PPP Funds Taxable in 2020

IRS Issues Guidance Stating Expenses Paid with PPP Funds are NOT Deductible for 2020 Tax Year

As this unprecedented year draws to a close, the administration has again issued late guidance regarding the proper treatment of Paycheck Protection Plan loans. Late on Wednesday, November 18, 2020 the IRS issued Revenue Ruling 2020-27.

This guidance clearly states that eligible expenses paid with PPP proceeds are not deductible in 2020 if the borrower “has a reasonable expectation of forgiveness during 2020 or 2021”.  In simple terms, if we can expect the loan to be forgiven in 2020 or 2021 then we can not deduct the expenses covered by the loan. This has the same impact as making the forgiven amount taxable in 2020.

This rule applies whether you submit the PPP application for forgiveness in 2020 or wait until 2021.

The IRS also issued Revenue Procedure 2020-51, outlining the correct treatment for when the actual forgiveness differs from the expected amount. This further confirms the IRS position and treatment that the forgiveness should be recognized as if it occurred in 2020.

 

These late notices reinforce the criticality of 2020 tax planning to develop strategies to minimize your overall tax liability and address additional taxes due related to the recognition of PPP funds in 2020.

 

Please contact us immediately to address your 2020 tax planning strategies. Additionally, if you have any questions regarding these notices and their treatment, please do not hesitate to contact us.


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2020 Tax Planning Overviews are Here!





As in prior years, we are proud to provide you with our detailed tax planning ideas for the 2020 tax year. This year, in light of the pandemic and legislation passed to combat its economic impacts, it is more important than ever to plan for your current year liability. Please review the following overviews for both business and individual tax planning.

If you have any questions regarding these specific ideas or the impact on your individual situation, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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Why it’s important to plan for income taxes as part of your estate plan

As a result of the current estate tax exemption amount ($11.58 million in 2020), many estates no longer need to be concerned with federal estate tax. Before 2011, a much smaller amount resulted in estate plans attempting to avoid it. Now, because many estates won’t be subject to estate tax, more planning can be devoted to saving income taxes for your heirs.

While saving both income and transfer taxes has always been a goal of estate planning, it was more difficult to succeed at both when the estate and gift tax exemption level was much lower. Here are some strategies to consider.

Plan gifts that use the annual gift tax exclusion. One of the benefits of using the gift tax annual exclusion to make transfers during life is to save estate tax. This is because both the transferred assets and any post-transfer appreciation generated by those assets are removed from the donor’s estate.

As mentioned, estate tax savings may not be an issue because of the large estate exemption amount. Further, making an annual exclusion transfer of appreciated property carries a potential income tax cost because the recipient receives the donor’s basis upon transfer. Thus, the recipient could face income tax, in the form of capital gains tax, on the sale of the gifted property in the future. If there’s no concern that an estate will be subject to estate tax, even if the gifted property grows in value, then the decision to make a gift should be based on other factors.

For example, gifts may be made to help a relative buy a home or start a business. But a donor shouldn’t gift appreciated property because of the capital gain that could be realized on a future sale by the recipient. If the appreciated property is held until the donor’s death, under current law, the heir will get a step-up in basis that will wipe out the capital gain tax on any pre-death appreciation in the property’s value.

Take spouses’ estates into account. In the past, spouses often undertook complicated strategies to equalize their estates so that each could take advantage of the estate tax exemption amount. Generally, a two-trust plan was established to minimize estate tax. “Portability,” or the ability to apply the decedent’s unused exclusion amount to the surviving spouse’s transfers during life and at death, became effective for estates of decedents dying after 2010. As long as the election is made, portability allows the surviving spouse to apply the unused portion of a decedent’s applicable exclusion amount (the deceased spousal unused exclusion amount) as calculated in the year of the decedent’s death. The portability election gives married couples more flexibility in deciding how to use their exclusion amounts.

Be aware that some estate exclusion or valuation discount strategies to avoid inclusion of property in an estate may no longer be worth pursuing. It may be better to have the property included in the estate or not qualify for valuation discounts so that the property receives a step-up in basis. For example, the special use valuation — the valuation of qualified real property used for farming or in a business on the basis of the property’s actual use, rather than on its highest and best use — may not save enough, or any, estate tax to justify giving up the step-up in basis that would otherwise occur for the property.

Contact us if you want to discuss these strategies and how they relate to your estate plan.

© 2020


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Understanding the passive activity loss rules

Are you wondering if the passive activity loss rules affect business ventures you’re engaged in — or might engage in?

If the ventures are passive activities, the passive activity loss rules prevent you from deducting expenses that are generated by them in excess of their income. You can’t deduct the excess expenses (losses) against earned income or against other nonpassive income. Nonpassive income for this purpose includes interest, dividends, annuities, royalties, gains and losses from most property dispositions, and income from certain oil and gas property interests. So you can’t deduct passive losses against those income items either.

