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How Businesses Can Help Employees Improve their Skills

Based upon a recent McKinsey Global Survey, nearly 9 in 10 (87 percent) of respondents management level and above affirmed they are currently dealing with a skills gap among their employees or expect to be within the next five years. With the vast majority of businesses experiencing or forecasting a skills-gap, how can they close or reduce this challenge?

Due to the so-called “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” as the World Economic Forum (WEF) explains, the best scenario it sees is 54 percent of workers requiring “reskilling and upskilling by 2022.” However, the WEF points out that 3 in 10 workers susceptible to occupation disruption due to advancements in applied science obtained additional training in 2018.

It’s important to clarify the differences between re-skilling and up-skilling. Re-skilling is where workers who are displaced by industries becoming obsolete, such as coal miners, are forced to retrain for a new career, such as coding, teaching, etc. Up-skilling, in contrast, involves building and staying current in one’s field – a programmer learning the newest programming language or a marketing manager learning the latest search engine optimization (SEO) techniques.

Carve Out Skill-Improvement Time Blocks

Even for companies that strive to provide their employees with flexible time for a work-life balance, it doesn’t always guarantee companies foster a culture of self-improvement and upskilling. When personal, professional, and/or global crises occur, there’s not always time for employees to learn new computer programs or the latest programming language. However, by providing employees with a few hours a week dedicated to professional development, businesses give employees the opportunity to up-skill, leading to more satisfied employees, along with limited strain on the budget.

Arrange Worker-Guided Study Groups

When it comes to learning a new skill, according to Degreed via Harvard Business Review (HBR), workers will go to their peers 55 percent of the time, second only to reaching out to their supervisor for guidance, when looking to up-skill.

Few businesses are known to have developed a system for peer-to-peer learning in the workplace. According to McKinsey, “Learning & Development officers” reported businesses letting their employees put their skills into practice to develop additional skills, along with holding academic-type instruction and “experiential learning” for developing role competency. When it comes to structured peer-to-peer learning, fewer than 50 percent of businesses have anything established. Thirty-three percent of those surveyed responded that there’s no system established to facilitate skills development opportunities between co-workers.

From HBR’s “The Expertise Economy,” one reason that peer-to-peer learning is not the first choice for employee learning is due to a common belief that those who are proficient at a particular skill often exist outside the organization, such as a paid training consultant. This belief is reinforced due to external educational experiences normally condensed into a single session, compared to smaller and more frequent in-house sessions.

HBR argues that peer-to-peer learning leverages the business’ internal expertise more effectively. If more experienced employees share their expertise with less seasoned co-workers to increase their skills, it can be very productive. In fact, HBR lays out a four-point plan for peer-to-peer learning to maximize employee up-skilling.

By using HBR’s “Learning Loop,” businesses can help employees learn new skills and knowledge through four steps:

  1. Employees obtain new information.
  2. After assimilating the new information, they practice implementing the new information.
  3. After it’s been applied, they obtain feedback on the application.
  4. The employee then reflects on what has been learned to further assimilate the new information.

While this program must be tailored to every organization, it shows that by taking a personal approach to up-skilling employees and building on their existing knowledge and skill sets, peer-to-peer learning can be one effective approach to helping employers and their employees close the skills gap.


Strategies for Paying Off Student Loans

Today, 70 percent of college students graduate with an average of $30,000 in student loan debt. The average payment is nearly $400 a month and will take about 20 years to pay off. On an individual level, paying off high debt can delay hopes of saving to buy a house, start a family, launch a business, or invest for retirement.

On a broader level, the national burden of student debt could impact America’s economic future. When young adults are unable to afford home ownership, that reduces spending on all types of consumer products that accompany home buying. It also reduces property taxes used to support local resources and reduces the insurance pool of property owners used to help repair and rebuild homes after extreme weather crises.

Whether you’re a graduate or the relative of a graduate in this situation, it’s worth considering various strategies to help pay off this debt. After all, it may be better – for both your offspring and the country’s GDP – to help them out financially right now rather than later via a larger inheritance.

High Interest and Consolidation Considerations

The strategic way to approach student debt is to focus on paying off high-interest loans first. This generally includes private loans and any others with variable interest rates that may increase over time. Be aware that with federal student loans there are different types, and the borrower is permitted to switch to a different payment plan that better suits his needs over time. Another option is to consolidate student loans. However, if sometime in the future federal student loans are forgiven, your student could miss out on that by having transferred or consolidated to a privately held loan.

Employer Assistance Programs

In recognition of student loan debt as both a personnel and national concern, many employers are starting to offer repayment assistance programs – even to parents paying off parent student loans. It’s important to inquire whether or not an employer offers this benefit, as they are not always promoted, especially to current workers. However, these programs have become more appealing to companies since passage of the CARES Act, which extended pre-tax employer-provided educational assistance for up to $5,250 per employee, per year through 2025.

Another program that some companies have introduced is one that allows employees to convert the cash value of unused paid-time-off (PTO) toward their student loan payments. In other words, if a worker is not able to use all his accrued paid vacation days in a given year, he can request the employer contribute that income toward his student loan debt.

