What You Need to Know About Incorporating Your Business

Business people working on business contract papers at officeIncorporating your small business the right way can bring tax benefits and protect your personal assets. Read on to learn more about what incorporation is, why you might want to incorporate, and how an accountant can help you navigate the questions that come with selecting the right business structure.

What is Incorporation?

When discussing “incorporation” in terms of a business, the term denotes how the business is organized or structured.

Regardless of the structure you choose for your business, incorporation is a legal process that brings your business into existence. The following are business structures commonly used in a small business.

Sole proprietorship

If you conduct business as an individual and do not register as any other type of business, you are a sole proprietor. With this business structure, your personal and business assets and liabilities are not separate. Sole proprietorships are relatively simple structures and a good choice for low-risk businesses or entrepreneurs testing a business idea. However, this business structure does not offer liability protection, so the owner is personally responsible for business debts and obligations. Another drawback is that it can be more challenging to get bank financing and business credit with this structure.

Partnership

When two or more individuals own a business together, the simplest structure is the partnership. There are limited partnerships (LP) and limited liability partnerships (LLP). LPs consist of a general partner with unlimited liability; the remaining partners have limited liability and limited control in the business. The partner without limited liability pays self-employment taxes. In LLPs, every owner has limited liability, protecting them from business debts and the actions of the other partners.

Partnerships can be a good choice for multiple-owned businesses and professional groups like physicians, attorneys, and veterinarians.

C-corp

Sometimes called a C-corp, a corporation is a separate legal entity from the business owner(s). The benefit of a corporation is that they offer the most robust protection for owners from personal liability; however, it costs more to form a corporation than it does to establish other business structures, and business profits are taxed at the personal and corporate level. Further, the record-keeping, operations, and reporting are more involved for a corporation. This structure is usually best for higher-risk businesses or those that raise money or plan to become publicly traded in the stock market.

S-corp

An S-corporation, or S-corp, is designed to avoid the double-taxation of a C-corp. This avoidance is possible because, in an S-corp, profits and some losses go through the owner’s personal income to avoid corporate taxes. S-corps are taxed differently in different states, so it is essential to have your accountant help you understand the guidelines and laws in your state.

LLC

A limited liability company (LLC) has the benefits of a corporation and a partnership. The owner is protected from personal liability in situations like bankruptcy or lawsuits and can avoid corporate taxes because profits and losses can pass through their personal income. However, there are self-employment taxes and Medicare and Social Security contributions since LLC members are considered self-employed.

An LLC is an option for owners with significant assets that need protection and who want the benefit of a lower tax rate than a corporation pays.

How to Incorporate

When you’re ready to incorporate your business, consult your trusted CPA or accountant so that you have a full view of what incorporating will mean for you and your business initially and for years to come.

Let us know how our CPAs and business consultants can help your business navigate challenges and become more profitable. Contact us to request a consultation, or give us a call today at 775-332-4201 and ask for Mark Bailey for more information.

5 Topics Every Business Owner Should Discuss with An Accountant

Group of people having meeting and disscusingYour accountant or CPA is a business asset that you should put to good use year-round, not just at tax time. There are several topics beyond taxes that business owners should discuss with their trusted financial professionals. In this article, we cover five of them for you. While the new year is traditionally when business owners think of making financial, strategic, and other business-related plans, any time is the right time to speak to your accountant to discuss the following aspects of your business. You can’t begin the conversation too early, but it could be too late in some cases, so don’t put aside these five essential talking points.

1. Financial Planning

Budget is front of mind for business owners, but other financial issues impact your business, too. Consider a full portfolio review with your accountant to plan your financial future. Some critical topics to cover include strategies to improve cash flow, existing business loans, capital investment, charitable contributions, employee-related expenses like bonuses and health care, retirement planning, and asset management.

