M&A Transactions: Be Careful when Reporting to the IRS | Tax Accountants in Baltimore County | Weyrich, Cronin & Sorra

M&A Transactions: Be Careful when Reporting to the IRS

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:

  • Equipment,
  • Buildings and improvements,
  • Software,
  • 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.

 

As always, please do not hesitate to call our offices for additional information and to speak to your representative about how this could affect your situation.

 

© 2021

 

Get smart when tackling estate planning for intellectual property | Estate Planning | WCS | Baltimore, MD

Get smart when tackling estate planning for intellectual property

If you’ve invented something during your lifetime and had it patented, your estate includes intellectual property (IP). The same goes for any copyrighted works. These assets can hold substantial value, and, thus, must be addressed by your estate plan. However, bear in mind that these assets are generally treated differently than other types of property.

4 categories of IP

IP generally falls into one of four categories: patents, copyrights, trademarks and trade secrets. Let’s focus on only patents and copyrights, which are protected by federal law in order to promote scientific and creative endeavors by providing inventors and artists with exclusive rights to benefit economically from their work for a certain period.

In a nutshell, patents protect inventions, and the two most common are utility and design patents. Under current law, utility patents protect an invention for 20 years from the patent application filing date. Design patents last 15 years from the patent issue date. For utility patents, it typically takes at least a year to a year and a half from the date of filing to the date of issue.

When it comes to copyrights, they protect the original expression of ideas that are fixed in a “tangible medium of expression,” typically in the form of written works, music, paintings, film and photographs. Unlike patents, which must be approved by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, copyright protection kicks in as soon as a work is fixed in a tangible medium.

Valuing and transferring IP

Valuing IP is a complex process. So, it’s best to obtain an appraisal from a professional with experience valuing this commodity.

After you know the IP’s value, it’s time to decide whether to transfer the IP to family members, colleagues, charities or others through lifetime gifts or through bequests after your death. The gift and estate tax consequences will affect your decision. But you also should consider your income needs, as well as who’s in the best position to monitor your IP rights and take advantage of their benefits.

If you’ll continue to depend on the IP for your livelihood, for example, hold on to it at least until you’re ready to retire or you no longer need the income. You also might want to retain ownership of the IP if you feel that your children or other transferees lack the desire or wherewithal to take advantage of its economic potential and monitor and protect it against infringers.

Whichever strategy you choose, it’s important to plan the transaction carefully to ensure your objectives are achieved. There’s a common misconception that, when you transfer ownership of the tangible medium on which IP is recorded, you also transfer the IP rights. But IP rights are separate from the work itself and are retained by the creator.

Revise your plan accordingly

If you own patents or copyrights, you probably have great interest in who’ll take possession of your work after you’re gone. Contact us with any questions on how to incorporate IP in your estate plan.

© 2020

 

ERM: A systemic approach to reducing your nonprofit’s risks | risk management plan for nonprofit organization | WCS | Baltimore, MD

ERM: A systemic approach to reducing your nonprofit’s risks

Do you associate enterprise risk management (ERM) with for-profit businesses? This systemic approach to risk reduction can be just as effective when adopted by nonprofit organizations. Even organizations with limited resources can — and should — use an ERM process to combat threats.

Weighing risks

ERM is a comprehensive program that considers an organization’s entire portfolio of risks. Rather than attacking every risk equally, ERM compares risks and strategically deploys resources depending on their likelihood and potential impact.

You might also have different tolerances for different kinds of threats — for example, be mildly cautious about reputational risks and very averse to financial risks. With ERM, you can contain those risks with the greatest potential impact and respond nimbly to others.

Using it effectively

Experienced financial advisors and risk-management consultants can help you set up an ERM program. Generally, you’ll want to start by establishing a risk management governance structure with assigned roles and responsibilities. Your nonprofit’s executives and board should define the organization’s risk tolerance and make clear its commitment to the program.

Next, your organization will want to:

Assemble a cross-departmental committee to develop the program. Different departments may have different perspectives on certain risks. For example, a finance manager might think inaccurate reporting of program information is less consequential because it’s unlikely to affect revenues or expenses. Your public relations manager may disagree, arguing that such errors could affect how donors and other supporters view your nonprofit.

