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Our take on SBITA: Making accounting for
cloud-based
software less nebulous

05.12.21

Read this if your organization operates under the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB).

GASB Statement No. 96 Subscription-Based Information Technology Agreements

Summary

GASB Statement No. 96 defines the term Subscription-Based Information Technology Agreements (SBITA) as “a contract that conveys control of the right to use another party’s (a SBITA vendor’s) information technology (IT) software, alone or in combination with tangible capital assets (the underlying IT assets), as specified in the contract for a period of time in an exchange or exchange-like transaction.”

GASB Statement No. 96 determines when a subscription should be recognized as a right-to-use subscription, and also determines the corresponding liability, capitalization criteria, and required disclosures. 

Why does this matter to your organization?

In 2018, Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) issued Accounting Standards Updated (ASU) 2018-15: Cloud Computing Arrangements for Service Contracts, and we knew it would only be a matter of time when a similar standard would be issued by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB). Today, more and more governmental entities are purchasing software in the cloud as opposed to a software that is housed locally on their machine or network. This creates the need for updated guidance in order to improve overall financial reporting, while maintaining consistency and comparability among governmental entities. 

What should you do?

We are going to walk through the steps to determine if a SBITA exists—from identification through how it may be recognized in your financial statements. You can use this step-by-step guide to review each individual subscription-based software to determine if Statement No. 96 applies.

Step 1: Identifying a SBITA

There is one important question to ask yourself when determining if a SBITA exists:

Will this software no longer work/will we no longer be able to log in once the contract term ends?

If your answer is “yes”, it is likely that a SBITA exists.  

Step 2: Determine whether a contract conveys control of the right to use underlying IT assets

According to Statement No. 96, the contract meets the right to use underlying IT assets by:

  • The right to obtain the present service capacity from use of the underlying IT assets as specified in the contract
  • The right to determine the nature and manner of use of the underlying IT assets as specified in the contact

Step 3: Determine the length of the subscription term

The subscription term starts when a governmental entity has a non-cancellable right to use the underlying IT assets. This is the period during which the SBITA vendor does not have the ability to cancel the contract, increase or decrease rates, or change the benefits/terms of the service. The contract language for this period can also include an option for the organization or the SBITA vendor to extend or terminate the contract, if it is reasonably certain that either of these options will be exercised.

Once a subscription term is set, your organization should revisit the term if one or more of the following occurs:

  • The potential option (extend/terminate) is exercised by either the entity or the SBITA vendor 
  • The potential option (extend/terminate) is not exercised by either the government or the SBITA vendor
  • An extension or termination of the SBITA occurs 

If the maximum possible term under the SBITA contract is 12 months or less, including any options to extend, regardless of their possibility of being exercised, an exception for short-term SBITAs has been provided under the statement. Such contracts do not need to be recognized under the Statement and the subscription payments will be recognized as outflows of resources. 

Step 4: Measurement of subscription liability 

The subscription liability is measured at the present value of the subscription payments expected to be made during the previously determined subscription term. The SBITA contract will include specific measures that should be used in determining the liability that could include the following:

  • Fixed payments
  • Variable payments
  • Payments for penalties for termination
  • Contract incentives
  • Any other payments to the SBITA which are included in the contract

The future payments are discounted using the interest rate that the SBITA charges to your organization. The interest rate may be implicit in the contract. If it is not readily determinable, the rate should be estimated using your organization’s incremental borrowing rate. 

Your organization will only need to re-measure the subscription liability is there is a change to the subscription term, change in the estimated amounts of payments, change in the interest rate the SBITA charges to your organization, or contingencies related to variable payments. A change in the discount rate alone would not require a re-measurement. 

Step 5: Measurement of subscription asset

The SBITA asset should be measured at the total of the following:

  • The amount of the initial measurement of the subscription liability (noted in Step 4 above)
  • If applicable, any payments made to the SBITA vendor at the beginning of the subscription term
  • The capitalized initial implementation costs (noted in Step 6 below)

Any SBITA vendor incentives received should be subtracted from the total.

Step 6: Capitalization of other outlays

In addition to the IT asset, Statement No. 96 provides for other outlays associated with the subscription to be capitalized as part of the total subscription asset. When implementing the IT asset, the activities can be divided into three stages: 

  • Preliminary project stage: May include a needs assessment, selection, and planning activities and should be recorded as expenses.
  • Initial implementation stage: May include testing, configuration, installation and other ancillary charges necessary to implemental the IT asset. These costs should be capitalized and included in the subscription asset.
  • Operation and additional implementation stage: May include maintenance and troubleshooting and should be expensed.

