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The presidential election: two different approaches to energy

10.20.20

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

Employee Retention Credit (ERC)

There is still time to claim the Employee Retention Credit, if eligible. The due date for filing Form 941-X to claim the credit is generally three years from the date of the originally filed Form 941. 

The ERC is a refundable payroll tax credit for wages paid and health coverage provided by an employer whose operations were either fully or partially suspended due to COVID-related governmental orders or that experienced a significant reduction in gross receipts. 

The amount of the credit can be substantial. For 2020, the credit is 50% of the first $10,000 of qualified wages per employee for the qualifying period beginning as early as March 12, 2020, and ending December 31, 2020 (thus the max credit per employee is $5,000 in 2020). For 2021, the credit is 70% of the first $10,000 of qualified wages per employee, per qualifying quarter (thus the potential max credit is $21,000 per employee in 2021). 

For 2021, employers with 500 or fewer full-time employees in 2019 may include all wages and health plan expenses as qualified wages. For 2020, employers with 100 or fewer full-time employees in 2019 may include all wages and health plan expenses as qualified wages while employers with more than 100 full-time employees in 2019 may only claim the credit for qualified wages paid to employees who did not provide services. For purposes of determining full-time employees, an employer only needs to include those that work 30 hours a week or 130 hours a month in the calculation. Part-time employees working less than this would not be considered in the employee count.

There is additional interplay between claiming the ERC and the wages used for PPP loan forgiveness that will need to be considered. 

Student loan repayment programs

One of the benefits younger employees would like to receive from their employer is assistance with student loan repayments. A recent study indicated an employee would commit to working for an employer for at least five years if the employer assisted with student loan payments. Some employers have been providing such a benefit and, until 2020, any student loan payments made by the employer would have been considered taxable income. 

Beginning in 2020 and through 2025, at least for now, employers are permitted to provide tax-free student loan repayment benefits to employees. In order to receive tax-free payments, such a plan must be in writing and must be offered to a non-discriminatory group of employees. In addition, the tax-free benefit must be limited to $5,250 per calendar year. Now may be the time to consider offering student loan repayment benefits to help retain and attract employees.

Automatic enrollment for employee deferrals in 401(k)/403(b) plan

Most employers offer an employer-sponsored retirement plan such as a 401(k) plan or 403(b) plan to their employees. However, the federal government and several state governments are concerned that employees are either not saving enough for retirement and/or do not have access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan. Some states are mandating the establishment of an employer-sponsored retirement plan, or mandatory participation in a state-sponsored multiple employer plan (MEP). Other states are mandating that employers who do not sponsor a 401(k) or 403(b) plan provide automatic employee payroll deductions into a state-sponsored Individual Retirement Account (IRA) type vehicle sponsored by the state. If you do not already sponsor a 401(k) or 403(b) plan you should confirm if your state has any requirements.

For those employers who do sponsor a 401(k) or 403(b) plan, you should consider implementing an automatic enrollment provision if you have not done so already. Automatic enrollment requires a certain percentage of an employee’s wages to be withheld and deposited into the 401(k) or 403(b) plan each pay period, unless the employee elects otherwise. While the current law does not require an employer to use automatic enrollment, there is pending legislation that would require an automatic enrollment provision in any new retirement plan. Even though existing plans would be grandfathered under the pending legislation, it may be worth implementing an automatic enrollment provision in the 401(k) or 403(b) plan to help and encourage employees to save for retirement. 

If you have questions about any of these or other employee benefit topics, please contact our Employee Benefits Audit team. We're here to help.

Article
Employee benefit plan updates: The Employee Retention Credit and student loan repayment programs

Read this if you want to understand the new lease accounting standard.

What is ASC 842?

ASC 842, Leases, is the new lease accounting standard issued by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB). This new standard supersedes ASC 840. For entities that have not yet adopted the guidance from ASC 842, it is effective for non-public companies and private not-for-profit entities for reporting periods beginning after December 15, 2021.

ASC 842 (sometimes referred to as Topic 842 or the new lease standard) contains guidance on the accounting and financial reporting for agreements meeting the standard’s definition of a lease. The goal of the new standard is to:

  • Streamline the accounting for leases under US GAAP and better align with International Accounting Standards lease standards 
  • Enhance transparency into liabilities resulting from leasing arrangements (particularly operating lease contracts)
  • Reduce off-balance-sheet activities

What is the definition of a lease under the new standard?

ASC 842 defines a lease as “A contract, or part of a contract, that conveys the right to control the use of identified property, plant, or equipment (an identified asset) for a period of time in exchange for consideration.” 

This definition outlines four primary characteristics to consider: 1) an identified asset, 2) the right to control the use of that asset, 3) a period of time, and 4) consideration.

(For a deeper dive into what constitutes a lease, you can download the BerryDunn lease accounting guide here.) 

How will this affect your organization?

  • Lease arrangements have to be classified as finance, operating, or short-term leases. In general accounting for the lease asset and liability is as follows:

    • For finance leases, use the effective interest method to amortize the liability, and amortize the asset on a straight-line basis over the lease term. Note that this has the effect of “front-loading” the expense into the early years of the lease.

