IRS Gears Up for Aggressive Enforcement

Recently, the IRS Commissioner testified before the Senate Finance Committee, sending the message that the IRS is committed to catching intentional tax evaders. There was no ambiguity in the message of his testimony to Congress; he noted that under his watch, the IRS will aggressively pursue those purposely evading their tax obligations with civil and criminal enforcements. The commissioner made sure to mention that those who were not defrauding the system intentionally had nothing to worry about; they are not the target of stepped-up enforcement.

The IRS will be targeting five major enforcement initiatives:

  1. Technology – The IRS will put a new focus on their use of technology as an enforcement tool; specifically, advanced data and analytical strategies. With this data-driven approach, the IRS believes it will be able to catch tax fraud impossible to spot even just a few years ago.
  2. Offshore Tax Evasion – Offshore tax reporting enforcement is a long-standing priority of the IRS, but the current commissioner reiterated focus on this area, so don’t expect to see any easing here.
  3. Tax Shelters – The IRS believes many taxpayers are abusing two tax shelters, syndicated conservation easements and micro-captive insurance arrangements. They plan on stepped-up enforcement on both those who arrange these shelters and taxpayers who participate in them.
  4. Cryptocurrency – The IRS believes there is mass non-compliance in the world of cryptocurrencies through either underreporting or nonreporting of taxable transactions.
  5. Wealthy Taxpayers – Enforcement actions take time and are resource intensive, so it should be no surprise that the IRS is going after noncompliant taxpayers with the biggest ROI. The IRS is considering anyone with an income level over $100,000 to be high-income. 

Expect to see increased tax enforcement efforts ahead, with a focus on those who are intentionally evading the system. If you haven’t purposely defrauded the system, you have little to worry about.

How Businesses Can Help Protect Themselves Against Civil Unrest

If the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t a big enough strain on businesses trying to engage in commerce, whether it’s retailers, restaurants, manufacturers, or those in the service sector, civil unrest puts another strain on surviving the downturn. Based on recommendations from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Small Business Administration, businesses can prepare for civil unrest.

While the British firm Verisk Maplecroft predicts that 75 countries will see civil unrest in 2020, the United States has already seen its fair share recently. While the future intensity of civil unrest can’t be predicted, businesses can take steps to plan and mitigate such events.

For businesses, the first priority is to ensure employees and customers are not put in harm’s way. If a dangerous situation happens quickly and without warning, there are some steps business owners can take to mitigate the threat.

  • Plan ahead for travel disruptions by keeping an eye on local media reports and online/social media. This information can be helpful for informing employees and customers not to go to work or order online if a retail outlet or office location is subject to civil unrest.
  • Ensure that all workers are familiar with emergency and security plans. This might include having current contact information to reach employees before they go to work or giving them time to leave before the situation escalates.

Another recommendation is to take steps against arson, break-ins, and damage sustained to the property. Examples include maintaining employee vigilance against the out-of-the-ordinary activity. Review security and fire protection systems, how alarm companies will notify business owners, and what steps the monitoring companies will take to mitigate against burglary and/or fire. Reinforce locks and board up areas vulnerable to damage or provide easy points of access during civil riots (e.g., protect glass doors and windows).

If first responders take longer than normal to arrive, it’s important to take measures to reduce the chance of serious and unintended damages from the civil unrest. Be it water, gas, electrical or related systems, turning off all but necessary utilities (e.g., water for sprinklers; enough heat to prevent freezing pipes; power for an alarm system) could reduce the risk of additional damage.

Along with having a commercial insurance policy that includes looting as a covered peril, one other important part of a business continuity plan is how important documents are stored. Will they be stored on-premises in a safe? Will they be stored online, in the cloud and encrypted? Will they be stored offsite in a secure location?

Much like other disasters that often happen with little to no warning, businesses that prepare before civil unrest occurs can help reduce the amount of property damaged and help get their operations back to pre-crisis levels.


Payroll Protection Program Loan Forgiveness is Here

The first Payroll Protection Program (PPP) loans were made over eight weeks ago, which means they may be forgivable if the guidelines set forth by the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the United States Treasury Department are met.

In order to have a loan forgiven, borrowers need to complete the 11-page application made available by the Treasury Department.  Applicants can complete the forms either in hard copy or via an online platform if provided by their lender.  Large borrowers, those who took out more than $2 million from the PPP program are required to file even more paperwork.

