SVOG application portal reopens today at 12pm ET

The U.S. Small Business Administration, citing negative feedback to previously announced plans to reopen the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) application portal on Saturday, announced Friday night that it was rescheduling the reopening for today at noon EDT.

“We heard you and we are taking action,” the SBA said in an emailed statement. “It is our top priority to deliver on the promise and commitment to provide economic lifelines to you ASAP. Yet, we understand the challenges a weekend opening would bring and to ensure the greatest number of businesses can apply for these funds, we decided to reschedule.”

The Friday announcement came less than 24 hours after the SBA had announced the Saturday reopening. In a brief statement issued late Thursday night, the agency said it had completed rigorous testing on the portal, which was forced to shut down due to technical issues only hours after it opened on April 8. The SBA also provided updated documents and guidance Friday. The agency said that interested applicants should register for an account in advance through the portal.

In addition, the SBA released updated FAQ guidance related to the SVOG program. The FAQs are reorganized for clarity, and content that is new or substantially changed is marked with an asterisk. Among the new information included is a Question 31 in the Application section that provides a sample statement that applicants can use for their Certification of Need. Also, a clarification in Question 11 in the Revenue section indicates that the SBA will look to the entity’s calendar year 2019 earned revenues as the basis for determining the award amount.

The application portal for the SVOG program ran into technical difficulties almost immediately on April 8, with venue owners and other eligible businesses saying on social media that they could not upload supporting documents for their applications. The SBA then shut down the portal for repairs.

The SBA said last week that its vendors had fixed the root cause of the initial problems but that more in-depth risk analysis and stress tests identified other issues.

Here is what you need to do:

SBA Releases Guidance on Restaurant Revitalization Fund

April 22, 2021
Dear Clients, Business Associates and Friends:
On April 17, 2021, the SBA released guidance related to the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (“RRF”). This program, created by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) was enacted on March 11, 2021, aims to provide relief to restaurants, bars, and similar eligible businesses who were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
General Overview
The RRF provides grants to eligible businesses, including restaurants, food stands, food trucks, food carts, caterers, bars, saloons, lounges, taverns, snack and nonalcoholic beverage bars, and licensed facilities or premises of a beverage alcohol producer where the public may taste, sample, or purchase products. In addition, bakeries, brewpubs, tasting rooms, taprooms, breweries, microbreweries, wineries, and distilleries may be eligible if onsite sales to the public comprise at least 33% of gross receipts, and inns may be eligible if onsite sales of food and beverage to the public comprise at least 33% of gross receipts.
Grant Amount
For all applicants in operation as of January 1, 2019, grant amounts will be calculated by determining 2019 gross receipts minus 2020 gross receipts minus Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan amounts. Amounts will be capped to $5 million per location, not to exceed $10 million for the total applicant and its affiliated businesses. No awards will be made under $1,000.
When determining gross receipts, applicants should not include PPP loans, Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL), EIDL Advances, Targeted EIDL Advances, state and local grants (via CARES Act or otherwise) or amounts paid on behalf of SBA loans through Section 1112 of the CARES Act.
Fund Uses
Restaurant Revitalization Funds may be used for certain business payroll costs (including sick leave and group health care, life, disability, vision or dental insurance premiums), payments on business mortgage obligations, rent, principal and interest payments, utilities, maintenance expenses, construction of outdoor seating, business supplies (including personal protective equipment and cleaning materials), business food and beverage expenses (including raw materials), covered supplier costs as defined by the program, and business operating expenses as defined by the program. Awardees must use all funds by March 11, 2023 on eligible expenses incurred between February 15, 2020 and March 11, 2023. Unused funds must be returned.
Grant recipients will be asked to complete annual reporting submissions beginning no later than December 31, 2021 regarding their use of funds, until the funds have been depleted. SBA may ask for supporting documentation at any time.
Applications
Although the SBA has not announced when it will begin accepting applications, ARPA indicates that the SBA can only fund certain entities in the first 21 days of the application period. Specifically, applications from small businesses that are at least 51% owned by women, veterans, or socially and economically disadvantaged individuals will be considered for funding. Other entities may apply during this time, but their applications will not be considered for funding until the 21-day priority period ends.
Next Steps
As demand is expected to exceed funding availability, interested businesses should carefully review SBA guidance and confirm their eligibility. Eligible entities may wish to begin preparing documentation and the draft application, understanding that the application may be changed before the application portal goes live. SBA guidance can be found as follows:
** IF YOU HAVE MISSED ANY PREVIOUS WZ WEBINARS OR COMMUNICATION IN REGARDS TO COVID-19, PLEASE REFER TO OUR WEBSITE
Best,
WZ Partners