Any losses that you can’t use aren’t lost. Instead, they’re carried forward, indefinitely, to tax years in which your passive activities generate enough income to absorb the losses. To the extent your passive losses from an activity aren’t used up in this way, you’ll be allowed to use them in the tax year in which you dispose of your interest in the activity in a fully taxable transaction, or in the tax year you die.

Passive vs. material

Passive activities are trades, businesses or income-producing activities in which you don’t “materially participate.” The passive activity loss rules also apply to any items passed through to you by partnerships in which you’re a partner, or by S corporations in which you’re a shareholder. This means that any losses passed through to you by partnerships or S corporations will be treated as passive, unless the activities aren’t passive for you.

For example, let’s say that in addition to your regular professional job, you’re a limited partner in a partnership that cleans offices. Or perhaps you’re a shareholder in an S corp that operates a manufacturing business (but you don’t participate in the operations).

If you don’t materially participate in the partnership or S corporation, those activities are passive. On the other hand, if you “materially participate,” the activities aren’t passive (except for rental activities, discussed below), and the passive activity rules won’t apply to the losses. To materially participate, you must be involved in the operations on a regular, continuous and substantial basis.

The IRS uses several tests to establish material participation. Under the most frequently used test, you’re treated as materially participating in an activity if you participate in it for more than 500 hours in the tax year. While other tests require fewer hours, all the tests require you to establish how you participated and the amount of time spent. You can establish this by any reasonable means such as contemporaneous appointment books, calendars, time reports or logs.

Rental activities

Rental activities are automatically treated as passive, regardless of your participation. This means that, even if you materially participate in them, you can’t deduct the losses against your earned income, interest, dividends, etc. There are two important exceptions:

  • You can deduct up to $25,000 of losses from rental real estate activities (even though they’re passive) against earned income, interest, dividends, etc., if you “actively participate” in the activities (requiring less participation than “material participation”) and if your adjusted gross income doesn’t exceed specified levels.
  • If you qualify as a “real estate professional” (which requires performing substantial services in real property trades or businesses), your rental real estate activities aren’t automatically treated as passive. So losses from those activities can be deducted against earned income, interest, dividends, etc., if you materially participate.

Contact us if you’d like to discuss how these rules apply to your business.

© 2020


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The easiest way to survive an IRS audit is to get ready in advance

IRS audit rates are historically low, according to the latest data, but that’s little consolation if your return is among those selected to be examined. But with proper preparation and planning, you should fare well.

In fiscal year 2019, the IRS audited approximately 0.4% of individuals. Businesses, large corporations and high-income individuals are more likely to be audited but, overall, all types of audits are being conducted less frequently than they were a decade ago.

There’s no 100% guarantee that you won’t be picked for an audit, because some tax returns are chosen randomly. However, the best way to survive an IRS audit is to prepare for one in advance. On an ongoing basis you should systematically maintain documentation — invoices, bills, cancelled checks, receipts, or other proof — for all items to be reported on your tax returns. Keep all your records in one place. And it helps to know what might catch the attention of the IRS. 

Audit hot spots

Certain types of tax-return entries are known to the IRS to involve inaccuracies so they may lead to an audit. Here are a few examples:

  • Significant inconsistencies between tax returns filed in the past and your most current tax return,
  • Gross profit margin or expenses markedly different from those of other businesses in your industry, and
  • Miscalculated or unusually high deductions. 

Certain types of deductions may be questioned by the IRS because there are strict recordkeeping requirements for them — for example, auto and travel expense deductions. In addition, an owner-employee salary that’s inordinately higher or lower than those in similar companies in his or her location can catch the IRS’s eye, especially if the business is structured as a corporation.

Responding to a letter

If you’re selected for an audit, you’ll be notified by letter. Generally, the IRS doesn’t make initial contact by phone. But if there’s no response to the letter, the agency may follow up with a call.

Many audits simply request that you mail in documentation to support certain deductions you’ve taken. Others may ask you to take receipts and other documents to a local IRS office. Only the harshest version, the field audit, requires meeting with one or more IRS auditors. (Note: Ignore unsolicited email messages about an audit. The IRS doesn’t contact people in this manner. These are scams.)

Keep in mind that the tax agency won’t demand an immediate response to a mailed notice. You’ll be informed of the discrepancies in question and given time to prepare. You’ll need to collect and organize all relevant income and expense records. If any records are missing, you’ll have to reconstruct the information as accurately as possible based on other documentation.

If the IRS chooses you for an audit, our firm can help you:

  • Understand what the IRS is disputing (it’s not always clear),
  • Gather the specific documents and information needed, and
  • Respond to the auditor’s inquiries in the most expedient and effective manner.