Along with the application, borrowers also need to submit a Forgiveness Amount Calculation. This calculation discloses the total eligible payroll costs paid during the program.  Applicants will also need documentation such as tax filing statements, utilities, their PPP loan contract, EIDL contract, and any supporting documents you used when applying for the PPP loan. 

Certification of the loan forgiveness amount requested is necessary to prove it was truly used to pay eligible costs such as payroll, business mortgage interest, rent or lease payments, and utilities. Further, borrowers must report any declines in the number of full-time equivalent employees (FTEs) and/or wage reductions over twenty-five percent. Failing to retain pre-program FTE headcount or wage reductions over this threshold will reduce the eligible amount of loan forgiveness.

The amount of paperwork necessary to substantiate the application can be daunting, especially for many “main street” businesses. In order to help you complete the application, the SBA has issued formal guidance which can be found here.  As a more user-friendly guide giving detailed instructions on how to fill out your PPP forgiveness application form guide can be found here provided by Bench. We can assist you with the application process itself and the required documentation. Give us a call to see how we can help instead of struggling through the process on your own.

COVID-19 Recovery Responses are Crucial for Companies to Thrive in the Future

With the coronavirus spreading across the globe, catching individuals and governments off guard, business owners have not fared any better. While the virus is having a grave impact on the health of millions across the globe, businesses have seen an equally serious impact on their bottom line. The virus is projected to hit businesses’ cash-flow and the ability to stay open post-pandemic.  

While different parts of the country have been hit harder than others, the nation’s businesses, their owners, and employees are all dependent on the national and global economy. Looking to those who have survived past crises, business owners are now tasked with guiding their organizations through the coronavirus pandemic.

Effective Attributes and Responses to Help with Recovery

Right now, more than ever, it is equally important that business owners empathize with their clients’ expectations and their employees’ needs while also taking steps to maintain their financial health.

Other attributes of effective business owners include making sound judgments in light of limited or incomplete data, along with providing a positive but realistic forecast of the situation to keep the employees motivated and productive. Lastly, leaders who see crises like the coronavirus as opportunities to identify trends for innovation and ways to problem solve can look to brighter days in the future.  

Protecting the Business’ Bottom-Line

Like other sustained business interruption events, there’s a three-pronged approach that businesses can implement to increase their chances of survival. The first is to manage the shock from the initial impact and establish a protocol for the new normal in order to preserve continuity. The next step is to learn from what has occurred and adapt to the way work is now being performed to serve clients as effectively as before. The final step is to identify future opportunities to operate differently, more efficiently, and gear up for the post-crisis new normal.  

To better mitigate major effects from a crisis and begin the adaptation process, the following are practical steps to emerge leaner and more efficient as the reopening process begins. Two primary actions that businesses must take is to first protect the well-being of workers, while also protecting the business financially.

  1. Making decisions should be streamlined because a lack of certainty can give decision-makers analysis paralysis. This can slow down important steps needing to be made faster than during non-crisis times. Moving from a chain of command to collaborative teams to make decisions can increase speed by having fewer steps and faster decision-making processes.
  2. Documenting all cash the business holds, along with committed and uncommitted lines of credit, also is suggested. Be sure to include lines that are pre-established with banks or credit unions, plus any existing borrowing limits from lenders; this will provide a baseline for businesses to make crisis projections. Other liquidity measures might be negotiating to extend better payment terms and refinancing existing lines of credit for better short-term payments, potential new equity injections, etc.
  3. Quickly modeling different economic outlooks for existing markets that are served, depending on how mild, moderate, or severe the crisis impacts that business, can provide greater insight on a business’ financials. As conditions change, it will become evident how much cash is needed and what areas of a business might need to be scaled back or cut. Leaders should also look at the likelihood of not being able to serve outstanding debt, primarily as they look at liquidity and the profitability of the business’ operations.
  4. Determine the business’ mission-critical business segments. This looks at which services or products are most profitable and/or resource-intensive. This will help determine which ones are important to current and future cash flow and which segments could be impacted based on the length and severity of the crisis.
  5. Evaluate what businesses can do to reduce non-essential or discretionary expenses to positively impact its finances. This can be accomplished by reducing or forgoing landscaping a business’ exterior or holding off on repainting a building. It can also come in the form of reducing one shift or reducing spending on employee training.  

Since the coronavirus is a fluid crisis and there are many possible outcomes, business owners will implement different practices based on how this crisis evolves. Depending on the severity of the actual impact, different products or services can be stopped temporarily, employees’ hours can be reduced or a hiring freeze can be implemented.