    • For operating leases (e.g., equipment and some property leases), the lease asset and liability would be amortized to achieve a straight-line expense impact for each year of the lease term. ASC topic 842 establishes the right-of-use asset model, which shifts from the risk-and-reward approach to a control-based approach. 
  • Lessees will recognize a lease liability of the present value of the future minimum lease payments on the balance sheet and a corresponding right of use asset representing their right to use the leased asset over the lease term. 
  • The present value of the lease payments is required to be measured using the discount rate implicit in the lease if its readily determinable. More likely than not it will not be readily determinable, and you would use a discount rate that equals the lessee’s current borrowing rate (i.e., what it could borrow a comparable amount for, at a comparable term, using a comparable asset as collateral).
  • It will be critical to consider the effect of the new rules on your organization’s debt covenants. All things being equal, debt to equity ratios will increase as a result of adding lease liabilities to the balance sheet. Lenders and borrowers may need to consider whether to change required debt to equity ratios as they negotiate the terms of loan agreements.

Time to implement: What do you need to do next?

The starting place for implementation is ensuring you have a complete listing of all known lease contracts for real estate property, plant, and equipment. However, since leases can be in contracts that you would not expect to have leases, such as service contracts for storage space, long-term supply agreements, and delivery service contracts, you will also need to broaden your review to more than your organization’s current lease expense accounts. 


We recommend reviewing all expense accounts to look for recurring payments, because these often have the potential to have contracts that contain a lease. Once you have a list of recurring payments, review the contracts for these payments to identify leases. If the contract meets the elements of a lease—a contract, or part of a contract, that conveys the right to control the use of identified property, plant, or equipment (an identified asset) for a period of time in exchange for consideration—your organization has a lease that should be added to your listing.

Additionally, your organization is required to consider the materiality of leases for recognition of ASC 842. There are no explicit requirements (that, of course, would make things too easy!). One approach to developing a capitalization threshold for leases (e.g., the dollar amount that determines the proper financial reporting of the asset) is to use the lesser of the following: 

  • A capitalization threshold for PP&E, including ROU assets (i.e., the threshold takes into account the effect of leased assets determined in accordance with ASC 842) 
  • A recognition threshold for liabilities that considers the effect of lease liabilities determined in accordance with ASC 842

Under this approach, if a right-of-use asset is below the established capitalization threshold, it would immediately be recognized as an expense. 

It's important to keep in mind the overall disclosure objective of 842 "which is to enable users of financial statements to assess the amount, timing, and uncertainty of cash flows arising from leases". It's up to the organization to determine the level of details and emphasis needed on various disclosure requirements to satisfy the disclosure objective. With that objective in mind, significant judgment will be required to determine the level of disclosures necessary for an entity. However, simply put, the more extensive the organization's leasing activities, the more comprehensive the disclosures are expected to be. 

Don't wait, download our lease implementation organizer (Excel file) to get started today! 

Key takeaways and next steps:

  •  ASC 842 is effective for reporting periods beginning after December 15, 2021
  • Establish policies and procedures for lease accounting, including a materiality threshold for assessing leases
  • Develop a system to capture data related to lease terms, estimated lease payments, and other components of lease agreements that could affect the liability and asset being reported
  • Evaluate if bond covenants or debt limits need to be modified due to implementation of this standard
  • Determine if there are below market leases/gifts-in-kind of leased assets

If you have questions about finance or operating leases, or need help with the new standard, BerryDunn has numerous resources available below and please don’t hesitate to contact the lease accounting team. We’re here to help. 

Lease accounting resources 

Article
ASC 842 lease accounting—get started today before it's too late

Read this if you are a business owner or are interested in business valuation. 

BerryDunn’s business valuation team recently authored a book titled A Field Guide to Business Valuation for Owners and Leaders of Private Companies. It is being published by Business Valuation Resources, the leading provider of valuation textbooks, in September. 

A book’s cover can say a lot about a book, and this one is no exception. The title of this book is A Field Guide to Business Valuation. We have organized the book like a field guide used by bird watchers, and encourage readers to keep it on hand as a reference. It doesn’t necessarily need to be read cover to cover. Jump around. If a question comes up about a particular topic, turn to the section that addresses that matter. Or, if learning all about business valuation sounds appealing, by all means read it cover to cover. You may find more to certain topics than you initially thought. Here are some of our notes about the book.

We wrote this book based on data from the field. It is based on our experiences helping business owners estimate, preserve, and increase business value. We work with people who don’t have a business valuation background. We regularly use simple analogies to help people understand complicated topics. We get used to answering the same questions that come up, and we have had many opportunities to hone our answers. After years of explaining business valuations in conversations and presentations, we wrote this book to provide more people with a greater understanding of how businesses are valued. 

This book is intended for business owners and their advisors who would like to learn more about how to estimate what a business is worth, what factors affect value, and how to make businesses more valuable. After reading this book, the reader should be conversant in business valuations and comfortable with the overall valuation framework. It is not an exhaustive dissertation on business valuation. There are many other (very thick) books that get into the details, picking up where this book leaves off. This book is for people who want an understanding of how businesses are valued but don’t have the time to read heavy textbooks. 

The book is designed for people who want to learn how to perform valuations themselves. While it doesn’t contain all the details necessary to master the craft of business valuation, it is a great introduction to the topic. 

Our focus is on the valuation of privately held businesses, not publicly traded companies. Public companies can be valued based on their stock prices or various intrinsic valuation models. The value of private and public companies is affected by different factors. 

We hope this book answers questions, provides new insights, and is an enjoyable read. Stay tuned for more details about availability and opportunities to learn more about the content. If you are interested in learning more, please contact Seth Webber or Casey Karlsen.

