Help when needed: Apply the research credit against payroll taxes | business consulting services in elkton md | Weyrich, Cronin & Sorra

Help when needed: Apply the research credit against payroll taxes

Here’s an interesting option if your small company or start-up business is planning to claim the research tax credit. Subject to limits, you can elect to apply all or some of any research tax credits that you earn against your payroll taxes instead of your income tax. This payroll tax election may influence some businesses to undertake or increase their research activities. On the other hand, if you’re engaged in or are planning to engage in research activities without regard to tax consequences, be aware that some tax relief could be in your future.

Here are some answers to questions about the option.

Why is the election important?

Many new businesses, even if they have some cash flow, or even net positive cash flow and/or a book profit, pay no income taxes and won’t for some time. Therefore, there’s no amount against which business credits, including the research credit, can be applied. On the other hand, a wage-paying business, even a new one, has payroll tax liabilities. The payroll tax election is thus an opportunity to get immediate use out of the research credits that a business earns. Because every dollar of credit-eligible expenditure can result in as much as a 10-cent tax credit, that’s a big help in the start-up phase of a business — the time when help is most needed.

Which businesses are eligible?

To qualify for the election a taxpayer:

  • Must have gross receipts for the election year of less than $5 million and
  • Be no more than five years past the period for which it had no receipts (the start-up period).

In making these determinations, the only gross receipts that an individual taxpayer takes into account are from his or her businesses. An individual’s salary, investment income or other income aren’t taken into account. Also, note that neither an entity nor an individual can make the election for more than six years in a row.

Are there limits on the election?

Research credits for which a taxpayer makes the payroll tax election can be applied only against the employer’s old-age, survivors and disability liability — the OASDI or Social Security portion of FICA taxes. So the election can’t be used to lower 1) the employer’s liability for the Medicare portion of FICA taxes or 2) any FICA taxes that the employer withholds and remits to the government on behalf of employees.

The amount of research credit for which the election can be made can’t annually exceed $250,000. Note too that an individual or C corporation can make the election only for those research credits which, in the absence of an election, would have to be carried forward. In other words, a C corporation can’t make the election for research credits that the taxpayer can use to reduce current or past income tax liabilities.

The above Q&As just cover the basics about the payroll tax election. And, as you may have already experienced, identifying and substantiating expenses eligible for the research credit itself is a complex area. Contact us for more information about the payroll tax election and the research credit.

© 2022

 

Checking in on your accounts payable processes | quickbooks consulting in bel air md | Weyrich, Cronin & Sorra

Checking in on your accounts payable processes

Accounts payable is a critical area of concern for every business. However, as a back-office function, it doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. Once in place, accounts payable processes tend to get taken for granted. Following are some tips and best practices for improving your company’s approach.

Be strategic

Too often, businesses take a reactive approach to payables, simply delaying payments as long as possible to improve short-term cash flow. But this approach can backfire if it puts you on bad terms with vendors.

Poor vendor relationships can affect delivery times, service quality and payment terms. A proactive, strategic approach to payables can help you strike a balance between optimizing short-term cash flow and getting along well with vendors.

It’s also critical to explore the potential benefits of early payment discounts, volume discounts or other incentives that can eventually improve cash flow. That doesn’t mean you should accept every available discount. Obviously, the decision hinges on whether the long-term benefits of the discount outweigh the immediate cost of, for example, paying early or buying in bulk.

Strengthen selection and review

Implement policies, procedures and systems to ensure that you properly vet vendors and negotiate the best possible prices and payment terms. Create preferred vendor lists so staff members follow established procedures and don’t engage in “maverick” buying — that is, purchasing from unauthorized vendors.

Review vendor contracts regularly, too. Create and maintain a database of key contractual terms that’s readily accessible to everyone. With an understanding of payment terms and other important contractual provisions, employees can use it to double-check vendor compliance and avoid errors that can result in overpayments or duplicate payments.

Leverage technology

Automating accounts payable with the right software offers many benefits. For one thing, an automated, paperless system can increase efficiency, reduce costs and speed up invoice processing. And, of course, the ability to pay invoices electronically makes it easier to take advantage of available discounts.

