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So you want to be a fiscal sponsor. Now what?

02.28.22

Read this if you are an NFP interested in being a fiscal sponsor. 

Charitable projects or startup charities awaiting their IRS determination may look for an established 501(c)(3) organization to lend their tax-exempt status and certain administrative benefits onto the project or startup so that it can receive grants and tax-deductible contributions that it would otherwise not be able to receive. That’s where you come in. Now that you have agreed to be a fiscal sponsor, what does that actually mean?

Fiscal sponsorship definition

Fiscal sponsorship is an arrangement between a 501(c)(3) public charity, the “Sponsor” and a “Project” (an organization or a group of individuals not recognized as a 501(c)(3)).

How does fiscal sponsorship work?

Fiscal sponsorship allows the Sponsor to accept funds restricted to the Project on the Project’s behalf. The Sponsor accepts the responsibility to make sure the funds are spent to achieve the Project’s goals. The Sponsor has full control and discretion of the donated funds. All revenue collected and expenses paid out are reported on the Statement of Operations of the Sponsor. The activity of the Project must be consistent and in furtherance of the Sponsor’s tax-exempt purpose. A Sponsor cannot have this type of arrangement with any Project—it must be consistent with the Sponsor’s exempt mission. 

Arrangement types

There are two common types of Fiscal Sponsorship arrangements, the Direct Model and the Grant Model

In the Direct Model the Project becomes an integrated part of the Sponsor. The Project does not have a legal identity separate from the Sponsor. Donations and grants for the Project are directly received by the Sponsor, and the use of the funds is reported on the Sponsor’s tax filings. An employer-employee relationship is formed between the Sponsor and the Project so that staff and volunteers of the Project become employees and volunteers of the Sponsor. Due to this relationship, the Sponsor is both fiscally and legally liable for all actions of the Project and thus must exercise significant control over the Project’s actions and funding to protect its tax-exempt status. 

In the Grant Model the Sponsor and the Project have a grantor-grantee relationship. The Project submits a grant request to the Sponsor detailing the project and its activities. The Sponsor approves the request and then receives funds on behalf of the Project and disperses them accordingly. The Sponsor may receive a one-time grant on behalf of the Project, or the relationship may be continual. In this model, the Sponsor is not legally liable for all actions of the Project, but is still fiscally liable for the Project’s actions. The Sponsor must still exercise enough control over the Project’s funds to ensure they are used in accordance with the grant agreement. Also, unlike the direct model, the Project is still required to comply with any tax reporting requirements required by the legal status of the Project. 

What are some advantages of Fiscal Sponsorship?

  • Projects are able to “test the waters” before deciding to be a separate independent entity.
  • Donors are able to make tax deductible charitable contributions now to a cause that is not yet recognized as a tax-exempt entity.
  • By working with an established 501(c)(3) entity the Project will have access to a larger network of donors and experience in fundraising.
  • The Project is not required to incorporate or file for their own tax-exempt status right away, saving start-up fees.
  • Fiscal Sponsors provide additional services to the Project such as administrative support, accounting, office space, grant writing and technical support which the Project may not be able to afford.

What are some disadvantages of fiscal sponsorship?

  • Depending on the model used, legal and fiscal control of the Project is held by the Sponsor creating a loss of control for the Project.
  • A Fiscal Sponsor may charge an administrative fee for use of their facilities, services, and staff.
  • Credit for the Project may fall onto the Sponsor as donations are received and controlled by the Sponsor.

Fiscal Sponsorship vs. Fiscal Agency

Fiscal Agency is an arrangement with an established charity to act as the legal Agent for a Project, but the Agent doesn’t retain discretion and control of the donated funds. The Agent is acting on behalf of the Project who ultimately has the right to control the Agent’s activities. Funds contributed to a Project with a fiscal Agent are not tax deductible to the donor. Typically the collections and disbursements made by the Sponsor are not reported on the Sponsor’s Statement of Operations, but instead are recorded through their balance sheet.

IRS criteria for a Fiscal Sponsorship

  • Grants/donations are given to a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization (the Sponsor) that acts as a guardian of the funds for a project that does not have 501(c)(3) status.
  • The Sponsor must use funds received for specific charitable projects that further the Sponsor’s own tax-exempt purpose.
  • The Sponsor must retain discretion and control as to the use of the funds.
  • The Sponsor must maintain records that substantiate the use of funds for appropriate 501(c)(3) purposes.
  • Typically, the Project will be short-term or the sponsored group is seeking tax-exempt status.

If criteria are not met, the IRS can deem donations as not tax-deductible.