Conduct a risk assessment. The committee’s first task is to identify risks. It shouldn’t rely on its own knowledge, but should conduct interviews with management and staff and, possibly, clients. Then, the committee will be ready to rank risks based on your organization’s tolerance and their potential impact. Which are most likely to occur? Which could cause the most harm? The bottom line: Which threats are most likely to prevent you from accomplishing your mission?

Create and implement a plan. Once risks are identified and prioritized, the committee can devise a plan to mitigate them appropriately. For each risk, it should determine whether to accept, reduce or avoid it. And it should implement controls, processes and procedures accordingly. The committee is then charged with rolling out the plan. This should include communicating it throughout the organization.

Review and revise. ERM is an ongoing process, with continual monitoring of key risks and key performance indicators to ensure appropriate adjustments. Be sure to update your initial risk assessment to reflect organizational changes (for example, new staff or services), as well as changes in the legal and regulatory environment.

Cost-effective method

Once it’s established, you should be able to manage an ERM program with internal staff and board input. So, it’s a fairly cost-effective method of containing threats. Talk to us about adopting ERM.

© 2020

 

Why you should keep life insurance out of your estate | Estate Accountant | WCS | Baltimore, MD

Why you should keep life insurance out of your estate

If you have a life insurance policy, you probably want to make sure that the life insurance benefits your family will receive after your death won’t be included in your estate. That way, the benefits won’t be subject to the federal estate tax.

Under the estate tax rules, life insurance will be included in your taxable estate if either:

  • Your estate is the beneficiary of the insurance proceeds, or
  • You possessed certain economic ownership rights (called “incidents of ownership”) in the policy at your death (or within three years of your death).

The first situation is easy to avoid. You can just make sure your estate isn’t designated as beneficiary of the policy.

The second situation is more complicated. It’s clear that if you’re the owner of the policy, the proceeds will be included in your estate regardless of the beneficiary. However, simply having someone else possess legal title to the policy won’t prevent this result if you keep so-called “incidents of ownership” in the policy. If held by you, the rights that will cause the proceeds to be taxed in your estate include:

  • The right to change beneficiaries,
  • The right to assign the policy (or revoke an assignment),
  • The right to borrow against the policy’s cash surrender value,
  • The right to pledge the policy as security for a loan, and
  • The right to surrender or cancel the policy.

Keep in mind that merely having any of the above powers will cause the proceeds to be taxed in your estate even if you never exercise the power.

Buy-sell agreements

If life insurance is obtained to fund a buy-sell agreement for a business interest under a “cross-purchase” arrangement, it won’t be taxed in your estate (unless the estate is named as beneficiary). For example, say Andrew and Bob are partners who agree that the partnership interest of the first of them to die will be bought by the surviving partner. To fund these obligations, Andrew buys a life insurance policy on Bob’s life. Andrew pays all the premiums, retains all incidents of ownership, and names himself as beneficiary. Bob does the same regarding Andrew. When the first partner dies, the insurance proceeds aren’t taxed in the first partner’s estate.

Life insurance trusts

An irrevocable life insurance trust (ILIT) is an effective vehicle that can be set up to keep life insurance proceeds from being taxed in the insured’s estate. Typically, the policy is transferred to the trust along with assets that can be used to pay future premiums. Alternatively, the trust buys the insurance with funds contributed by the insured person. So long as the trust agreement gives the insured person none of the ownership rights described above, the proceeds won’t be included in his or her estate.

The three-year rule

If you’re considering setting up a life insurance trust with a policy you own now or you just want to assign away your ownership rights in a policy, contact us to help you make these moves. Unless you live for at least three years after these steps are taken, the proceeds will be taxed in your estate. For policies in which you never held incidents of ownership, the three-year rule doesn’t apply. Don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions about your situation.

© 2020

 

What does the executive action deferring payroll taxes mean for employers and employees? | payroll accounting | WCS | Baltimore, Maryland

What does the executive action deferring payroll taxes mean for employers and employees?

On August 8, 2020, President Trump signed an executive memorandum that defers an employee’s portion of Social Security and Medicare taxes from September 1 through December 31, 2020. At this point, the taxes are just deferred, meaning they’ll still have to be paid at a later date. However, the action directs U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to “explore avenues, including legislation, to eliminate the obligation to pay the taxes.”

