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Tax planning strategies for
year-end

11.01.18

It’s that time of year. Kids have gone back to school, the leaves are changing color, the air is getting crisp and… year-end tax planning strategies are front of mind! It’s time to revisit or start tax planning for the coming year-end, and year-end purchase of capital equipment and the associated depreciation expense are often an integral part of that planning.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) expanded two prevailing types of accelerated expensing of capital improvements: bonus depreciation and section 179 depreciation. They each have different applications and require planning to determine which is most advantageous for each business situation.

100% expensing of selected capital improvementsbonus depreciation

Originating in 2001, bonus depreciation rules allowed for immediate expensing at varying percentages in addition to the “regular” accelerated depreciation expensed over the useful life of a capital improvement. The TCJA allows for 100% expensing of certain capital improvements during 2018. Starting in 2023, the percentage drops to 80% and continues to decrease after 2023. In addition to the increased percentage, used property now qualifies for bonus depreciation. Most new and used construction equipment, office and warehouse equipment, fixtures, and vehicles qualify for 100% bonus depreciation along with certain other longer lived capital improvement assets. Now is the time to take advantage of immediate write-offs on crucial business assets. 

TCJA did not change the no dollar limitations or thresholds, so there isn’t a dollar limitation or threshold on taking bonus depreciation. Additionally, you can use bonus depreciation to create taxable losses. Bonus depreciation is automatic, and a taxpayer may elect out of the bonus depreciation rules.

However, a taxpayer can’t pick and choose bonus depreciation on an asset-by-asset basis because the election out is made by useful life. Another potential drawback is that many states do not allow bonus depreciation. This will generally result in higher state taxable income in the early years that reverses in subsequent years.

Section 179 expensing

Similar to bonus depreciation, section 179 depreciation allows for immediate expensing of certain capital improvements. The TCJA doubled the allowable section 179 deduction from $500,000 to $1,000,000. The overall capital improvement limits also increased from $2,000,000 to $2,500,000. These higher thresholds allow for even higher tax deductions for business that tend to put a lot of money in a given year on capital improvements.

In addition to these limits, section 179 cannot create a loss. Because of these constraints, section 179 is not as flexible as bonus depreciation but can be very useful if the timing purchases are planned to maximize the deduction. Many states allow section 179 expense, which may be an advantage over bonus depreciation.

Bonus Depreciation Section 179
Deduction maximum N/A $1,000,000 for 2018
Total addition phase out N/A $2,500,000 for 2018


Both section 179 and bonus depreciation are crucial tools for all businesses. They can reduce taxable income and defer tax expense by accelerating depreciation deductions. Please contact your tax advisor to determine if your business qualifies for bonus depreciation or section 179 and how to maximize each deduction for 2018.

Section 179 and bonus depreciation: where to go from here

Both section 179 and bonus depreciation are crucial tools for all businesses. They can reduce taxable income and defer tax expense by accelerating depreciation deductions. Please contact your tax advisor to determine if your business qualifies for bonus depreciation or section 179 and how to maximize each deduction for 2018.

Related Services

If you received PPP funds, read on.

The Treasury has released new information regarding Paycheck Program Protection forgiveness. 

Based on IRS guidance, if you intend to apply for forgiveness and have a reasonable expectation it will be granted, the expenses used to support forgiveness will not be permitted as a deduction in 2020. It is unclear whether this guidance would apply if a taxpayer is undecided with regard to their forgiveness application at year end. Here is what we know so far.

The CARES Act included provisions that stated PPP loan forgiveness would not be considered taxable income under the Internal Revenue Code (“IRC”). The CARES Act specifically provides the forgiveness is not taxable income under IRC Section 61.

However, the IRS has issued the following guidance on this matter, which relates to the expenses paid with the PPP loan funds.

Notice 2020-32, states IRC Section 265(a)(1) applies to disallow expenses that were included on and supported a taxpayer’s successful PPP loan forgiveness application. 

In general, this section states NO deductions are permitted for expenses that are directly attributable to tax exempt income. 

The IRS seems to have concluded, in this Notice, the PPP loan forgiveness is tax exempt income. Therefore, the salary and occupancy costs used to support forgiveness, under current IRS guidance, will not be tax deductible.