College Savings Plans

Each state sponsors a Section 529 college savings and investment plan, which feature tax-deferred growth and tax-free withdrawals when used to pay for qualified education expenses.

In 2019, as part of the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act, Congress created a provision that permits up to $10,000 (a lifetime cap, per each beneficiary) from 529 College Savings Plans to be used to repay student loans. For example, if a family has three college students, the parents may withdraw up to $30,000 from their 529 account(s) to help pay off that debt. Note that a 529 account owner can change the 529 plan beneficiary at any time without tax consequences.

Be aware, however, if 529 college funds are used to make principal and interest payments on a qualified student loan, that student loan interest cannot be claimed as a deduction on the student’s tax return.

Business Success Stories – The Explosive Growth of Zoom

Video conferencing in and of itself is certainly nothing new. It’s been around in some form or another for decades — businesses used it for remote meetings in the 1990s, and personal users have been “Skyping” with friends and family members since high-speed Internet connections found their way into just about every home. But at the same time, certain organizations have become virtually synonymous with the trend in much the same way that “Google it” became shorthand for “search for something online” all those years ago.

Zoom Video Communications is one such company.

Originally launched in 2013 by a former Cisco engineer and executive named Eric Yuan, Zoom has enjoyed an almost unprecedented level of growth over the last two years, thanks in large part to the still-ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In March 2020 as the Coronavirus began to make its way around the world, people were sent to work from home indefinitely during lockdowns. Of course, they still needed a way to communicate and collaborate with one another. They had to suddenly figure out how to be just as productive at home as they could be in the office.

For many, Zoom became that solution.

Charting the Rise of Zoom

From just about every angle, it’s clear that COVID-19 has contributed enormously to Zoom’s current success.

In January of 2020, for example, it was estimated that the service saw approximately 56,000 daily downloads. By February, that number had already climbed to 1.7 million. Just a month later, when the worldwide lockdowns and other social distancing restrictions began, it had risen again to 2.13 million — a trend that shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Likewise, the platform has also seen a dramatic surge in the number of people participating in meetings every day. After all, Zoom is a free download from both the service’s website and in various app stores — downloads don’t amount to much if people aren’t actively using the software.

Thankfully for Zoom, they are. In December of 2019, there were approximately 10 million daily meeting participants as per the same research outlined above. In March of 2020, that number had climbed to 200 million. A month later and it had hit more than 300 million — pointing to a trend that was somehow still only getting stronger.

The idea for Zoom was born from Eric Yuan, an immigrant from China who first arrived in the United States in the 1990s. Even back then, he was passionate about finding a way to make video calls not only easy but portable — and this was before the advent of the smartphone.

His career began at WebEx, where he worked as an engineer. After WebEx was acquired by Cisco a decade later, he became that company’s Corporate Vice President of Engineering. He enjoyed a tremendous amount of success during that time… but he still had visions of something far bigger.

While he was at Cisco, he listened carefully to customers who would express various complaints about how WebEx operated. They were constantly dealing with unreliable connections, with a disconnect between the audio and video and more. They even found the installation process frustrating — particularly in IT departments that were working with a large number of users.

They wanted something faster, more reliable, more efficient and more straightforward.

Yuan was more than happy to oblige.

In 2011, he left Cisco and began to work on the solution that would become Zoom. It would officially launch in January of 2013, and by all accounts, it was a major hit right out of the gate. Not only did it hit one million active participants just a few months later in May, but Yuan was also able to secure funding of $10 million to continue his work.

But even without the pandemic, Zoom still found a way to differentiate itself from so many other competitors in the marketplace. For starters, Yuan prioritized very low data usage — meaning that calls would still function on slower Internet connections and on mobile devices. Not only that, but Zoom was based in the cloud — virtually eliminating the irritating installation procedure that so many WebEx customers had complained about in the past. This also made it available on any device or platform, no exceptions.

But even the “Pro” package cost just $9.99 per month at that time — far cheaper than just about anything out there. Even still, Zoom was offered to K-12 schools free of charge in many of the countries it had entered.

All of this combined to form a perfect storm in the best possible way. Zoom had slowly begun to increase its market share, and then the COVID-19 pandemic acted as an accelerant that solidified what many in the industry already knew. Video conferencing was here to stay, and Zoom was now permanently tied to it.

Sharing business success stories will help inspire you to stay focused and determined. If you need any assistance with your start-up or are scaling your business, feel free to give us a call.

The Art of Running a Successful Family Business: Breaking Things Down

At its core, a family business is exactly what it sounds like: a company or other enterprise owned, operated, and actively managed by at least two people from the same family. This can be a parent and their kids, two siblings, or some other configuration — it doesn’t actually matter, as the management is made up of people with some type of similar close relation.

According to one recent study, family businesses make up between 80% and 90% of all business enterprises in North America. They contribute approximately 64% to the gross domestic product of this country, equaling roughly $5 trillion every year. Not only that, but they also comprise around 60% of the workforce — making their contribution every bit as significant as it is comprehensive.