Other items of note

  • There must be a written agreement in place.
  • The 501(c)(3) Sponsor should periodically review activities of the Project to ensure they remain consistent with their own tax-exempt mission (including internal audits of financial reports and any bank accounts of the Project).
  • The Sponsor must ensure the Project does not engage in prohibited activities (i.e. political campaign activities or conducting excessive amounts of unrelated business income activities).
  • The Sponsor must be able to clearly communicate to donors that funds earmarked for the Project are subject to their discretion and control, and cannot guarantee funds will be automatically advanced to the Project.
  • The Sponsor can also provide general and administrative support services to the Project and charge a fee (generally 5-15%) of donations made to the Project.

As you can see it is not as easy as just agreeing to be a Fiscal Sponsor. There are reporting requirements and decisions to be made to ensure that the arrangement qualifies as intended with the IRS so that neither the Project nor the Sponsor receive any unintended consequences.

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Read this if you are an employer that gives employee gifts.

The holiday season is officially in full swing! Unlike Ebenezer Scrooge, many employers are looking for ways to recognize the dedication and hard work of their employees. This gratitude often comes in the form of a holiday gift of some fashion. While this generosity is well-intended, gifts to employees can be fraught with potential tax consequences organizations should be aware of. This article will attempt to demystify the rules surrounding employee gifts to ensure organizations and their employees have a joyous holiday season.

Holiday gifts: Taxable or not?

So, are holiday gifts to employees taxable? The answer, as is so often the case with tax questions, is it depends. The IRS is very clear that cash and cash equivalents (specifically including gift cards) are always included as taxable income when they are provided by the employer, regardless of amount, with no exceptions. This means that if you plan to give your employees cash or a gift card this year, the value must be included in the employees’ wages and is subject to all payroll taxes. Bah humbug indeed!

Nontaxable gift options

There are however, a few ways to make nontaxable gifts to employees. In each instance the gift must be noncash (nor convertible to cash). IRS Publication 15 offers a variety of examples of de minimis (minimal) benefits, defined as any property or service you provide to an employee that has a minimal value, making the accounting for it unreasonable and administratively impracticable. Examples include holiday or birthday gifts with a low market value (a card and flowers, fruit baskets, a box of chocolates, etc.), or occasional tickets for theater or sporting events, among others. Again, cash and cash equivalents never qualify. The key is that the gift must be occasional or unusual in its frequency and must not be a form of disguised compensation. While de minimis benefits can be a gray area, the IRS has generally deemed items with a value exceeding $100 as too large to qualify as de minimis.

Holiday gifts can also be nontaxable if they are in the form of a gift coupon, if given for a specific item (with no redeemable cash value). A common example would be issuing a coupon to your employee for a free ham or turkey redeemable at the local grocery store. Nontaxable employee gifts can also come in the form of achievement awards, either for length of service or for safety achievements. The proverbial gold watch upon retirement is a classic example of such a gift. Here too, the award must always be tangible personal property—never cash or a cash equivalent. There are additional rules and value thresholds on any such gift. Please contact a member of your tax team to discuss these specific details further.

Whether employers are considering supplying gift cards, turkeys, or something in between, we hope all find this guidance helpful and still in the giving spirit! Coincidentally, at the end of A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer himself gives Bob Cratchit a turkey on Christmas day. Of course Mr. Scrooge would be aware of the potential tax consequences! We wish you all a very happy and healthy holiday season!

Not-for-profit resources

If you are a not-for-profit organization receiving charitable gifts, read Donor Acknowledgements: We have to file what?

Article
What employers need to know before making gifts to employees

Editor’s note: read this if you work for, or are affiliated with, a charitable organization that receives donations. Even the most mature nonprofit organizations may miss one of these filings once in a while. Some items (e.g., the donor acknowledgement letter) may feel commonplace, but a refresher—especially at a particularly busy time of the year as it pertains to giving—can fend off fines.

As the holiday season is now in full swing, the season of giving is also upon us. Perhaps not surprisingly, the month of December is by far the most charitable month of the year, accounting for almost one-third of all charitable gifts made annually. And with all that giving comes the requirement of charitable organizations to provide donor acknowledgements, a formal “thank you” of the gift being received. Different gifts require differing levels of acknowledgement, and in some cases an additional IRS form (or two) may need to be filed. Doing some work now may save you time (and a fine or two) later. 

While children are currently busy making lists for Santa Claus, in the spirit of giving we present to you our list of donor acknowledgement requirements―and best practices―to help you gain control of this issue for the holiday season and beyond.

Donor acknowledgement letters

Charitable (i.e., 501(c)(3)) organizations are required to provide a donor acknowledgement letter to each donor contributing $250 or more to the organization, whether it be cash or non-cash items (i.e., publicly traded securities, real estate, artwork, vehicles, etc.) received. The letter should include the following: 

  1. Name of the organization
  2. Amount of cash contribution
  3. Description of non-cash items (but not the value) 
  4. Statement that no goods and services were provided (assuming this is the case)
  5. Description and good faith estimate of the value of goods and services provided by the organization in return for the contribution, if any
  6. Statement that goods or services provided by the organization in return for the contribution consisted entirely of intangible religious benefit, if any

It is not necessary to include either the donor’s social security number or tax identification number on the written acknowledgment and as a best practice should not be included in the letter.