Article
We wrote the book on business valuation—and it's available now

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

With the 990 filing deadline of August 15 firmly in the rearview mirror, and with our NFP tax team getting to take some well-deserved late summer paid time off, I have a small window of time for some reflection on the filing season. Some of us choose to wind down with a good book, maybe mull over what to do with the last remaining weeks of summer before the inevitability of Labor Day, or perhaps you’re deliberating what to get the kiddos as the new school year approaches (mine is still a wee pup so still rather light in that department). I myself have been reflecting on some of the issues I’ve seen on our last round of Form 990s, the vast majority of which are hospital clients with September 30 year ends, which I felt compelled to share. Here is my top five list of observations of this year's Form 990 filings.

  1. 501(r) & hospital websites
    By now, most are familiar with the nuts and bolts of 501(r), but something to be mindful of is the interplay between 501(r) and requirements of what needs to be posted on your hospital’s website. Community health needs assessments and implementation strategies (both the most recent set and two subsequent sets) should be posted online at all times.

    Financial assistance policies (FAP), applications, and plain language summaries need to be online too. Those web addresses are provided on Schedule H for the IRS and general public alike.

    Further, items such as Amounts Generally Billed (AGB) calculations, and the list of providers not covered under your hospital’s FAP should be updated and reviewed at least annually. The IRS, despite their skeleton crew and shoestring budget, can and do vigilantly check and scour hospital websites and send out correspondence for any observed irregularities.
  2. Conflicts of interest
    It’s considered a best practice for all NFPs to check for any conflicts of interest (specifically with members of governance and management) at least annually. While most organizations do this diligently and far more often than once a year, I want to point out that the 990 has an entire schedule devoted to reporting of “interested persons”—that being Schedule L. Interested persons go beyond just corporate officers and members of the board; they also can be family members as well as business entities that are more than 35% owned or controlled by any of the above. Your hospital may want to review your procedures as to how you identify potential conflicts to make sure you are also capturing these sorts of relationships.

    Reporting thresholds for Schedule L disclosure can vary. If, for example, a board member’s child works for the hospital and is paid more than $10,000, they are required to be disclosed and the board member is not considered to be independent by the IRS. Transactions with a business entity owned or controlled by an interested person has reporting thresholds of $10,000 for a single transaction, or $100,000 over the course of the year.

    We offer a detailed conflict of interest survey that addresses these questions and more. If interested to learn more about this, please speak to your engagement principal.
  3. Compensation to unrelated organizations
    It seems more and more each year we hear some variation of the following: “Dr. X sits on our board and works here at the hospital, but we don’t pay him/her directly—we pay their company.”

    It’s important to know the IRS closed up this reporting loophole long ago and requires the hospital to report the amounts paid to an unrelated organization for services they render as if you paid the individual directly. A narrative is also required on Schedule J explaining the arrangement. We find in most cases the hospital may not be aware of what exactly Dr. X receives for compensation, which is perfectly fine. The narrative on Schedule J can explain this and that what’s being reported as compensation to Dr. X is the amount paid to the unrelated organization, and not necessarily what Dr. X’s compensation is. In any event, it is not appropriate to say that Dr. X receives nothing.
  4. Fundraising events
    COVID-19 certainly put a damper on most, if not all fundraising events over the past few years, but we’ve started to see some of events come back on the calendar recently, which is a great sign! Just a friendly reminder that if the price of admission to the event is $75 or more, it is necessary to note what items of value a participant is receiving in exchange for the amount of money they pay to attend so they can determine what amount, if any, of their entrance fee is tax deductible.

    For example: A hospital hosts a golf tournament and charges $100 per person to play. In exchange, the person gets use of a golf cart, a round of golf, and some food/drink on hole 19. The fair market value of everything per person totals $85. In this case, only $15 is tax deductible as a charitable contribution ($100 paid minus $85 value received) and the $85 of value received must be relayed to the attendee.

    Should you have any questions as you begin to plan your next round of events, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.
  5. Alternative Investments and Unrelated Business Income (UBI)
    What top five list would be complete without at least a mention of UBI? During the pandemic, we saw many clients get more creative in terms of generating revenue sources, particularly in terms of alternative investments that typically come in the form of a partnership interest and can carry with them significant tax consequences which are not always brought to the forefront at the time the investment is made. More than a few clients have been more than surprised (and less than impressed) to receive a Schedule K-1 at the end of year which not only contains UBI, but UBI that is spread over six different states, some or all of which may require you to file tax returns. If the alternative investment happens to be domiciled overseas, that can bring with it its own set of obligations. You can read more about this here

    It is vital for all organizations to be engaged in open and frequent communication with their investment managers and advisors (both within and outside the organization) to help ensure a full understanding of what sorts of obligations may stem from an investment. Organizations are strongly encouraged to review and share all relevant investment documentation and subsequent information (i.e., prospectus and any other offering materials) with its finance/accounting department, as well as its tax advisors prior to making the investment.

Just some things for you to think about as the next 990 filing deadline will be here before you know it, like the fall colors that will be joining us soon. I hope you all enjoy the last few gasps of what’s been a tremendous summer and you all find some time to do whatever it is that brings you joy and peace. As for me, I think it’s time to get a hobby! 

If you have any questions about your specific situation, please feel free to contact our not-for-profit tax team.