In addition, automation can provide greater visibility of payables and better control over payments. For instance, cloud-based systems provide immediate access to account information, allowing you to review and approve invoices from anywhere at any time. The best automated systems also contain security controls that help prevent and detect fraud and errors.

Naturally, there’s an upfront cost to buying good accounts payable software and training your staff to use it. You’ll need to find a solution that suits your company’s size, needs and technological sophistication. You’ll also incur ongoing costs to maintain the system and keep it updated.

Pay attention to payables

Don’t underestimate the impact of accounts payable on the financial performance of your business. Taking a “continuous improvement” approach can enhance cash flow and boost profitability. Let us help you devise strategies for the optimal tracking and handling of outgoing payments.

© 2022

 

Dodge the tumult with a buy-sell agreement | cpa in washington dc | Weyrich Cronin & Sorra

Dodge the tumult with a buy-sell agreement

Businesses with multiple owners generally benefit from a variety of viewpoints, diverse experience and strategic areas of specialization. However, there’s a major risk: the company can be thrown into tumult if one of the owners decides, or is compelled by circumstances, to leave.

A logical and usually effective solution is to create and implement a buy-sell agreement. This is a legal document that spells out how an owner’s share in the business will be valued and transferred following a “triggering event” such as voluntary departure, divorce, disability or death.

Buy-sell benefits

A well-designed “buy-sell” (as it’s often called for short) manages risk in various ways. For starters, it helps keep ownership of the business within the family or another select group — for example, people actively involved in the enterprise rather than outsiders. In the case of a divorce, an agreement can prevent an owner’s soon-to-be former spouse from acquiring a business interest.

The death of an owner is a particularly difficult and often complex situation. A buy-sell can establish the value of the business for gift and estate tax purposes so long as certain requirements are met. The agreement is then able to play a role in providing the owner’s family with liquidity to pay estate taxes and other expenses.

Tax impact

Generally, buy-sell agreements are structured as either:

  1. Cross-purchase, under which the remaining owners buy the departing owner’s shares, or
  2. Redemption, under which the business entity itself buys the departing owner’s shares.

From a tax perspective, cross-purchase agreements are generally preferable. The remaining owners receive the equivalent of a “stepped-up basis” in the purchased shares. That is, their basis for those shares will be determined by the price paid, which is the current fair market value.

Having this higher basis will reduce their capital gains if they sell their interests down the road. Also, if the remaining owners fund the purchase with life insurance, the insurance proceeds are generally tax-free.

Redemption agreements, on the other hand, can trigger a variety of unwanted tax consequences. These include corporate alternative minimum tax, accumulated earnings tax or treatment of the purchase price as a taxable dividend.

However, there’s a disadvantage to cross-purchase agreements. That is, the owners, rather than the company, are personally responsible for funding the purchase of a departing owner’s interest. And if they use life insurance as a funding source, each owner will need to maintain policies on the life of each of the other shareholders — a potentially cumbersome and expensive arrangement.

Worth the effort

As you can see, the tax and legal details of a buy-sell agreement can get quite technical. But don’t let that discourage you from establishing one or occasionally reviewing a buy-sell you already have in place. We can help you in either case.

© 2022

 

Tighten up billing and collections to mitigate economic uncertainties | business consulting services in bel air md | Weyrich Cronin & Sorra

Tighten up billing and collections to mitigate economic uncertainties

While many economic indicators remain strong, the U.S. economy is still giving business owners plenty to think about. The nation’s gross domestic product unexpectedly contracted in the first quarter of 2022. Rising inflation is on everyone’s mind. And global supply chain issues persist, spurred on by events such as the COVID-19 lockdowns in China and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Obviously, these factors are far beyond your control. However, you can look inward at certain aspects of your own operations to see whether there are adjustments you could make to mitigate some of the financial challenges you might face this year.

One fundamental aspect of doing business is billing and collections. Managing accounts receivable can be challenging in any economy. So, to keep your company financially fit, you should occasionally revisit and tighten up billing and collections processes as necessary.