2. Company Growth

The goal of all businesses is growth. With growth comes change. As your business objectives shift, your valuation and tax liability often shift, too. Any changes you experience in your business should be conveyed to your accountant or CPA so that they can apprise you of liabilities or status changes. For example, suppose you plan to expand, add additional locations, make significant staffing changes, merge companies, acquire new businesses, or plan to sell your business. In that case, you should set up an appointment with your accountant to develop a logical strategy to address the change.

3. Inventory

If your business sells or resells tangible goods, inventory is vital. Sales tax laws and regulations can be challenging. Many states have rules about nexus (i.e., how much presence a business has in a city or state) related to where businesses warehouse inventory and fulfill orders. Your accountant can assess your order process to verify your restocking and ordering processes to maximize cash flow, ensure unsold inventory is accounted for, and ensure that sales tax is collected everywhere your company has nexus.

4. Risk Management

Do you have a plan in place to protect your business from disruption? Many do not. If that applies to your business, contact your accountant to discuss continuity planning to protect your business. They can provide professional insight regarding how to mitigate risks should a disruption occur. Some topics to address are whether your insurance policies are up to date, if all compliance, security, and privacy standards are met, whether your business has fraud protection in place, and if the existing internal controls protect your business. Given the time and capital small business owners invest in their passion, they must take time to manage any potential risk that could destroy what they worked so hard to create and build.

5. Tax Compliance

Lastly, as a business owner, you always want to be tax compliant. And this doesn’t apply only to federal taxes. It is just as essential to make sure state-imposed taxes are addressed on time. Regulations and tax laws change frequently, so it is vital to have a firm grasp on these. The best way to ensure you do this is to have your accountant guide you. They can inform you of any changes that affect your business and advise you on addressing them. Discuss collecting and filing W2s and 1099s for any contract employees; ensure exemption and resale certifications are collected and stored correctly; comply with online sales and nexus rules; and have an internal review to find any issues that might trigger a sale tax audit.


It helps to think of your business accountant as an extension of your team, an impartial adviser who will assess the risks and rewards associated with your business. They will answer your questions and illuminate unclear topics for you. They may bring up important points you’ve yet to consider, so make that call today and get a meeting on the calendar to discuss these critical points with your accountant. And remember, you can do your part by making sure you keep business and personal finances separate and maintaining complete, organized records.

PPP Loan Forgiveness in 2021

 

REFRESHER: What is the Paycheck Protection Program?

Paycheck Protection Program PPP Loan forgiveness application form.The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is a Small Business Association (SBA)-backed loan to help businesses retain employees during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic enacted under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Funds can be used for payroll expenses and benefits and some non-payroll related expenses such as mortgage interest, rent, and utilities.

There are first and second-draw PPP loans. First-draw loans are available for first-time applicants, and second-draw loans are for businesses who already took advantage of a first-draw PPP loan.

PPP Loan Forgiveness

PPP loans can be forgiven if the following criteria are met:

  • employee retention and compensation rates must be maintained
  • loan funds must be spent according to the loan terms
  • no less than 60 percent of loan funds are spent on payroll

When Congress passed the new spending bill at the end of 2020, the covered period for PPP loans was extended through March 31, 2021. With this extension, the SBA released new guidance for these loans and loan forgiveness.

Expanded PPP Loan Forgiveness

Eligible Forgivable Non-Payroll Expenses

Under these new guidelines, the number of eligible “forgivable” non-payroll expenses were expanded to cover payments for:

  • software and cloud computing services
  • property damage costs related to vandalism or looting not covered by insurance
  • supplier costs for contracted goods (including perishable goods) ordered before taking out the loan
  • expenses related to compliance with federal, state, or local health and safety guidelines related to the pandemic from March 1, 2020, until the national emergency declaration expiration

Covered Period for Forgiveness

The covered period for PPP loans is when a recipient can spend the funds and still qualify for loan forgiveness. The covered period was either eight or 24 weeks; however, recipients can choose when the covered period ends under the new guidelines. They can choose a date between 8 and 24 weeks after their loan origination date.