 

Wagner & Zwerman LLP

WHERE IS MY FEDERAL TAX REFUND

April 21, 2021
Dear Clients, Business Associates and Friends:
Typically the IRS processes electronic returns and pays out the tax refund within 21 days of receipt.
However, the high volume of 2020 tax returns being filed daily, the backlog of 2019 paper tax returns, IRS resource issues, and IRS technology problems are causing delays in issuing the tax refunds. This is due, in part, to the IRS’s need to manually verify the large number of Refund Recovery Credits, as well as the Earned Income Tax Credit, Advanced Child Tax Credit and 2019 adjusted income lookback claims.
Currently, the vast majority of processing delays are a result from tax returns that are not loaded onto the IRS system or are in “suspense” status awaiting IRS action. As of March 25, 2021, over 6 million electronic returns have been “suspended” due to issues requiring manual processing or return inconsistencies. Until the returns are loaded into the IRS system, the IRS cannot see or access the return information so if you call them, they cannot provide any further insight on the status of your tax return.
The Taxpayer Advocate Service is working with the IRS to identify how taxpayers can use the Where’s MY Refund website to determine the status of their return.
In conclusion, until the IRS resolves all of the issues stated, taxpayers just need to sit back and wait for their refunds as there is nothing else that can be done by WZ or the taxpayer, to accelerate the refund process.

 

5 Ways to Stay off The IRS Audit Radar

Millions of Americans filed their 2020 taxes and a handful of some will be picked out to be audited by the Internal Revenue Service.

In 2019,  0.45% of the individual tax returns were audited, according to agency data. The rate of audits per year has significantly dropped in the last decade due to staff and budget cuts. But certain red flags may make you more likely to fall into that unfortunate group, experts said.

If the IRS sends you an adjustment letter when you made a miscalculation or underreported small amounts of your income, this is not an audit. A correspondence audit — the lowest form of an audit and not a full examination — is performed via mail and may require you to provide additional information. But a correspondence audit can turn into an in-person audit if the issues become more complex.

Here are five ways to avoid tax scenarios that catch the IRS’s attention in the first place.

  1. Underreporting income – Underreporting income would be the first red flag. Unintentionally leaving out a small portion of your income may not get you audited. But if there’s a bigger discrepancy between the income you actually earned and what you reported on your return — and if it’s intentional — chances are higher that you may get audited.
  2. Overstating your tax deductions – Whether you’re claiming business tax deductions like meal and entertainment expenses or personal ones like charitable donations, you may hear from the IRS if the claimed amount seems off based on your income. The IRS system that roots out suspicious tax returns may flag a return that has deductions that are too high for the reported income level. Additionally, mixing business and personal expenses can be a red flag for the IRS. Some small business tax deductions that could pose a problem if disproportionate to your income are expenses for vehicles, home office, meals, and entertainment, among others.
  3. High-income earner – if you are in a higher income bracket, your chances of being audited increase. While the overall audit rate for 2018 was 0.6%, the chances of being audited was much higher for high-income earners. Taxpayers reporting income from $500,000 to $1,000,000 were almost twice as likely to be audited at 1.1%. That rate went up to 2.2% for taxpayers making from $1,000,000 to $5,000,000. Those earning $5,000,000 to $10,000,000 saw an audit rate of 4.2%, while those making above that threshold saw the highest rate of 6.7%.
  4. Claiming a dependent – Only one parent is allowed to claim a child on their taxes, even if the parents are filing their taxes separately. The IRS may send an audit letter to determine which taxpayer is entitled to claim the child as a dependent. A child can be claimed as a dependent if the child is under the age of 19 or is a full-time student under the age of 24 and lives with you for more than six months of the calendar year.
  5. Foreign accounts and income – Failing to report a foreign financial asset like a bank account, brokerage, or mutual fund may also bring the IRS knocking. If you hold foreign assets worth over $50,000 for a single filer and $100,000 for joint filers, you must fill out Form 8938, identifying the institution where the assets are held and the highest value of those assets in the last year. Additionally, if you take the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion break, the IRS may carefully review your return for any discrepancies. U.S. citizens who are bona fide residents of a foreign country can exclude up to $107,600 of their 2020 income if they were in that country for at least 330 full days during any period of 12 consecutive months.