Resolve issues quickly

The quality of your products or services — and the efficiency of order fulfillment — can significantly impact collections. You literally give customers an excuse not to pay when an order arrives damaged, late or not at all, or when you fail to timely provide the high-quality service you promise. Other mistakes include incorrectly billing a customer or failing to apply discounts or fulfill special offers.

Make sure your staff is resolving billing conflicts quickly. For starters, ask customers to pay any portion of a bill they’re not disputing. Once the matter is resolved, and the product or service has been delivered, immediately contact the customer regarding payment of the remainder.

Depending on the circumstances, you might request that some customers sign off on the resolution by attaching a note to the final invoice. Doing so can help protect you from potential legal claims.

Bill on time, use technology

Sending invoices out late can also thwart your collection efforts. Familiarize yourself with the latest industry norms before setting or changing payment schedules. If your most important customers have their own payment schedules, be sure they’re officially set up in your system, if possible, so invoicing doesn’t go awry if a new employee comes on board.

Of course, technology is also important. Implement an up-to-date accounts receivable system that, for example:

  • Generates invoices when work is complete,
  • Flags problem accounts, and
  • Allows you to run various useful reports.

Look into the latest ways to transmit account statements and invoices electronically. Emphasize to customers that they can safely pay online, assuming you allow them to do so.

Last, regularly verify account information to make sure invoices and statements are accurate and going to the right place. Set clear standards and expectations with customers — both verbally and in writing — about your credit policy, as well as pricing, delivery and payment terms.

Set the ground rules

Sometimes you might feel at the mercy of your customers when it comes to cash inflows. Yet businesses get to set the ground rules for incentivizing and pursuing timely payments. We can help assess your accounts receivable processes, suggest key metrics to track and explore actions you might take to help ensure customers pay on time.

© 2022

 

The tax mechanics involved in the sale of trade or business property | accountant in baltimore md | Weyrich Cronin & Sorra

The tax mechanics involved in the sale or trade of business property

There are many rules that can potentially apply to the sale of business property. Thus, to simplify discussion, let’s assume that the property you want to sell is land or depreciable property used in your business, and has been held by you for more than a year. (There are different rules for property held primarily for sale to customers in the ordinary course of business; intellectual property; low-income housing; property that involves farming or livestock; and other types of property.)

General rules

Under the Internal Revenue Code, your gains and losses from sales of business property are netted against each other. The net gain or loss qualifies for tax treatment as follows:

1) If the netting of gains and losses results in a net gain, then long-term capital gain treatment results, subject to “recapture” rules discussed below. Long-term capital gain treatment is generally more favorable than ordinary income treatment.

2) If the netting of gains and losses results in a net loss, that loss is fully deductible against ordinary income (in other words, none of the rules that limit the deductibility of capital losses apply).

Recapture rules

The availability of long-term capital gain treatment for business property net gain is limited by “recapture” rules — that is, rules under which amounts are treated as ordinary income rather than capital gain because of previous ordinary loss or deduction treatment for these amounts.

There’s a special recapture rule that applies only to business property. Under this rule, to the extent you’ve had a business property net loss within the previous five years, any business property net gain is treated as ordinary income instead of as long-term capital gain.

Section 1245 Property

“Section 1245 Property” consists of all depreciable personal property, whether tangible or intangible, and certain depreciable real property (usually, real property that performs specific functions). If you sell Section 1245 Property, you must recapture your gain as ordinary income to the extent of your earlier depreciation deductions on the asset.

Section 1250 Property

“Section 1250 Property” consists, generally, of buildings and their structural components. If you sell Section 1250 Property that was placed in service after 1986, none of the long-term capital gain attributable to depreciation deductions will be subject to depreciation recapture. However, for most noncorporate taxpayers, the gain attributable to depreciation deductions, to the extent it doesn’t exceed business property net gain, will (as reduced by the business property recapture rule above) be taxed at a rate of no more than 28.8% (25% as adjusted for the 3.8% net investment income tax) rather than the maximum 23.8% rate (20% as adjusted for the 3.8% net investment income tax) that generally applies to long-term capital gains of noncorporate taxpayers.

Other rules may apply to Section 1250 Property, depending on when it was placed in service.

As you can see, even with the simplifying assumptions in this article, the tax treatment of the sale of business assets can be complex. Contact us if you’d like to determine the tax consequences of specific transactions or if you have any additional questions.