The exact impact on employers and employees isn’t yet known. There are many open questions, including President Trump’s legal ability to implement the deferral. Some experts believe there may be legal challenges to this executive action.

Deferral details

The payroll tax deferral will be available for “any employee the amount of whose wages or compensation, as applicable, payable during any bi-weekly pay period generally is less than $4,000.”

The deferral will be calculated on a pretax basis or the equivalent amount with respect to other pay periods. Plus, the amounts will be deferred without any penalties, interest, additional amount or addition to the tax.

Stay tuned for additional guidance

No doubt there is much to flesh out about this payroll tax deferral. Secretary Mnuchin has been instructed to provide additional guidance and employers can’t act on the deferral until that happens. It’s also possible Congress could take action. We’ll be monitoring developments and their implications, so turn to us for the latest information.

© 2020

Fortify your assets against creditors with a trust | trust accounting | WCS | Baltimore, MD

Fortify your assets against creditors with a trust

You may think of trusts as estate planning tools — vehicles for reducing taxes after your death. While trusts can certainly fill that role, they’re also useful for protecting assets, both now and later. After all, the better protected your assets are, the more you’ll have to pass on to loved ones.

Creditors, former business partners, ex-spouses, “spendthrift” children and tax agencies can all pose risks. Here’s how trusts defend against asset protection challenges.

Tell creditors “hands off”

To protect assets, your trust must own them and be irrevocable. This means that you, as the grantor, generally can’t modify or terminate the trust after it has been established. (A “revocable trust,” on the other hand, allows the grantor to make modifications.) Once you transfer assets into an irrevocable trust, you’ve effectively removed your rights of ownership to the assets. Because the property is no longer yours, it’s unavailable to satisfy claims against you.

It’s important to note that placing assets in a trust won’t allow you to sidestep responsibility for debts or claims that are outstanding at the time you fund the trust. There may also be a substantial “look-back” period that could eliminate the protection your trust would otherwise provide, as well as other restrictions.

Build a fence

If you’re concerned about what will happen to your assets after they pass to the next generation, you may want to consider the defensive features of a “spendthrift” trust. Despite the name, a spendthrift trust does more than protect your heirs from themselves. It can protect your family’s assets against dishonest business partners and unscrupulous creditors. It also can protect loved ones in the event of relationship changes. For example, if your son divorces, his spouse generally won’t be able to claim a share of the trust property in the divorce settlement.

Several trust types can be designated a spendthrift trust — you just need to add a spendthrift clause to the trust document. Such a clause restricts a beneficiary’s ability to assign or transfer his or her interests in the trust, and it restricts the rights of creditors to reach the trust assets, as allowed by law.

Trustees play a role in keeping your trust safe. If a trustee is required to make distributions for a beneficiary’s support, a court may rule that a creditor can reach trust assets to satisfy support-related debts. So, for increased protection, consider giving your trustee full discretion over whether and when to make distributions. You’ll need to balance the potentially competing objectives of having the access you want and preventing creditors and others from having access.

Make asset protection a priority

If securing your assets is a priority — and it should be — talk to us about whether a trust can provide the protection you need. There may also be other ways to help shelter wealth — for example, maximizing your use of qualified retirement plans.

© 2020

Matching gifts double the impact of donors’ contributions | tax preparation | WCS | Baltimore, MD

Matching gifts double the impact of donors’ contributions

A majority of large U.S. companies offer matching gift programs to boost the impact of their employees’ charitable gifts. Double the Donation estimates that $2 to $3 billion is donated through matching gift programs every year. At the same time, between $4 and $7 billion in matching gift funds goes unclaimed annually. Is your not-for-profit doing everything it can to claim its share of this pool of corporate gifts?

Finding sources

Most matching programs are managed by HR departments, which provide employees with matching gift forms. Typically, the employer sends the completed forms, along with the matched donations, to the charity the employee has chosen. Dollar-for-dollar matching is most common among participating corporations, but some companies offer more, others less. Many employers match donations to any nonprofit, but some are more restrictive.

To encourage increased matching gifts, draw up a list of employers in your area that offer matching. Typically, you can find this information in annual reports, on company websites or by calling companies’ HR, PR or community relations departments. If the company operates a foundation, its matching program may run through that entity.