Article
990 filing: Five post-deadline considerations for hospitals

President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act (the “Act”) into law at a White House ceremony on August 16, 2022, finalizing legislation intended to address inflation by paying down the national debt, lowering consumer energy costs, providing incentives for the production of clean energy, and reducing healthcare costs.

The bill moved through the legislative process in near-record time, having been first introduced by Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) on July 27. With the 50-50 Senate, summer recess, and approaching mid-term elections, the path to passage by both houses of Congress was not a certainty.

The Act is expected to raise roughly $450 billion through new tax provisions, including a 15% minimum book tax on certain large corporations, a 1% excise tax on corporate stock buybacks, and a two-year extension of the section 461(l) loss limitation rules for noncorporate taxpayers, which is now set to expire for tax years beginning after 2028. The Act also boosts funding for the IRS, intended to result in increased tax collections over the next 10 years.

Additionally, the Act includes the largest-ever US investment committed to combating climate change, allocating $369 billion to energy security and clean energy programs over the next 10 years. This includes provisions incentivizing the manufacture of clean energy equipment and electric vehicles domestically.

Overall, the Act modifies many of the current energy-related tax credits and introduces significant new credits and structures intended to facilitate long-term investment in the renewables industry.

Base and bonus credit rate structure
The Act introduces a new tax credit structure whereby the tax incentives are subject to a base rate and a “bonus rate.” To qualify for the bonus rate, projects must satisfy certain wage and apprenticeship requirements to ensure both the payment of prevailing wages and that a certain percentage of total labor hours are performed by qualified apprentices.

Projects under 1MW or that begin construction within 60 days of the date when the US Treasury publishes guidance regarding the wage and apprenticeship requirements are automatically eligible for the bonus credit.

Additional bonus credits are also available for projects placed in service after December 31, 2022 that meet domestic content requirements. For a project to qualify for this 10% bonus credit, taxpayers must ensure that a certain percentage of any steel, iron, or manufactured product that is part of the project at the time of completion was produced in the United States.

Facilities located in energy communities are also eligible for up to a 10% additional credit. Energy communities are defined as a brownfield site, an area with significant fossil fuel employment, or a census tract or any immediately adjacent census tract where, after December 31, 1999, a coal mine has closed, or, after December 31, 2009, a coal-fired electric generating unit has been retired.

Credit monetization changes
The Act includes two new options for the monetization of the tax credits in the form of direct pay and transferability. Direct pay allows certain tax-exempt entities including state or local governments and Indian tribal governments to receive tax refunds in the amount of the credits as an overpayment of tax. Taxpayers not eligible for direct pay can elect a one-time transfer of all or a portion of certain tax credits for cash to unrelated taxpayers. Cash received for the transfer of the credits is not included in the income, nor is the cash paid for the transferred credits deducted from income. The IRS may release registration requirements or other procedures to govern these tax credit transfers.

The Act also increases the carryback period to three years for credits eligible to be transferred from the current one-year carryback, and extends the carryforward period two additional years, from 20 to 22 years.

Clean energy provisions
A number of additional changes to the energy-related tax credits are summarized below:

Production Tax Credit (PTC) and Investment Tax Credit (ITC)
The PTC and ITC are extended and enhanced with the restoration to full rates for projects that begin construction prior to January 1, 2025, subject to prevailing wage and apprenticeship requirements. Wind and solar projects are also eligible for bonus credits for projects placed in service in low-income communities. Solar projects have the option to claim the PTC, and the ITC is expanded to include energy storage as well as biogas and microgrid property.

Clean energy PTC and ITC
New technology-neutral credits will be available for qualified zero-emission facilities that begin construction after December 31, 2024. The credits begin to phase out the earlier of the calendar year when the annual greenhouse gas emissions from the production of electricity are equal to or less than 25% of the annual greenhouse gas emissions from the production of electricity in the US for calendar year 2022 or 2032.

Carbon capture sequestration credit
The Act extends the “begin construction” date to December 31, 2032, and changes the credit rate and carbon capture requirements for both direct air capture and electricity-generating facilities. Qualification for the bonus rate requires satisfaction of prevailing wage and apprenticeship requirements and there is an option for all taxpayers to elect a direct payment of the credit for the first five years of operation.

Clean hydrogen
A new tax credit is established for facilities that produce clean hydrogen at a qualified facility after December 31, 2022, and that begin construction prior to January 1, 2033. Taxpayers can claim the PTC or ITC with bonus rates subject to their fulfilling prevailing wage and apprenticeship requirements. All taxpayers can elect a direct payment of the credit for the first five years of operation.

Advanced manufacturing production credit
A new production tax credit is available beginning in 2023 for each eligible renewable energy component produced by the taxpayer in the US and sold to an unrelated person. Eligible components include any solar or wind component, qualifying inverters, qualifying battery components, and any applicable critical mineral. The credit is fully transferable and there is also an option for direct payment during the first five years of production.

Sustainable aviation fuel and clean fuel
The Act includes new credits for sustainable aviation fuel used or sold as part of a qualified mixture between January 1, 2023, and December 31, 2024, and clean transportation fuel produced and sold after December 31, 2024, and before January 1, 2028.

Electric vehicles
The existing $7,500 credit is modified by removing the current provision that begins phasing out the credit once a manufacturer sells 200,000 qualifying vehicles per manufacturer. The Act also introduces limitations regarding domestic assembly requirements and for taxpayers with income over certain thresholds. Beginning in 2024, the Act provides an option to transfer the credit to qualifying dealers and there is no credit available for purchases after December 31, 2032.