© 2022

 

Tax considerations when adding a new partner at your business | business consulting and accounting services in bel air md | Weyrich Cronin & Sorra

Tax considerations when adding a new partner at your business

Adding a new partner in a partnership has several financial and legal implications. Let’s say you and your partners are planning to admit a new partner. The new partner will acquire a one-third interest in the partnership by making a cash contribution to it. Let’s further assume that your bases in your partnership interests are sufficient so that the decrease in your portions of the partnership’s liabilities because of the new partner’s entry won’t reduce your bases to zero.

Not as simple as it seems

Although the entry of a new partner appears to be a simple matter, it’s necessary to plan the new person’s entry properly in order to avoid various tax problems. Here are two issues to consider:

First, if there’s a change in the partners’ interests in unrealized receivables and substantially appreciated inventory items, the change is treated as a sale of those items, with the result that the current partners will recognize gain. For this purpose, unrealized receivables include not only accounts receivable, but also depreciation recapture and certain other ordinary income items. In order to avoid gain recognition on those items, it’s necessary that they be allocated to the current partners even after the entry of the new partner.

Second, the tax code requires that the “built-in gain or loss” on assets that were held by the partnership before the new partner was admitted be allocated to the current partners and not to the entering partner. Generally speaking, “built-in gain or loss” is the difference between the fair market value and basis of the partnership property at the time the new partner is admitted.

The most important effect of these rules is that the new partner must be allocated a portion of the depreciation equal to his share of the depreciable property based on current fair market value. This will reduce the amount of depreciation that can be taken by the current partners. The other effect is that the built-in gain or loss on the partnership assets must be allocated to the current partners when partnership assets are sold. The rules that apply here are complex and the partnership may have to adopt special accounting procedures to cope with the relevant requirements.

Keep track of your basis

When adding a partner or making other changes, a partner’s basis in his or her interest can undergo frequent adjustment. It’s imperative to keep proper track of your basis because it can have an impact in several areas: gain or loss on the sale of your interest, how partnership distributions to you are taxed and the maximum amount of partnership loss you can deduct.

Contact us if you’d like help in dealing with these issues or any other issues that may arise in connection with your partnership.

© 2022

 

Undertaking a pay equity audit at your business | business consulting services in baltimore county md | Weyrich, Cronin & Sorra

Undertaking a pay equity audit at your business

Pay equity is both required by law and a sound business practice. However, providing equitable compensation to employees who perform the same or similar jobs, while accounting for differences in experience and tenure, isn’t easy. That’s why every company should at least consider undertaking a pay equity audit to assess its compensation philosophy and approach.

Legal background

The federal Equal Pay Act requires employers to provide men and women with equal pay for equal work in the same establishment. The jobs don’t need to be identical, but they should be “substantially equal.” Moreover, it’s not job titles, but job content — including skill, effort and responsibility — that determines whether jobs are substantially equal.

Many states have enacted their own equal pay laws, some of which are more stringent than the federal legislation. California, for example, requires employers to pay employees the same wage rates for “substantially similar work,” a larger umbrella than “same or similar jobs.”

Some other countries have also introduced laws around pay equity. The United Kingdom, for instance, requires some public companies to annually disclose the ratio of their chief executive officers’ pay to the lower, median and upper quartile of their employees’ pay.

In addition to helping to prevent legal woes, pay equity can offer bottom-line benefits. A company’s commitment to equitable pay can enhance its employer brand, boost employee morale and performance, and reduce the risk of negative publicity.

An involved process

The purpose of a pay equity audit is to:

  • Uncover disparities in compensation,
  • Identify the drivers behind them, and
  • Develop ways to address the inequities.

Although the process can be quite involved, it’s typically worth the effort.

First, assemble participants from multiple departments — including HR, legal, and finance or accounting — to collect data on employee compensation, job classifications and demographics. This cross section of participants also will help ensure buy-in across the business.

The next step is determining how to group employees. That is, which ones will be considered to have substantially similar roles and, thus, should fall within the same pay range?