In addition to including the elements above, the written acknowledgement is also required to be contemporaneous, that is, sent out in a timely fashion. According to the IRS, a donor must receive the acknowledgment by the earlier of:

  • The date on which the donor actually files his or her individual federal income tax return for the year of the contribution
  • The due date (including extensions) of the return in order to be considered contemporaneous

Quid pro quo disclosure statements

When a donor makes a payment greater than $75 to a charitable organization partly as a contribution and partly as a payment for goods and services, a disclosure statement is required to notify the donor of the value of the goods and services received in order for the donor to determine the charitable contribution component of their payment.

An example of this would be if the organization sold tickets to its annual fundraising dinner event. Assume the ticket costs $100 and at the event the ticketholder receives a dinner valued at $40. In this example, the donor’s tax deduction may not exceed $60. Because the donor’s payment (quid pro quo contribution) exceeds $75, the charitable organization must furnish a disclosure statement to the donor, even though the deductible amount doesn’t exceed $75.

It’s important to note that there are some exclusions to these requirements if the value received is considered to be de minimis (known as the Token Exception), but the value received needs to be relatively small (ex: receiving a coffee mug with a picture of the organization’s logo on it). Please consult your tax advisor for more details.

If the organization does not issue disclosure statements, the IRS can issue penalties of $10 per contribution, not to exceed $5,000 per fundraising event or mailing. An organization may be able to avoid the penalty if reasonable cause can be demonstrated.

Receiving or selling donated noncash property? Forms 8283 & 8282 may be required.

If a charitable organization receives noncash donations, it may be asked to sign Form 8283. This form is required to be filed by the donor and included with their personal income tax return. If a donor contributes noncash property (excluding publicly traded securities) valued at over $5,000, the organization will need to sign Form 8283, Section B, Part IV acknowledging receipt of the noncash item(s) received.

By signing Form 8283, the donee organization is not only acknowledging receipt, but is also affirming that if the property being received is sold, exchanged, or otherwise disposed of within three years of the original donation date, the organization will be required to file Form 8282. A copy of this form is filed with the IRS and must also be provided to the original donor. Form 8282 is not required for sales of donated publicly traded securities. The penalty for failure to file Form 8282 when required is generally $50 per form.

Cars, boats, and yes, even airplanes? That would be Form 1098-C.

An airplane? Yes, even an airplane can be donated, and the donee organization must file a separate Form 1098-C, Contributions of Motor Vehicles, Boats, and Airplanes, with the IRS for each contribution of a qualified vehicle that has a claimed value of more than $500. Contemporaneous written acknowledgement requirements apply here too, and Form 1098-C can act as acknowledgement for this purpose. An acknowledgment is considered contemporaneous if it is furnished to the donor no later than 30 days after the date of the contribution if you plan to use the item for a mission-related purpose, or 30 days after the date of the sale of the item to an unrelated third party.

Penalties for failure to provide contemporaneous written acknowledgement for qualified vehicles can be pretty stiff, generally calculated as a percentage of the sale price if sold, or a percentage of the claimed value if not sold. Should you have any questions or receive a request regarding any of the forms noted above, please consult your tax advisor.

As you can see, the rules around donor acknowledgements can seem a lot like Grandma’s fruitcake―complex and perhaps a bit on the nutty side. When issuing donor acknowledgements this holiday season and beyond, be sure to review the list above and check it twice. Doing so may end up keeping you off of the IRS’s naughty list!

Article
Donor acknowledgements: We have to file what?

Read this if you have offices in more than one state or are a SaaS company.

For many software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers, sales tax compliance remains a challenge. Approximately 20 states currently subject SaaS to tax, and taxability varies from state to state, which impacts many SaaS companies that scale rapidly and unknowingly expand their nexus footprint into these states.

In South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc., the Supreme Court held that states may assert nexus on an out-of-state business that exceeds a reasonable economic threshold, whether or not the business has physical presence in the state. The 2018 ruling is particularly impactful to SaaS companies because:

  • Cloud-based offerings are delivered electronically without the need for in-state presence.
  • Following the decision, all states have enacted some form of legislation that adopts an economic nexus threshold (typically, this threshold is $100,000 in sales or 200 transactions).
  • With Wayfair standards now in place for over three years, historical noncompliance is becoming more material, and states are expected to increase enforcement.