Unanswered questions

This notice, while somewhat informative, raises many unanswered questions. For example, what are the tax consequences if a PPP loan is forgiven in 2021 and the expenses supporting the forgiveness were incurred in 2020? Could the forgiveness be construed as something other than tax exempt income?

Revenue Ruling 2020-27 attempts to answer some of these questions and provides additional guidance with regard to IRS expectations. The Ruling seems to indicate there are two possible tax positions relative to expenses that qualify PPP loans for forgiveness:

  • First, the loan forgiveness could be construed as tax exempt income and, pursuant to IRC Section 265 expenses directly attributable to the exempt income are not deductible.
  • Second, loan forgiveness could be construed as the reimbursement of certain expenses, and not as tax exempt income. Under the reimbursement approach the IRS has stated if you intend to apply for forgiveness and reasonably expect to receive forgiveness the reimbursed expenses are not deductible, even if forgiveness is obtained in the following tax year. This position seems to be supported by several tax controversies which were litigated in favor of the IRS. 

Some taxpayers had anticipated using a rule known as the tax benefit rule to deduct expense in 2020 and report a recovery (income) in 2021 when the loan is forgiven. It appears the IRS is not willing to accept this filing position.

We are hoping Congress will revisit this issue and consider statutory changes which allow for the deduction of expenses. Some taxpayers are planning to extend their income tax returns, taking a wait and see approach, with the hopes Congress will amend the statutes and allow for a deduction.

Under current law, it appears the salary, interest, rent used to support a forgiveness application will not be permitted as a tax deduction on your 2020 tax returns. This could result in a significant change in your 2020 taxable income.

Final considerations

For estimated tax payment purposes, we believe it would be reasonable to attribute the lost deductions to the quarter in which you made your final determination to file for forgiveness. This could mitigate any underpayment of estimated income tax penalties. 

If you are making safe harbor quarter estimates and/or have sufficient withholdings any incremental tax would be due with your return on April 15, 2021. Generally, the IRS safe harbor is to pay 110% of prior year tax during the current year to be penalty proof.

If you have questions about your specific situation, please contact us. We’re here to help.

COVID-19 business support

We will continue to post updates as we uncover them. Let us know if you have questions. For more information regarding the Paycheck Protection Program, the CARES Act, or other COVID-19 resources, see our COVID-19 Resource Center.

Article
Update: Treasury issues a revenue ruling and revenue procedure regarding PPP forgiveness

Read this is you are a new renewable energy company looking for accounting solutions.

Setting up a new company in QuickBooks can be challenging enough, but if you are a renewable energy company there are a few additional items to think about. You face unique reporting and tracking requirements for a number of reasons, including tax reporting requirements, potential and existing investors, debt requirements, and grant requirements. Renewable energy companies should take special care in setting up their QuickBooks file. Below is a top 10 list of items to consider when setting up a new company file.