Simplified Loan Forgiveness Application

For loans under $150,000, a simplified forgiveness application is available. For borrowers who submit a signed certification under one page in length to the lender, loans are forgiven in full. The certification must include:

  • the total loan amount
  • an estimate of the total loan amount spent on payroll costs
  • the number of employees the employer retained as a result of receiving their PPP loan

Applying for PPP Loan Forgiveness

Borrowers must wait until all PPP loan funds are used before applying for forgiveness. Forgiveness can be applied up to the maturity date of the loan. Forgiveness must be applied for within ten months after the last day of the covered period of the loan, or payments will no longer be deferred, and borrowers must begin repayment of the loan.

The appropriate loan form with all documentation for payroll and non-payroll expenses along with the forgiveness documentation should be submitted to the borrower’s lender to start the forgiveness process.


Excelsis Accounting Group is here to help you successfully navigate the unprecedented economic challenges you face, and get your business back to business as quickly as possible. We provide assistance with finding the right program(s) for your unique set of circumstances, filing necessary forms and documentation, and providing sound financial advice at a time when you need it most. Contact us today at 775-332-4201 or fill out our simple form to get started right away.

Map Out Your Journey with a Business Plan

Consultant presenting business plan strategy for companies and investorsMuch like a map or a GPS provides clear directions to your destination, a business plan can help define your goals and spell out the steps your business must take to achieve them. It can also establish a set of benchmarks to measure your progress. A business plan is critically important when it comes to obtaining financing. Here are the key sections that a business plan should include.

Executive Summary

Your executive summary outlines the primary points in the subsequent sections and touches on your company profile and goals.

Company Goals/Mission Statement

This section summarizes your company’s purposes and goals. It defines who you are and what you want to achieve.

Market Analysis

Here you can demonstrate your industry knowledge and present conclusions based on your assessment of the industry, your potential market and its demographics, and your main competitors.

Company Description

Provide information on what you do, how you do it, the markets your business serves, and what differentiates your business from the competition. You can include examples of recent projects that were completed and, if advisable, the names of some of your major clients.

Organization and Management

Here you can outline your business’s organizational structure and identify the company owners, management team, and board of directors.

Service or Product Line

This section provides the opportunity to explain what you sell and how your products or services benefit customers.

Strategy and Implementation

It’s important to summarize how you plan to market your business and what your sales strategy is. This section should include information on how you will reach target customers and penetrate the market and should provide details about pricing, promotions, and distribution.

Financial Plan

This is where you present an overview of your finances. It is where you lay out your assumptions about revenue growth, operating costs, and cash flows. Include balance sheets, income statements, and cash flow schedules as well as details about capital requirements.

3 Ways to Make the Most of Your Fundraising

Businessman And Businesswomen Having Informal Meeting In OfficeFundraising is very challenging: It’s a critical function that essentially never ends. Coming up with some innovative ideas can help add a fresh spark to the task.

Auction Action

If you have an individual patron or corporate donor who is willing to donate a big-ticket item — such as a car, a vacation, or even a home or other piece of real estate — you may be able to raise a substantial amount by having an auction. Consider selling a limited number of tickets at a relatively high price. Most supporters will be willing to pay a higher price in return for a better chance of winning the prize.

If auctioning off a single big-ticket item isn’t feasible, you may be able to find a lot of donors who will donate smaller items to an auction. Invite the whole community to attend and have plenty of publicity to generate excitement. You can charge admission and/or combine the auction with other fundraising opportunities to maximize the amount you raise.

Star Power

Investigate the possibility that someone involved with your organization knows or is related to someone with star power. A respected television or movie personality? A well-known author, artist, or athlete? If you discover that there is a connection to a public figure and find that he or she is willing to work with you, start making plans. There are many creative ways to use your relationship with a famous person to generate donations.

Advance Planning

When thinking up new fundraising ideas, use your imagination. Just be sure to set financial goals and run some realistic projections before you get too carried away with any one idea. No matter how exciting your plans look on paper, you should be reasonably certain ahead of time that you can raise enough money to make your efforts worthwhile. If it looks promising, allow yourself plenty of time to organize your event.

