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Tax-exempt
organizations: The wait is over, sort of

08.29.18

IRS Notice 2018-67 Hits the Charts
Last week, in addition to The Eagles Greatest Hits (1971-1975) album becoming the highest selling album of all time, overtaking Michael Jackson’s Thriller, the IRS issued Notice 2018-67its first formal guidance on Internal Revenue Code Section 512(a)(6), one of two major code sections added by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 that directly impacts tax-exempt organizations. Will it too, be a big hit? It remains to be seen.

Section 512(a)(6) specifically deals with the reporting requirements for not-for-profit organizations carrying on multiple unrelated business income (UBI) activities. Here, we will summarize the notice and help you to gain an understanding of the IRS’s thoughts and anticipated approaches to implementing §512(a)(6).

While there have been some (not so quiet) grumblings from the not-for-profit sector about guidance on Code Section 512(a)(7) (aka the parking lot tax), unfortunately we still have not seen anything yet. With Notice 2018-67’s release last week, we’re optimistic that guidance may be on the way and will let you know as soon as we see anything from the IRS.

Before we dive in, it’s important to note last week’s notice is just that—a notice, not a Revenue Procedure or some other substantive legislation. While the notice can, and should be relied upon until we receive further guidance, everything in the notice is open to public comment and/or subject to change. With that, here are some highlights:

No More Netting
512(a)(6) requires the organization to calculate unrelated business taxable income (UBTI), including for purposes of determining any net operating loss (NOL) deduction, separately with respect to each such trade or business. The notice requires this separate reporting (or silo-ing) of activities in order to determine activities with net income from those with net losses.

Under the old rules, if an organization had two UBI activities in a given year, (e.g., one with $1,000 of net income and another with $1,000 net loss, you could simply net the two together on Form 990-T and report $0 UBTI for the year. That is no longer the case. From now on, you can effectively ignore activities with a current year loss, prompting the organization to report $1,000 as taxable UBI, and pay associated federal and state income taxes, while the activity with the $1,000 loss will get “hung-up” as an NOL specific to that activity and carried forward until said activity generates a net income.

Separate Trade or Business
So, how does one distinguish (or silo) a separate trade or business from another? The Treasury Department and IRS intend to propose some regulations in the near future, but for now recommend that organizations use a “reasonable good-faith interpretation”, which for now includes using the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) in order to determine different UBI activities.

For those not familiar, the NAICS categorizes different lines of business with a six-digit code. For example, the NAICS code for renting* out a residential building or dwelling is 531110, while the code for operating a potato farm is 111211. While distinguishing residential rental activities from potato farming activities might be rather straight forward, the waters become muddier if an organization rents both a residential property and a nonresidential property (NAICS code 531120). Does this mean the organization has two separate UBI rental activities, or can both be grouped together as rental activities? The notice does not provide anything definitive, but rather is requesting public comments?we expect to see something more concrete once the public comment period is over.

*In the above example, we’re assuming the rental properties are debt-financed, prompting a portion of the rental activity to be treated as UBI.

UBI from Partnership Investments (Schedule K-1)
Notice 2018-67 does address how to categorize/group unrelated business income for organizations that receive more than one partnership K-1 with UBI reported. In short, if the Schedule K-1s the organization receives can meet either of the tests below, the organization may treat the partnership investments as a single activity/silo for UBI reporting purposes. The notice offers the following:

De Minimis Test
You can aggregate UBI from multiple K-1s together as long as the exempt organization holds directly no more than 2% of the profits interest and no more that 2% of the capital interest. These percentages can be found on the face of the Schedule K-1 from the Partnership and the notice states those percentages as shown can be used for this determination. Additionally, the notice allows organizations to use an average of beginning of year and end of year percentages for this determination.

Ex: If an organization receives a K-1 with UBI reported, and the beginning of year profit & capital percentages are 3%, and the end of year percentages are 1%, the average for the year is 2% (3% + 1% = 4%/2 = 2%). In this example, the K-1 meets the de minimis test.

There is a bit of a caveat here—when determining an exempt organization's partnership interest, the interest of a disqualified person (i.e. officers, directors, trustees, substantial contributors, and family members of any of those listed here), a supporting organization, or a controlled entity in the same partnership will be taken into account. Organizations need to review all K-1s received and inquire with the appropriate person(s) to determine if they meet the terms of the de minimis test.