  1. Equity—Have you recorded your initial equity activity?
    Do you have individual capital accounts setup by owner?
    Did some owners contribute items other than cash? Expertise or property? Have you accounted for those properly?
  2. Debt—Do you have all debt financing recorded on the books?
    Debt financing needs to be recorded even if the bank pays some construction vendors directly as part of the agreement.
    Do you have an amortization or payment schedule to assist with recording loan payments properly?
    Does your debt have financial statement reporting requirements or covenant requirements that you must meet annually?
  3. Accounting Basis—Generally Accept Accounting Principles (GAAP) or Tax basis how will you keep your books?
    More and more companies are being required by banks and investors to keep their books on GAAP basis, you should consider future planned investors or financing from the get go as there are some clear distinctions between the two and it may be easier to start with GAAP from the beginning.
    GAAP and tax basis call for some pretty drastic distinctions when it comes to treatment of grant income if they directly relate to a project under development so it’s good to get a handle on this up front.
  4. Construction Costs—Are you capitalizing all construction costs related to your project?
    All costs related to your project must be capitalized on the balance sheet until the project is placed in service at which point you can begin depreciating the value of the project over a period of years.
    Generally, we recommend tracking site work in a separate account as tax and GAAP requirements can call for different treatment of these costs depending on their nature.
    Are you applying for any special grants related to your project? There are a number of federal and state grants available to renewable energy companies which may require breaking your project into cost categories to determine what costs qualify for the grant and what do not? Do you have a mechanism for tracking these costs?
  5. Soft costs―Are you properly capitalizing or expensing soft costs related to your project?  Engineering fees, project management fees and consulting fees if directly related to the project are generally included as part of the capitalized project costs rather than expensed.
    Legal and accounting fees. even if directly related to the project accounting or structuring your project, are generally expensed.
  6. Multiple projects―How are you keeping track of your multiple projects?
    With multiple projects underway at any given time, it is imperative to track these costs by project in QuickBooks and to work with vendors to specify on invoices to what projects costs are related. This is imperative to a lot of grant applications to be able to provide this sort of detail easily and on a consistent basis.
  7. Project details/Contracts details―How are you keeping track of all those details?
    More detail is always good.  In our experience the more detail you have in your files as to cost breakdowns of EPC contracts, etc. the better. Investors and grant evaluators are going to request all this detail and it’s better to have on file than track it down months or even years later.  Vendors are much more cooperative when requesting this documentation up front.
  8. Grant fine print―Have you read the fine print of the grants you’ve received?
    Pay close attention to these green energy grants fine print. Many of the grants have repayment requirements were the project taken out of service within a certain timeframe or have repayment requirements under other circumstances. These are items that may be required to be disclosed in financial statements and are just good business to be aware of.
  9. Organizational costs―Do you know what these are and are you tracking?
    Organization costs are legal, accounting and any other costs related to the actual formation and entity structuring of a company.  In our experience, these costs can be significant with the complex equity structures of many renewable energy companies. Make sure you are tracking these costs as amounts in excess of $5,000 are required to be amortized over 15 years for tax purposes.
  10. Project budgets and overall budgets―Do you have a realistic budget?
    Use QuickBooks budgeting features to track both project budgets as well as your Company’s overall budgets. Projects can go over budget quickly and it’s critical to keep on top of it to ensure the overall mission and sustainability of the company.

Once you have looked at these questions, you will be able to to create an effective budget and financials. If you have questions about your financial operations, QuickBooks, or setting up budgets, please contact the team. We’re here to help. 
 

Article
Top 10 QuickBooks considerations when setting up a new renewable energy company

Read this if you are a financial manager of an ESOP.

Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs) must generally buy back, or repurchase, participants’ shares when they leave the plan or want to diversify holdings. If the ESOP does not purchase the stock the company is required to purchase the shares from the participant under the “put option” described in Internal Revenue Code (IRS) Section 409(h).These rules require the company to either provide enough cash to the ESOP to fund stock repurchases, if adequate other assets are not available within the ESOP, or to fund the repurchase of shares outside of the ESOP. Anticipating the amount and timing of these repurchases requires a lot of number crunching and assumptions to arrive at an estimated “Repurchase Obligation” at a point in time. In most cases, ESOPs enlist the help of valuation specialists, actuaries, or outsider vendors to prepare a study.

All this is done as a component of ESOP cash flow planning but also begs the question, what do you need to record or disclose in your company’s financial statements related to this obligation?

The Financial Accounting Standards Board’s guidance on the subject is contained in Accounting Standards Codification (ASC) Topic 718, Compensation - Stock Compensation. More specifically, ASC Section 718-40-50 clearly outlines the terms, allocated share and fair value information, compensation and other related disclosure requirements for ESOPs in paragraphs 1a through g. One of these requirements—paragraph f—requires disclosure of “the existence and nature of any repurchase obligation...” While the existence of a potential repurchase obligation is undeniable due to the requirements of IRC Section 409(h), disclosure of the nature of the obligation may require judgement and a careful reread of the plan documents.

Existence of the obligation

What private companies record for redemptions is straightforward. They are required to accrue obligations related to redemption events initiated on or before the balance sheet date and disclose share and obligation balance information related to those transactions of material.