Cultural Venues’ Quest for Billions in Federal Aid Is Halted by Glitch

The Small Business Administration launched with great fanfare a long awaited portal for that would allow arts venues closed down by pandemic to apply for grant money to cover rent, utilities, insurance and other accumulated expenses. Unfortunately, the site was shut down due to technical difficulties on its first day of launching.

In a statement, the SBA explained that the agency “temporarily suspended the portal and will re-open it as soon as possible to ensure all applicants have fair and equal access.” The SBA said it would share advance notice of the time and date before the reopening so that all applicants can be prepared and have equitable access to the program, which will award grants on a first-come, first-serve basis within different areas of priority.

After opening the application window Thursday, the agency made it clear in a news release issued late Wednesday night that the grants won’t start going out until later this month.“The SBA is accepting SVOG applications on a first-in, first-out basis and allocating applicants to respective priority periods as it receives applications,” the release said. “The first 14 days of SVOG awards, which are expected to begin in late April, will be dedicated to entities that suffered a 90% or greater revenue loss between April and December 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The second 14 days (days 15–28) will include entities that suffered a 70% or greater revenue loss between April and December 2020. Following those periods, SVOG awards will include entities that suffered a 25% or greater revenue loss between one quarter of 2019 and the corresponding quarter of 2020.”

The technology issues weren’t the only concern. The Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the SBA expressed “serious concerns” with the control environment and tracking of performance results with the SVOG program, which is designed to provide eligible applicants with grants equal to 45% of their gross earned revenue, up to a maximum of $10 million. The report criticizes the audit plan established by the SBA’s Office of Disaster Assistance (ODA).

The ODA’s plan allows for a total of no more than 10 audits across all of the low-risk loans but this limitation is problematic because program officials estimate that the majority of SVOG grants will be characterized as low-risk, meaning that most grants will “be disbursed in sweeping lump sum payments with minimal requirements and expectations for post-award accountability,” the report said.

Noting that the ODA estimates the SBA will receive 15,000 applications and that the average SVOG size will be $1 million, the inspector general said that the low level of auditing and spending reviews for low-risk grants means that “the bulk of grant funds will not be subject to a reasonable degree of scrutiny.”

The Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program (SVOG) is a $16 billion grant program that was set up to help qualifying live music venues, independent theaters, museums and other live-event spaces hit hard by pandemic-prompted shutdowns. It was passed with a bipartisan effort as a part of the coronavirus relief package signed into law by President Trump in December. But it’s taken a long time to arrive: the agency has said that it’s a first-of-a-kind program for them, and they had to build it from the ground up.