Having said that, as is true with so many other types of businesses, simply beginning an enterprise with someone you trust isn’t nearly enough to guarantee success. Family organizations often fail the same as others do, and if you truly want to make sure that yours gets off on the right foot, there are a few key things to keep in mind.

Building a Family Business: An Overview

By far, the biggest thing to understand about running a successful family business is that not every family member necessarily has a place in the proceedings.

Indeed, experts agree that this is one of the major traps that most new entrepreneurs, in particular, tend to fall into — a deeply-rooted obligation that kids or other relatives “need” to join the company. The issue is that while this is a kind gesture, it could also create a situation where people with authority aren’t invested in being there.

For parents trying to bring their kids into the business, it’s far more beneficial to create a situation where they feel free to join the organization should they so choose. It shouldn’t feel like an obligation to them, as that will only cause problems later on.

Along the same lines, not every family member is necessarily qualified for this level of responsibility — a similar issue that causes problems from a different perspective. Experience still needs to be the driving force behind what role someone will be given in an organization if any. There’s no sense in bringing someone with no experience into an industry and elevating them to a position of authority simply out of some sense of obligation that “there is always a place for you here.” Doing so isn’t just doing them a disservice — it also dramatically increases the chances that the business will ultimately fail.

Another major pitfall that many family businesses fall into is where the organization simply cannot grow fast enough to support everyone at the same time. If one were to start a business and immediately give their four kids management-level positions, especially in those early days, there might not be enough work to go around. There certainly may not be revenue to support those salaries, either.

Instead, all family businesses need to be created in a strategic way that allows them to grow and scale over time — only bringing new members into the fold when the time is right. As the organization gets larger, there may be enough revenue and work to support additional family members — and only then should new entries be considered.

Beyond that, there are several essential best practices to lean into that can help increase the chances of success for any family business. Communicating openly and often with all parties is critical, especially in making sure that everyone is always on the same page and moving in the right direction. Family members need to be kept abreast of major decisions regarding the company’s trajectory and the reality of competitive challenges.

Similarly, it’s always important to solidify the values of the family — and thus the business — as early on in this process as possible. Before you even begin to think about a direction for the business, consider how this path might impact the family. If everything is overwhelmingly successful, what will that look like? What does each participating family member see happening in five or even ten years — from their point of view and in the overarching sense of the company? What does the organization stand for, what entity is best for succession and taxes, who is it dedicating itself to serving, and does everyone agree on these things?

The answers to these questions need to impact many of the decisions that one will make moving forward.

In the end, if you’re going to be starting a family business in a leadership position, you also need to respect everyone involved. Remember that just because they’re relatives doesn’t mean that they cannot bring fair value to the table. They’re not there to simply take orders — they’re there to offer a unique perspective that you might not have access to through other means. If one or more of your children don’t want to join the family business, that’s okay — but the qualified ones who do should be given the room they need to perform to the best of their abilities. Sometimes that means allowing them to give their objective, third-party opinions — even when they don’t necessarily align with your own.

Sometimes it means them taking a role in the company that you didn’t necessarily see for them, so long as it is one that they excel at.

Following these best practices means that you’ll end up with something more effective than a traditional family business. You’ll have a true legacy that has the potential to last several generations — which in and of itself is the most important benefit of all.

Feel free to reach out with any questions or concerns in running and managing your family business. If you are thinking of succession or possible sale, it takes careful planning way in advance. Feel free to contact our office to talk things over.

The IRS Backlog Is Causing Taxpayer Heartburn

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the IRS was getting refunds out swiftly and responded to calls and correspondence in a reasonable amount of time. However, COVID-19 brought about a perfect storm of delays, initially caused by employees having to stay home because lockdowns prevented processing centers from operating and workers from going to their offices. And in most instances, IRS employees could not work from home because of the secure nature of their tasks and the IRS’s computer system.

Congress also heaped more work on the IRS by making the service responsible for distributing the economic recovery payments (stimulus payments), not just once but three times. Plus, Congress made retroactive tax changes, which required the IRS to modify already filed tax returns. Bottom line: it has been a rough couple of years for the IRS, and it is taking a long time for them to catch up.

More recently, Congress mandated paying eligible taxpayers 50% of their child tax credit for 2021, estimated based on the 2020 return information, in six monthly installments from July through December, placing an additional burden on IRS resources.

For those who hadn’t filed their 2020 return yet, the third economic recovery payment and the advance child tax credit payments were based on their 2019 tax return. But as people filed their 2020 returns, the IRS needed to recalculate the amounts of the payments so that taxpayers weren’t shorted. These do-overs take away time that otherwise could be spent working through the backlog of correspondence and amended returns for prior years and processing the 2020 returns being filed on extension.

One of the IRS watchdogs, National Taxpayer Advocate Erin Collins, applauded the IRS in her mid-year report to Congress for processing most returns in a timely manner and issuing most of the economic recovery payments despite all of its added responsibilities.