Disclosures must include the number of allocated shares and the fair value of those shares as of the balance sheet date. This sounds like a general disclosure of terms, but the intention is to communicate maximum repurchase obligation exposure. If redemptions subsequent to the balance sheet date require material and imminent use of cash, the company should consider whether it is required to disclose them as a subsequent event (including amounts) under ASC Topic 855, Subsequent Events.

Nature of the obligation

So, what do you need to disclose specific to the nature of your company’s ESOP shares repurchase obligation?

Put options against the ESOP trust (i.e., rights afforded under the ESOP requiring the trust to purchase outstanding stock at given prices within specific time horizons). Plan terms allowing redemption payments in excess of a certain threshold to be made over a defined period of time (e.g., retiring employees with vested balances greater than $5,000 may receive their payments in equal installments over a five-year period, while those with lower balances may receive their benefit in a lump sum).

If your company’s ownership has an ESOP component or you are considering an ESOP as part of your exit strategy, please reach out to Linda Roberts and Estera Ciparyte-McDonald. They can help you better understand the myriad considerations to be taken into account, and the required and potential financial statement impact and disclosures.

Article
ESOP repurchase obligations―Planning for future pay ups

Read this if you are a business owner.

Here is some end-of-year tax information we would like to share. While it may vary in your specific situation, we are providing this general information for your review. Please contact us with any questions about your year-end preparations. 

As the world continues to contend with the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic fallout, businesses are doing all they can to mitigate risks and plan for a recovery that’s anything but certain. Here are some tax relief tactics that can help take your business from reacting to the day-to-day challenges to taking advantage of those incentives that are available to help move your business forward.

Tax strategies to generate immediate cash flow

While not exhaustive, here are several tax strategies to consider:

Debt and losses optimization

  • File net operating loss (NOL) carryback refund claims
  • File claim to relieve 2019 tax payments due with the 2019 returns for corporations expecting a 2020 loss 
  • Analyze the tax impact of income resulting from the cancellation of debt in the course of a debt restructuring
  • Consider claiming losses related to worthless, damaged, or abandoned property to generate losses 
  • Decrease estimated tax payments based on lower 2020 income projections, if overpayments are anticipated
  • Consider filing accounting method changes to accelerate deductions and defer income recognition with the goal of increasing a loss in 2020 for expanded loss carryback rules

Making the most of legislation and understand how the CARES Act can provide relief to employers: Defer payment of the employer’s share of Social Security taxes until the earlier of (1) Dec. 31, 2020, or (2) the date the employer’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan is forgiven

Take advantage of any remaining corporate AMT credit

Consider the Employee Retention Credit

Regardless of which tax strategies you leverage, keeping the focus on generating and retaining cash will help ensure your business can weather an extended period of disruption.

Optimizing operations: Uncover tax relief opportunities

The initial tumult of the pandemic and economic fallout has passed, but significant challenges remain. Although companies that have managed to survive up to this point may have overcome immediate safety and cash flow problems, we still face an uncertain future. No one can predict how long the downturn will last, whether the world will revert into crisis mode or the path towards long-term recovery has begun. 

Despite the uncertainty, savvy companies can position themselves to outperform their competitors by capitalizing on market shifts and strengthening their core business models. To do so, liquidity will continue to be at a premium, but many companies at this stage should be able to spend a bit in order to reap considerable returns. Tax planning is important to do just that. Consider which tax strategies can help you find a competitive edge, including: 

Uncovering missed opportunities for savings: 

  • R&D tax credit studies: The money companies spend on technology and innovation can offset payroll and income taxes via R&D tax credits.
  • Property tax assessment appeals: In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, some jurisdictions are reevaluating their property tax processes.
  • Cost segregation studies: Cost segregation studies can help owners of commercial or residential buildings increase cash flow by accelerating federal tax depreciation of certain assets.
  • State and local credits and incentives projects: By taking advantage of existing programs, as well as those implemented as a result of COVID-19, companies can qualify for state tax credits and business incentives. 
  • Opportunity zone program: This federal program is structured to encourage investors to shift capital from existing assets to distressed, low-income areas, and in doing so, deferring and even reducing taxes.