The Act also establishes a new credit for previously owned clean vehicles on the initial transfer. The credit is allowed for vehicles with a sales price of $25,000 or less that have a model year at least two years old. Similar to the credit for a new EV, this credit is limited for taxpayers with income over certain thresholds.

Immediately following President Biden’s signing of the bill, the US Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service published initial information – guidance and FAQs – on changes to the tax credit for electric vehicles strengthened by the new legislation.

Alternative refueling property
The credit that expired on December 31, 2021, is extended and modified for property placed in service through December 31, 2032. The eligible expenses are increased and the per location limit is removed. However, beginning in 2023, only property placed in service in low-income or rural census tracts will be eligible for the credit. Prevailing wage and apprenticeship requirements must be satisfied to qualify for the full credit.

Commercial clean vehicles
Commercial vehicles acquired after December 31, 2022, and before January 1, 2033, are eligible for a credit equal to the lesser of 30% of the cost of the vehicle not powered by a gasoline or diesel internal combustion engine or the incremental cost of the vehicle. The credit cannot exceed $7,500 for vehicles weighing less than 14,000 pounds or $40,000 for all other vehicles, and is available only for depreciable property acquired from qualified manufacturers.

Additional clean energy and efficiency incentives in the Act for individuals include:

  • Extension, increase, and modification of nonbusiness energy property credit.
  • Residential clean energy credit.
  • Energy efficient commercial buildings deduction.
  • Extension, increase, and modifications of new energy efficient home credit.

Insights

  • Projects placed in service in 2022, including before the Act’s date of enactment, may be eligible for the PTC and the ITC at full rates. Additional guidance around the prevailing wage and apprenticeship requirements is forthcoming and is expected to include required administrative procedures and documentation to meet the certification requirement to qualify for the bonus rates.
  • Direct pay, albeit limited in scope, in addition to the ability to transfer credits for cash, provides new flexibility in how certain tax credits may be monetized. Combined with the continuation of traditional tax equity structures, this option will impact capital and financing structures going forward.

If you have questions about changes related to the Inflation Reduction Act renewable tax credits, contact our renewable energy tax team

Article
Inflation Reduction Act becomes law

Read this if you are a New Hampshire resident or do business across state lines.

On June 17, 2022, New Hampshire’s Governor, Chris Sununu, signed House Bill 1097 (HB1097) into law. This new legislation asserts that income earned and received by residents of the State of New Hampshire for services entirely performed within the state may not be subject to income taxation in any other state.

The signing of this bill was in response to the US Supreme Court declining to hear a case in which the state of New Hampshire sued the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. This case stemmed from the Commonwealth issuing temporary and early guidance as the pandemic forced New Hampshire workers who would normally commute to Massachusetts to work from home. The early guidance directed employers to maintain the status quo: Keep withholding income tax on your employees in the same manner that you were, even if the workers may not be physically coming into the Commonwealth.

Even though the Massachusetts Department of Revenue lifted the emergency telecommuting rules effective September 2021, New Hampshire lawmakers wanted to prevent any future personal income taxation of its residents who work remotely for a company in another state. For more context, read the July 2021 article from our state and local tax team about the dispute between Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

New Hampshire’s recently passed legislation was an example of its desire to protect its favorable business climate, defined in part by its lack of personal income tax, from the perceived overreach of its neighboring states. Although the telecommuting rules imposed by Massachusetts are no longer effective, House Bill 1097 was introduced to discourage any subsequent taxation of New Hampshire residents who are performing work solely in the Granite State.

This issue of interstate taxation is not unique to New Hampshire and Massachusetts, as dozens of other states have issued temporary regulations and requested guidance from the Supreme Court. As these issues rise in prominence, it will be important for both employee and employer taxpayers to review the guidance issued by each state to confirm the applicable tax treatment is proper.

If you have questions about how the tax law changes may affect you, please contact a member of our state and local tax team.

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New Hampshire says no to income taxation by neighboring states

Read this if you are interested in learning about ESG. 

Although tax credits as subsidies have been a cornerstone catalyst for advancing many environmental, social, and governance (ESG) policies and technologies over the last several years, tax is often forgotten or minimized in the process of creating and implementing corporate ESG and value creation strategies. Ignoring the symbiotic relationship between tax and ESG is a losing strategy, given increased awareness of the importance of tax transparency among shareholders and other stakeholders as a mechanism for holding companies accountable to their stated ESG commitments. A rise in media and rating agency reports on the topic indicate tax will continue to be under scrutiny in the future and may increasingly have significant corporate reputational impacts as well.

As leaders of an organization’s tax function, including as vice presidents of tax, tax directors, or CFOs among others, you are the stewards charged with ensuring tax strategy and operations appropriately intersect with the corporate ESG vision and meaningfully advance ESG commitments. However, the 2022 BDO Tax Outlook Survey found that while an overwhelming majority of senior tax executives expressed an understanding of the value of ESG, three quarters of those responsible for tax were not currently involved in the organization’s ESG strategy. The findings indicate that tax leaders will need to insert the tax function into the ESG planning and execution process and take ownership of tax’s role in ESG. Insights from the survey outline how tax fits into ESG, the core principles of an ESG-focused tax strategy and key considerations for transparent reporting.