Control Test
If an organization is not able to pass the de minimis test, you may instead use the control test. An organization meets the requirements of the control test if the exempt organization (i) directly holds no more than 20 percent of the capital interest; and (ii) does not have control or influence over the partnership.

When determining control or influence over the partnership, you need to apply all relevant facts and circumstances. The notice states:

“An exempt organization has control or influence if the exempt organization may require the partnership to perform, or may prevent the partnership from performing, any act that significantly affects the operations of the partnership. An exempt organization also has control or influence over a partnership if any of the exempt organization's officers, directors, trustees, or employees have rights to participate in the management of the partnership or conduct the partnership's business at any time, or if the exempt organization has the power to appoint or remove any of the partnership's officers, directors, trustees, or employees.”

As noted above, we recommend your organization review any K-1s you currently receive. It’s important to take a look at Line I1 and make sure your organization is listed here as “Exempt Organization”. All too often we see not-for-profit organizations listed as “Corporations”, which while usually technically correct, this designation is really for a for-profit corporation and could result in the organization not receiving the necessary information in order to determine what portion, if any, of income/loss is attributable to UBI.

Net Operating Losses
The notice also provides some guidance regarding the use of NOLs. The good news is that any pre-2018 NOLs are grandfathered under the old rules and can be used to offset total UBTI on Form 990-T.

Conversely, any NOLs generated post-2018 are going to be considered silo-specific, with the intent being that the NOL will only be applicable to the activity which gave rise to the loss. There is also a limitation on post-2018 NOLs, allowing you to use only 80% of the NOL for a given activity. Said another way, an activity that has net UBTI in a given year, even with post-2017 NOLs, will still potentially have an associated tax liability for the year.

Obviously, Notice 2018-67 provides a good baseline for general information, but the details will be forthcoming, and we will know then if they have a hit. Hopefully the IRS will not Take It To The Limit in terms of issuing formal guidance in regards to 512(a)(6) & (7). Until they receive further IRS guidance,  folks in the not-for-profit sector will not be able to Take It Easy or have any semblance of a Peaceful Easy Feeling. Stay tuned.

Related Industries

Related Services

Read this if you are a not-for-profit looking to learn more about tax filing deadlines.

State of New Hampshire: If your organization has a December 31 year-end, your annual report filing with the Charitable Trusts Unit and related payment are still due by May 15. If you are not ready to file, you may file Form NHCT-4 for an extension by May 15. If your organization has a June 30 year-end, you may email the State Attorney General to ask for additional time to July 15.

April 24, 2020, UPDATE: Commonwealth of Massachusetts: The Massachusetts Attorney General’s office has extended the Form PC filing requirement. All filing deadlines for annual charities filings for fiscal year 2019 have been extended by six months. This extension is in addition to the automatic six month extension that many not-for-profits receive. In addition, original signatures, photocopies of signatures, and e-signatures (e.g., DocuSign) will be accepted.

On April 9, 2020, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued Notice 2020-23, its third round of tax filing relief guidance, which amplifies relief set forth in previously issued IRS notices providing relief to taxpayers affected by COVID-19. Notice 2020-23 also provides additional time to perform certain other actions. The Notice holds the special distinction of being the first to provide specific relief to not-for-profit organizations with return filing and tax payment obligations due between April 1 and July 15, 2020. The details are highlighted below:

Tax deadline extended to July 15, 2020
The Notice explicitly states that Form 990-T tax payment and filing obligations due during the period between April 1 and July 15 will be automatically extended to July 15, 2020. Additionally, Form 990-PF (and associated tax payments) as well as quarterly Federal estimated tax payments remitted via Form 990-W are also explicitly noted and are granted an extension to July 15.
    
While this is certainly good news, the more eagerly anticipated news is the Notice also includes “Affected Taxpayers” who are required to perform “Specified Time-Sensitive Actions” referenced in Revenue Procedure 2018-58. The Revenue Procedure specifically mentions exempt organizations as “Affected Taxpayers” required to perform “specified time-sensitive actions”—one such action being the filing of Form 990.