The IRS normally has three years within which to conduct an audit, and often an audit doesn’t begin until a year or more after you file a return. Don’t panic if you’re contacted by the IRS. Many audits are routine. By taking a meticulous, proactive approach to how you track, document and file your company’s tax-related information, you’ll make an audit much less painful and even decrease the chances that one will happen in the first place.

© 2020


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Reviewing your disaster plan in a tumultuous year

It’s been a year like no other. The sudden impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in March forced every business owner — ready or not — to execute his or her disaster response plan.

So, how did yours do? Although it may still be a little early to do a complete assessment of what went right and wrong during the crisis, you can take a quick look back right now while the experience is still fresh in your mind.

Get specific

When devising a disaster response plan, brainstorm as many scenarios as possible that could affect your company. What weather-related, environmental and socio-political threats do you face? Obviously, you can now add “pandemic” to the list.

The operative word, however, is “your.” Every company faces distinctive threats related to its industry, size, location(s), and products or services. Identify these as specifically as possible, based on what you’ve learned.

There are some constants for nearly every plan. Seek out alternative suppliers who could fill in for your current ones if necessary. Fortify your IT assets and functionality with enhanced recovery and security capabilities.

Communicate optimally

Another critical factor during and after a crisis is communication, both internal and external. Review whether and how your business was able to communicate in the initial months of the pandemic.

You and most of your management team probably needed to concentrate on maintaining or restoring operations. Who communicated with employees and other stakeholders to keep them abreast of your response and recovery progress? Typically, these parties include:

  • Staff members and their families,
  • Customers,
  • Suppliers,
  • Banks and other financial stakeholders, and
  • Local authorities, first responders and community leaders (as appropriate).

Look into the communication channels that were used — such as voicemail, text messaging, email, website postings and social media. Which were most and least effective? Would some type of new technology enable your business to communicate better?

Revisit and update

If the events of this past spring illustrate anything, it’s that companies can’t create a disaster response plan and toss it on a shelf. Revisit the plan at least annually, looking for adjustments and new risk factors.

You’ll also want to keep the plan clear in the minds of your employees. Be sure that everyone — including new hires — knows exactly what to do by spelling out the communication channels, contacts and procedures you’ll use in the event of a disaster. Everyone should sign a written confirmation that they’ve read the plan’s details, either when hired or when the plan is substantially updated.

In addition, go over disaster response measures during company meetings once or twice a year. You might even want to hold live drills to give staff members a chance to practice their roles and responsibilities.

Heed the lessons

For years, advisors urged business owners to prepare for disasters or else. This year we got the “or else.” Despite the hardships and continuing challenges, however, the lessons being learned are invaluable. Please contact us to discuss ways to manage costs and maintain profitability during these difficult times.

© 2020


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Inventory management is especially important this year

As year-end draws near, many businesses will be not only be generating their fourth quarter financial statements, but also looking back on the entire year’s financials. And what a year it’s been. The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic fallout have likely affected your sales and expenses, and you’ve probably noticed the impact on both. However, don’t overlook the importance of inventory management and its impact on your financial statements.

Cut back as necessary

Carrying too much inventory can reflect poorly on a business as the value of surplus items drops throughout the year. In turn, your financial statements won’t look as good as they could if they report a substantial amount of unsold goods.

Taking stock and perhaps cutting back on excess inventory reduces interest and storage costs. Doing so also improves your ability to detect fraud and theft. Yet another benefit is that, if you conduct inventory checks regularly, your processes should evolve over time — increasing your capacity to track what’s in stock, what’s selling and what’s not.

One improvement to perhaps budget for here: upgraded inventory tracking and ordering software. Newer applications can help you better forecast demand, minimize overstocking, and share data with suppliers to improve accuracy and efficiency.

Make tough decisions

If yours is a more service-oriented business, you can apply a similar approach. Check into whether you’re “overstocking” on services that just aren’t adding enough revenue to the bottom line anymore. Keeping infrastructure and, yes, even employees in place that aren’t contributing to profitability is much like leaving items on the shelves that aren’t selling.

Making improvements may require some tough calls. Sadly, this probably wouldn’t be the first time you’ve had to make difficult decisions in recent months. Many business owners have had to lay off or furlough employees and substantively alter how they deliver their products or services during the COVID-19 crisis.

You might have long-time customers to whom you provide certain services that just aren’t profitable anymore. If your company might start losing money on these customers, you may have to discontinue the services and sacrifice their business.

You can ease difficult transitions like this by referring customers to another, reputable service provider. Meanwhile, your business should be looking to either find new service areas to generate revenue or expand existing services to more robust market segments.

Take a hard look

As of this writing, the economy appears to be slowly recovering for most (though not all) industries. An environment like this means every dollar is precious and any type of waste or redundancy is even more dangerous.