According to the advocate, the IRS did not have time to adjust its systems for the last-minute Dec. 27, 2020, legislation that made changes for the 2021 filing season. This required the IRS to manually verify the returns for which the taxpayer elected to use their 2019 earned income to claim the 2020 earned income tax credit or the additional child tax credit. Unlike prior years, the IRS had to deal with a large volume of returns requiring manual reviews. At the end of the 2021 tax season, the IRS had over 35 million individual and business returns backlogged.

But the IRS is chipping away at the logjam. As of the end of July 2021, the backlog was down to 13.8 million returns.

So, if you are caught up in the gridlock, not much can be done except to be patient. But there’s some good news – if the IRS owes you a refund that’s been delayed, they’ll likely pay you interest at the annual rate of 3%.

There are not enough IRS employees to field all the calls about “Where is my refund?” or other issues, and anyone who does get through on the phone is lucky. Most spend hours on hold and never get through.

We are not trying to make excuses for the IRS but just letting you know what the problems are and that it may be a bit longer for them to catch up. Let us know if we can help.

Higher Income Individuals Beware

The House Ways and Means Committee has released an extensive list of proposed tax changes that impact individual, retirement, international and corporate tax law. We have been selective and have only included a portion of the proposed changes. A full list of proposed changes is available from the PDF file titled Responsibility Funding Our Priorities.

As you read through the article you will quickly become aware that the provisions are aimed at higher income taxpayers. The full list available from the link above includes numerous provisions not included in this article and are primarily related to corporate foreign transactions.

  • Increase in Corporate Tax Rate – This provision replaces the flat corporate income tax with a graduated rate structure. The rate structure provides for a rate of 18 percent on the first $400,000 of income; 21 percent on income up to $5 million, and a rate of 26.5% on income thereafter. The benefit of the graduated rate phases out for corporations making more than $10,000,000. Personal services corporations are not eligible for graduated rates. The domestic dividends received deduction is adjusted to hold constant the tax on domestic corporate-to-corporate dividends.
  • Increase in Top Marginal Individual Income Tax Rate – The provision increases the top marginal individual income tax rate to 39.6%. This marginal rate applies to married individuals filing jointly with taxable income over $450,000, to heads of households with taxable income over $425,000, to unmarried individuals with taxable income over $400,000, to married individuals filing separate returns with taxable income over $225,000, and to estates and trusts with taxable income over $12,500. The amendments made by this section apply to taxable years beginning after December 31, 2021.
  • Increase in Capital Gains Rate for Certain High-Income Individuals – The provision increases the capital gains rate to 25%. The amendments made by this section apply to taxable years ending after the date of introduction of this Act. A transition rule provides that the preexisting statutory rate of 20% continues to apply to gains and losses for the portion of the taxable year prior to the date of introduction. Gains recognized later in the same taxable year that arise from transactions entered into before the date of introduction pursuant to a written binding contract are treated as occurring prior to the date of introduction.
  • Deduction for Certain Employee Trade or Business Expenses – The provision allows for up to $250 in dues to a labor organization be claimed as an above-the-line deduction. The provision is effective for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2021.
  • Application of Net Investment Income Tax to Trade or Business Income – This provision expands the net investment income tax to cover net investment income derived in the ordinary course of a trade or business for taxpayers with greater than $400,000 in taxable income (single filer) or $500,000 (joint filer), as well as for trusts and estates. The provision clarifies that this tax is not assessed on wages on which FICA is already imposed. Effective for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2021.
  • Limitation Qualified Business Income Deduction – The provision amends IRC Sec 199A pass through deduction by setting the maximum allowable deduction at $500,000 in the case of a joint return, $400,000 for an individual return, $250,000 for a married individual filing a separate return, and $10,000 for a trust or estate. (Effective for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2021).
  • Limitations on Excess Business Losses of Noncorporate Taxpayers – This provision permanently disallows excess business losses (i.e., net business deductions more than business income) for non-corporate taxpayers. The provision allows taxpayers whose losses are disallowed to carry those losses forward to the next succeeding taxable year. Effective for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2021.
  • Surcharge on High-Income Individuals, Trusts, and Estates – This provision imposes a tax equal to 3% of a taxpayer’s modified adjusted gross income more than $5,000,000 ($2,500,000 for married individuals filing separately). Effective for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2021.
  • Termination of Temporary Increase in Unified Credit – This provision terminates the temporary increase in the unified credit against estate and gift taxes which for 2021 is $11,700,000, reverting the credit to its 2010 level of $5,000,000 per individual, indexed for inflation.
  • Estate Tax Valuation for Real Property Used in Farming – This provision would increase the special valuation reduction available for qualified real property used in a family farm or family business. This reduction allows decedents who own real property used in a farm or business to value the property for estate tax purposes based on its actual use rather than fair market value. This provision increases the allowable reduction from $750,000 to $11,700,000.
  • Certain Tax Rules Applicable to Grantor Trusts – This provision adds IRC Sec 2901, which pulls grantor trusts into a decedent’s taxable estate when the decedent is the deemed owner of the trusts. Prior to this provision, taxpayers were able to use grantor trusts to push assets out of their estate while controlling the trust closely.

    The provision also adds a new section 1062, which treats sales between grantor trusts and their deemed owner as equivalent to sales between the owner and a third party. The amendments made by this section apply only to future trusts and future transfers.