Step 7: Amortization

The subscription asset are amortized over the shorter of the subscription terms or the useful life of the underlying IT assets. The amortization of the asset are reported as amortization expense or an outflow of resources. Amortization should commence at the beginning of the subscription term. 

When is this effective?

Statement No. 96 is effective for all fiscal years beginning after June 15, 2022, fiscal and calendar years 2023. Early adoption is allowed and encouraged.

Changes to adopt the pronouncement are applied retroactively by restating previously issued financial statements, if practical, for all fiscal years presented. If restatement is not practical, a cumulative effect of the change can be reported as a restatement to the beginning net position (or fund balance) for the earliest year restated. 

What should you do next? 

With any new GASB Standard comes challenges. We encourage governmental entities to re-review their vendor contracts for software-related items and work with their software vendors to identify any questions or potential issues. While the adoption is not required until fiscal years beginning after June 15, 2022, we recommend that your organization start tracking any new contracts as they are entered o starting now to determine if they meet the requirements of SBITA. We also recommend that your organization tracks all of the outlays associated with the software to determine which costs are associated with the initial implementation stage and can be capitalized. 

What are we seeing with early adoption?

Within the BerryDunn client base, we are aware of at least one governmental organization that will be early adopting. We understand that within component units of state governments, the individual component unit is required to adopt a new standard only when the state determines that they will adopt.

If you are entering into new software contracts that meet the SBITA requirements between now and the required effective date, we would recommend early adoption. If you are interested in early adoption of GASB Statement No. 96, or have any specific questions related to the implementation of the standard, please contact Katy Balukas or Grant Ballantyne

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Read this if your organization operates under the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB).

Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) Statement No. 93 Replacement of Interbank Offered Rates

Summary

With the global reference rate reform and the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) disappearing at the end of 2021, GASB Statement No. 93 was issued to address the accounting and financial impacts for replacing a reference rate. 

The article below is focused on Hedging Derivative Investments and amendments impacting Statement No. 87, Leases. We have not included guidance related to the Secured Overnight Financing Rate or the Up-Front Payments. 

Background

We have all heard that by the end of 2021, LIBOR will cease to exist in its current form. LIBOR is one of the most commonly used interbank offered rates (IBOR). Now what?

In March 2020, the GASB provided guidance to address the accounting treatment and financial reporting impacts of the replacement of IBORs with other referenced rates while maintaining reliable and comparable information. Statement No. 93 specifically addresses previously issued Statements No. 53, Accounting and Financial Reporting for Derivative Instruments, and No. 87, Leases, to provide updated guidance on how a change to the reference rate impacts the accounting for hedging transactions and leases.  

Here are our analyses of what is changing as well as easy-to-understand and important considerations for your organization as you implement the new standards.

Part 1: Hedging Derivative Instruments

The original guidance under Statement No. 53, Accounting and Financial Reporting for Derivative Instruments, as amended, requires that a government terminate a hedging transaction if the government renegotiates or amends a critical term of a hedging derivative instruction. 

Reference rate is the critical term that differentiates Statement No. 93 from Statement No. 53. The newly issued Statement No. 93 provides an exception that allows for certain hedging instruments to hedge the required accounting termination provisions when the IBOR is replaced with a new reference rate. 

In order words, under Statement No. 53, a modification of the IBOR would have caused the hedging instrument to terminate. However, Statement No. 93 now provides an exception to the termination rules as a result of the end of LIBOR. According to Statement No. 93, the exception is allowable when: 

  1. The hedging derivative instrument is amended or replaced to change the reference rate of the hedging derivative instrument’s variable payment or to add or change fallback provisions related to the reference rate of the variable payment.
  2. The reference rate of the amended or replacement hedging derivative instrument’s variable payment essentially equates to the reference rate of the original hedging derivative instrument’s variable payment by one or both of the following methods:
    • The replacement rate is multiplied by a coefficient or adjusted by addition or subtraction of a constant; the amount of the coefficient or constant is limited to what is necessary to essentially equate the replacement rate and the original rate
    •  An up-front payment is made between the parties; the amount of the payment is limited to what is necessary to essentially equate the replacement rate and the original rate.
  3. If the replacement of the reference rate is effectuated by ending the original hedging derivative instrument and entering into a replacement hedging derivative instrument, those transactions occur on the same date.
  4. Other terms that affect changes in fair values and cash flows in the original and amended or replacement hedging derivative instruments are identical, except for the term changes, as specified in number 1 below, that may be necessary for the replacement of the reference rate.

As noted above, there are term changes that may be necessary for the replacement of the reference rate are limited to the following

  • The frequency with which the rate of the variable payment resets
  • The dates on which the rate resets
  • The methodology for resetting the rate
  • The dates on which periodic payments are made.