How does tax overlap with ESG?

Because there is some misunderstanding about how tax relates to environmental, social, and governance issues, there is a high probability that tax may not be incorporated in responsible business strategy and planning. While not reflected in the ESG acronym, there is an element of tax that is central to each of these principles. For example, environmental behavioral taxes and incentives, such as carbon taxes on greenhouse gas emissions and tax incentives for green energy adoption, are crucial to driving behavior change toward more sustainable practices in the near term while many impacts of climate change are still experienced in indirect ways. In terms of the social element, taxes are a key mechanism for companies to contribute to the societies in which they operate and to build trust among members of the public as a responsible corporate actor. Finally, proper tax governance can ensure that there is appropriate oversight over an organization’s tax strategy and decisions, ensuring they align with overarching business objectives and stakeholder communications around tax reporting.

Using the tax ESG cipher to unlock a successful ESG-driven tax strategy

Aligning the tax function with an overarching ESG strategy across the business is a heavy lift. To build and implement a responsible tax program will take time and requires careful consideration of an organization’s overall approach to tax, tax governance and total tax contribution. Each company will have a unique tax strategy based on its business and stakeholder considerations and may be at varying points along its responsible tax journey. Whether you are just beginning or at the stage of reassessing your approach based on changing market conditions, updates to your ESG strategy, or regulations, the cypher below can be used to guide these critical considerations and help ensure tax is meaningfully incorporated in ESG strategy. The process should be iterative over time and when implemented successfully, will drive improved decision-making on risk mitigation, strengthen risk awareness and increase transparency and accountability.

Core principle one: Approach to tax

The first step to meaningfully incorporating tax in ESG strategy is understanding and articulating the purpose and values that guide the tax function. This process includes defining the organization’s approach to regulatory compliance and the interaction with tax authorities. Writing a tax policy and strategy is an important way to articulate the company’s tax priorities and educate all team members across the organization about the function’s principles. The statement may include commitments to communicate transparently with regulators and disclose more information than required by law in some cases, for example.

As the organization evolves due to changes in the industry, overall ESG commitments and sustainability strategies, the tax strategy statement should be updated accordingly. Regulatory changes will also necessitate continuous assessment and consideration of whether the strategy meets the current understandings of transparency, risk mitigation and accountability based on new information. Through this set of guiding principles, the tax function can help improve decision-making and reporting actions to align with changes in the broader corporate ESG strategy, purpose, and values. 

Core principle two: Tax governance and risk management

Establishing a robust governance, control, and risk management framework provides comfort and assurance that the reported approach to tax and tax strategy is well embedded in an organization’s substantiable business strategy and that there are mechanisms in place to effectively monitor its compliance obligations.

However, it’s important to remember that tax governance and risk management have broad considerations that go beyond the traditional frameworks governing internal controls over financial reporting (ICFR). A common pitfall for many is a narrow focus on governance strategies. Generally, ICFR focuses on accurate and complete reporting in financial statements. While this is an important area of governance, it does not account for or represent the many objectives included in a tax ESG control framework, which is typically broader as it focuses on how and why decisions regarding tax approaches and positions are made.

The objective of this core principle is to demonstrate to stakeholders how the organization’s tax governance, control and risk management function are in alignment with the values and principles outlined in the Approach to Tax statement. This can include establishing a risk advisory council, guidelines for including tax in ESG reporting deliverables and any corresponding regulatory requirements, and communications to relevant stakeholders on executive oversight activities related to the tax strategy.  

However, many organizations have not taken the time to document and define their risk mitigation and executive oversight strategy. Often this is left merely to control procedures that are mechanical and regulatory in nature. Instead, a tax governance and risk management strategy should aim to establish a framework focused on strengthening risk awareness and transparently communicating governance activities to both internal and external audiences when appropriate.

Core principle three: Total tax contribution

While quantifying and providing necessary qualitative context around an organization’s total tax contribution is not an easy task, today, stakeholders from employees and customers to investors and regulators expect transparency around tax strategies, tax-related risks, total tax contribution and country-by-country activities. Recently, tax has received increased scrutiny from these stakeholders because it is a core component of many ESG metrics used to evaluate a business’s tax behaviors and ensure there is accountability across its tax practices. The result is that how a company shares tax information with stakeholders and what it includes in reports has a significant impact on reputation and perceptions of corporate ESG statements.

However, the increased demand for tax transparency is not without its challenges. Nearly two-thirds of respondents in the 2022 BDO Tax Outlook Survey (62%) said data collection and analysis (the quantitative component of ESG-focused tax) is the greatest challenge of tax transparency reporting efforts, pointing to an underlying issue of tax data governance and fragmented systems. Often this is an area where tax leaders require outside assistance to establish automated processes that can collect tax data on a periodic basis for regular analysis. The importance of ESG and attention around the topic will only continue to increase over the next several years, so it is critical to begin thinking about adequate data collection and analytic capabilities for tax leaders looking to incorporate tax in ESG practices and strategy. For those just beginning the process, our advice is to partner with in-house IT functions or external consultants for assistance and support.

Collecting relevant tax data on a regular basis is a critical early step because it affords tax leaders the opportunity to determine which information will be disclosed to various stakeholders and which information can help shape and support broader ESG narratives being developed by corporate leadership. While determining data collection processes, it is also important to consider and seek counsel on communication and information delivery strategies that will best reach and address the concerns of priority stakeholder groups.   