In summary (with the combined power of the Notice and Revenue Procedure), any entity with a Form 990, Form 990-EZ, Form 990-PF, Form 990-T, Form 990-W estimated tax filing requirement, Form 1120-POL or Form 4720 filing obligation due between April 1 and July 15, 2020 now have until July 15, 2020 to file. Needless to say this is very welcome news for an industry that like so many others, is being pushed to the brink during this turbulent and difficult time.

Additional extensions
Notice 2020-23 (with reference to Revenue Procedure 2018-58) also extends the due date of certain forms, notices, applications, and other exempt organization activities due between April 1 and July 15, 2020, until July 15, 2020 as noted below: 

  • Community health needs assessments (CHNAs) and Implementation Strategies
  • Application for Recognition of Exemption (Forms 1023 and 1024) 
  • Section 501(h) Elections and Revocations (Form 5768)
  • Information Return of US Persons with Respect to Certain Foreign Corporations (Form 5471)
  • Political Organization Notices and Reports (Forms 8871 and 8872)
  • Notification of Intent to Operate as a Section 501(c)(4) Organization (Form 8976) 

We are here to help
Please contact the BerryDunn not-for-profit tax team if you have any questions, or would like to discuss your specific situation.

Article
Not-for-profit May 15 tax deadline extended

Of all the changes that came with the sweeping Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) in late 2017, none has prompted as big a response from our clients as the changes TCJA makes to the qualified parking deduction. Then, last month, the IRS issued its long-waited guidance on this code section in the form of Notice 2018-99

We've taken a look at both the the original provisions, and the new guidance, and have collected the salient points and things we think you need to consider this tax season. For not-for-profit organizations, visit my article here. And for-profit companies can read here.  

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IRS guidance on qualified parking: Our take

Read this is you are a business owner or an advisor to business owners.

With continued uncertainty in the business environment stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, now may be a good time to utilize trust, gift, and estate strategies in the transfer of privately held business interests. 

As discussed in our May 26, 2020 blog post 2020 estate strategies in times of uncertainty for privately held business owners, there may be opportunity to free up considerable portions of lifetime gift and estate tax exemption amounts through transfers due to suppressed values of privately held businesses, and the uncertainty surrounding the impact of the 2020 presidential election on tax rates and future exemption and exclusion thresholds. 

An element to consider when building on this opportunity is the ability to transfer non-controlling interests in a business. These interests are potentially subject to discounts for lack of control and lack of marketability. This may further reduce the overall value transferred through a given strategy, potentially offloading a larger percentage of ownership in a business while retaining large portions of the gift and estate lifetime exemption. Let’s focus on the discount for lack of control (DLOC).

Discount for lack of control

In the context of a hypothetical willing buyer and willing seller, the buyer may place a greater value on an ownership interest with the ability to make changes at their discretion, compared to an alternative ownership interest lacking control. Simply put, buyers like to be in control, and they will pay less for the investment if the interest lacks these characteristics. 

When valuing non-controlling business interests there is an inherent discount to full value recognized to reflect the fact that the subject interest does not hold a controlling position. As a result of this discount, the value of a non-controlling interest in a company will differ from the pro-rata value per share of the entire company. DLOCs alone commonly reduce the value of the transferred interest by 5% to 15%.

All else being equal, a non-controlling ownership position is less desirable (valuable) than a controlling position. This is because of the majority owner’s right to control any or all of the following activities: managing the assets or selecting agents for this purpose, controlling major business decisions, asset allocation choices, setting salary levels, admitting new investors, acquiring assets, selling the company, and declaring/paying distributions.
 
Market-based evidence of proxies for DLOCs can be found within the following subscription-based databases (including, but not limited to): 

  • Control premium studies published in the Mergerstat® Review series by FactSet Mergerstat/Business Valuation Resources
  • Closed-end fund data
  • The Partnership Profiles, Inc. Minority Interest Database and Executive Summary Report on Re-Sale Discounts for applicable entity types

In addition to these resources, to fully assess the degree of discount applicable to a subject interest, consider company-specific factors when estimating the DLOC. The degree of control for a subject interest may be impacted by relevant state statutes and the governing documents of the subject company. These factors are analyzed in conjunction with the current operational and financial policies established and implemented in practice by management to establish a comprehensive view on the applicable degree of discount.