Many contracts that will be impacted by LIBOR will be covered under Statement No. 93. The statement was created in order to ease with the transition and not create unnecessary burdens on the organizations. 

Part 2: Leases

Under the original guidance of Statement No. 87 Leases, lease contracts could be amended while the contract was in effect. This was considered a lease modification. In addition, the guidance states that an amendment to the contract during the reporting period would result in a separate lease. Examples of such an amendment included change in price, length, or the underlying asset.  

Included within Statement No. 93, are modifications to the lease standard as it relates to LIBOR. In situations where a contract contains variable payments with an IBOR, an amendment to replace IBOR with another rate by either changing the rate or adding or changing the fallback provisions related to the rate is not considered a lease modification. This modification does not require a separate lease. 

When is Statement No. 93 effective for me?

The removal of LIBOR as an appropriate interest rate is effective for reporting periods ending after June 31, 2021. All other requirements of Statement No. 93 are effective for all reporting periods beginning after June 15, 2022. Early adoption is allowed and encouraged. 

What should I do next? 

We encourage all those that may be impacted by LIBOR—whether with hedging derivative instruments, leases, and/or specific debt arrangements—to review all of their instruments to determine the specific impact on your organization. This process will be time consuming, and may require communication with the organizations with whom you are contracted to modify the terms so that they are agreeable to both parties.

If you would like more information about early adoption, or implementing the new Hedging Derivative Instruments or Leases, please contact Katy Balukas or Grant Ballantyne.
 

Article
The clock is ticking on LIBOR. Now what?

Read this if your organization operates under the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB).

Along with COVID-19 related accounting changes that require our constant attention, we need to continue to keep our eyes on the changes that routinely emerge from the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB). Here is a brief overview of what GASB Statement No. 93, Replacement of Interbank Offered Rates, Statement No. 96, Subscription-Based Information Technology Arrangements, and Statement No. 97 Certain Component Unit Criteria, and Accounting and Financial Reporting for Internal Revenue Code Section 457 Deferred Compensation Plans, may mean to you. If you want more detail, we’ve included links to more analyses and in-depth explanation of what you need to know now.

GASB 93

We have all heard that by the end of 2021, LIBOR will cease to exist in its current form. In March 2020, the GASB provided guidance to address the accounting treatment and financial reporting impacts of the replacement of interbank offered rates (IBORs) with other referenced rates, while maintaining reliable and comparable information. Statement No. 93 specifically addresses previously issued Statement Nos. 53 and 87 to provide updated guidance on how a change to the reference rate impacts the accounting for hedging transactions and lease arrangements.  Read more in our article The Clock is Ticking on LIBOR. Now What?

GASB 96

GASB Statement No. 96 defines the term Subscription-Based Information Technology Agreements (SBITA) as “A contract that conveys control of the right to use another party’s (a SBITA vendor’s) information technology (IT) software, alone or in combination with tangible capital assets (the underlying IT assets), as specified in the contract for a period of time in an exchange or exchange-like transaction.”

GASB Statement No. 96 determines when a subscription should be recognized as a right-to-use subscription, and also determines the corresponding liability, capitalization criteria, and required disclosures. Learn why this matters and what you need to do next: Our Take on SBITA: Making Accounting for Cloud-Based Software Less Nebulous.

GASB 97

GASB Statement 97 addresses specific practice issues that have arisen related to retirement plans. The standard is roughly divided into two parts—component units and Section 457 plans—each of which focus on a different aspect of governmental retirement plan accounting. Help your organization gain an understanding of the standard with our article GASB 97: What's new, what to do, and what you need to know.

If you have questions about these pronouncements and what they mean to your organization, please contact Grant Ballantyne.

Article
Update for GASB-governed organizations: Lease accounting, LIBOR transition, SBITA, and Section 457 plans

Read this if you are a timber harvester, hauler, or timberland owner.

The USDA recently announced its Pandemic Assistance for Timber Harvesters and Haulers (PATHH) initiative to provide financial assistance to timber harvesting and hauling businesses as a result of the pandemic. Businesses may be eligible for up to $125,000 in financial assistance through this initiative. 

Who qualifies for the assistance?

To qualify for assistance under PATHH, the business must have experienced a loss of at least 10% of gross revenue from January, 1, 2020 through December 1, 2020 as compared to the same period in 2019. Also, individuals or legal entities must be a timber harvesting or timber hauling businesses where 50% or more of its revenue is derived from one of the following:

  • Cutting timber
  • Transporting timber
  • Processing wood on-site on the forest land

What is the timeline for applying for the assistance?

