0% (on or after 1/1/2026)
|IRC Sec. 274(n) and 274(o)
|Meals/beverages associated with entertainment activities when not separated stated on the receipt
|Personal, lavish, or extravagant meals/beverages in relation to the activity
||IRC Secs. 274(k)(1) and 274(k)(2)
|Entertainment without exception
||IRC Secs. 274(a)(1) and 274(e)
*Meals are only deductible in the 2021 and 2022 tax years if provided by a restaurant, as defined by the IRS in the above article.
If you need help establishing a system to better track expenses or seek clarification on whether certain expenses are tax-deductible, give our team of CPAs a call today.
Do you know what will happen to your business when you retire? By necessity, many busy small business owners spend all of their time thinking about the here and now, with little opportunity to focus on the future. But your company’s long-term survival -— and your own retirement security -— may depend on establishing a realistic and workable exit strategy.
Set a retirement date
Here is your first question: When do you plan to quit working? You may have a general idea of the age range when you would like to retire, but now is the time to set a precise date. That gives you a timeline to work with, which will make all your other planning easier.
Consider your options
The next essential question: Who do you expect will take over your business? Many companies make one of two choices: either someone buys the company from you or a family member or employee takes over as chief executive when you retire. It is important to consider which one is the most realistic option so that you can ensure a smooth transition down the road. Depending on your plans, there are different steps you should take now to ensure a smooth transition.
If you plan to sell
If you are going to sell your company to another business or individual, you will need an accurate idea of what it is worth. You should get a business appraisal when you are ready to sell; but it may be a good idea to get one now, even if there are many years until your planned retirement. An appraisal can help to spot your company’s strengths and weaknesses so you can analyze how those attributes impact its overall worth.
The information in the appraisal can be used to make changes that improve operations, sales and revenues and make you a more competitive player in the marketplace. Those steps will help increase your company’s value and its appeal to potential buyers at the time you decide to sell.
If you plan to promote from within
It is always a good idea to have a current idea of your company’s worth, but there are also other necessary factors to consider if you are hoping that someone within your company will one day take over the reins of leadership. The first question, of course, is who will that person be? Is there a very talented younger employee who you believe could one day take over? If so, begin grooming him or her now. This includes introducing the employee to key clients, increasing his or her level of responsibility and including the person in decision making whenever possible.
Even if you expect to sell your business, it is a good idea to have a promising future leader ready to take over the reins. In most cases, a potential buyer will be happy to see that there is someone in place to carry on.
There are many possible exit strategies available to small business owners. No matter which you choose, it will be a good idea to have an accurate sense of the company’s worth and to have a strong management team in place. Our firm’s professionals can help you develop a strategy to suit your business. Call us today.