The issue of sales tax compliance has become more pressing now for two key reasons:

First, liabilities and exposures are cumulative, and material exposures may continue to mount for companies that are noncompliant. This is especially relevant for companies that have failed to adhere to the Wayfair nexus standards. In addition, the increasing presence of remote employees will expand the nexus footprints of many technology companies that offer flexible work arrangements.

Second, while tech M&A activity is expected to slow for the remainder of 2022, some SaaS firms may still be looking to sell or raise capital. Sales tax exposure will remain a priority consideration during the due diligence process for any strategic deals taking place. Due to the short lifecycle of most technology companies, tax due diligence is key in preparing for an exit or capital raise.

The impact of evolving tax policy

An increasing number of states are amending the statutory definition of taxable services to include SaaS or are categorizing SaaS as taxable “tangible personal property.” For example, Maryland recently enacted legislation that imposes sales tax on certain digital products, including SaaS.

Adding to the complexity, states often construe certain technology-based services as taxable SaaS. For example, state administrative guidance and case law may interpret online advertising and data analytics services as taxable SaaS if software is the predominant component of the offering. Also, as noted above, the state-by-state treatment varies widely. For instance, New York aggressively subjects cloud-based offerings to sales tax, whereas California does not subject SaaS or electronically downloaded offerings to sales tax.

Remote work

The recent adoption of remote-work models further complicates the determination of nexus and sales tax obligations, as companies hire employees in states where they have not previously had a physical presence. The vast majority (84%) of all technology businesses surveyed in BDO’s 2022 Technology CFO Outlook Survey expect to see some impact on their total tax liability as a result of onboarding out-of-state remote workers.

The presence of in-state employees is a nexus-creating activity irrespective of whether the company’s sales exceed economic nexus thresholds. Therefore, if a SaaS company has employees working in a different state than its headquarters, it is critical to track employee start dates by state and consider the potential sales tax obligations.

Understanding your risk exposure

In an exit scenario, CFOs don’t want surprises, and buyers don’t want to absorb liabilities. SaaS companies must carefully analyze their sales and use tax posture in the deal context to understand risks and proactively address any shortcomings. Failure to adopt appropriate tax compliance procedures at the onset of nexus-creating activities can lead to a material exposure.

Given the complex nature of SaaS sales tax, technology companies must address compliance in a step-by-step phased approach:

  • Nexus study
    An initial nexus study consists of an examination of a company’s state specific activities in determining whether it has a filing obligation in various states. This includes an analysis of both physical presence (e.g., property, payroll, in-state services, etc.) and state-by-state economic nexus standards.
  • Taxability analysis
    Once the company’s nexus profile is established, a comprehensive taxability analysis is required to determine whether the states identified in the nexus study subject SaaS and other ancillary services to sales tax. Depending on the nature of the company’s offerings, this may involve in-depth research on a state-by-state basis. For instance, if the company is providing a technology-based service that is potentially classified as a nontaxable service rather than SaaS, research in the material states is required to develop a supportable position. In addition, the taxability process will include an assessment of potential mitigating factors, such as tax-exempt customers, sale-for-resale exemptions and use tax remittance, on a customer-by-customer basis.
  • Potential exposure quantification/remediation
    If the company has nexus in states that subject its offerings to tax, the exposure should be quantified to determine the magnitude of exposure in those states. This will help to determine whether to proactively remediate the exposure through participation in state voluntary disclosure programs. Voluntary disclosure participation allows a company that is historically noncompliant to pay the applicable back taxes in exchange for a limited lookback period (typically three to four years) with the waiver of penalties. 
  • Sales tax compliance automation
    Once the company has addressed its potential exposure in the applicable states, it will have a subsequent filing obligation. Depending on the complexity, an automated sales-tax solution is often recommended to assist with the nexus, taxability and filing compliance going forward. An automated solution often increases efficiencies, saves time and helps mitigate tax compliance risk. 

Developing a plan to address sales tax prior to undergoing a diligence process is key to better understanding and controlling the compliance process. Failure to do so may lead to material escrow or purchase price allocation to remediate a sales tax issue that could have otherwise been prevented. 

Way forward

Understanding state and local taxes (SALT) can make a big difference for technology companies, especially SaaS businesses. Non-compliance with tax standards could lead to financial risks and even affect customer relationships.

There is ample M&A opportunity to consider in 2022, with valuations leveling off and cash reserves ready to be spent. Nearly two-thirds of tech firms (65%) plan to buy, sell, or partner this year, according to BDO data. Tech companies should prepare for deal making by being proactive about sales and tax compliance. Not doing so can block deals in the pipeline, as buyers and investors are keenly aware of tax compliance obligations.

Consulting a third party on SALT compliance, especially regarding economic nexus standards and taxability, may help SaaS firms receive the full value of their companies, mitigate exposure and liability, and empower company leaders to feel prepared when it comes time to sell.

If you have questions about your specific situation, please contact our Consulting and Compliance team. We're here to help.