Conclusion

Hypothetical business owners are knowledgeable of the facts and circumstances surrounding a business interest. They take a close look at what they are buying before they make an offer. Like most people, they like to be in charge, and are therefore generally not willing to pay the pro-rata value for a minority interest in a business when the interest lacks control. To assess an appropriate discount for lack of control, consider resources such as those referred to above, then ensure the selected discounts are appropriate based on the factors specific to the company and interest being valued. 

Our mission at BerryDunn remains constant in helping each client create, grow, and protect value. If you have questions about your unique situation, or would like more information, please contact the business valuation consulting team.

Article
Discounts for lack of control and marketability in business valuations

Read this if you are a solar developer or investor.

One of the most frequent questions we get from solar project developers is: “Will my investors be able to use the tax credits and the depreciation losses?” The answer, as with many things related to taxes, is “it depends.” One of the biggest hurdles is navigating the passive activity loss rules. While this is a fairly complicated topic, and includes a lot more of “it depends,” we’ll hit some of the major highlights here.

Passive or active?

For tax purposes, activities are grouped as either passive or active activities. Income from these activities are generally treated the same, aggregated as part of the taxpayer’s total taxable income and taxed according to the applicable tax bracket. Losses from these activities are treated very differently, though. Losses from active activities can be used to offset all taxable income, whereas losses from passive activities can only offset passive income. If there is not enough passive income in a given year to fully offset passive losses, the losses become suspended and carried forward. The losses carry forward until either there is passive income to offset or the activity is disposed of (sold or otherwise no longer owned), in which case the suspended losses release in full in that year.

Similarly, the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) takes on the attributes of the activity in which it is being generated. So if the solar project is determined to be an active activity for the investor, the ITC would be active and available to offset tax on all sources of income. But if the activity is determined to be passive, the ITC would be limited to use against tax on passive income. For an investor that has not considered this prior to purchasing a stake in a solar project, a limitation on the credit the investor can use could mean a reduction of the expected return on investment, and an unwelcome surprise.

Portfolio income

It is also important to point out here that a third type of income, portfolio income, is a very common type of taxed income comprised of interest, dividends, and gains from investments. This falls into a separate category from the active/passive analysis, which is often misunderstood. A taxpayer with lots of dividend income who thinks it is passive income ends up with a rude awakening as that is actually portfolio income and does not allow for the offset of passive activity losses.

Material participation test

IRS Publication 925 details all of the rules surrounding passive activities and includes a set of seven tests to determine material participation. If the taxpayer satisfies at least one of the material participation tests, the taxpayer’s share of the activity is considered active and not passive. The tests are: 

  1. You participated in the activity for more than 500 hours. 
  2. Your participation was substantially all the participation in the activity of all individuals for the tax year, including the participation of individuals who didn’t own any interest in the activity.
  3. You participated in the activity for more than 100 hours during the tax year, and you participated at least as much as any other individual (including individuals who didn’t own any interest in the activity) for the year.
  4. The activity is a significant participation activity, and you participated in all significant participation activities for more than 500 hours. A significant participation activity is any trade or business activity in which you participated for more than 100 hours during the year and in which you didn’t materially participate under any of the material participation tests, other than this test.
  5. You materially participated in the activity (other than by meeting this fifth test) for any five (whether or not consecutive) of the 10 immediately preceding tax years.
  6. The activity is a personal service activity in which you materially participated for any three (whether or not consecutive) preceding tax years.
  7. Based on all the facts and circumstances, you participated in the activity on a regular, continuous, and substantial basis during the year.

Tests one through six are pretty cut and dry, but the totality of the circumstances test presented in number seven is very open to interpretation. While this allows you to make an argument in your favor, it also gives the IRS more latitude to disagree with you, making it the riskiest test to rely on.

The IRS defines “participation” as “[i]n general, any work you do in connection with an activity in which you own an interest.” This does not include work that would be considered work only done by an investor – such as reviewing operations, preparing reports for your own use, or monitoring the finances or operations of the activity. The work in consideration must also not be work that is customarily done by the owner of that type of activity, nor your only reason for doing the work being to avoid treatment of the activity as passive.