Maintaining compliance: If your business secured any federal funding in the early stages of the pandemic, those funds likely came with certain tax and financial reporting compliance measures attached. 

Continue to grow liquidity: Cash is still key to navigating an uncertain road ahead. Continue to leverage liquidity-generating tactics, such as:

  • Evaluating existing accounting methods and changing to optimal methods for accelerating deductions and deferring income recognition, thereby reducing taxable income and increasing cash flow.
  • Reviewing transfer pricing strategies to identify opportunities to optimize cash flow.
  • Pursuing a tax deduction through charitable donations.
  • Maximizing state NOLs through elections, structural changes, intercompany transactions, and triggering unrealized gains.

Moving forward: Adopt new business strategies to reimagine the future

In the recovery phase, demand for goods and services has returned to pre-pandemic-recession levels. The wisest companies won’t spend this time resting on their laurels but will instead use it to reimagine their futures. 

Plans made prior to spring 2020 may no longer make sense in a post-COVID world. Companies need to not only recover from COVID-19, but also integrate the lasting forces of change brought on by the pandemic to emerge more resilient and more agile than before it began. It’s time to reset vision and strategy—and tax needs to be an integral part of that process. Here are some tax considerations that can align with new business strategies: 

Workforce

During recovery, businesses have likely confirmed near-term strategies around where employees will work. While these plans need to balance employee safety and operational efficiency, they also come with important tax impacts. Tax considerations: 

  • Assess the tax implications of your mid- to long-term workforce strategy, whether you take an on-site, fully remote, or a hybrid approach
  • Ensure tax compliance with state or local tax withholding for employees working remotely 
  • Consider the tax implications of outsourcing any business functions

Finances

As demand for products and services increases, it’s likely profits will also grow, meaning many companies that may have been incurring losses may find themselves with taxable income again. At this point, tax strategies should focus on lowering the organization’s total tax liability. Tax considerations: 

  • Optimize the use of any available credits, incentives, deductions, exemptions, or other tax breaks 
  • Maximize the benefit of changes to the net operating loss rules included in the CARES Act 
  • Consider the foreign-derived intangible income (FDII) deduction, if applicable (i.e., companies that earn income from export activities)

Transactions

Many businesses may be considering strategic transactions, such as acquiring another company, merging with a peer, selling certain assets, or purchasing new resources. Each of these actions can have multiple tax consequences. Tax considerations: 

  • Assess potential tax benefits or liabilities of strategic transactions before they take place as a part of the due diligence process
  • Identify loss companies and plan around utilizing losses and credits
  • Structure acquisitions and divestitures in a tax-efficient manner to increase after-tax cash flow

Innovation

As companies reconfigure their businesses to adapt to COVID-19 changes—from greater shifts to e-commerce to outsourced back office functions to partially remote work arrangements—they should determine how to use tax strategies to offset the costs of these investments. Tax considerations:  

  • Consider using federal, state, or even other countries’ R&D tax credits to offset costs of new products, processes, software, and other innovations
  • Explore whether previously undertaken activities may also qualify for these credits 

Regulations and legislation

As the economy improves, regulatory oversight likely will also increase. Noncompliance can be costly and can reverse much of the progress a business has made in its recovery. At the same time, additional tax law changes are likely on the horizon, and companies will need to be able to act quickly when they appear. Tax considerations

  • Ensure compliance with rules around federal funding received during the pandemic
  • Monitor tax regulatory and legislative developments at all levels, especially in the area of digital taxation, post-election tax reform, and federal, state, and local policy changes 
  • Scenario plan to outline the potential impact of future tax legislation on the company’s overall tax liabilities

Transformation

Staying ahead in the “new normal” means accelerating efforts around digital transformation to build a business with agility and resilience at its core. This should always include evolving the tax function. Businesses must strive to fully integrate processes, people, technology, and data to understand total tax liability and forecast how decisions and changes will impact their tax standing. Tax considerations

  • Collaborate with leadership and other areas of the business on a company-wide approach to digital transformation efforts
  • Establish a clear, shared vision of the future state of the tax department
  • Develop the business case for transformation efforts

Whatever pivots your business takes once the worst has passed, tax strategy needs to be an integral part of the plan to move forward. Evolving your tax strategy alongside business strategy will help prevent unforeseen costs and maximize potential savings.
 