HOW TO REQUEST A LOAN INCREASE THROUGH SBA’S WEBSITE

If you have previously received a COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) the agency’s new increased loan limits for the COVID-19 EIDL program are now in effect and you may be eligible to receive additional loan funds.These loans were previously limited to six months of economic injury up to a maximum of $150,000. The SBA recently announced a policy change that significantly increases loan limits up to 24 months of economic injury with a maximum loan amount of $500,000.
Please be advised that for loan amounts over $25,000, SBA will continue to take a security interest in business assets evidenced by a general security agreement and UCC filing. SBA will also require an unsecured personal guarantee for loan amounts over $200,000 from any individual with 20 percent or more ownership. Real estate collateral will not be required for any loans of $500,000 or less.
Last month the SBA announced that they are extending the first payment due date for all loans until 2022. For COVID-19 EIDL loans made in calendar year 2020, the first payment due date is extended until 24 months from the date of the note, and for loans made in calendar year 2021 the first payment due date is extended until 18 months from the date of the note. Loan interest continues to accrue during the deferment period, and a loan increase will not further extend your first payment due date.
Please follow the below instructions if you would to request a loan increase:
  • Send email to CovidEIDLIncreaseRequests@sba.gov
  • Use subject line “EIDL Increase Request for [insert your 10-digit application number]”
  • Be sure to include in the body of your email identifying information for your current loan including application number, loan number, business name, business address, business owner name(s), and phone number.
  • Important: Do not include any financial documents or tax records with your initial request. You will receive a follow up email notification if we need additional documents.
Be advised that the SBA is receiving extremely large amounts of requests and will process the requests in order they are received. It may be several weeks before you receive a response from SBA on next steps to follow. Please do not resend multiple requests if you do not hear back right away as the extra emails could slow down the overall response time.
If you have any questions regarding the COVID-19 EIDL program, or SBA’s other COVID relief program, please visit SBA’s website at SBA.gov/relief for the most current updates.

SBA to Give Another $500,000 to Small Businesses

The U.S. Small Business Administration is more than tripling the maximum amount that small businesses and nonprofits can borrow under the COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) program. Beginning today, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is expanding its Economic Injury and Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, the organization announced in a press release. Small businesses who originally took out an EIDL loan for up to $150,000 for six months can extend that loan for up to 24 months and receive additional funds for a total of $500,000 in relief.
“More than 3.7 million businesses employing more than 20 million people have found financial relief through SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans, which provide low-interest emergency working capital to help save their businesses,” said SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman in a news release. “However, the pandemic has lasted longer than expected, and they need larger loans.”
Additionally, the SBA has extended the deferment period for both Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and EIDL loans through 2022. The first payment for all coronavirus related disaster loans disbursed in 2020 won’t be due until 24 months of loan origination. The first payment for loans issued in 2021 will be due 18 months from the loan origination date.
Typically, forgiven loans qualify as taxable income. However, given the unprecedented circumstances of the pandemic, the Internal Revenue Service has made EIDL Advances and forgiven EIDL funds non-taxable. EIDL advances do not count as part of a businesses gross income, according to IRS notice N 2021-06.
Additionally, the same notice says that business expenses that are normally tax deductible, including rent, payroll and utilities, are still deductible for the 2020 tax year even if those expenses were paid using funds from an EIDL loan or an EIDL advance.
For more information, please visit the SBA.gov website
Tax-Free Student Loan Forgiveness is Part of the Latest Covid-19 Relief Bill thumbnail

Tax-Free Student Loan Forgiveness is Part of the Latest Covid-19 Relief Bill

Tax-Free Student Loan ForgivenessThe recently passed American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act of 2021 includes a provision making nearly all student loan forgiveness tax-free, at least temporarily. Before the ARP, student loan forgiveness was tax-free only under special programs. Before we look at the changes to come under the ARP, let’s look back at what the previous law provided.

The Old Rules

Under the earlier measure, student loan forgiveness was tax-free under certain circumstances. These special programs included working in certain public sectors, some types of teachers as well as some programs for nurses, doctors, veterinarians, etc. Essentially, you had to work in a specific field under certain conditions for a minimum length of time and some or all your student loans would be forgiven or discharged. There are also other technical qualifications, such as death and disability, closed school, or false certification discharges, but these aren’t widely applicable.

Because student loans are not dischargeable in bankruptcy, income-driven repayment plans were the other main type of program that could result in forgiveness or discharge. Typically, borrowers repaid an amount indexed to their income over a 20-to 25-year period; whatever was leftover at the end was discharged. The forgiven loan amounts under income-driven repayment programs were considered a discharge of indebtedness and tax as ordinary income (although there are exclusions for insolvent taxpayers).