While a contemporaneous log is not required to prove material participation, it is always a good idea to keep track of the work and hours you are performing on behalf of the activity in order to substantiate material participation. This is typically the first thing the IRS asks for in the event of an audit. 

As you can see from the seven tests, there is also room to switch between active and passive treatment in any applicable year. So it is important that you take the ITC in the year the project goes in service and the ITC is generated. If you are passive in year one and end up with suspended credits and or losses, a subsequent switch to active status would not change the attributes of those suspended items―they would remain passive.

Lastly, and important to note, this determination is made at the individual taxpayer level. Project investors need to work with their tax advisors and legal counsel to understand their personal tax situation before investing in a project. Depending on the individual situation, an active or a passive treatment may be more beneficial, as everyone’s tax situation is different. The most important thing is knowing ahead of time so that planning can be done and expectations can be set. No one likes a tax surprise!

If you have any questions about your specific situation or would like to know more, please contact the team. We’re here to help. 

Article
Passive activity loss limitation rules and solar project investment

Read this if you are a Maine business or organization that has been affected by COVID-19. 

The State of Maine has released a $200 million Maine Economic Recovery Grant Program for companies and organizations affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Here is a brief outline of the program from the state, and a list of eligibility requirements. 

“The State of Maine plans to use CARES Act relief funding to help our economy recover from the impacts of the global pandemic by supporting Maine-based businesses and non-profit organizations through an Economic Recovery Grant Program. The funding originates from the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund and will be awarded in the form of grants to directly alleviate the disruption of operations suffered by Maine’s small businesses and non-profits as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Maine Department of Economic & Community Development has been working closely with affected Maine organizations since the beginning of this crisis and has gathered feedback from all sectors on the current challenges.”

Eligibility requirements for the program from the state

To qualify for a Maine Economic Recovery Grant your business/organization must: 

  • Demonstrate a need for financial relief based on lost revenues minus expenses incurred since March 1, 2020 due to COVID-19 impacts or related public health response; 
  • Employ a combined total of 50 or fewer employees and contract employees;
  • Have significant operations in Maine (business/organization headquartered in Maine or have a minimum of 50% of employees and contract employees based in Maine); 
  • Have been in operation for at least one year before August 1, 2020; 
  • Be in good standing with the Maine Department of Labor; 
  • Be current and in good standing with all Maine state payroll taxes, sales taxes, and state income taxes (as applicable) through July 31, 2020;
  • Not be in bankruptcy; 
  • Not have permanently ceased all operations; 
  • Be in consistent compliance and not be under any current or past enforcement action with COVID-19 Prevention Checklist Requirements; and 
  • Be a for-profit business or non-profit organization, except
    • Professional services 
    • 501(c)(4), 501(c)(6) organizations that lobby 
    • K-12 schools, including charter, public and private
    • Municipalities, municipal subdivisions, and other government agencies 
    • Assisted living and retirement communities 
    • Nursing homes
    • Foundations and charitable trusts 
    • Trade associations 
    • Credit unions
    • Insurance trusts
    • Scholarship funds and programs 
    • Gambling 
    • Adult entertainment 
    • Country clubs, golf clubs, other private clubs 
    • Cemetery trusts and associations 
    • Fraternal orders 
    • Hospitals, nursing facilities, institutions of higher education, and child care organizations (Alternate funding available through the Department of Education and Department of Health and Human Services for hospitals, nursing facilities, child care organizations, and institutions of higher education.)

For more information

If you feel you qualify, you can find more details and the application here. If you have questions about your eligibility, please contact us. We’re here to help. 

Article
$200 Million Maine Economic Recovery Grant Program released

Read this if you are a renewable energy developer.

Key areas in which developers face critical solar project development stumbling blocks include permitting and environmental matters, site control, interconnection, and preparation for project sale. Here, Mark Vitello and guest co-author Brendan Beasley of Klavens Law Group, P.C. look at preparing for project sale.   

Common pitfalls renewable energy developers encounter when selling projects

Starting from infancy of a project through negotiation of an exit transaction, there are some common―and preventable―missteps developers need to avoid. These include corporate housekeeping and contract missteps; underestimating time to obtain third-party items; striking the wrong balance in a letter of intent; over-reliance on a develop-and-flip business model; undue optimism regarding project assumptions; inadequate protection against payment risk; and not covering bases with a co-developer.