Article
Tax relief strategies for resilience

Read this if 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 article, 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. This is due to suppressed values of privately held businesses, the uncertainty surrounding the impact of the 2020 presidential election on tax rates, and future exemption and exclusion thresholds.

An element of consideration 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, which may further reduce the overall value transferred through a given strategy. You could potentially offload a larger percentage of ownership in a business while retaining large portions of the gift and estate lifetime exemption. Part I of this series focused on the discount for lack of control (“DLOC”). Part II focused on the discount for lack of marketability (“DLOM”). In Part III, let’s focus on the application of discounts.

Application of discounts

One area that often trips up people unfamiliar with business valuations is the application of the DLOC and DLOM. These discounts are multiplicative, not additive. The combined effect of a 10% DLOC and a 30% DLOM is not an additive result of 40%, rather a multiplicative result of 37% (mathematically, 1 – [(1 – DLOC) x (1 – DLOM)]). Consider the following example:

Julie has a 10% minority, nonmarketable interest in a business. The equity of the business is worth $1,000,000. Her interest has a pro-rata value of $100,000 (10% of $1,000,000). Julie retained a qualified valuation analyst, who estimated that a 10% discount for lack of control and a 30% discount for lack of marketability were appropriate for the valuation of her interest. The difference in applying these discounts correctly through a multiplicative process and incorrectly through an additive process is demonstrated in the following chart:

It does not matter the order in which a DLOC and a DLOM are applied. Because these discounts are multiplicative, applying either one first will not affect the concluded minority, nonmarketable value.

Conclusion

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 they prefer investments that they can readily convert into cash should they so desire. Therefore, people are generally not willing to pay the pro-rata value for a minority interest in a business when the interest lacks control and marketability. To assess appropriate discounts for lack of control and discounts for lack of marketability, consider resources such as those referred to in Part I and Part II of this series, then ensure the selected discounts are appropriate based on the factors specific to the company and interest being valued. From there, the application of the DLOC and DLOM is multiplicative, not additive, as noted in the example above. 

Given the current environment, using trust, gift, and estate strategies that take advantage of discounts for lack of control and marketability offers the opportunity to transfer a higher percentage of interest in a privately held company at a lower value. This potentially frees up additional amounts of remaining thresholds of the lifetime gift and estate tax exemptions. 

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 (Part III)

If you received over $2 million in PPP funds, read on.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) has posted a new form to collect additional information on loan necessity from businesses that received over $2 million in PPP funds. The comment period is now open and closes on November 25, 2020. As we seek more clarity, here is what we know.

What is happening: 

The SBA released PPP Loan Necessity Questionnaires (Forms 3509 and 3510) for borrowers that received PPP loans of $2 million or more on October 30, 2020. The forms are not available at the SBA or Treasury websites, but were released through the PPP Loan Forgiveness portal to lenders.  

Here is an excellent description of what we know thus far. Here are our concerns: 

  • The timing and lack of clarity. The 10-day turnaround is very tight. It could be very difficult to manage if it hits during a month or quarter close, or even worse at year-end.

  • This is counter to what was described in the FAQs at the time, so it leaves us with many unanswered questions.
  • It appears that information on the form might be subject to FOIA. There is a toggle to indicate what information you consider to be confidential. We recommend that you carefully review what information you have not flagged as confidential before submitting the form.

Other considerations and actions you can take in the meantime:

  • We know that the questionnaire is triggered by submitting an application for forgiveness. Given some of the uncertainty of other program impacts and this additional information that is requested, it may be reasonable to wait to seek loan forgiveness until we determine the impact.
  • You may wish to comment on the federal notice. See instructions for submitting comments below.

COVID-19 business support

We will continue to post updates as we uncover them. Let us know if you have questions. For more information regarding the Paycheck Protection Program, the CARES Act, or other COVID-19 resources, see our COVID-19 Resource Center.