Some number crunching will come into play. For smaller employee groups, an analysis of, for example, differences in median pay between groups of employees might be enough to identify any unwarranted disparities. With larger groups, you may have to conduct more rigorous statistical analyses. For example, regression analysis can help control for variables, such as employees’ experience levels, when examining disparities.

Critical component

Over the past year, many workers have made it abundantly clear that they’ll leave a job if any of several employment components isn’t to their liking. Compensation is certainly one of these. Our firm can help support your efforts to conduct a pay equity audit.

© 2022

 

Eyes on related parties | business consulting firms in dc | Weyrich, Cronin & Sorra

Eyes on related parties

Business transactions with related parties — such as friends, relatives, parent companies, subsidiaries and affiliated entities — may sometimes happen at above- or below-market rates. This can be misleading to people who rely on your company’s financial statements, because undisclosed related-party transactions may skew the company’s true financial results.

The hunt for related parties

Given the potential for double-dealing with related parties, auditors spend significant time hunting for undisclosed related-party transactions. Examples of documents and data sources that can help uncover these transactions are:

  • A list of the company’s current related parties and associated transactions,
  • Minutes from board of directors’ meetings, particularly when the board discusses significant business transactions,
  • Disclosures from board members and senior executives regarding their ownership of other entities, participation on additional boards and previous employment history,
  • Bank statements, especially transactions involving intercompany wires, automated clearing house (ACH) transfers, and check payments, and
  • Press releases announcing significant business transactions with related parties.

Specifically, auditors look for contracts for goods or services that are priced at less (or more) favorable terms than those in similar arm’s-length transactions between unrelated third parties.

For example, a spinoff business might lease office space from its parent company at below-market rates. A manufacturer might buy goods at artificially high prices from its subsidiary in a low-tax country to reduce its taxable income in the United States. Or an auto dealership might pay the owner’s daughter an above-market salary and various perks that aren’t available to unrelated employees.

Audit procedures

Audit procedures designed to target related-party transactions include:

  • Testing how related-party transactions are identified and coded in the company’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) system,
  • Interviewing accounting personnel responsible for reporting related-party transactions in the company’s financial statements, and
  • Analyzing presentation of related-party transactions in financial statements.

Accurate, complete reporting of these transactions requires robust internal controls. A company’s vendor approval process should provide guidelines to help accounting personnel determine whether a supplier qualifies as a related party and mark it accordingly in the ERP system. Without the right mechanisms in place, a company may inadvertently omit a disclosure about a related-party transaction.

Let’s talk about it

With related-party transactions, communication is key. Always tell your auditors about known related-party transactions and ask for help disclosing and reporting these transactions in a transparent manner that complies with U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles.

© 2022

 

Classify your nonprofit’s workers correctly — or risk repercussions | quickbooks consulting in alexandria va | Weyrich, Cronin & Sorra

Classify your nonprofit’s workers correctly — or risk repercussions

Many not-for-profits are understaffed in 2022, thanks to a labor shortage and pandemic-related budget shortfalls. Some organizations are filling the gaps with freelancers and contractors. However, such decisions can lead to trouble if these workers should really be classified as employees according to the Department of Labor (DOL) or the IRS. To ensure your workers are correctly classified, review the rules.

The DOL and FLSA

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) doesn’t define the term “independent contractor.” But courts generally have focused on several factors related to the “economic reality” of relationships between employers and workers.

The DOL leans on U.S. Supreme Court rulings for guidance. The Court has repeatedly stated that no single rule or test applies to determine employment status under the FLSA. Rather, the totality of circumstances determines a worker’s status, including how integral the worker’s services are to your operations, the permanency of the relationship and the nature and degree of control you have over the worker. The DOL has identified other factors it deems relevant, including:

  • Where the work is performed (remotely or on-site),
  • The absence or existence of a formal written employment contract, and
  • Whether the work is licensed by the state or local government.

Some states have even more restrictive tests. Moreover, the fact that workers qualify as independent contractors under another federal law doesn’t guarantee they qualify under the FLSA. For example, the IRS applies a different test.