Written by Angela Acosta, Thomas Leonardo, and Matthew Dyment. Copyright © 2022 BDO USA, LLP. All rights reserved. www.bdo.com

Article
Breaking down sales and use tax compliance for SaaS companies

Editor's note: read this if you are a CFO, controller, accountant, or business manager.

We auditors can be annoying, especially when we send multiple follow-up emails after being in the field for consecutive days. Over the years, we have worked with our clients to create best practices you can use to prepare for our arrival on site for year-end work. Time and time again these have proven to reduce follow-up requests and can help you and your organization get back to your day-to-day operations quickly. 

  1. Reconcile early and often to save time.
    Performing reconciliations to the general ledger for an entire year's worth of activity is a very time consuming process. Reconciling accounts on a monthly or quarterly basis will help identify potential variances or issues that need to be investigated; these potential variances and issues could be an underlying problem within the general ledger or control system that, if not addressed early, will require more time and resources at year-end. Accounts with significant activity (cash, accounts receivable, investments, fixed assets, accounts payable and accrued expenses and debt), should be reconciled on a monthly basis. Accounts with less activity (prepaids, other assets, accrued expenses, other liabilities and equity) can be reconciled on a different schedule.
  2. Scan the trial balance to avoid surprises.
    As auditors, one of the first procedures we perform is to scan the trial balance for year-over-year anomalies. This allows us to identify any significant irregularities that require immediate follow up. Does the year-over-year change make sense? Should this account be a debit balance or a credit balance? Are there any accounts with exactly the same balance as the prior year and should they have the same balance? By performing this task and answering these questions prior to year-end fieldwork, you will be able to reduce our follow up by providing explanations ahead of time or by making correcting entries in advance, if necessary. 
  3. Provide support to be proactive.
    On an annual basis, your organization may go through changes that will require you to provide us documented contractual support.  Such events may include new or a refinancing of debt, large fixed asset additions, new construction, renovations, or changes in ownership structure.  Gathering and providing the documentation for these events prior to fieldwork will help reduce auditor inquiries and will allow us to gain an understanding of the details of the transaction in advance of performing substantive audit procedures. 
  4. Utilize the schedule request to stay organized.
    Each member of your team should have a clear understanding of their role in preparing for year-end. Creating columns on the schedule request for responsibility, completion date and reviewer assigned will help maintain organization and help ensure all items are addressed and available prior to arrival of the audit team. 
  5. Be available to maximize efficiency. 
    It is important for key members of the team to be available during the scheduled time of the engagement.  Minimizing commitments outside of the audit engagement during on site fieldwork and having all year-end schedules prepared prior to our arrival will allow us to work more efficiently and effectively and help reduce follow up after fieldwork has been completed. 

Careful consideration and performance of these tasks will help your organization better prepare for the year-end audit engagement, reduce lingering auditor inquiries, and ultimately reduce the time your internal resources spend on the annual audit process. See you soon. 

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Save time and effort—our list of tips to prepare for year-end reporting

Read this if you are a community bank.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) recently issued its first quarter 2022 Quarterly Banking Profile. The report provides financial information based on Call Reports filed by 4,796 FDIC-insured commercial banks and savings institutions. The report also contains a section specific to community bank performance. In first quarter 2022, this section included the financial information of 4,353 FDIC-insured community banks. BerryDunn’s key takeaways from the report are as follows:

Community banks continue to feel the impact of shrinking net interest margins and inflation.

Community bank quarterly net income dropped to $7 billion in first quarter 2022, down $1.1 billion from a year ago. Lower net gains on loan sales and higher noninterest expenses offset growth in net interest income and lower provisions. Net income declined $581.3 million, or 7.7 percent from fourth quarter 2021 primarily because of lower noninterest income and higher noninterest expense.

Loan and lease balances continue to grow in first quarter 2022

Community banks saw a $21.5 billion increase in loan and lease balances from fourth quarter 2021. All major loan categories except commercial & industrial and agricultural production grew year over year, and 55.3 percent of community banks recorded annual loan growth. Total loan and lease balances increased $35.1 billion, or 2.1 percent, from one year ago. Excluding Paycheck Protection Program loans, annual total loan growth would have been 10.2 percent.

Community bank net interest margin (NIM) dropped to 3.11 percent due to strong earning asset growth.

Community bank NIM fell 15 basis points from the year-ago quarter and 10 basis points from fourth quarter 2021. Net interest income growth trailed the pace of earning asset growth. The yield on earning assets fell 28 basis points while the cost of funding earning assets fell 13 basis points from the year-ago quarter. The 0.24 percent average cost of funds was the lowest level on record since Quarterly Banking Profile data collection began in first quarter 1984. 