Instructions for submitting comments:
Agency Clearance Officer                  
Curtis Rich
Small Business Administration
409 3rd Street SW
5th Floor
Washington, DC 20416

and 

SBA Desk Officer
Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs
Office of Management and Budget
New Executive Office Building
Washington, DC  20503

Your comments should be titled as follows:
Title: Paycheck Protection Program
OMB Control Number: 3245-0407

Comments should include one or all of the following: 
(a) whether the collection of information is necessary, 
(b) whether the estimate of 1.6 hours to complete or review the proposed application form is accurate (42,000 applications, 67,833 annual hour burden), 
(c) whether there are ways to minimize this burden, and
(d) whether there are ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information.

Article
Paycheck Protection Program: New regulatory announcements

Read this if you are a renewable energy producer, investor, or installer.

As Election Day approaches, much if not all of the nation’s attention is focused on the global COVID-19 pandemic, the millions of people it has affected, and its effect on the global economy. What haven’t been prominent in presidential election news are the different policy approaches of the two candidates. In the renewable energy sector, the differences are stark. Here is a brief look at those differences and tax approaches of the candidates.

General tax information: Trump 

Traditionally at this time in an election year we’re presented with tax plans from both candidates. While these are campaign promises and may not fully come to fruition after the election, they can shed light on what each candidate plans to prioritize if elected. As the incumbent candidate in this election, Donald Trump has not provided much detail on his tax plans for the next four years, as noted by the Tax Foundation’s Erica York:

“While light on detail, the agenda includes a few tax policy items like expanding existing tax breaks, creating credits for specific industries and activities, and unspecified tax cuts for individuals. The president has also expressed support for other policy changes related to capital gains and middle-class tax cuts. Of note, none of the campaign documents so far have detailed a plan for the expiring provisions under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA).”

The president’s main priorities have been growing the economy and creating jobs, both of which have taken a massive hit in 2020 due to the pandemic. President Trump has had little else to say on his plans for a second term other than extending the sunset of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017 to 2025, or the end of this coming term. One of the items that could be considered is an expansion of the Opportunity Zone program, providing a tax deferral for investment in specified economically distressed areas.

Another item is how Net Operating Losses (see our prior blog post on this topic) will be treated and whether or not the TCJA or the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act rules will be the ones used in the future. With the recent New York Times article detailing the president’s tax filings and showing how he took advantage of the NOL rules, it’s still a guess as to how that could impact the tax policy around NOLs going forward.  

Trump energy plan: fossil fuels first

In the energy sector, Trump’s focus has been on bolstering the oil and gas industry, while also trying to revive the flagging coal industry, and it appears his focus will continue in that vein. His proposed budget continues to provide tax breaks for fossil fuel companies, while planning to repeal renewable energy tax credits. Prior to his election in 2016, the renewable energy sector was somewhat hopeful that the benefits of increased jobs provided by the industry would be appealing to the President. This hasn’t played out over the last four years and with current energy credits scheduled to phase out and unprecedented unemployment, the jobs being provided by this sector may be part of the formula to help sway the administration to extending or expanding these programs.

General tax information: Biden 

Biden, as the challenger, has a much more detailed tax plan laid out. As expected, it is very different from the direction the Trump presidency has taken regarding taxes. A brief summary of his plan:

Raise taxes on individuals with income above $400,000, including:

  • Raising the top individual income tax bracket from 37% back to 39.6%
  • Removing the preferential treatment of long-term capital gains for taxpayers with income over $1 million
  • Creating additional phase outs of itemized and other deductions 
  • Instituting additional payroll taxes related to funding social security
  • Expanding the Child Tax Credit up to $8,000 for two or more children

Biden’s plan would also raise taxes on corporations:

  • Raising the corporate income tax rate from 21% to 28% 
  • Imposing a corporate minimum tax on corporations with book profits of $100 million or higher.

According to the Tax Foundation’s analysis of Biden’s tax plan:  

“[Expectations are that it] would raise tax revenue by $3.05 trillion over the next decade on a conventional basis. When accounting for macroeconomic feedback effects, the plan would collect about $2.65 trillion the next decade. This is lower than we originally estimated due to the revenue effects of the coronavirus pandemic and economic downturn.”…“On a conventional basis, the Biden tax plan by 2030 would lead to about 6.5 percent less after-tax income for the top 1 percent of taxpayers and about a 1.7 percent decline in after-tax income for all taxpayers on average.