Timber harvesting or timber hauling businesses can apply for financial assistance through the USDA from July 22, 2021 through October 15, 2021

Visit the USDA website for more information on the program, requirements, and how to apply.
If you have any questions about your specific situation, please contact our Natural Resources team. We’re here to help. 

Article
Temporary USDA assistance program for timber harvesters and haulers

Read this if you are a plan sponsor of employee benefit plans.

This article is the seventh in a series to help employee benefit plan fiduciaries better understand their responsibilities and manage the risks of non-compliance with Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) requirements. You can read the previous articles here.

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged individuals and organizations to continue operating during a time where face-to-face interaction may not be plausible, and access to organizational resources may be restricted. However, life has not stopped, and participants in your employee benefit plan may continue to make important decisions based on their financial needs. 

To help you prepare for a potential IRS examination, we’ve listed some requirements for participants to receive Required Minimum Distributions (RMD), hardship distributions, and coronavirus-related distributions, recommendations of actions you can perform, and documentation to retain as added internal controls. 

Required Minimum Distributions

Recently, the IRS issued a memo regarding missing participants, beneficiaries, and RMDs for 403(b) plans. If an employee benefit plan is subject to the RMD rules of Code Section 401(a)(9), then distributions of a participant’s accrued benefits must commence April 1 of the calendar year following the later of 1) the participant attaining age 70½ or 2) the participant’s severance from employment. Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020, RMDs was temporarily waived for retirement plans for 2020. This change applied to defined contribution plans, such as 401(k), 403(b), 457(b) plans and IRAs. 

In addition, RMDs were waived for IRA owners who turned 70½ in 2019 and were required to take an RMD by April 1, 2020 and have not yet done so. Do note the waiver will not alter a participant’s required beginning date for purposes of applying the minimum distribution rules in future periods. Although you may be applying this waiver during 2020, it is important you prepare to make RMDs once the waiver period ends by verifying participants eligible to receive RMDs are not “missing.”

There are instances in which plans have been unable to make distributions to a terminated participant due to an inability to locate the participant. In this situation, the responsible plan fiduciary should take the following actions in applying the RMD rules:

  1. Search the plan and any related plan, sponsor and publicly available records and/or directories for alternative contact information;
  2. Use any of the following search methods to locate the participant: a commercial locator service, a credit reporting agency, or a proprietary internet search tool for locating individuals; and
  3. Attempt to initiate contact via certified mail sent to the participant’s last known mailing address, and/or through any other appropriate means for any known address(es) or contact information, including email addresses and telephone numbers.

If the plan is selected for audit by the IRS and the above actions have been taken and documented by the plan, the IRS instructs employee plan examiners not to challenge the plan for violation of the RMD rules. If the plan is unable to demonstrate that the above actions have been taken, the employee plan examiners may challenge the plan for violation of the RMD rules.

We typically recommend management review plan records to determine which participants have attained age 70½. Based on the guidelines outlined above, we recommend plans document the actions they have taken to contact these participants and/or their beneficiaries.

Hardship distribution rules

A common issue we identify during our employee benefit plan audits is that the rules for hardship distributions are not always followed by the plan sponsor. If the plan allows hardship withdrawals, they should only be provided if (1) the withdrawal is due to an immediate and heavy financial need, (2) the withdrawal must be necessary to satisfy the need (you have no other funds or ways to meet the need), and (3) the withdrawal must not exceed the amount needed. You may have noted we did not add the plan participant must have first obtained all distribution or nontaxable loans available under the plan to the list of requirements above. This is due to the recently enacted Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (the Act), which removed the requirement to obtain available plan loans prior to requesting a hardship. Thus, the removal of this requirement may increase the number of eligible participants to receive hardship withdrawals, if the three requirements noted are satisfied. The plan sponsor should maintain documentation the requirements for the hardship withdrawal have been met before issuing the hardship withdrawal.

The IRS considers the following as acceptable reasons for a hardship withdrawal:

  1. Un-reimbursed medical expenses for the employee, the employee’s spouse, dependents or beneficiary.
  2. Purchase of an employee's principal residence.
  3. Payment of college tuition and related educational costs such as room and board for the next 12 months for the employee, the employee’s spouse, dependents, beneficiary, or children who are no longer dependents.
  4. Payments necessary to prevent eviction of the employee from his/her home, or foreclosure on the mortgage of the principal residence.
  5. For funeral expenses for the employee, the employee’s spouse, children, dependents or beneficiary.
  6. Certain expenses for the repair of damage to the employee's principal residence.
  7. Expenses and losses incurred by the employee as a result of a disaster declared by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), provided that the employee’s principal residence or principal place of employment at the time of the disaster was located in an area designated by FEMA for individual assistance with respect to the disaster.