Although this task can be a heavy lift, it may also result in significant business advantages. A key benefit is that the data and information gathered will help tax leaders further define and evolve ESG-driven tax strategies through tax monetization structures and company core value items, among others. Ultimately, organizations that better understand their total tax contribution across various taxing jurisdictions and country-by-country activities are best equipped to make data-driven tax strategy decisions that are aligned with broader ESG and sustainability objectives, while also avoiding value creation hinderances. 

Key reporting considerations

Once the quantitative data have been collected, the next step is to consider how you report the information. Communicating the numbers themselves is not enough. Communicating the narrative behind the numbers – the qualitative component of reporting – is extremely important. The narrative should always aim to communicate the company’s approach to tax, values guiding decision-making and the impact of the tax strategy to key stakeholders in a straightforward and transparent manner. However, qualitative reporting can vary by organization depending on several factors, from choice of standards to company philosophy.

The 2022 BDO Tax Outlook Survey also found that challenges and variance in tax transparency reporting are driven by a lack of universal reporting standards and clarity around which ESG frameworks to follow. In the meantime, the best reporting framework for any company is one that drives a deep understanding of the organization’s ESG philosophy and vision, which may require more investment in terms of time and effort. When determining a reporting approach, it is important to consider the goal of the report or disclosure and which data best demonstrate ESG progress and strategy. Because the ESG-related tax reporting is not a mandated process and is currently a voluntary disclosure in the U.S., it can often be helpful to review tax reports related to ESG from other companies already making these disclosures as a baseline.

Keep in mind that one of the main reasons businesses are electing to publish comprehensive ESG and Sustainability Tax Reports and Global Tax Footprints is to articulate their broader total tax contribution to ensure that the tax narrative speaks to the needs and demands of their stakeholders. Each report must be unique and relevant to the company in terms of content and method of disclosure.

Currently, there is a relatively small number of companies electing to make such disclosures, based on the findings of the 2022 BDO Tax Outlook Survey outlined below. Of the 150 senior tax executives polled, less than a quarter (23%) are implementing both qualitative and quantitative disclosures:

Tax transparency reporting disclosures

Today, tax is an essential component of the ESG metrics that determine how stakeholders perceive an organization. Despite this fact, the movement to incorporate tax in ESG planning and strategies is still in its infancy. This means leaders of tax functions still have time to begin the process of implementing ESG-driven tax strategies and operations to ensure the function evolves with the importance of ESG. While there is no simple one-size-fits-all solution, given the nuances and complications of the tax function for each organization, the general framework in the Tax ESG Cipher can help guide tax leaders at any point on the journey. The cipher outlines key considerations to ensure an organization’s ESG vision is well-structured and appropriately includes tax strategies. While the process requires long-term effort and dedication, it generates high returns in terms of accountability, transparency, and reputational and sustainable value.

Written by Daniel Fuller and Jonathon Geisen. Copyright © 2022 BDO USA, LLP. All rights reserved. www.bdo.com  

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Navigating the intersection of tax and ESG

Read this if you file taxes with the IRS for yourself or other individuals.

To protect yourself from identity thieves filing fraudulent tax returns in your name, the IRS recommends using Identity Protection PINs. Available to anyone who can verify their identity online, by phone, or in person, these PINs provide extra security against tax fraud related to stolen social security numbers of Tax ID numbers.

According to the Security Summit—a group of experts from the IRS, state tax agencies, and the US tax industry—the IP PIN is the number one security tool currently available to taxpayers from the IRS.

The simplest way to obtain a PIN is on the IRS website’s Get an IP PIN page. There, you can create an account or log in to your existing IRS account and verify your identity by uploading an identity document such as a driver’s license, state ID, or passport. Then, you must take a “selfie” with your phone or your computer’s webcam as the final step in the verification process.

Important things to know about the IRS IP PIN:

  • You must set up the IP PIN yourself; your tax professional cannot set one up on your behalf.
  • Once set up, you should only share the PIN with your trusted tax prep provider.
  • The IP PIN is valid for one calendar year; you must obtain a new IP PIN each year.
  • The IRS will never call, email or text a request for the IP PIN.
  • The 6-digit IP PIN should be entered onto your electronic tax return when prompted by the software product or onto a paper return next to the signature line.

If you cannot verify your identity online, you have options:

  • Taxpayers with an income of $72,000 or less who are unable to verify their identity online can obtain an IP PIN for the next filing season by filing Form 15227. The IRS will validate the taxpayer’s identity through a phone call.
  • Those with an income more than $72,000, or any taxpayer who cannot verify their identity online or by phone, can make an appointment at a Taxpayer Assistance Center and bring a photo ID and an additional identity document to validate their identity. They’ll then receive the IP PIN by US mail within three weeks.
  • For more information about IRS Identity Protection PINs and to get your IP PIN online, visit the IRS website.

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

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The IRS Identity Protection PIN: What is it and why do you need one?

Read this if you are a business owner or responsible for your company’s accounts.

US businesses have been hit by the perfect storm. As the pandemic continues to disrupt supply chains and plague much of the global economy, the war in Europe further complicates the landscape, disrupting major supplies of energy and other commodities. In the US, price inflation has accelerated the Federal Reserve’s plans to raise interest rates and commence quantitative tightening, making debt more expensive. The stock market has declined sharply, and the prospect of a recession is on the rise. Further, US consumer demand may be cooling despite a strong labor market and low unemployment.