  • Valuation Rules for Certain Transfers of Nonbusiness Assets – This provision clarifies that when a taxpayer transfers nonbusiness assets, those assets should not be afforded a valuation discount for transfer tax purposes. Exceptions are provided for assets used in hedging transactions or as working capital of a business. A look-through rule provides that when a passive asset consists of a 10-percent interest in some other entity, the rule is applied by treating the holder as holding its ratable share of the assets of that other entity directly. The amendments made by this section apply to transfers after the date of the enactment of this Act.
  • Contribution Limits for Individual Retirement Plans – Under current law, taxpayers may make contributions to IRAs irrespective of how much they already have saved in such accounts. To avoid subsidizing retirement savings once account balances reach very high levels, the legislation creates new rules for taxpayers with very large IRA and defined contribution retirement account balances.

    Specifically, the legislation prohibits further contributions to a Roth or traditional IRA for a taxable year if the total value of an individual’s IRA and defined contribution retirement accounts generally exceed $10 million as of the end of the prior taxable year. The limit on contributions would only apply to single taxpayers (or taxpayers married filing separately) with taxable income over $400,000, married taxpayers filing jointly with taxable income over $450,000, and heads of households with taxable income over $425,000 (all indexed for inflation).

    The legislation also adds a new annual reporting requirement for employer defined contribution plans on aggregate account balances more than $2.5 million. The reporting would be to both the Internal Revenue Service and the plan participant whose balance is being reported. Effective for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2021.

  • Increase in Minimum Required Distributions – If an individual’s combined traditional IRA, Roth IRA and defined contribution retirement account balances generally exceed $10 million at the end of a taxable year, a minimum distribution would be required for the following year. This minimum distribution is only required if the taxpayer’s taxable income is above the thresholds described in the section above (e.g., $450,000 for a joint return). The minimum distribution generally is 50 percent of the amount by which the individual’s prior year aggregate traditional IRA, Roth IRA and defined contribution account balance exceeds the $10 million limit.

    In addition, to the extent that the combined balance amount in traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs and defined contribution plans exceeds $20 million, that excess is required to be distributed from Roth IRAs and Roth designated accounts in defined contribution plans up to the lesser of (1) the amount needed to bring the total balance in all accounts down to $20 million or (2) the aggregate balance in the Roth IRAs and designated Roth accounts in defined contribution plans. Once the individual distributes the amount of any excess required under this 100 percent distribution rule, then the individual is allowed to determine the accounts from which to distribute to satisfy the 50 percent distribution rule above. Effective for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2021.

  • Limiting Back Door IRA Conversions – Under current law, contributions to Roth IRAs have income limitations. For example, the income range for single taxpayers for making contributions to Roth IRAs for 2021 is $125,000 to $140,000. Those single taxpayers with income above $140,000 generally are not permitted to make Roth IRA contributions.

    In 2010, the similar income limitations for Roth IRA conversions were repealed, which allowed anyone to contribute to a Roth IRA through a conversion. irrespective of the still-in-force income limitations for Roth IRA contributions. As an example, if a person exceeds the income limitation for contributions to a Roth IRA, he or she can make a nondeductible contribution to a traditional IRA – and then shortly thereafter convert the nondeductible contribution from the traditional IRA to a Roth IRA.

    To close these so-called “back-door” Roth IRA strategies, the bill eliminates Roth conversions for both IRAs and employer-sponsored plans for single taxpayers (or taxpayers married filing separately) with taxable income over $400,000, married taxpayers filing jointly with taxable income over $450,000, and heads of households with taxable income over $425,000 (all indexed for inflation). This provision applies to distributions, transfers, and contributions made in taxable years beginning after December 31, 2031.

    Furthermore, this section prohibits all employee after-tax contributions in qualified plans and prohibits after-tax IRA contributions from being converted to Roth regardless of income level, effective for distributions, transfers, and contributions made after December 31, 2021.