Prior to the enactment of the Act, once a hardship withdrawal was taken, the plan participant would not be allowed to contribute to the plan for six months following the withdrawal. The Act repealed the six-month suspension of elective deferrals, thus plan participants are allowed to continue making contributions to the plan in the pay period following the hardship withdrawal. Prior to the Act we had seen instances where the plan participant was allowed to continue making contributions after the hardship withdrawal was taken. Now we would expect participants who received a hardship distribution to continue making elective deferrals following receipt of the distribution.

Coronavirus-related distributions

Under section 2202 of the CARES Act, qualified participants who are diagnosed with coronavirus, whose spouse or dependent is diagnosed with coronavirus, or who experience adverse financial consequences due to certain virus-related events including quarantine, furlough, or layoff, having hours reduced, or losing child care, are eligible to receive a coronavirus-related distribution. 

Distributions are considered coronavirus-related distributions if the participant or his/her spouse or dependent has experienced adverse effects noted above due to the coronavirus, the distributions do not exceed $100,000 in the aggregate, and the distributions were taken on or after January 1, 2020 and on or before December 30, 2020.  Such distributions are not subject to the 10% penalty tax under Internal Revenue Code (IRC) § 72(t), and participants have the option of including their distributions in income ratably over a three year period, or the entire amount, starting in the year the distribution was received. Such distributions are exempt from the IRC § 402(f) notice requirement, which explains rollover rules, as well as the effects of rolling a distribution to a qualifying IRA and the effects of not rolling it over. Also, participants can be exempt from owing federal taxes by repaying the coronavirus-related distribution. 

Participants receiving this distribution have a three-year window, starting on the distribution date, to contribute up to the full amount of the distribution to an eligible retirement plan as if the contribution were a timely rollover of an eligible rollover distribution. So, if a participant were to include the distribution amount ratably over the three-year period (2020 – 2022), and the full amount of the distribution was repaid to an eligible retirement plan in 2022, the participant may file amended federal income tax returns for 2020 and 2021 to claim a refund for taxes paid on the income included from the distributions, and the participant will not be required to include any amount in income in 2022. We recommend the plan sponsor maintain documentation supporting the participant was eligible to receive the coronavirus-related distribution. 

There is much uncertainty due to the current status of the COVID-19 pandemic, and this has forced many of our clients to review and alter their control environments to maintain effective operations. With this uncertainty comes changes to guidance and treatment of plan transactions. We have provided our current understanding of the guidance the IRS has provided for the treatment surrounding distributions, specifically RMDs, hardship distributions, and coronavirus-related distributions. If you and your team have any additional questions which may be specific to your organization or plan, an expert from our Employee Benefits Audit team will be gladly willing to assist you. 
 

Article
Defined contribution plan distributions: Considerations and recommendations

Read this if you are at a not-for-profit organization.

There is no question that cryptocurrency has been gaining in popularity over the past few years. It may be hard to believe, but Bitcoin, the first and most commonly known form of cryptocurrency, has been around since the good old days of 2009! What was once only seen as a quasi-asset traded solely on the dark web by a handful of private yet savvy investors has recently begun to step out into the light. With this newly found mainstream popularity come many questions from the not-for-profit (NFP) sector about how their organizations should proceed when it comes to donations of cryptocurrency, and how they might benefit (or not) from doing so. 

This article will answer some of the questions we’ve received from clients in this area and attempt to shed some light on the tax reporting and compliance requirements around cryptocurrency donations for not-for-profit organizations, as well as other topics not-for-profit organizations should consider before dipping their toes into the crypto current.

So, what exactly is cryptocurrency? 

Cryptocurrency is a digital asset. It generally has no physical form (no actual coins or paper money). Further, it is not issued by a central bank and is largely unregulated. Its value is dependent upon many factors, the largest being supply and demand.

Can a not-for-profit organization accept cryptocurrency as a donation?

Yes! For tax purposes, cryptocurrency is considered noncash property, and is perfectly acceptable for not-for-profit organizations to accept.

With that said, NFPs absolutely need to review and update their gift acceptance policies as necessary as to whether or not they are willing to accept cryptocurrency. Having a clear and established policy position in place one way or the other can mitigate any confusion or misunderstanding between the organization and a potential donor.

The organization may also want to consider adding language to the policy regarding its intent to either hold the asset or sell it as soon as administratively possible. A savvy donor may request that the organization hold the cryptocurrency donation for a period of time after the donation is made, so organizations will want to have clear policies in place.