Our audit and assurance team can assist you with audits, reviews and compilations. Contact us to request a consultation, or give us a call today at 775-360-2017 and ask for Christy Horgan for more information.

4 Areas to Consider When Transitioning Employees to Working From Home

women working in officeFor businesses that haven’t traditionally embraced remote employees, it may be difficult to get up to full speed with the current turn of events.  To make the inevitable transition less overwhelming, we assembled a handy checklist of actions to consider while adjusting to the new workplace reality.

Organization

  • Access your staff members and/or roles that are able to work remotely, those that can’t work remotely, and those where remote work may be possible with some modifications.
  • Conduct an employee survey to determine the availability of computers that can be used for working remotely, as well as availability to high-speed internet access.
  • Create company guidelines covering remote employees, including inappropriate use of company assets and security guidelines.
  • Develop and conduct work-at-home- training for using remote access, remote tools, and best practices.
  • Select a video-conferencing platform for services, such as Zoom, Cisco WebEx, or Go To Meeting.
  • Develop a communications plan to involve remote employees in the daily activities of the organization.

 Security

  • Create and implement a company security policy that applies to remote employees, including actions such as locking computers when not in use.
  • Implement two-factor authentication for highly-sensitive portals.
  • If needed, confirm all remote employees have access to and can use a business-grade VPN, and that you have enough licenses for all employees working remotely.

Staff

  • Institute a transparency policy with your staff and communicate frequently.
  • Check in on your staff, daily if possible, to confirm they are comfortable with working from home. Find and address any problems they may be experiencing.
  • Make certain each staff member has reliable voice communications, even if this results in adding a business-quality voice over IP service.
  • Don’t attempt to micro-manage your staff. Remember their working conditions at home won’t be ideal, and they will need to work out their own work patterns and schedules.
  • Create a phone number and email address where staff members can communicate their concerns about the firm, working at home, or even the status of COVID-19.

Infrastructure

  • Ensure that you have ample bandwidth coming in to your company to handle all of the new remote traffic.
  • Make sure you have backups of your services so your staff is able to keep working in the event extra traffic causes your primary service to go down.

You may need to adjust or expand this list to match the specific needs of your firm and the conditions affecting your organization.  Use this list to get you started and to help guide you through the process.

Contact us to request a consultation, or give us a call today at 775-332-4201 and ask for Mark Bailey for more information.

Sustainability reports look beyond the numbers

 

In recent years, environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues have become a hot topic. Many companies voluntarily include so-called “sustainability disclosures” about these issues in their financial statements. But should the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) make these disclosures mandatory and more consistent?

Identifying ESG issues

The term “sustainability” refers to anything that helps your company sustain itself — its people, its profits — into the future. A variety of nonfinancial issues fall under the ESG umbrella, including:

  • Pollution and carbon emissions,
  • Union relations,
  • Political spending,
  • Tax strategies,
  • Employee training and education programs,
  • Diversity practices,
  • Health and safety matters, and
  • Human rights policies.

There’s often a link between ESG issues and financial performance. For example, regulatory violations can lead to fines, remedial costs and reputational damage. And the sale of toxic or unsafe products can result in product liability lawsuits, recalls and boycotts.

On the flipside, identifying and successfully navigating ESG issues can add value by building trust with stakeholders, providing improved access to capital and lower borrowing costs, and enhancing loyalty with customers and employees. Tracking sustainability also helps companies identify ways to reduce their energy consumption, streamline their supply chains, eliminate waste and operate more efficiently.

Studying the costs of mandatory disclosures

Currently, most sustainability disclosures are made voluntarily. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) does require companies to describe the effects of climate change under Release No. 33-9106, Commission Guidance Regarding Disclosure Related to Climate Change. Unfortunately, these disclosures have been criticized by investors for being too general and not useful.