Taxpayers earning more than $400,000 a year, and investors who have enjoyed preferential treatment and lower tax rates on capital gains will certainly pause at this proposal. While Trump’s tax policy has been to lower taxes in these areas to spur investment in the economy, Biden’s plan shows the need to generate tax revenue in order to cover the massive amounts spent during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Biden energy plan: renewables first

Joe Biden’s energy policy is focused on climate change and renewable energy. In addition to ending tax subsidies for fossil fuels, his platform proposes investing $2 trillion over four years for clean energy across sectors, recommit to the Paris agreement, and achieve 100% clean energy by 2035.

Other Biden initiatives include:

  • Improving energy efficiency of four million existing buildings
  • Building one and a half million energy-efficient homes and public housing
  • Expanding several renewable-energy-related tax credits
  • Installing 500 million solar panels within five years 
  • Restoring the Energy Investment Tax Credit (ITC) and the Electric Vehicle Tax Credit

Indeed, over the past decade the Democratic Party has been a proponent of investment in and expansion of renewable energy technologies. While increased taxes will certainly cause many business owners and investors to pause, and any changes will need to be passed by Congress, it is encouraging to the renewable energy sector that Biden’s policy platform states goals related to increasing renewable energy in the United States.

As one might expect during this era of the two main political parties being so far apart from each other on policy, the proposed tax plans of both candidates also stand in fairly stark contrast, as does their approach to the United States’ energy sources in the coming decade. There are benefits and consequences to both plans, which will have an impact beyond the 2020 election.  
 

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The presidential election: two different approaches to energy

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 article 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. This is possible 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 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. The discounts 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. Part I of this series focused on the discount for lack of control. In Part II, let’s focus on the discount for lack of marketability.

Discount for lack of marketability

In the context of a hypothetical willing buyer and willing seller, the buyer may place a greater value on an ownership interest of an investment that is “marketable.” Marketable investments can be bought and sold easily and offer the ability to extract liquidity compared to an interest where transferability and marketability are limited. 

Simply put, buyers would rather own investments they can sell easily, and will pay less for the investment if it lacks this ability. Non-controlling interests in private businesses lack marketability—few people are interested in investing in a business where control rests in someone else’s hands. Discounts for lack of control commonly reduce the value of the transferred interest by 5% to 15%, discounts for lack of marketability can drop value of the business by 25% to 35%.

Market-based evidence of proxies for discounts for lack of marketability can be found within the following resources, studies, and methods (including, but not limited to):

  • Various restricted stock studies
  • The Quantitative Marketability Discount Model (QMDM) developed by Z. Christopher Mercer
  • Various pre-initial public offering studies
  • Option pricing models
  • Other discounted cash flow models

In addition to these resources, to fully assess the degree of discount applicable to a subject interest, consider company-specific factors when estimating the discount for lack of marketability. The degree of marketability is dependent upon a wide range of factors, such as the payment of dividends, the existence of a pool of prospective buyers, the size of the interest, any restrictions on transfer, and other factors. 

To establish a comprehensive view on the applicable degree of discount, here are more things go consider. In a ruling on the case Mandelbaum v. Commissioner1, Judge David Laro outlined the primary company-specific factors affecting the discount for lack of marketability, including:

  1. Restrictions on transferability and withdrawal
  2. Financial statement analysis
  3. Dividend policy
  4. The size and nature of the interest
  5. Management decisions
  6. Amount of control in the transferred shares

Conclusion

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 prefer investments they can readily convert into cash, and are therefore generally not willing to pay the pro-rata value for a minority interest in a business when the interest lacks marketability. To assess an appropriate discount for lack of marketability, consider resources such as those referred to above, then ensure 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.

Part III of this series will focus on the application of DLOC and DLOM to a subject interest.

1Mandelbaum v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo 1995-255 (June 13, 1995).

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Discounts for lack of control and marketability in business valuations (Part II)