Staying on top of corporate housekeeping

To a developer, the corporate side of project development is low risk and unexciting. Perhaps because of this, developers often neglect corporate matters. This is particularly common for developers without a full-time in-house counsel. Small mistakes can add up. Steps like forming a special purpose project company early in the development process and assigning any pre-existing project contracts or entitlements to the project company can be overlooked or postponed (and eventually forgotten) as a cost-saving measure.  

Here are six common mistakes we see: 

  1. the wrong entity executing a project contract;
  2. misspelling the project company name;
  3. unauthorized signatories (or incorrect title for the right signatory); 
  4. failure to pay state corporate franchise fees; 
  5. losing project documents and signature pages, or not fully compiling project documents; and 
  6. inadvertently allowing liens against a project company or project assets.

These and similar issues can be resolved during the due diligence process, but this typically comes with additional legal costs and delay, is inefficient from a capital perspective, and can jeopardize a buyer’s confidence. There are various approaches to prevent issues and help spot issues in advance. For example, forming a project company is a fairly simple and repeatable process that a good set of forms and checklist can address. As a project moves to development-stage, periodic audits of your organizational and project documents by, for example, maintaining a living data room, will support a smooth transition to marketing your project.

Obtaining third-party items early in the process

Third-party items always take longer to secure than you expect. For example, if you are selling a solar project, you will likely need landlord and offtaker estoppels and, if the deal is structured as a sale of assets, consents to assignment. You will likely need a title commitment and survey. A ground mount project will need a Phase I environmental site assessment, and, often, some sort of permitting report or opinion. An independent engineer report may be required. These are just a few examples of numerous third-party items that are common conditions to closing a sale transaction or part of due diligence. 

Lessen the impact of third-party items, and avoid surprises by attacking these items early. Securing estoppels, consents, reports, and opinions early, even if it becomes necessary to “bring down” or refresh them for the closing date, is immensely better than not initially securing them and leaving your project exposed to third-party risk. It is never too soon to raise third-party estoppels, as that sets expectations. If possible, create incentives or penalties tied to delivery by the third party. For example, estoppels can be addressed in some capacity in your project documents by establishing a covenant to deliver an estoppel within a certain number of days of request and including a form of agreed-upon estoppel. For consents, a project document can identify certain instances where consent is automatic, such as assignment of the document to affiliates, or to third parties meeting certain credit or experience thresholds.

Right sizing the letter of intent (LOI)

Developers should avoid following the middle path in negotiating a letter of intent. Typically, the only two binding terms in an LOI relate to the exclusivity period and confidentiality. Nevertheless, there can be a lot of LOI deal term stickiness when it comes to drafting the definitive purchase agreement. As a result, we usually recommend one of two approaches: (1) no LOI or a very skinny one; or (2) detailed LOIs. 

Factors such as transaction complexity, counterparty risk, potential repetition of transactions, and internal approval processes tend to dictate the right approach in any particular situation. A skinny LOI might have a shorter exclusivity period to extend as the parties coalesce on terms and due diligence progresses. This approach establishes momentum toward due diligence and negotiation of a definitive agreement. One place to avoid ending up, however, is with an LOI that was only lightly negotiated yet covers many deal terms. This scenario can leave a developer (or buyer) in a lurch if certain expected terms of a purchase agreement cannot be agreed upon and were not covered in the LOI or, worse, negotiated deal terms in the LOI are not agreeable to the developer’s management or investors. A project with a commercial operation date deadline, permitting deadlines, and/or a fixed incentive period can ill afford to be stuck in exclusivity with a counterparty unwilling to budge from agreed LOI deal terms.  

Maintaining a Plan B―and a Plan C

Sure, most developers have no tax appetite, limited capital, and want to sell at the first possible opportunity. That’s fine. However, until that exit transaction occurs, the developer owns the project and should have an ownership mentality toward the project. Taking this approach can set the developer in the driver’s seat in purchase agreement negotiations by creating a viable, and perhaps even more valuable alternative path if negotiations stall. Over-reliance on a prospective purchaser that intends to finance construction or insists on procuring key equipment can result in a situation where the buyer exerts leverage if a developer has no Plan B in place. 