Recently, Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) — an independent, nonpartisan U.S. government watchdog agency — to study the costs of requiring public companies to make ESG disclosures. His letter to the GAO references a 2015 survey, which found that 73% of institutional investors take ESG issues into consideration when they’re evaluating investment or voting decisions and managing investment risks.

Specifically, Warner asked the GAO to:

  • Analyze the effect of revising U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) to account for ESG issues,
  • Evaluate the extent to which 1) companies address ESG issues in their disclosures, and 2) investors seek ESG disclosures and why,
  • Identify possible regulatory and nonregulatory actions that could improve and standardize ESG disclosures, and
  • Compare U.S. and foreign ESG disclosure regimes.

A major downside to today’s disclosures is inconsistency. Warner would like the GAO to explore ways to help investors “understand the likelihood of ESG risks and cut through boilerplate disclosure.”

Not everyone wants the GAO to proceed with the study, however. Some business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Business Roundtable, believe the SEC should focus on providing material information to investors and not cater to what they call “special interest groups.”

Sustainability audits

It’s uncertain whether ESG disclosures will become mandatory, but many companies already share information about green business practices, diversity programs, fraud prevention policies and other ESG issues. These disclosures can help add long-term value and improve relationships with stakeholders. Contact us for help preparing or auditing an independent, integrated sustainability report for 2018.

© 2018

Keep it SIMPLE: A tax-advantaged retirement plan solution for small businesses

 

If your small business doesn’t offer its employees a retirement plan, you may want to consider a SIMPLE IRA. Offering a retirement plan can provide your business with valuable tax deductions and help you attract and retain employees. For a variety of reasons, a SIMPLE IRA can be a particularly appealing option for small businesses. The deadline for setting one up for this year is October 1, 2018.

The basics

SIMPLE stands for “savings incentive match plan for employees.” As the name implies, these plans are simple to set up and administer. Unlike 401(k) plans, SIMPLE IRAs don’t require annual filings or discrimination testing.

SIMPLE IRAs are available to businesses with 100 or fewer employees. Employers must contribute and employees have the option to contribute. The contributions are pretax, and accounts can grow tax-deferred like a traditional IRA or 401(k) plan, with distributions taxed when taken in retirement.

As the employer, you can choose from two contribution options:

1. Make a “nonelective” contribution equal to 2% of compensation for all eligible employees. You must make the contribution regardless of whether the employee contributes. This applies to compensation up to the annual limit of $275,000 for 2018 (annually adjusted for inflation).

2. Match employee contributions up to 3% of compensation. Here, you contribute only if the employee contributes. This isn’t subject to the annual compensation limit.

Employees are immediately 100% vested in all SIMPLE IRA contributions.

Employee contribution limits

Any employee who has compensation of at least $5,000 in any prior two years, and is reasonably expected to earn $5,000 in the current year, can elect to have a percentage of compensation put into a SIMPLE IRA.

SIMPLE IRAs offer greater income deferral opportunities than ordinary IRAs, but lower limits than 401(k)s. An employee may contribute up to $12,500 to a SIMPLE IRA in 2018. Employees age 50 or older can also make a catch-up contribution of up to $3,000. This compares to $5,500 and $1,000, respectively, for ordinary IRAs, and to $18,500 and $6,000 for 401(k)s. (Some or all of these limits may increase for 2019 under annual cost-of-living adjustments.)

You’ve got options

A SIMPLE IRA might be a good choice for your small business, but it isn’t the only option. The more-complex 401(k) plan we’ve already mentioned is one alternative. Some others are a Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) and a defined-benefit pension plan. These two plans don’t allow employee contributions and have other pluses and minuses. Contact us to learn more about a SIMPLE IRA or to hear about other retirement plan alternatives for your business.

© 2018

Is there a weak link in your supply chain?

 

In an increasingly global economy, keeping a close eye on your supply chain is imperative. Even if your company operates only locally or nationally, your suppliers could be affected by wider economic conditions and developments. So, make sure you’re regularly assessing where weak links in your supply chain may lie.