The IRS

Providing your workers with IRS Form 1099, “Miscellaneous Information” instead of Form W-2, “Wage and Tax Statement,” won’t automatically make them independent contractors. When assessing worker classification, the IRS typically looks at a variety of factors, as well as the totality of facts and circumstances. But in general, these factors are important:

Level of behavioral control. The more control you exercise over the worker, the more likely the worker is an employee. The IRS might look at the extent to which you instruct a worker on when, where and how to work, what tools or equipment to use and where to purchase supplies.

Extent of financial control. Contractors are more likely to invest in their own equipment or facilities, incur unreimbursed business expenses, market their services to other clients and be paid with a flat fee. Employees are more likely to be paid hourly, weekly or bimonthly.

Relationship of the parties. Contractors are often engaged for a specific project while employees are typically hired permanently (or for an indefinite period). Also, workers who serve a key business function are more likely to be classified as employees.

Difference in pay, benefits and taxes

If your workers don’t qualify as independent contractors, you must properly treat them as employees:

Pay and benefits. You generally must pay covered, nonexempt employees at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. When an employee’s hours within a workweek exceed 40, you must pay at least 1½ times the employee’s regular pay rate. If the DOL reclassifies an independent contractor as an employee, in addition to having to make up the unpaid wages, you may owe workers’ compensation premiums and unpaid leave and other benefits. Fines and penalties are also possible.

Taxes. For employees, you must withhold federal income and payroll taxes, and pay the employer’s share of FICA taxes on the wages, plus FUTA tax. If the IRS reclassifies one of your independent contractors, you may be liable for back taxes that you should have paid and payroll and income taxes you should have withheld. In some cases, interest and penalties are levied.

Resolving issues

If budget shortfalls are preventing you from hiring the staffers you need or you aren’t sure if you’re accurately classifying the workers you have, contact us. We can help your nonprofit resolve financial and compliance issues.

© 2022

 

Tax issues to assess when converting from a C corporation to an S corporation | quickbooks consulting in washington dc | Weyrich, Cronin & Sorra

Tax issues to assess when converting from a C corporation to an S corporation

Operating as an S corporation may help reduce federal employment taxes for small businesses in the right circumstances. Although S corporations may provide tax advantages over C corporations, there are some potentially costly tax issues that you should assess before making a decision to switch.

Here’s a quick rundown of the most important issues to consider when converting from a C corporation to an S corporation:

Built-in gains tax

Although S corporations generally aren’t subject to tax, those that were formerly C corporations are taxed on built-in gains (such as appreciated property) that the C corporation has when the S election becomes effective, if those gains are recognized within 5 years after the corporation becomes an S corporation. This is generally unfavorable, although there are situations where the S election still can produce a better tax result despite the built-in gains tax.

Passive income

S corporations that were formerly C corporations are subject to a special tax if their passive investment income (such as dividends, interest, rents, royalties and stock sale gains) exceeds 25% of their gross receipts, and the S corporation has accumulated earnings and profits carried over from its C corporation years. If that tax is owed for three consecutive years, the corporation’s election to be an S corporation terminates. You can avoid the tax by distributing the accumulated earnings and profits, which would be taxable to shareholders. Or you might want to avoid the tax by limiting the amount of passive income.

LIFO inventories

C corporations that use LIFO inventories have to pay tax on the benefits they derived by using LIFO if they convert to S corporations. The tax can be spread over four years. This cost must be weighed against the potential tax gains from converting to S status.

Unused losses

If your C corporation has unused net operating losses, the losses can’t be used to offset its income as an S corporation and can’t be passed through to shareholders. If the losses can’t be carried back to an earlier C corporation year, it will be necessary to weigh the cost of giving up the losses against the tax savings expected to be generated by the switch to S status.

There are other factors to consider in switching from C to S status. Shareholder-employees of S corporations can’t get the full range of tax-free fringe benefits that are available with a C corporation. And there may be complications for shareholders who have outstanding loans from their qualified plans. All of these factors have to be considered to understand the full effect of converting from C to S status.

There are strategies for eliminating or minimizing some of these tax problems and for avoiding unnecessary pitfalls related to them. But a lot depends upon your company’s particular circumstances. Contact us to discuss the effect of these and other potential problems, along with possible strategies for dealing with them.

© 2022