The New Rules

Under the new law in the ARP, the forgiveness of all federal student and parent loans are tax-free. This includes Direct Loans, Family Federal Education Loans (FFEL), Perkins Loans, and federal consolidation loans. Additionally, non-federal loans such as state education loans, institutional loans direct from colleges and universities, and even private student loans also qualify.

The essential criteria for the loan discharge to qualify for tax-free treatment is that it must have been made expressly for post-secondary educational expenses and be insured or guaranteed by the federal government (this includes federal agencies).

This all means that the debt discharged under income-driven forgiveness programs will now be tax-free as well, but there’s a catch. The discharge of student loan debt needs to happen within the next five years because the provision expires at the end of 2025. There could be an extension, but that’s uncertain now.

Why this Change May Really Matter

The change in rules making income-driven student loan forgiveness tax-free isn’t a huge deal for most people. The new law really matters because it sets the stage for broader student loan forgiveness. The program currently being floated by President Biden to forgive $10,000 in student loan debt or the even larger $50,000 proposal by some Senate Democrats will qualify for tax-free treatment.

How Companies Can Become More Nimble During the Product Lifecycle thumbnail

How Companies Can Become More Nimble During the Product Lifecycle

Product LifecycleThe majority of U.S. industrial product company CFOs have shared concerns that COVID-19 would impact their businesses negatively. For companies that develop and manufacture products, understanding the product lifecycle and how to work around crises like the COVID-19 pandemic can be effective to help improve the longevity and success of companies.

Market Development Stage

According to the Harvard Business Review (HBR), the first stage of the product lifecycle is market development. This normally happens when a company introduces a new product for sale. There is usually little demand at this point; instead, demand has to be cultivated among consumers.

Factors that impact the rate of introduction include the product’s novelty; how practical it is for consumers’ existing problems; and how the new product impacts the demand of existing products. For example, if there’s a proven cure for a chronic medical condition, the product would have a more effective ability to penetrate the market versus an unproven product – be it a medical device, cell phone, etc.

Market Growth Stage

HBR calls the second stage the market growth stage or takeoff stage. When a product is successful, it enters this stage because demand begins to grow exponentially due to consumers expressing interest in the new product.

From there, competitors looking to leverage the “used apple policy” will produce either knock-offs or improved versions of the new product. Businesses competing in this product category begin standing apart – via their product and/or brand. Ongoing adaptation is fluid and contingent based on what competitors are doing, normally through balancing pricing or optimizing distribution channels.

Market Maturity Stage

This stage sees equilibrium in consumer demand. The best way to understand when this is achieved is when the target demographics are consuming the intended products. Competing companies will focus on standing out in the market by providing niche solutions through customer service, comprehensive warranties, etc. Producers are maintaining relationships with distribution outlets for in-store product promotion and shelf space; also, more favorable distribution agreements normally occur during this stage.

Market Decline Stage

This stage is evident when consumers fall out of love with an item and stop buying it. As too much capacity for the product floods the market and fewer and fewer producers survive, businesses might propose mergers for survival.

Ways to Extend the Product Lifecycle

While the Covid-19 pandemic has taught everyone how to live and work as safely as possible, it’s also shown that businesses need to be constantly reviewing how they can make their product lifecycles more agile.

One way to extend the product lifecycle for a new product is by creating a positive, memorable first impression. An unfavorable first experience might create negative repercussions beyond what would be normal.

For example, how the product was delivered to the customer can make an impact on the customer’s experience. HBR gives the example of companies that produce home appliances. If a small, independent network of family-run appliance stores can deliver white glove service for customers (going above and beyond to make a lasting, positive first impression, including implementing COVID-19 safe practices), they can make a positive first impression. This will increase the likelihood of customers wanting to share their good experience with others.

However, when it comes to merchandising the product, using a more segmented distribution channel via independent appliance stores will take a lot more effort compared to larger, corporate resellers with turnkey distribution capabilities.

Another way, especially to be mindful of COVID-19 safety precautions, is to remove the chance for miscommunication. When working remotely and using chat and/or video conferencing tools, it is important to document all processes, including sample layouts and designs, to ensure different departments are on the same page.