What about acknowledging the donor’s gift?

Standard donor acknowledgement rules still apply. Any donation of $250 or more requires a standard “thank you” acknowledgement to the donor. Remember, the IRS has deemed cryptocurrency to be noncash property, which means a description of the donated property (but not its value) should be mentioned in the donor acknowledgement.

Are there any other forms I need to be aware of?

Yes. Forms 8283 & 8282 apply to donations of cryptocurrency. Where the donation is noncash, the donor should be providing the organization with Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions, for a claimed value of more than $500. Further, if the claimed value is more than $5,000, the Form 8283 should be accompanied by a qualified appraisal report. Form 8283 should be signed by the donor, the qualified appraiser (if applicable), as well as the recipient organization upon acceptance.

NOTE: Form 8283, Part V, Donee Acknowledgement, contains a yes/no question asking if the organization intends to use the property for an unrelated use. Where the property in question is cryptocurrency, the answer to this question is likely always to be ‘yes’.

Should the organization sell the underlying cryptocurrency within three years of acceptance, the organization must complete Form 8282, Donee Information Return, and file a copy with the IRS as well as providing a copy to the original donor. Other rules apply if the organization transfers the property to a successor donee.

NOTE: Organizations may want to consider referencing the Forms 8283 & 8282 in their aforementioned gift acceptance policy.

How is a cryptocurrency donation reported on the financial statements and Form 990?

If donated and held by the organization as of the end of the year, it will be reported as an intangible asset on the balance sheet, and contribution revenue on the statement of activities. 

Similar reporting would follow for 990 purposes—the donation would be reported as part of noncash contribution revenue with additional reporting on 990, Schedule B, Schedule of Contributors, and Schedule M, Noncash Contributions, as necessary.

Why should I accept cryptocurrency?

This is by far the hardest question to answer, for a variety of reasons. There is no question that cryptocurrency has its risks. Cryptocurrency is known to be highly volatile. Bitcoin, which originally was valued at eight cents per coin in 2010 soared to an all-time high of over $63,000 back in April of 2021—and then two months later sold for around $34,000 per coin. And who could forget the recent Dogecoin (I’m still not sure how to pronounce that) phenomenon? It too in recent months became a sensation only to see its value plummet by almost 30% in a single day after an appearance by Elon Musk on Saturday Night Live (it did subsequently rebound after a Musk tweet).

The fact is no one really knows where the value of cryptocurrency is headed, so should a not-for-profit organization decide to proceed, you should be aware it may not be worth what it was when originally accepted, which could be either good or bad depending on the day. Ultimately, any value is still good for a not-for-profit organization, but the risks with cryptocurrency and its volatility are very real.

Other things to know about crypto

As of right now, cryptocurrency has its own trading platforms. Robinhood, a platform in the news recently when it halted trading of Gamestop’s stock when speculative traders got the price to soar to all new highs, being the most well known. Large investment firms are well on their way to creating their own platforms as cryptocurrency gains in popularity, so we certainly recommend speaking with your current investment advisors to find the platform that best suits your needs.

Cryptocurrency is held in a digital wallet, which can only be accessed by a password, or private keys. Digital wallets can be stored locally on a computer, but there are also web-based wallets.

There have been horror stories about people losing or forgetting passwords, ultimately rendering the cryptocurrency worthless because it cannot be accessed. Cryptocurrency, due to its private nature, is very desirable by hackers who could also potentially access the wallet and steal its contents. And if stored locally, the currency could be lost forever if the computer containing the wallet were to become corrupted or compromised.

Organizations holding cryptocurrency will need to ensure proper internal controls are in place to make sure the funds are secure and cannot be easily accessed or potentially stolen. Working with your internal IT department is a good strategy here. The questions above are not intended to be all inclusive. Cryptocurrency is still finding its way in the world and we’ll continue to keep an eye on any developments and keep clients up to date as cryptocurrency continues to expand its reach and as further guidance is issued.

If you have any questions, please contact me or another member of our not-for-profit tax services team. We're here to help.

Article
Cryptocurrency and the charitable contribution conundrum

Read this if you are a New Hampshire resident, or a business owner or manager with telecommuting employees (due to the COVID-19 pandemic).

In late January, the Supreme Court asked the Biden Administration for its views on a not-so-friendly neighborly dispute between the State of New Hampshire and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. New Hampshire is famous amongst its neighboring states for its lack of sales tax and personal income tax. Because of the tax rules and other alluring features, thousands of employees commute daily from New Hampshire to Massachusetts. Overnight, like so many of us, those commuters were working at home and not crossing state boundaries.

