If you or your business received funds from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), the recently passed Emergency Coronavirus Relief Act of 2020 will help to dramatically cut your tax bill. Here’s what you need to know.
The PPP program was created by the CARES Act in March 2020 to help businesses which were adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Qualified businesses could apply for and receive loans of up to $10 million. Loan proceeds could be used to pay for certain expenses incurred by a business, including salaries and wages, other employee benefits, rent and utilities.
If the business used at least 60% of loan proceeds towards payroll expenses, the entire amount of the loan would be forgiven.
While the CARES Act spelled out that a business’s forgiven PPP loan would not be considered taxable income, the legislation was silent about how to treat expenses paid for using PPP loan proceeds if the loan was ultimately forgiven.
Congress intended for these expenses to be deductible for federal tax purposes. But since the legislation was silent on this issue, the IRS swooped in and deemed these expenses to be nondeductible.
There was considerable debate over the latter half of 2020, with Congressional politicians explaining that their intent was that the expenses be deductible and the IRS responding “Too bad, they’re nondeductible.”
Congress overruled the IRS’s position in the Emergency Coronavirus Relief Act of 2020. The legislation officially makes deductible for federal tax purposes all expenses paid for using proceeds from a forgiven PPP loan.
Stay tuned for updates as to how this new legislation affects your business.
With the onset of COVID-19, small business banks are more nervous about potential loan losses than ever. Here are several tips for your business to maintain a great working relationship with your lender. These same tips can also be used if you want to plant seeds with your banker for potential future loans.
Produce timely financial statements. Your lender may require you to produce financial statements over the duration of your loans to ensure that you have enough cash to make consistent, on-time payments. Strive to produce up-to-date financial statements and send them to your bank before they ask for them. Not only will timely financial statements make your lenders happy, the pro-active nature of your financials will show a level of transparency to them. Be prepared to include a note explaining major changes and schedule regular phone calls to go over the business.
Implement solid internal controls. How does a lender have faith that the dollar amounts on your financial statements are accurate? By properly implementing internal controls. You’ll have a happy banker if your company can provide evidence that your internal controls are operating properly.
Communicate. If your business encounters turbulent financial waters, the best thing to do is immediately let your lender know about it. Better yet, by keeping in constant communication, your lender will most likely be able to spot if your business starts experiencing a downturn and will try devising a plan before you begin missing payment deadlines.
Remember, your banker probably has their hands full right now. These tips allow them to spend more time on their problem loans, and one of them will not be yours.
Raising prices can be fraught with risk during good economic times. So what happens if you try to raise prices during bad economic times?
As Hamlet would say, “Ah, there’s the rub.” If you raise prices, you risk losing clients to competitors. If you don’t, decreasing revenue or rising costs can capsize your company. So what’s a small business supposed to do?
The Art of Pricing
Raising (and, sometimes, even lowering) prices can be a balancing act. As with any major business decision, pricing should take into account various factors. Here are several to consider.
Analyze costs. First, you need to carefully analyze the costs needed to bring your products or services to market. Such expenses might include raw materials, storage, personnel, advertising, delivery, rent, equipment, taxes and insurance. Failure to cover all these costs in your price will inevitably lead to shrinking profits.
Establish profit margin. Next, it’s important to establish an acceptable profit margin. This is where the art of pricing begins. To find your company’s sweet spot with regards to pricing, consider researching competitors in your region to determine their pricing for comparable products, raising your finger to the wind to discern the business climate and asking your customers about their preferences.
Listen to your customers. Your customers will tell you if you raised prices too high. They’ll either continue to buy your product or seek out a competitor.
Consider incremental price increases. Small, incremental price increases tend to be more palatable to customers than a few large changes. We see this every day in the rising cost of gasoline, utilities and taxes. Many customers can handle incremental inflation…just don’t shock them with a huge increase all at once.
When considering pricing, it’s important to take a long, hard look at both your costs and the quality of your products and services. Customers will generally pay a premium for goods and services that provide greater value. Successful business owners endeavor to increase both the actual quality of their products and the perception of that quality in the minds of customers. Do both well, and a price increase may be in order.
As an owner of a small business, you’ve proven that you’re a self-starter by operating a successful private enterprise. Of equal importance is applying your skills towards saving for your future. Here are some of the most popular tax-advantaged retirement vehicles for small business owners in 2020 and some tips on saving for retirement.
Options if you’re not currently enrolled in a plan
For small business owners not currently enrolled in a retirement plan, here are three of the most popular retirement account options:
Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) IRA Account. Contribute as much as 25% of your business’s net profit up to $57,000 for 2020.
401(k) Plan. Contribute up to $57,000 of your salary and/or your business’s net profit.
Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees (SIMPLE) IRA Account. You can put all your business’s net profit in the plan, up to $13,500 plus an additional $3,000 if you’re 50 or older.
Which plan should you choose? SEP and SIMPLE IRAs are ideal for either sole proprietors or really small businesses (no more than one or two dozen employees). Due to higher administrative costs, 401(k) plans are usually more suited for larger small businesses (more than one or two dozen employees).
Tips to maximize your retirement contributions
For small business owners who are currently enrolled in a retirement plan, here are some suggestions for maximizing your annual contributions into your retirement accounts:
Pay yourself first. Instead of funding your retirement account with whatever is left over after paying your monthly bills, decide at the beginning of each month how much you want to set aside to fund your retirement. Make funding your retirement each month as important as your other bills. Then assume that you pay your retirement bill first. If you run out of money before paying all your bills, decide if there are any expenses that can be pared back for subsequent months so you can meet your monthly retirement savings goal.
List your retirement contributions on your income statement. It is easy to forget about retirement planning when running the day-to-day operations of your business. To keep retirement contributions top-of-mind, record these as a separate line item on your business’s income statement.
Review your tax situation at least twice a year. Tax planning is now more important than ever with the uncertainty caused by the recent pandemic. So review your tax situation at least twice every 12 months to see how to maximize each year’s retirement contributions.
As always, should you have any questions or concerns regarding your tax situation please feel free to call.
Your company’s online presence leaves a lasting impression—positive or negative. When people check out your homepage, will they stick around? Will they buy? Will they return? Make your website easy to use and current, and new orders may be just a click away. Annoy visitors and they’ll flee to a competitor.
Steer clear of the following website mistakes:
Designing the website for you—not the customer. Studies have shown that online visitors form an opinion of a company’s brand in about three seconds. If your home page is well designed, they may stick around for another ten to twenty seconds. Don’t waste these precious moments spouting details about the firm’s stellar history and the owner’s credentials. Consumers are visiting your website to get answers. Provide these answers quickly or they’ll click elsewhere.
Heavy graphics, poor load time. Many consumers are surfing the web from smart phones and tablets. Don’t make them waste valuable time waiting for a fancy webpage to load. Consider projecting a professional image with text-based content that answers the most pressing questions about your products and services. Graphics can work well, but only if size and load times are fully vetted to ensure a seamless load experience.
Unfriendly navigation. If your homepage looks cluttered, potential customers will become frustrated. Make it easy for users to navigate your site from home page to supplemental pages and back again. Use a handful of clearly-labeled tabs in a top level menu. Deliberately design each page to have the same look and feel.
Stale data. When you visit a webpage and note that it was last updated five years ago, do you sense a vibrant, cutting-edge enterprise? Keep your site up to date. Consider subscribing to content services that will keep your information fresh. Remember, developing a web presence is not an event, it is an ongoing journey. Your site must display current prices, merchandise that’s available right now, with up-to-date details about new product offerings.
Sloppy content. A website riddled with typos, grammatical mistakes and industry jargon will turn customers away. Visitors may ask themselves if your business doesn’t care about the quality of its website, how can they trust your products and services?
A carefully crafted website can draw customers in, enhance their buying experience and leave a lasting impression of professionalism and quality.
You may have started your business as a simple sole proprietorship that files its taxes as a Schedule C on your Form 1040. As your business grows, you may want to change the structure. Here are several scenarios where it may make sense to do just that.
Reasons to Create Business Entities
Establishing limited liability. The primary reason businesses form corporations and limited liability companies is to create a separate legal entity that provides legal protection. If your business receives a legal summons for a claim, for example, having limited liability may protect your personal assets like your home and car.
Hiring your first employee. Businesses are generally liable for their employees’ actions taken on behalf of the company. If an employee performs an act that causes an outside party to sue your business, the outside party can come after your personal assets to satisfy the lawsuit if you don’t have limited liability. You should, therefore, incorporate your business if you anticipate hiring your first employee in the near future.
Establishing credibility. Having LLC or Inc. after your business’s name conveys maturity in your business to customers and vendors.
Accessing credit and/or capital. Incorporating can also make it easier for your business to obtain financing through banks or investors. Banks want to see that your business is legitimate and not simply a hobby. Bringing in investors also requires a business form that allows you to do this. Individuals often co-mingle personal funds with business activity, making it hard to consider lending money.
What you need to do
There are several different business entities to consider, including corporations and limited liability companies. There are pros and cons to each entity that must be considered. Added to the complexity are constructing the correct legal filings and related tax obligations for sales tax, income taxes, unemployment and workers’ compensation.
The process of selecting the right structure for your business is not for the faint of heart. Develop connections with professionals that can walk you through this decision-making process.