3 common risks

Every business faces a variety of risks. Three of the most common are:

1. Legal risks. Are any of your suppliers involved in legal conflicts that could adversely affect their ability to earn revenue or continue serving you?

2. Political risks. Are any suppliers located in a politically unstable region — even nationally? Could the outcome of a municipal, state or federal election adversely affect your industry’s supply chain?

3. Transportation risks. How reliant are your suppliers on a particular type of transportation? For example, what’s their backup plan if winter weather shuts down air routes for a few days? Or could wildfires or mudslides block trucking routes?

Potential fallout

The potential fallout from an unstable supply chain can be devastating. Obviously, first and foremost, you may be unable to timely procure the supplies you need to operate profitably.

Beyond that, high-risk supply chains can also affect your ability to obtain financing. Lenders may view risks as too high to justify your current debt or a new loan request. You could face higher interest rates or more stringent penalties to compensate for it.

Strategies to consider

Just as businesses face many supply chain risks, they can also avail themselves of a variety of coping strategies. For example, you might divide purchases equally among three suppliers — instead of just one — to diversify your supplier base. You might spread out suppliers geographically to mitigate the threat of a regional disaster.

Also consider strengthening protections against unforeseen events by adding to inventory buffers to hedge against short-term shortages. Take a hard look at your supplier contracts as well. You may be able to negotiate long-term deals to include upfront payment terms, exclusivity clauses and access to computerized just-in-time inventory systems to more accurately forecast demand and more closely integrate your operations with supply-chain partners.

Lasting success

You can have a very successful business, but if you can’t keep delivering your products and services to customers consistently, you’ll likely find success fleeting. A solid supply chain fortified against risk is a must. We can provide further information and other ideas.

© 2018

Do you qualify for the home office deduction?

 

Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, employees can no longer claim the home office deduction. If, however, you run a business from your home or are otherwise self-employed and use part of your home for business purposes, the home office deduction may still be available to you.

Home-related expenses

Homeowners know that they can claim itemized deductions for property tax and mortgage interest on their principal residences, subject to certain limits. Most other home-related expenses, such as utilities, insurance and repairs, aren’t deductible.

But if you use part of your home for business purposes, you may be entitled to deduct a portion of these expenses, as well as depreciation. Or you might be able to claim the simplified home office deduction of $5 per square foot, up to 300 square feet ($1,500).

Regular and exclusive use

You might qualify for the home office deduction if part of your home is used as your principal place of business “regularly and exclusively,” defined as follows:

1. Regular use. You use a specific area of your home for business on a regular basis. Incidental or occasional business use is not regular use.

2. Exclusive use. You use the specific area of your home only for business. It’s not necessary for the space to be physically partitioned off. But, you don’t meet the requirements if the area is used both for business and personal purposes, such as a home office that also serves as a guest bedroom.

Regular and exclusive business use of the space aren’t, however, the only criteria.

Principal place of business

Your home office will qualify as your principal place of business if you 1) use the space exclusively and regularly for administrative or management activities of your business, and 2) don’t have another fixed location where you conduct substantial administrative or management activities.

Examples of activities that are administrative or managerial in nature include:

  • Billing customers, clients or patients,
  • Keeping books and records,
  • Ordering supplies,
  • Setting up appointments, and
  • Forwarding orders or writing reports.

Meetings or storage

If your home isn’t your principal place of business, you may still be able to deduct home office expenses if you physically meet with patients, clients or customers on your premises. The use of your home must be substantial and integral to the business conducted.

Alternatively, you may be able to claim the home office deduction if you have a storage area in your home — or in a separate free-standing structure (such as a studio, workshop, garage or barn) — that’s used exclusively and regularly for your business.

Valuable tax-savings

The home office deduction can provide a valuable tax-saving opportunity for business owners and other self-employed taxpayers who work from home. If you’re not sure whether you qualify or if you have other questions, please contact us.

© 2018