  • Statute of Limitations with Respect to IRA Noncompliance – The bill expands the statute of limitations for IRA noncompliance related to valuation-related misreporting and prohibited transactions from 3 years to 6 years to help IRS pursue these violations that may have originated outside the current statute’s 3-year window. This provision applies to taxes to which the current 3-year period ends after December 31, 2021.
  • Investment of IRA Assets in Entities Where Owner Has a Substantial Interest – To prevent self-dealing, under current law prohibited transaction rules, an IRA owner cannot invest his or her IRA assets in a corporation, partnership, trust, or estate in which he or she has a 50 percent or greater interest. However, an IRA owner can invest IRA assets in a business in which he or she owns, for example, one-third of the business while also acting as the CEO. The bill adjusts the 50 percent threshold to 10 percent for investments that are not tradable on an established securities market, regardless of whether the IRA owner has a direct or indirect interest. The bill also prevents investing in an entity in which the IRA owner is an officer. Further, the bill modifies the rule to be an IRA requirement, rather than a prohibited transaction rule (i.e., to be an IRA, it must meet this requirement). This section generally takes effect for tax years beginning after December 31, 2021, but there is a 2-year transition period for IRAs already holding these investments.
  • IRA Owners Treated as Disqualified Persons – The bill clarifies that, for purposes of applying the prohibited transaction rules with respect to an IRA, the IRA owner (including an individual who inherits an IRA as beneficiary after the IRA owner’s death) is always a disqualified person. This section applies to transactions occurring after December 31, 2021.
  • Funding of the Internal Revenue Service – This provision appropriates $78,935,000,000 for necessary expenses for the IRS for strengthening tax enforcement activities and increasing voluntary compliance and modernizing information technology to effectively support enforcement activities. No use of these funds is intended to increase taxes on any taxpayer with taxable income below $400,000. Further, $410,000,000 is appropriated for necessary expenses for the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration to provide oversight of the IRS. Finally, $157,000,000 is appropriated for the Tax Court for adjudicating tax disputes. These appropriated funds are to remain available until September 30, 2031.
  • Limiting Qualified Conservation Contribution Deductions – To curb syndicated conservation easement tax shelters, this provision denies charitable deduction for contributions of conservation easements by partnerships and other pass-through entities if the amount of the contribution (and therefore the deduction) exceeds 2.5 times the sum of each partner’s adjusted basis in the partnership that relates to the donated property. This general disallowance rule does not apply to donations of property that meet the requirements of the 3-year holding period rule, and contributions by family partnerships. In addition, certain taxpayers whose deeds are found to have certain defects and are notified by the Commissioner can correct such defects within 90 days of the notice. This ability to cure does not apply in the case of reportable transactions and transactions for which deduction is disallowed under this section.

    Various accuracy-related penalties apply, including gross valuation misstatement penalty, and adjustments are made to the statute of limitations on assessment and collection by the IRS, in case of any disallowance of a deduction by reason of this provision.

    This section applies to contributions made after December 23, 2016 (the date of the relevant IRS Notice). In the case of contributions of easements related to the preservation of certified historic structures, this section applies to contributions made in taxable years beginning after December 31, 2018. The ability to cure defective deeds are permitted for returns filed after the date of the enactment and for returns filed on or before such date if the section 6501 period has not expired as of such date.

  • Limitation on Deduction of Excessive Employee Remuneration – This provision moves up the effective date of the amendment to section 162(m) in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) to tax years following December 31, 2021. The ARPA expanded the set of applicable employees under section 162(m) to include the eight most highly compensated officers other than the principal executive and principal financial officers for a taxable year, beginning in tax years after December 31, 2026. The additional five employees scoped in under the ARPA amendment are not considered permanent covered employees for the purposes of the section. The provision also applies the section 414 aggregation rules for covered health insurance providers to the general rule under section 162(m), expands the IRS’s regulatory authority under the general rule, and expands the definition of applicable employee renumeration.
  • Termination of Employer Credit for Paid Family Leave and Medical Leave -This provision accelerates termination of employer credit for wages paid to employees during family and medical leave to taxable years beginning after 2023. Currently, the credit will terminate for wages paid in taxable years beginning after 2025.
  • Temporary Rule to Allow Certain S Corporations to Reorganize as Partnerships Without Tax – This provision allows eligible S corporations to reorganize as partnerships without such reorganizations triggering tax. Eligible S corporation means any corporation that was an S corporation on May 13, 1996 (prior to the publication of current law “check the box” regulations with respect to entity classification). The eligible S corporation must completely liquidate and transfer substantially all its assets and liabilities to a domestic partnership during the two-year period beginning on December 31, 2021.
  • Enhancement of Work Opportunity Credit During COVID-19 Recovery Period – This provision increases the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) to 50% for the first $10,000 in wages, through December 31, 2023, for all WOTC targeted groups except for summer youth employees. The increase is also available for qualified wages earned by a WOTC target group employee in his or her second year of employment (current law limits allows WOTC to be claimed only on first-year wages).
  • Research and Experimental Expenditures – This provision delays the effective date of section 13206 of Public Law 115-97. That section provides for amortization of the research and experimental expenditures starting taxable years beginning after December 31, 2021. Under this provision, the amortization of research and experimental expenditures will begin for amount paid or incurred in taxable years beginning after December 31, 2025.

Of course, these are all proposed changes that must pass Congress. But this article provides advance notice of these proposed changes and the opportunity to plan your tax strategies should they become law. Please give our office a call if we can be of assistance.

Here’s What Happened in the World of Small Business in August 2021

Here are five things that happened this past month that affect your small business.

1) The Senate passed a $1.2T infrastructure package.
At the beginning of August, the Senate passed a bipartisan infrastructure package, “the largest upgrade to the country’s roads, bridges, pipes, ports and broadband in decades.” There are a few steps left before this bill becomes law, but it is expected to make its way through the House of Representatives and be signed by President Biden. (Source: The Washington Post)

Why this is important for your business:
Many aspects of the bill present revitalization prospects for small businesses, including the money set aside for broadband and power infrastructure.