Community bank allowance for credit losses (ACL) to total loans remained higher than the pre-pandemic level at 1.28 percent, despite declining 4 basis points from the year-ago quarter.


NOTE: The above graph is for all FDIC-Insured Institutions, not just community banks.

The ACL as a percentage of loans 90 days or more past due or in nonaccrual status (coverage ratio) increased to a record high of 236.7 percent. The decline in noncurrent loan balances outpaced the decline in ACL, with the coverage ratio for community banks emerging 57.9 percentage points above the coverage ratio for noncommunity banks. 

The banking landscape continues to be one that is ever-evolving. With interest rates on the rise, banks will find their margins in flux once again. During this transition, banks should look for opportunities to increase loan growth and protect and enhance customer relationships. Inflation has also caused concern not only for banks but also for their customers. This is an opportune time for banks to work with their customers to navigate the current economic environment. Community banks, with their in-depth knowledge of their customers’ financial situations and the local economies served, are in a perfect position to build upon the trust that has already been developed with customers.

As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out to BerryDunn’s Financial Services team if you have any questions.

Article
FDIC issues its First Quarter 2022 Quarterly Banking Profile

Read this if you are a solar energy investor, developer, or installer. 

Solar energy is a popular choice for businesses looking to reduce their carbon footprint through alternative energy sources. In addition to supporting a company’s environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategy, converting to solar energy can potentially lock-in lower energy rates. Further, Section 48 of the Internal Revenue Code provides businesses that invest in solar energy a 26% Investment Tax Credit (ITC) on qualifying solar property placed in service before January 1, 2026—but only if construction begins on the property before January 1, 2023. Otherwise, the credit is phased down to as low as 10%.

The IRS has provided special rules to determine when construction begins on solar energy property for ITC purposes. Businesses seeking to maximize the available tax credits should consider beginning solar projects before the end of 2022 to be able to take advantage of the 26% ITC rate.

Phasedown of ITC for solar energy property

Under current rules, the ITC percentage for qualifying solar energy property is determined based on when construction begins, and the credit is taken in the year the qualifying property is placed in service.

For property placed in service prior to January 1, 2026, the credit is as follows: 

  • 26%, if construction begins after December 31, 2019, and prior to January 1, 2023;
  • 22%, if construction begins after December 31, 2022, and prior to January 1, 2024; or
  • 10%, if construction begins after December 31, 2023.

For property placed in service after December 31, 2025, the credit is 10% regardless of when construction begins. Unused credits may be carried back one year and carried forward 20 years.

Legislative developments

The Biden Administration has indicated its support of clean energy incentives. While the Build Back Better proposals approved by the US House of Representatives in 2021 would have modified the ITC and extended the credit to qualifying solar projects for which construction begins before 2027, the legislation was not passed by the Senate. Therefore, the above phasedown of the credit remains in force. Solar energy developers and businesses planning to invest in solar energy projects should continue to monitor potential legislative developments in this area.

Determining when construction begins

The IRS issued Notice 2018-59 to provide specific guidance on when construction begins for purposes of determining the solar ITC percentage. The notice provides two methods a taxpayer can use to establish when construction begins: (i) the physical work test, or (ii) the five percent safe harbor. Both methods include a continuity requirement.

Physical work test

Construction begins under the physical work test when the taxpayer begins physical work of a significant nature on the project. The analysis is based on the nature of the work performed—not the amount or cost of the work—with no minimum requirements. Physical work can occur on-site or off-site and includes, for example, manufacturing components, inverters, transformers, or other power conditioning equipment. The notice clarifies that physical work does not include preliminary activities (as defined) or work to produce components of energy property that are included in existing inventory or that are typically held in inventory by a vendor.  

Five percent safe harbor 

Under the five percent safe harbor, construction begins when the taxpayer pays or incurs five percent or more of the total cost of the solar energy property. Whether a cost has been incurred for this purpose is based on the taxpayer’s method of accounting. The notice provides special rules for solar energy projects consisting of multiple qualifying properties.

Continuity requirement

Both the physical work test and the five percent safe harbor include a continuity requirement, under which the taxpayer must show continuous progress toward completing the project. This means maintaining a continuous program of construction under the physical work test and satisfying a continuous efforts test under the five percent safe harbor. Whether the continuity requirement is satisfied under either method is determined based on the relevant facts and circumstances.

Notice 2018-59 also provides a continuity safe harbor, which allows solar projects to satisfy the continuity requirement if the project is placed in service by the end of the calendar year that is no more than four calendar years after the year construction began. In response to the pandemic and associated supply chain issues, the IRS issued Notice 2021-14 to extend the continuity safe harbor to six years for projects for which construction began during calendar year 2016, 2017, 2018, or 2019, and to five years for projects where construction began in 2020.