As a result of these and other pressures, many businesses are rethinking their supply chains and countries of operation as they also search for opportunities to free up or preserve cash in the face of uncertain headwinds.

Income tax accounting methods

Adopting or changing income tax accounting methods can provide taxpayers opportunities for timing the recognition of items of taxable income and expense, which determines when cash is needed to pay tax liabilities.

In general, accounting methods either result in the acceleration or deferral of an item or items of taxable income or deductible expense, but they don’t alter the total amount of income or expense that is recognized during the lifetime of a business. As interest rates rise and debt becomes more expensive, many businesses want to preserve their cash. One way to do this is to defer their tax liabilities through their choice of accounting methods.

Some of the more common accounting methods to consider center around the following:

  • Advance payments. Taxpayers may be able to defer recognizing advance payments as taxable income for one year instead of paying the tax when the payments are received.
  • Prepaid and accrued expenses. Some prepaid expenses can be deducted when paid instead of being capitalized. Some accrued expenses can be deducted in the year of accrual as long as they are paid within a certain period of time after year end.
  • Costs incurred to acquire or build certain tangible property. Qualifying costs may be deducted in full in the current year instead of being capitalized and amortized over an extended period. Absent an extension, under current law, the 100% deduction is scheduled to decrease by 20% per year beginning in 2023.  
  • Inventory capitalization. Taxpayers can optimize uniform capitalization methods for direct and indirect costs of inventory, including using or changing to various simplified and non-simplified methods and making certain elections to reduce administrative burden.
  • Inventory valuation. Taxpayers can optimize inventory valuation methods. For example, adopting to (or making changes within) the last-in, first-out (LIFO) method of valuing inventory generally will result in higher cost of goods sold deductions when costs are increasing.
  • Structured lease arrangements. Options exist to maximize tax cash flow related to certain lease arrangements, for example, for taxpayers evaluating a sale vs. lease transaction or structuring a lease arrangement with deferred or advance rents.

Improving cash flow: Revisiting your tax accounting methods

Optimizing tax accounting methods can be a great option for businesses that need cash to make investments in property, people, and technology as they address supply chain disruptions, tight labor markets, and evolving business and consumer landscapes. Moreover, many of the investments that businesses make are ripe for accounting methods opportunities—such as full expensing of capital expenditures in new plant and property to reposition supply chains closer to operations or determining the treatment of investments in new technology enhancements.

For prepared businesses looking to weather the storm, revisiting their tax accounting methods could free up cash for a period of years, which would be useful in the event of a recession that might diminish sales and squeeze profit margins before businesses are able to right-size costs.

While an individual accounting method may or may not materially impact the cash flow of a company, the impact can be magnified as more favorable accounting methods are adopted. Taxpayers should consider engaging in accounting methods planning as part of any acquisition due diligence as well as part of their regular cash flow planning activities.  

Impact of deploying an accounting method

The estimated impact of an accounting method is typically measured by multiplying the deferred or accelerated amount of income or expense by the marginal tax rate of the business or its investors.
For example, assume a business is subject to a marginal tax rate of 30%, considering all of the jurisdictions in which it operates. If the business qualifies and elects to defer the recognition of $10 million of advance payments, this will result in the deferral of $3 million of tax. Although that $3 million may become payable in the following taxable year, if another $10 million of advance payments are received in the following year the business would again be able to defer $3 million of tax.

Continuing this pattern of deferral from one year to the next would not only preserve cash but, due to the time value of money, potentially generate savings in the form of forgone interest expense on debt that the business either didn’t need to borrow or was able to pay down with the freed-up cash. This opportunity becomes increasingly more valuable with rising interest rates, as the ability to pay significant portions of the eventual liability from the accumulation of forgone interest expense can materialize over a relatively short period of time, i.e. the time value of money increases as interest rates rise.

Accounting method changes

Generally, taxpayers wanting to change a tax accounting method must file a Form 3115 Application for Change in Accounting Method with the IRS under one of two procedures:

  • The “automatic” change procedure, which requires the taxpayer to file the Form 3115 with the IRS as well as attach the form to the federal tax return for the year of change; or
  • The “nonautomatic” change procedure, which requires advance IRS consent. The Form 3115 for nonautomatic changes must be filed during the year of change.

In addition, certain planning opportunities may be implemented without a Form 3115 by analyzing the underlying facts.

Next steps for businesses

Taxpayers should keep in mind that tax accounting method changes falling under the automatic change procedure can still be made for the 2021 tax year with the 2021 federal return and can be filed currently for the 2022 tax year.

Nonautomatic procedure change requests for the 2022 tax year are recommended to be filed with the IRS as early as possible before year end to give the IRS sufficient time to review and approve the request by the time the federal income tax return is to be filed.

Engaging in discussions now is the key to successful planning for the current taxable year and beyond. Whether a Form 3115 application is necessary or whether the underlying facts can be addressed to unlock the accounting methods opportunity, the options are best addressed in advance to ensure that a quality and holistic roadmap is designed. Analyzing the opportunity to deploy accounting methods for cash savings begins with a discussion and review of a business’s existing accounting methods.

Please contact our Tax Consulting and Compliance team if you have questions or concerns about your specific situation. We’re here to help.

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When interest rates rise, optimizing tax accounting methods can drive cash savings