Having construction finance capacity or additional equity funding can markedly change the dynamics of post-LOI negotiation. If a developer does walk away from a transaction without having continued development during the period under exclusivity, the developer losses time while often increasing project risk due to outside commercial operation dates and expiring incentives and permits. On the other hand, a developer that has moved forward on a project, and even entered construction, will de-risk a project leading to potential pricing upside.

Correctly pricing transaction assumptions

A typical pre-commercial operation solar M&A transaction involves a purchase price paid in milestones. Frequently, LOI-stage assumptions based on the expected state of the project at the time of signing the definitive purchase agreement turn out not to be accurate. While certain things, such as ultimate project size or property tax burden, are often the subject of mechanisms to adjust the purchase price if later conditions vary from an assumed baseline, it can be risky not to negotiate contingencies with respect to other items, such as whether an executed site lease (still in negotiation) or a key permit (subject to upcoming local board vote) will be in hand at signing. 

Developers tend to be optimistic. However, a developer may wish to agree on pricing or milestones at the LOI stage based on conservative estimates to protect itself if the parties are otherwise ready to sign a definitive purchase agreement. Contemplating both “base case” and “ideal case” pricing and milestones in the LOI can help ensure a developer’s management and investors are on board. It also avoids over-promising and under-delivering, which can be more harmful to reputation and may result in a bigger discounts or deferrals of purchase price than if the base case were negotiated up front.

Ensuring buyer credit quality

A developer must consider the creditworthiness and reputation of a project buyer and put in place necessary protections both to ensure payment of purchase price and continued development and construction of the project. A parent guaranty can not only decrease the general credit risk of the buyer, but, depending on the buyer’s corporate structure, can also result in independent management personnel’s reviewing a milestone payment dispute with fresh eyes. This unbiased perspective may be more realistic and potentially sympathetic to a developer’s claim for payment. 

Other options to protect against risk of non-payment are project entity (or asset) buy-back rights and escrow agreements. In iterative transactions, such as ongoing sales of a portfolio of projects, a developer’s ability to offer future projects from the pipeline to the buyer on similar terms can act as a substantial incentive to the buyer to make payment. A common payment default scenario is a buyer’s unilaterally setting off against the purchase price for claims that may not have any merit. In this case, a buyer rarely has incentive to begin dispute resolution as it is holding the money. 

Developer protections to address this issue, in addition to those discussed above, include restrictions on set-off (which may include requirement of developer written approval or commencement of dispute resolution), litigation fee-shifting, and meaningful deductibles on buyer claims.

Selling co-developed projects

If you have a co-developed project, be sure your development partner is on board before signing an LOI, even if you may have exclusive authority over project sales. Better yet, ensure that each partner signs the LOI. The benefits are two-fold. First, this can protect against a later disagreement with your development partner on deal terms and kick-off discussions regarding allocation of risk between the co-developers in the event of post-closing claims. Second, this will give confidence to the prospective buyer that all necessary parties are in favor of the transaction.

For more information

If you have questions or would like more information about these matters, please contact Brendan Beasley or Mark Vitello.

Please note, this article, which may be considered advertising under the ethical rules of certain jurisdictions, is provided with the understanding that it does not constitute the rendering of legal advice or other professional advice by Klavens Law Group, P.C. or its attorneys. Please seek the services of a competent professional if you need legal or other professional assistance.
 

Article
Avoiding project development pitfalls: Solar M&A

Read this if you are a business with employees working in states other than their primary work location.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many of us to leave our offices to work remotely. For many businesses, that means having employees working from home in another state. As telecommuting become much more prevalent, due to both the pandemic and technological advances, state income tax implications have come to the forefront for businesses that now have a remote workforce and employees that may be working in a state other than their primary work location. 

Bipartisan legislation known as the Remote and Mobile Worker Relief Act of 2020 (S.3995) was introduced in the US Senate on June 18, 2020 to address the state and local tax implications of a temporary or permanent remote workforce. The legislation addresses both income tax nexus for business owners and employer-employee payroll tax responsibilities for a remote workforce. Here are some highlights:

Business income tax responsibility

The legislation would provide a temporary income tax nexus exception for businesses with remote employees in other states due to COVID-19. The exception would relieve companies from having nexus for a covered period, provided they have no other economic connection to the state in question. The covered period begins the date employees began working remotely and ends on either December 31, 2020 or the date on which the employer allows 90% of its permanent workforce to return to their primary work location, whichever date comes first.