Timeline pressure

Solar energy developers and businesses investing in solar energy projects are on a tight timeline to determine whether they want to begin construction on projects in their pipeline before the end of 2022 to be able to take advantage of the 26% ITC rate.

Given the persistence of supply chain and workforce issues and the potential rush to begin construction prior to the end of the year, taxpayers should keep in mind that contractors and equipment may not be available or could be difficult to secure in time to meet the year-end beginning of construction deadline. In addition, supply chain and inventory issues may drive cost increases and thus cost overruns that must be considered when analyzing when construction begins using the five percent safe harbor.

If you have questions on this or other renewable energy tax topics, please contact our Renewable Energy team. We’re here to help.

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Year-end planning for the solar energy investment tax credit

Read this if you are interested in GASB updates. 

The Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) issued GASB Statement No. 99, Omnibus 2022 on May 9, 2022. The statement enhances comparability in accounting and financial reporting and improves the consistency of authoritative literature by addressing (1) practice issues that have been identified in previous GASB Statements, and (2) adding guidance on accounting and financial reporting for financial guarantees.

We’ve reviewed the statement in its entirety, and broken down key components for you to know. Here are the highlights.  

Accounting and financial reporting for exchange or exchange-like financial guarantees

Financial guarantees is a guarantee of an obligation of a legally separate entity or individual, including a blended or discretely presented component unit, that requires the guarantor to indemnify a third-part obligation holder under specified conditions, in an exchange or exchange-like transactions. 

An entity that extends an exchange or exchange-like financial guarantee should recognize a liability and expense related to the guarantee when qualitative factors and historical data indicate that is it more than likely not a government will be required to make a payment related to the guarantee.

Statement 99 excludes guarantees related to special assessment debt, financial guarantee contracts within the scope of Statement 53, or guarantees related to conduit debt obligations. 

Certain derivative instruments that are neither hedging derivative instruments nor investment derivative instruments

Derivative instruments that are within the scope of Statement 53, but do not meet the definition of an investment derivative instrument or the definition of a hedging derivative instrument are considered other derivative instruments. These “other derivative instruments” should now be accounted for as follows:

  1. Changes in fair value should be reported on the “resource flows statement” separately from the investment revenue classification.
  2. Information should be disclosed in the notes to financial statements separately from hedging instruments and investment derivative instruments.
  3. Governments should disclose the fair values of derivative instruments that were reclassified from hedging derivative instruments to other derivative instruments. 

Leases

If your entity has leases please review the following as Statement 99 clarifies numerous issues from Statement 87, specifically:

  • Lease terms as it relates to options to terminate and option to purchase the underlying assets, in paragraph 12 of Statement 87 has been clarified;
  • Short-term leases in paragraph 12 of Statement 87 has been clarified as it relates to an option to terminate the lease;
  • Lessee and lessor recognition and measurement for leases other than short-term leases that transfer ownership has been clarified, and
  • Lease incentives in paragraph 61 of Statement 87 has been further defined.

Public Private and Public-Public Partnerships (PPPs)

If your entity has PPPs, Statement 99 clarifies the following: 

  • PPP terms
  • Receivable for installment payments (transferor recognition)
  • Receivable for the underlying PP Asset (transferor recognition)
  • Liability for installment payments (operator recognition)
  • Deferred outflow of resources (operator recognition)

Subscription-Based Information Technology Arrangements (SBITAs)

Subscription terms and definitions have been clarified, specifically as it relates with options to terminate, short-term SBITAs, and measurement of subscription liabilities.

If your entity has SBITAs, review the provisions of each SBITA to ensure compliance with Statement 99 paragraphs 23–25.

Replacement of LIBOR

Check with your banking institutions to confirm when they have phased out of LIBOR. Confirm with your banking institutions what specifically has replaced LIBOR and update Financial Statement disclosures as needed. 

SNAP

State governments should recognize distributions of benefits from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as a nonexchange transaction. Review Financial Statement disclosure and determine if a disclosure is needed. 

Disclosure of Nonmonetary Transactions

If you engage in one or more nonmonetary transactions during the fiscal year, you will need to disclose those transactions in the notes to the financial statements the measurement of attribute(s) applied to the assets transferred, rather than basis of accounting for those assets.

Pledges of future revenues when resources are not received by the pledging government

When blending the financial statement of a debt-issuing component unit into the financial statements of a primary government pledging revenue for the component unit’s debt, the primary government should reclassify an amount due to the component as an interfund payable and an interfund transfer out simultaneously with the recognition of the revenues that are pledged.

Focus of the government-wide financial statement

Statement 99 reiterates that there should be a total overall government-wide column within the MD&A, Statement of Net Position, and Statement of Activities. This column should exclude all fiduciary activities, including custodial funds. 

Terminology updates

No action is needed. Terminology has been updated in previous pronouncements, for terminology as it relates to Statements 63 and 53. 