Once you have a comprehensive and accurate list, post it on your website’s donation page. Also use the list to reach out to existing donors you know work for those companies. All of your nonprofit’s solicitations should encourage supporters to check with their employers about the availability of matching.

Making your own matches

If, despite your nonprofit’s best efforts, matching gifts only occasionally trickle in, consider creating your own matching pool. Ask board members and major supporters to match donations during a certain time period, for certain populations or for a minimum donation amount. For instance, your board might match all donations from new contributors in February or a major donor might commit to match gifts made at your annual gala.

Also keep in mind that some charitable foundations will match gifts to jump-start a fundraising effort or major campaign. Such an arrangement might be easier to set up than securing a large employer to donate to your organization.

Be persistent

Studies have found that people are more likely to donate — and donate larger amounts — to nonprofits if a matching gift is available. Make sure you have a plan to encourage this type of giving. If you need more ideas for raising revenue to more effectively execute your mission, contact us.

© 2020

Home is where the tax breaks might be | tax services | WCS | Baltimore, MD

Home is where the tax breaks might be

If you own a home, the interest you pay on your home mortgage may provide a tax break. However, many people believe that any interest paid on their home mortgage loans and home equity loans is deductible. Unfortunately, that’s not true.

First, keep in mind that you must itemize deductions in order to take advantage of the mortgage interest deduction.

Deduction and limits for “acquisition debt”

A personal interest deduction generally isn’t allowed, but one kind of interest that is deductible is interest on mortgage “acquisition debt.” This means debt that’s: 1) secured by your principal home and/or a second home, and 2) incurred in acquiring, constructing or substantially improving the home. You can deduct interest on acquisition debt on up to two qualified residences: your primary home and one vacation home or similar property.

The deduction for acquisition debt comes with a stipulation. From 2018 through 2025, you can’t deduct the interest for acquisition debt greater than $750,000 ($375,000 for married filing separately taxpayers). So if you buy a $2 million house with a $1.5 million mortgage, only the interest you pay on the first $750,000 in debt is deductible. The rest is nondeductible personal interest.

Higher limit before 2018 and after 2025

Beginning in 2026, you’ll be able to deduct the interest for acquisition debt up to $1 million ($500,000 for married filing separately). This was the limit that applied before 2018.

The higher $1 million limit applies to acquisition debt incurred before Dec. 15, 2017, and to debt arising from the refinancing of pre-Dec. 15, 2017 acquisition debt, to the extent the debt resulting from the refinancing doesn’t exceed the original debt amount. Thus, taxpayers can refinance up to $1 million of pre-Dec. 15, 2017 acquisition debt, and that refinanced debt amount won’t be subject to the $750,000 limitation.

The limit on home mortgage debt for which interest is deductible includes both your primary residence and your second home, combined. Some taxpayers believe they can deduct the interest on $750,000 for each mortgage. But if you have a $700,000 mortgage on your primary home and a $500,000 mortgage on your vacation place, the interest on $450,000 of the total debt will be nondeductible personal interest.

“Home equity loan” interest

“Home equity debt,” as specially defined for purposes of the mortgage interest deduction, means debt that: is secured by the taxpayer’s home, and isn’t “acquisition indebtedness” (meaning it wasn’t incurred to acquire, construct or substantially improve the home). From 2018 through 2025, there’s no deduction for home equity debt interest. Note that interest may be deductible on a “home equity loan,” or a “home equity line of credit,” if that loan fits the tax law’s definition of “acquisition debt” because the proceeds are used to substantially improve or construct the home.

Home equity interest after 2025

Beginning with 2026, home equity debt up to certain limits will be deductible (as it was before 2018). The interest on a home equity loan will generally be deductible regardless of how you use the loan proceeds.

Thus, taxpayers considering taking out a home equity loan— one that’s not incurred to acquire, construct or substantially improve the home — should be aware that interest on the loan won’t be deductible. Further, taxpayers with outstanding home equity debt (again, meaning debt that’s not incurred to acquire, construct or substantially improve the home) will currently lose the interest deduction for interest on that debt.

Contact us with questions or if you would like more information about the mortgage interest deduction.