2) We are better understanding how many workers retired early during the pandemic.
“Roughly 2 million more people than expected have joined the ranks of the retired during the pandemic,” according to a new analysis. Some of these workers chose to retire early, while others “were forced into retirement after losing their jobs or quitting out of fears of exposure to COVID-19.” (Source: NPR)

Why this is important for your business:
The economy is changing, and business owners should be aware of how their hiring pool may shift in coming years. With 10,000 baby boomers retiring every day, millennials and Gen Z are set to become an even larger proportion of the workforce.

3) The government opened a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan forgiveness portal.
To help expedite the process of getting PPP loans forgiven, a new portal was opened “through which small businesses that borrowed up to $150,000 can apply to have their loans eliminated.” About 92% of PPP loans fall under this cap. However, some lenders – including some larger banks – are choosing not to use the portal and to stick with their own processes instead. (Source: The New York Times)

Why this is important for your business:
If you received a PPP loan that has not yet been forgiven, this portal could help you eliminate that debt faster – but only if your lender is allowing it.

4) A judge ruled that California’s gig worker initiative (Proposition 22) is unconstitutional.
A California judge has ruled that Proposition 22 – a 2020 ballot measure exempting ride-share and food delivery drivers (think Uber, Doordash, and Instacart) from a state labor law – is unconstitutional “as it infringes on the legislature’s power to set workplace standards.” (Source: Reuters)

Why this is important for your business:
This is another piece of news on the nationwide battle over the gig economy and worker classification. Continue to pay attention to developments on this issue, as it will likely affect businesses far into the future.

5) Consumer sentiment hit a pandemic-era low as fears over the delta variant rise.
The consumer sentiment index fell to 70.2 in the preliminary August reading from the University of Michigan. “That is down more than 13% from July’s result of 81.2 and below the April 2020 mark of 71.8 that was lowest of the pandemic era.” It was also the lowest reading for that measure since 2011. This comes as the delta variant of Covid-19 spreads rapidly across the US, leading to some states reinstating health restrictions. (Source: CNBC)

Why this is important for your business:
Lower consumer sentiment could be an indicator of diminished economic performance, and some consumers may choose to spend less money if they fear a downturn.

Small Businesses: Here’s How the U.S. Supreme Court Wayfair Decision Affects You

If you are a small business owner, chances are good you’re paying more attention to your accounts receivables and deliverables than to a three-year-old Supreme Court decision. But knowing what happened in the Wayfair decision on June 21st of 2018 is important if you do a significant amount of business in states other than where you have a physical presence.

The Wayfair decision reversed the earlier “Quill” decision made back in 1992, and in doing so it forever changed the tax liabilities of businesses. The Quill case established that businesses were not required to collect or remit sales or sellers use taxes for states in which they lacked a substantial physical presence. But the “burdensome” administrative processes that were eliminated with that decision became the law of the land with the Wayfair decision, which established economic nexus for the state of South Dakota as either 200 transactions shipped to state residents or companies per year, or $100,000. Once that threshold is reached, states can require out-of-state companies to collect and remit sales and use taxes from their customers.

Compliance with these requirements is no small thing, and the earlier court decision was correct in referring to it as “burdensome.” But failing to comply has very real consequences in the form of back taxes and penalties. The solution is automation, almost by necessity: Without that kind of help, organizations would need at least one employee dedicated to nothing but managing and tracking sales volumes for each state as well as the various local and state regulations.

To get an idea of exactly how complex the tax could be, consider this: There are approximately 10,000 different tax jurisdictions in the United States, and identifying all of them goes beyond anything as simple as zip code, county, or city borders. Though it would be nice to think that everybody adhered to standard taxability rules as is the case for SST member states, the fact is that each jurisdiction can have its own rules regarding what does and does not get taxed. Not only does this apply to product categories like clothing, food, or luxury items, but also to services such as shipping and handling or product usage. Each rule needs to be identified and adhered to, or risk fines and penalties.

In addition to learning the rules and tax thresholds for nexus for each state, compliance requires adhering to the process that each state imposes. These are usually coordinated via state tax portals, meaning that sellers will need to have this information easily at hand – for as many as 50 states. And sellers will be responsible for tracking when tax requirements change, for every jurisdiction.

Though some states offer resale exemption certificates, following the processes required to administer those certificates has turned out to be a bridge too far for many companies. Much of this is due to the fact that – as is true with other aspects of compliance – the certificates and rules for certificate renewals have to be collected and learned for each state and is an additional burden. But failure to properly fill the certificates out can lead to them being taxed on that revenue, and lead to penalties and interest being imposed if those taxes are not properly collected.

Though following the rules represents an enormous headache and the need to invest time and money, doing so is preferable to being audited and penalized. By creating a strategy for dealing with these rules, you can not only eliminate your risk of non-compliance but also have a plan in place in case you do receive an audit letter. We strongly encourage you to contact us as soon as you receive an audit letter and do so before providing any response or submitting any information to a regional tax agency. We will be able to provide you with the information you need about how to best manage the situation.