Staying in communication with existing and potential clients is crucial for product launches – either new or enhanced versions. Looking at the next 90 days ahead, evaluate how each customer’s business is doing – are they fighting for survival or is it nearly business as usual? If a customer is all-hands-on-deck to get cashflow to stay in business, it might not be the right time for deployment. But if the new product or enhancement can increase efficiency, it might be right to contact them ASAP.

While every product lifecycle is unique, taking steps to become more nimble can potentially make the difference between a company surviving or thriving during a crisis.

Sources

https://www.pwc.com/us/en/library/covid-19/manufacturing-operations-strategy-coronavirus.html

https://www.pwc.com/us/en/library/covid-19/pwc-covid-19-cfo-pulse-survey.html

https://hbr.org/1965/11/exploit-the-product-life-cycle

Roth Conversion in 2021? thumbnail

Roth Conversion in 2021?

Roth Conversion in 2021?In 2020, a year when all income brackets benefited from lower tax rates, the stock market took a nosedive at the beginning of the pandemic. For investors sharp enough to see the opportunity, this was an ideal time to convert a traditional IRA into a Roth IRA.

When you conduct a Roth conversion, the assets are taxed at ordinary income tax rates in the year of the conversion. So, the best time to do this is when your current income tax rate is low and when your IRA account balance loses money due to declining market performance. Once you convert the account to a Roth, those assets continue to grow tax free and are no longer subject to taxes when withdrawn later.

If you believe those stocks will rebound, you can direct the traditional and new Roth IRA custodians to move the shares as they are, rather than selling them for cash. Or, if you are converting the entire account and choose to remain with the same brokerage, you can simply instruct the custodian to change the account type. This way you can keep the same investments, pay applicable taxes on the account balance at the time of the conversion, and then never have to pay taxes on future gains.

While the stock market did recover in 2020, many market analysts believe equities are currently overpriced and could experience another correction this year. On top of that, with Democrats now in control of the White House and both houses of Congress, many expect legislation that will increase income taxes, at least among wealthier households.

Therefore, in order to avoid higher taxes on a long-accumulated traditional IRA, 2021 might be a good year to conduct a Roth conversion. The key is to try to time that conversion with a market loss. By conducting a conversion before income taxes increase, you’ll pay a lower rate, and all future earnings can grow tax-free and be distributed tax-free. Bear in mind, too, that a Roth does not mandate required minimum distributions at any age. The full account balance of a Roth has the opportunity to continue growing for the rest of the owner’s life.

A Roth conversion is not the best strategy for everyone. Consider the following scenarios that are not ideal for conversion.

  • An investor under age 59½ will be assessed a penalty on newly converted Roth funds withdrawn in less than five years, so this might not work for an early retiree who needs immediate income.
  • If you expect to be in a lower tax bracket during retirement, you should wait until then to pay taxes on distributions of your traditional IRA. Also, if you think you might relocate to a state with lower or no state income tax during retirement, not converting eliminates state taxes on that money entirely.
  • Watch out for a bump in income taxes on a Roth conversion. You might not want to convert if those assets put you in a higher tax bracket during the year of conversion.
  • Also note that if you convert after age 65, higher income reported that year could increase premiums for Medicare Part B benefits, as well as taxes on Social Security benefits.
  • If the non-spousal IRA beneficiary is likely to remain in a lower tax bracket than the owner, he might as well leave the assets in the traditional IRA. Otherwise, the owner will waste more of his estate’s assets to pay taxes on the conversion.
  • If you don’t have available cash outside the traditional IRA to pay the taxes on the conversion, the money will come out of the account and substantially drop the value. Consider whether or not your investment timeline is long enough to make up for that loss.
  • If your goal is to leave that IRA money to a charity, don’t bother to convert. Qualified charities are exempt from taxes on donations.

If you’re planning to leave a Roth IRA to your heirs, they also enjoy tax-free distributions as long as that Roth was opened and funded for at least five years before you pass away. This is another reason why it might be better to convert to a Roth IRA sooner rather than later.