As a result of the pandemic and stay-at-home orders, Massachusetts issued temporary and early guidance, directing employers to maintain the status quo. Keep withholding on your employees in the same manner that you were, even though they may not be physically coming into the state. New Hampshire was against this directive from day one and sought to sue Massachusetts over its COVID-19 telecommuting rules for employees who had previously been sitting in an office in the Bay State. The final nail in the coffin was an extension of the guidance in October. 

New Hampshire’s position
New Hampshire took particular issue because it does not impose an Individual Income Tax on wages and it believed that the temporary regulations issued by the Commonwealth overstepped or disregarded New Hampshire’s sovereignty—in violation of the both the Commerce and Due Process Clauses of the U.S. Constitution. Each clause has historically prohibited a state from taxing outside its borders and limits tax on non-residents. For Massachusetts employers to continue withholding on New Hampshire residents' wage earnings, New Hampshire argues, Massachusetts is imposing a tax within New Hampshire, contrary to the Constitution.

What makes the New Hampshire situation unique is that it does not impose an income tax on individuals, a “defining feature of its sovereignty”, the state argues. New Hampshire would say that its tax regime creates a competitive advantage in attracting new business and residents. Maine residents, subject to the same Massachusetts rules, would receive a corresponding tax credit on their Maine tax return, making them close to whole between the two states. Because there is no New Hampshire individual income tax, their residents are out of pocket for a tax that they wouldn’t be subject to, but for these regulations.

Massachusetts’ position
Massachusetts' intention behind the temporary regulations was to maintain pre-pandemic “status quo” to avoid uncertainty for employees and additional compliance burden on employers. This would ensure employers would not be responsible for determining when an employee was working, for example, at their Lake Winnipesaukee camp for a few weeks, or their relative’s home in Rhode Island. 

Additionally, states like New York and Connecticut have long had “convenience of the employer” laws on the books which imposed New York tax on telecommuting non-residents. Additionally, Massachusetts provided that a parallel treatment will be given to resident employees with income tax liabilities in other states who have adopted similar sourcing rules, i.e., a Massachusetts resident working for a Maine employer.

Other voices
The US Supreme Court requested a brief from the Biden administration. Additionally, many states wrote to the court on behalf of New Hampshire. To demonstrate the impact a decision against New Hampshire could have, New Jersey said that it expects to issue $1.2 Billion in tax credits to its residents because New York declined to loosen their strict telecommuting rules. In the final days before the Court recessed, it declined to hear the case brought by the State of New Hampshire against the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Had the Court decided to move forward with the case, it stood to impact long-standing, pre-pandemic telecommuting rules by New York and others.

What now?
For Massachusetts employers specifically, you should review current withholdings and ensure compliance with the temporary regulations. The state of emergency has been lifted in Massachusetts, and the rules have an end date of September 19, 2021. Employers who haven’t been following the regulations will have a costly tax exposure to correct. 

Massachusetts’ temporary regulations were not unique as dozens of states issued temporary regulations asserting a “status quo” regime for those employees who would normally be commuting outside their home state. Unwinding from the pandemic is going to be a long road, and for all employers, it’s important that you review the rules in each state of operation and confirm that the proper withholding is made.

If you have questions about your specific situation, please contact the state and local tax consulting team. We’re here to help.

Article
New Hampshire v. Massachusetts: Sovereignty or status quo?

Read this if you are a business owner. 

Consider the value of the following two hypothetical companies. Roger owns Wag More, Bark Less (WMBL), a pet service company that employs 10 full-time dog walkers. Anita owns a very similar company, Happy Dog Walking Service (Happy Dog), which also happens to employ 10 full-time dog walkers. These companies are both almost identical, and last year, they generated the same amount of revenue and income. A key difference, however, is in the management styles of the owners. Roger is extremely disorganized and has difficulty with record retention, locating information, and tracking and analyzing data. He is relatively inexperienced as a manager. Anita, meanwhile, is very punctual and organized and has 15 years of management experience. She is very capable of monitoring dog-walking data to optimize routes, manage employee utilization, and track client satisfaction. Which company is more valuable? 

Despite being identical in terms of service offering and size, most people would identify Happy Dog as being more valuable. Alarm bells start to ring in a valuation analyst’s head when learning about the sloppy management style, lack of experience, and poor use of data at WMBL. The difference in value should be substantial. Despite generating the same amount of profit last year, Happy Dog could be worth twice as much as WMBL because these risk factors may jeopardize future profits.

In addition to the risk factors from the above example, there are many other drivers of business value.