The temporary tax nexus exception is welcome news for many business owners and employers, as a recent survey by Bloomberg indicated that three dozen states would normally consider a remote employee as a nexus trigger. Additional nexus would certainly add further income tax compliance requirements and potentially additional tax liabilities, complications that no businesses need in this already challenging environment.

Employee and employer tax responsibility

The tax implications for telecommuting vary wildly from state to state and most have not addressed how current laws would be adjusted or enforced due to the current environment. For example, New York implements a “convenience of the employer” rule. So if an out-of-state business has an employee working from home in New York, whether or not those wages are subject to New York state income tax depends on the purpose for the telecommuting arrangement. 

New York’s policy is problematic in the current environment. Arguments could be made that the employee is working for home at their convenience, at the employer’s convenience, or due to a government mandate. It is unclear which circumstance would prevail and as of this writing, New York has not addressed how this rule would apply.

If enacted, the Remote and Mobile Worker Relief Act would restrict a state’s authority to tax wage income earned by employees for performing duties in other states. The legislation would create a 90-day threshold for determining nonresident income tax liability for calendar year 2020, enhancing a bill in the House which proposes a 30-day threshold.

The 90-day threshold applies specifically to instances where the employee work arrangement is different due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For future years, the bill would put in place a standardized 30-day bright-line test, making it easier for employees to know when they are liable for non-resident state income taxes and for employers to know which states they need to withhold payroll taxes. 

What do you need to do?

With or without legislation, the year-end income tax filings and information gathering will be very different for tax year 2020. It’s more important than ever for business owners to have proper record keeping on where their employees are working on a day-to-day basis. This information is crucial in determining potential tax exposure and identifying a strategy to mitigate it. The Remote and Mobile Worker Relief Act would provide needed guidance and restore some sense of tax compliance normalcy.

If you would like more information, or have a question about your specific situation, please contact your BerryDunn tax consultant. We’re here to help.
 

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The remote worker during COVID-19: Tax nexus and the new normal

Read this if you are a CFO or controller.

The Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) recently provided much needed guidance for governmental organizations struggling to account for relief provided in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). In their Technical Bulletin No. 2020-1, Accounting and Financial Reporting Issues Related to the CARES Act and Coronavirus Diseases, GASB addressed a number of pressing recognition and presentation questions that you should be aware of when preparing financial statements. The following is a summary of the guidance:

  • Resources received under the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) subject to restrictions should be recognized as voluntary nonexchange transactions, subject to eligibility rather than purpose restrictions. As such, the entity should recognize resources received from the CRF as liabilities until the applicable eligibility requirements are met, including the incurrence of eligible expenditures. When the eligibility requirements have been met, revenue should be recognized for CRF resources received.
  • Provisions of the CARES Act that address the entity’s loss of revenue should be considered an eligibility requirement for purposes of revenue recognition. 
  • Any possible amendments to the CARES Act issued subsequent to the statement of net position date but before the issuance of financial statements, even when enacted with retroactive provisions, do not represent conditions that existed as of the period-end being reported and should only be reported as a nonrecognized subsequent event.
  • With the exception of CARES Act funds provided through the Provider Relief Fund's Uninsured Program (operating revenues), funds received under the CARES Act are subsidies and should be reported as nonoperating revenues and presented as noncapital finance activities in the statement of cash flows.
  • Outflows of resources incurred in response to the coronavirus disease due to actions taken to slow the spread of the virus or the implementation of "stay-at-home" orders should not be reported as extraordinary items or special items.
  • In addition to the guidance provided with the Technical Bulletin, the GASB also provides a number of additional stakeholder resources that may be useful during this period on its website, including an Emergency Toolbox that provides guidance on donated assets, management’s discussion and analysis (MD&A), asset impairment, and many more. 

Please contact Robert Smalley if you have questions on the latest GASB updates.
 

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GASB releases guidance for organizations receiving relief from the CARES Act