Mid-Year Tax Planning Checklist

All too often, taxpayers wait until after the close of the tax year to worry about their taxes and miss opportunities that could reduce their tax liability or financially assist them. Mid-year is the perfect time for tax planning. The following are some events that can affect your tax return; you may need to take steps to mitigate their impact and avoid unpleasant surprises after it is too late to address them. Here are some events that can trigger tax consequences. Did you (or are you going to):

  • Get married, divorced, or become widowed?
  • Change jobs or has your spouse started working?
  • Have a substantial increase or decrease in income?
  • Have a substantial gain from the sale of stocks or bonds?
  • Buy or sell a rental?
  • Start, acquire, or sell a business?
  • Buy or sell a home?
  • Retire this year?
  • Reach age 72 this year?
  • Refinance your home or take out a second home mortgage this year?
  • Receive a substantial inheritance this year?
  • Take advantage of tax-beneficial retirement savings?
  • Make any significant equipment purchases for your business?
  • Purchase a new business vehicle and dispose of the old one?
  • Adequately document your cash and non-cash charitable contributions?
  • Keep up with your self-employed estimated tax payments?
  • Make any unplanned withdrawals from an IRA or pension plan?
  • Add a solar electric system to your home or purchase an electric vehicle?
  • Hire veterans’ or other individuals in your business that may qualify for the work opportunity tax credit?
  • Trade in cryptocurrency?
  • Defer employer payroll taxes in 2020?
  • Incur expenses adopting a child?
  • Start receiving Social Security benefits?
  • Exercise an employee stock option?
  • Start using a part of your home for business this year?
  • Exchange real properties used in your trade or business or held for investment?
  • Start a retirement plan in your self-employment business?
  • Make gifts of over $15,000 to anyone individual this year?
  • Receive advance child tax credit payments?

Of course, these are not the only issues that have tax consequences.

If you anticipate or have already encountered any of the above events or conditions, it may be appropriate to consult with our office—preferably before the event—and definitely before the end of the year.

How to Catch Up on Your Retirement

If you’re 40 or 50 and aren’t where you’d like to be in terms of saving for retirement, don’t despair. You can remedy this situation. And since people are living well into their 80s and 90s, it’s never too late to start. Here are a few things you can do.

Max Out Your 401(k)

This could be a game-changer. Stuart Ritter, a certified financial planner with T. Rowe Price, recommends that you save at least 15 percent of your income for retirement, including the amount your employer matches. If your company is contributing 3 percent, then you should save 12 percent. If you can’t go this high, then increase the amount by 2 percent each year. So, if you’re saving 3 percent this year, bump it up to 5 percent, then 7 percent, and so on. If you’re under 50, try to hit the $19,500 limit. After you turn 50, you can increase your annual savings to $6,500 on top of this $19,500 limit. Note: You have to be 59 ½ to withdraw money without any penalties. However, the early withdrawal penalty doesn’t apply if you’re 55 or older in the year you leave your employer. All this to say that the sooner you start doing this, the more you will save and the more you’ll have down the road.

Contribute to a Roth IRA

With this product, you can grow your money on a tax-deferred basis. For instance, if you’re 40 and invest $6,000 each year at an 8 percent return, then by the time you’re 65 you’ll have more than $473,726. Even if you wait until you’re 50 and save 6k a year, using the same rate of return, you’ll save as much as $175,946 by the time you’re 65. However, there are some income limitations. If you’re single and your modified adjusted gross income is more than $125,000, your contribution limit is reduced. If you’re single and make over $140k, you can’t contribute. Michelle Buonincontri, a certified financial planner, says that the beauty of Roth IRAs is that they allow for tax-free compounding. Further, when withdrawal rules are followed, the withdrawals, including the earnings, will be tax-free. And when you’re in the withdrawal phase, it can minimize taxable income, which can add up and help your money last longer during retirement. 

Take Advantage of Your Deductions

Not everyone takes standard deductions. That’s why if you have a significant amount of mortgage interest, deductible taxes, charitable donations, and business-related expenses that your employer doesn’t reimburse you for, you’ll most likely want to itemize your deductions. Talk to your CPA and figure out whether this is a good plan for you. Then, start saving your receipts and keeping good records. As you get closer to retirement and if money is tight, remember: it’s not what you make, but what you save that makes the difference. 

Don’t Forget About Home Equity

While home equity probably shouldn’t be used as your main source of income when you’re retired, it’s a viable solution. Retirees might consider borrowing against it to fund living expenses. In fact, you can use a home equity line (HELOC) to draw from when needed. Other options include selling, downsizing, and either living off the equity or investing it. But before you sell, you should consider tax consequences. Married homeowners who file a joint tax return can make up to $500k without owing taxes on capital gains. If you’re single, the cap is $250,000. 

Get Disability Coverage

The reason for this is simple: to protect yourself and at least a portion of your income and retirement savings in a worst-case scenario. It is always a good idea to have a contingency plan.

Consider Your Cash Value Policies

This is the last resort, but again, a good option, especially if the original need for your insurance policy is no longer there. However, before you do anything or access its cash value, consult your tax advisor or insurance professional first.

No matter what your situation is, you can save for your future. All you have to do is begin now and take it one day at a time.