Valuation formula

In its simplest form, the valuation of a business can be reduced to the following formula based on earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA). Factors that affect value do so by affecting the valuation multiple. Companies such as WMBL would be worth a lower multiple of EBITDA, and a higher multiple would be justified for less risky companies such as Happy Dog. 

Estimating an EBITDA multiple

A generic multiple often thrown around is 5x EBITDA. EBITDA multiples from the DealStats database show a slightly lower average over time. From 2017 to 2019, the EBITDA multiples were around 5x, then declined in 2020 and 2021. The chart below shows trends in historical EBITDA multiples.1 

Median Selling Price/EBITDA with Trailing Three-Quarter Average


In reality, EBITDA multiples vary widely by industry. For example, in the DealStats database, the median EBITDA multiple for retail trade was 3.8x compared to 6.5x for manufacturing companies.2 The chart below presents EBITDA multiples by industry from the DealStats database.

Selling Price/EBITDA Interquartile Range by Industry Sector (Private Targets)


Even within a specific industry, multiples can vary dramatically. For example, from the chart above, the median wholesale trade multiple was slightly above 5.0x, but the 75th percentile multiple for this industry was approximately 10.0x. 

Factors affecting EBITDA multiples

Differences in valuation multiples from company to company reflect differences in risk profiles. High-risk companies command lower multiples than safe investments. The following chart illustrates how certain operational risk factors may affect the valuation multiple.

Other factors that affect valuation multiples include the following:

  • Access to capital
  • Supplier concentration 
  • Supplier pricing advantage 
  • Product or service diversification 
  • Life cycle of current products or services 
  • Geographical distribution 
  • Currency risk 
  • Internal controls 
  • Business owner reliance
  • Legal/litigation issues 
  • Years in operation
  • Location   
  • Demographics 
  • Availability of labor 
  • Employee stability 
  • Internal and external culture 
  • Economic factors 
  • Industry and government regulations 
  • Political factors 
  • Fixed asset age and condition 
  • Strength of intangible assets 
  • Distribution system 
  • IT systems 
  • Technology life cycle 

One model to assess risk and select an appropriate multiple is the exit and succession planning software prepared by MAUS Business Systems (“MAUS”). The MAUS Business Attractiveness model assists analysts in assessing and diagramming the risk profile of a company. This model was developed to assess business attractiveness to potential acquirers based on common risk factors. Analysts can use this software as part of their assessment of an appropriate valuation multiple. This model is also a helpful communication tool because it provides a visual representation of a company’s risk profile and highlights the areas in which a company can improve. 

Using this model, analysts assess a company’s risk profile regarding several key factors. MAUS then generates a report that includes a series of diagrams like the one below. Business attractiveness factors are positioned around the outside of a polygon. If a company performs well regarding a particular factor, a point is plotted towards the outside of the polygon. If the company performs poorly, a point is plotted towards the center of the shape. The points are then connected to visualize a company’s risk profile. 

Business Risk & Value Factors

         

The larger the colored shape is in the MAUS diagram, the higher the valuation multiple should be. However, these factors do not all affect the multiple equally. The valuation multiple may be highly responsive to some factors and less responsive to others. Additionally, each factor may not have a linear effect on the valuation multiple. For these reasons, formula-based estimates of valuation multiples are often inaccurate, although a great place to start for a ballpark indication of value. For matters of importance where accuracy is paramount, we strongly recommend consulting with a valuation professional. In addition to valuation expertise, an outside party provides an independent, unbiased assessment of value. 

Conclusion

The value of a business can be affected dramatically by its risk profile. Analysts value businesses based on a number of different factors that affect value. 

1,2 DealStats Value Index 2Q 2021, Business Valuation Resources, LLC (www.bvresources.com).

Article
Factors affecting the value of a company

Read this if you are required to collect sales tax in Massachusetts.

New tax updates and prepayment requirements have been announced for Massachusetts businesses.

They include new due dates and prepayment requirements. The changes apply to: 

  • Sales/use tax
  • Sales tax on services
  • Meals tax
  • Room occupancy excise tax 

Due date for sales and use tax returns

The due date on these taxes filings has also changed. Instead of due dates being the 20th of the following month, the date has been changed to 30 days after the previous month end. For example, a January return will now be due on March 2nd instead of February 20th.

Note: If your tax liability exceeded $150,000 for the calendar year 2020, prepayment of tax collected in 2021 is required:

  • Tax collected for the 1st through the 21st of the month are due on the 25th
  • Remainder due when return is filed

State resources:

If you have questions on these changes, and how they may affect your filing, please contact our Tax Consulting Team. We’re here to help.

Article
Changes to Massachusetts sales and use tax