Small business owners still have time to set up a SEP plan for last year | small business accounting | WCS | Baltimore, MD

Small business owners still have time to set up a SEP plan for last year

Do you own a business but haven’t gotten around to setting up a tax-advantaged retirement plan? Fortunately, it’s not too late to establish one and reduce your 2019 tax bill. A Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) can still be set up for 2019, and you can make contributions to it that you can deduct on your 2019 income tax return. Even better, SEPs keep administrative costs low.

Deadlines for contributions

A SEP can be set up as late as the due date (including extensions) of your income tax return for the tax year for which the SEP first applies. That means you can establish a SEP for 2019 in 2020 as long as you do it before your 2019 return filing deadline. You have until the same deadline to make 2019 contributions and still claim a potentially substantial deduction on your 2019 return.

Generally, most other types of retirement plans would have to have been established by December 31, 2019, in order for 2019 contributions to be made (though many of these plans do allow 2019 contributions to be made in 2020).

Contributions are optional

With a SEP, you can decide how much to contribute each year. You aren’t required to make any certain minimum contributions annually.

However, if your business has employees other than you:

  • Contributions must be made for all eligible employees using the same percentage of compensation as for yourself, and
  • Employee accounts must be immediately 100% vested.

The contributions go into SEP-IRAs established for each eligible employee. As the employer, you’ll get a current income tax deduction for contributions you make on behalf of your employees. Your employees won’t be taxed when the contributions are made, but at a later date when distributions are made — usually in retirement.

For 2019, the maximum contribution that can be made to a SEP-IRA is 25% of compensation (or 20% of self-employed income net of the self-employment tax deduction), subject to a contribution cap of $56,000. (The 2020 cap is $57,000.)

How to proceed

To set up a SEP, you complete and sign the simple Form 5305-SEP (“Simplified Employee Pension — Individual Retirement Accounts Contribution Agreement”). You don’t need to file Form 5305-SEP with the IRS, but you should keep it as part of your permanent tax records. A copy of Form 5305-SEP must be given to each employee covered by the SEP, along with a disclosure statement.

Although there are rules and limits that apply to SEPs beyond what we’ve discussed here, SEPs generally are much simpler to administer than other retirement plans. Contact us with any questions you have about SEPs and to discuss whether it makes sense for you to set one up for 2019 (or 2020).

© 2020

Clearing the cobwebs from your nonprofit’s program offerings | tax consultant | WCS | Baltimore, MD

Clearing the cobwebs from your nonprofit’s program offerings

It’s all too easy to let not-for-profit programs that have outlived their effectiveness to continue, even as they consume budget resources. To help ensure your resources are being deployed efficiently and effectively, consider using the tradition of spring cleaning to review and, potentially, replace older programs.

Go to the sources

Instead of relying on old assumptions about your programs’ effectiveness, perform new research. Start by surveying participants, members, donors, employees, volunteers and community leaders about which of your nonprofit’s programs are the most — and least — effective and why.

You may get mixed responses regarding the same program, so consider their source. Employees and volunteers who work directly with program participants are more likely to know if your current efforts are off target than is a donor who attends a fundraising event once a year.

Use the right measurements

If you don’t already have goals for each program, you need to set them. Also put in place an evaluation system with metrics that are strategic, realistic and timely. For example, a charity that provides tutoring to high school students in low-income neighborhoods might measure the program’s success by considering exam and class grades and graduation rates as well as the students’ and teachers’ feedback.

Apply several measures, including subjective ones, before deciding to cut or fund a program. Numerical data might suggest that a program isn’t worth the money spent on it, but those who benefit from the program may be so vocal about its success that eliminating it could harm your reputation.

If you meet resistance from major donors and other influential stakeholders, reassure them that you value their input. Provide them with numbers that illustrate the ineffectiveness of current programs and projections for possible replacements.

Make it better

It’s usually easier to identify obsolete programs than to decide on new ones. If one of your programs is clearly ineffective and another is wildly exceeding expectations, the decision to redeploy funds is simple.

Keep in mind that new programs can be variations of old ones, but they must better serve your basic mission, values and goals. Also, no matter how much good programs do, they can’t be successful if they overspend. For every new program, make a tight budget and stick to it. You might want to start small and, if your soft launch gets positive results, simply revise your budget.

What to keep

Naturally, programs that continue to further your nonprofit’s mission and meet constituents’ needs should stay in place. But your nonprofit likely harbors a few cobwebs that should be cleared to make way for more effective initiatives.

© 2020