Take a hard look at your approach to inventory management, or how you’re managing the services you provide, to ensure you’re in step with the times. We can help your business implement cost-effective inventory tracking processes, as well as assist you in gaining key insights from your financial statements.

© 2020


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How to report COVID-19-related debt restructuring

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:

  • The borrower is troubled, and
  • The creditor, for economic or legal reasons related to the borrower’s financial difficulties, grants a concession it wouldn’t otherwise consider.

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:

  • A reduction of the stated interest rate for the remaining original life of the debt,
  • An extension of the maturity date or dates at a stated interest rate lower than the current market rate for new debt with similar risk,
  • A reduction of the face amount or maturity amount of the debt as stated in the instrument or other agreement, and
  • A reduction of accrued interest.

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.

Recent guidance

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:

  • Payment deferrals,
  • Extensions of repayment terms,
  • Fee waivers, and
  • Other payment delays that are insignificant compared to the amount due from the borrower or to the original maturity/duration of the debt.

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.

© 2020


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PPP Funds Taxable in 2020

IRS Issues Guidance Stating Expenses Paid with PPP Funds are NOT Deductible for 2020 Tax Year

As this unprecedented year draws to a close, the administration has again issued late guidance regarding the proper treatment of Paycheck Protection Plan loans. Late on Wednesday, November 18, 2020 the IRS issued Revenue Ruling 2020-27.

This guidance clearly states that eligible expenses paid with PPP proceeds are not deductible in 2020 if the borrower “has a reasonable expectation of forgiveness during 2020 or 2021”.  In simple terms, if we can expect the loan to be forgiven in 2020 or 2021 then we can not deduct the expenses covered by the loan. This has the same impact as making the forgiven amount taxable in 2020.

This rule applies whether you submit the PPP application for forgiveness in 2020 or wait until 2021.

The IRS also issued Revenue Procedure 2020-51, outlining the correct treatment for when the actual forgiveness differs from the expected amount. This further confirms the IRS position and treatment that the forgiveness should be recognized as if it occurred in 2020.

 

These late notices reinforce the criticality of 2020 tax planning to develop strategies to minimize your overall tax liability and address additional taxes due related to the recognition of PPP funds in 2020.

 

Please contact us immediately to address your 2020 tax planning strategies. Additionally, if you have any questions regarding these notices and their treatment, please do not hesitate to contact us.


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Buying and selling mutual fund shares: Avoid these tax pitfalls

If you invest in mutual funds, be aware of some potential pitfalls involved in buying and selling shares.

Surprise sales

You may already have made taxable “sales” of part of your mutual fund investment without knowing it.

One way this can happen is if your mutual fund allows you to write checks against your fund investment. Every time you write a check against your mutual fund account, you’ve made a partial sale of your interest in the fund. Thus, except for funds such as money market funds, for which share value remains constant, you may have taxable gain (or a deductible loss) when you write a check. And each such sale is a separate transaction that must be reported on your tax return.

Here’s another way you may unexpectedly make a taxable sale. If your mutual fund sponsor allows you to make changes in the way your money is invested — for instance, lets you switch from one fund to another fund — making that switch is treated as a taxable sale of your shares in the first fund.

Recordkeeping

Carefully save all the statements that the fund sends you — not only official tax statements, such as Forms 1099-DIV, but the confirmations the fund sends you when you buy or sell shares or when dividends are reinvested in new shares. Unless you keep these records, it may be difficult to prove how much you paid for the shares, and thus, you won’t be able to establish the amount of gain that’s subject to tax (or the amount of loss you can deduct) when you sell.

You also need to keep these records to prove how long you’ve held your shares if you want to take advantage of favorable long-term capital gain tax rates. (If you get a year-end statement that lists all your transactions for the year, you can just keep that and discard quarterly or other interim statements. But save anything that specifically says it contains tax information.)

Recordkeeping is simplified by rules that require funds to report the customer’s basis in shares sold and whether any gain or loss is short-term or long-term. This is mandatory for mutual fund shares acquired after 2011, and some funds will provide this to shareholders for shares they acquired earlier, if the fund has the information.

Timing purchases and sales

If you’re planning to invest in a mutual fund, there are some important tax consequences to take into account in timing the investment. For instance, an investment shortly before payment of a dividend is something you should generally try to avoid. Your receipt of the dividend (even if reinvested in additional shares) will be treated as income and increase your tax liability. If you’re planning a sale of any of your mutual fund shares near year-end, you should weigh the tax and the non-tax consequences in the current year versus a sale in the next year.

Identify shares you sell

If you sell fewer than all of the shares that you hold in the same mutual fund, there are complicated rules for identifying which shares you’ve sold. The proper application of these rules can reduce the amount of your taxable gain or qualify the gain for favorable long-term capital gain treatment.

Contact us if you’d like to find out more about tax planning for buying and selling mutual fund shares.

© 2020


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