Effective dates

The requirements related to the extension of the use of LIBOR, accounting for SNAP distributions, disclosures of nonmonetary transactions, pledges of future revenues by pledging governments, clarification of certain provisions in Statement 34 and terminology updates related to GASB 53 and 63 are effective upon issuance.

The requirements related to leases, PPPs, and SBITAs, are effective for fiscal years beginning after June 15, 2022.

The requirements related to financial guarantees and the classification and reporting of derivative instruments within the scope of Statement 53 are effective for fiscal years beginning after June 15, 2023.

Earlier application is encouraged and permitted for all.

If you would like more information regarding Statement 99, please contact our Audits of Governmental Component Units team. We’re here to help.

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Key considerations from GASB Statement No. 99 

Read this if you use QuickBooks Online.

With gas prices so high, you need to track your travel costs as closely as possible. Consider getting a tax deduction for your business mileage.

If you drive even a little for business, it’s easy to let mileage costs slide. After all, it’s a pain to keep track of your tax-deductible mileage in a little notebook and do all the calculations required. If you do rack up a lot of business miles, you probably forget to track some trips and end up losing money.

QuickBooks Online offers a much better way. Its Mileage tools include simple fill-in-the-blank records that allow you to document individual trips. You can either enter the starting point and destination and let the site calculate your mileage and deduction or enter the number of miles yourself.

If you use QuickBooks Online’s mobile app, it can track your miles automatically as you drive (as long as you have the correct settings turned on). Here’s a look at how all of this works.

Setting up 

To get started, click the Mileage link in QuickBooks Online’s toolbar. The screen that opens will eventually display a table that contains information about your trips, but you need to do a little setup first. Click the down arrow next to Add Trip in the upper right corner and select Manage vehicles. A panel will slide out from the right. Click Add vehicle.

 
You’ll need to supply information about your vehicles before you can start entering trips.

You’ll need to supply the vehicle’s year, make, and model. Do you own or lease it, and on what date was the vehicle purchased or leased and put into service? Do you want to have your annual mileage calculated by entering odometer readings or have QuickBooks Online track your business miles driven automatically? When you’re done making your selections and entering data, click Save.

Entering trip data

You can download trips as CSV files or import them from Mile IQ, but you’re probably more likely to enter them manually. Click Add Trip in the upper right corner. In the pane that opens, you’ll enter the date of the trip and either the total miles or start and end point. You’ll select the business purpose and vehicle and indicate whether it was a round trip. When you’re done, click Save. The trip will appear in the table on the opening screen, and your current possible total deduction will be in the upper left corner, along with your total business miles and total miles.

If you want to designate a trip as personal, click the box in front of the trip in that table. In the black horizontal box that appears, click the icon that looks like a little person, then click Apply. Now, the trip will appear in the Personal column and will not count toward your business tax-deductible mileage. 

When you select a trip in the Mileage table, you can mark it as personal so it’s not included in your business tax-deductible miles.

Personal trips can count, too

If you use your vehicle(s) for personal as well as business purposes, tracking some of those miles can also mean a tax deduction. For tax year 2022, you can deduct 18 cents per mile for your travel to and from medical appointments. Note: Medical mileage is only deductible if medical exceeds a certain percent of AGI. Be sure to check with the IRS yearly tax code, as they update the mileage amounts annually.

And if you do volunteer work for a qualified charitable organization, the miles you drive in service of it can be deducted at the rate of 14 cents per mile. You can also claim the cost of parking and tolls, as long as you weren’t reimbursed for any of these expenses. Obviously, the IRS wants you to keep careful records of your charitable mileage, and QuickBooks Online can provide them.

QuickBooks Online doesn’t track these deductions, but you’ll at least have a record of the miles driven.

Auto-track your miles

The easiest way to track your mileage in QuickBooks Online is by using its mobile app. You can launch this and have it record your mileage automatically as you’re driving. Versions are available for both Android and iOS, and they’re different from each other. They also have more features than the browser-based version of QuickBooks Online, like maps, rules, and easier designation of trips as business or personal.

 
The iOS version of Mileage in the QuickBooks Online app

In both versions, you’ll need to click the menu in the lower right corner after you’ve opened the QuickBooks Online app and select Mileage. Make sure Auto-Tracking is turned on. Your phone’s location services tool must be turned on, too. There are other settings that vary between the two operating systems. You can search the help system of either app to make sure you get your settings correct if the onscreen instructions aren’t clear enough.

Of course, you won’t see the fruits of your mileage deductions until you file your 2022 taxes. But you can factor these savings in as you’re doing your tax planning during the year. Please contact the Outsourced Accounting team if you’re having any trouble with QuickBooks Online’s Mileage tools, or if you have questions with other elements of the site.

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How QuickBooks Online helps you track mileage