All posts by Bistra Zwerman

Small Business Recovery Grant Program

The New York State COVID-19 Pandemic Small Business Recovery Grant Program was created to provide flexible grant assistance to currently viable small businesses, micro-businesses and for-profit independent arts and cultural organizations in the State of New York who have experienced economic hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Applications open last Thursday for $800 million in state grants to help the smallest businesses recover from the pandemic – and the money may not be taxed by Albany.
The State Legislature is expected to approve a proposal from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to exempt the COVID-19 Pandemic Small Business Recovery Grant Program from state income tax. The grants vary between $5,000 and $50,000.
The money will serve as reimbursement of employee wages, rent and mortgage payments, taxes, utility bills and other operating expenses from the pandemic, between March 1, 2020 and April 1, 2021. Also reimbursable is the purchase of masks, gloves, face shields and other personal protective equipment and improvements to ventilation systems to slow the coronavirus’ spread during the period.
Read more on eligibility and apply here:

New York Forward Loan Fund accepting Pre-Applications

New York Forward Loan Fund (NYFLF) is a new economic recovery loan program aimed at supporting New York State small businesses, nonprofits and small landlords as they reopen after the COVID-19 outbreak and NYS on PAUSE.
Pre-applications for the New York Forward Loan Fund are now open. This is not a first-come, first-served loan program. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis.  For small businesses and nonprofits, you are encouraged to prepare your pre-application in advance by taking advantage of the application preparation resources available here.

SBA Launches $100M Community Navigator Pilot Program

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announced today that it is accepting applications for its new Community Navigator Pilot Program. This new initiative, established by the American Rescue Plan, will leverage a community navigator approach to reach our nation’s smallest businesses, with a priority focus on those owned by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals, as well as women and veterans. SBA will accept applications through July 12, 2021, and anticipates making award decisions by August 2021.

The Community Navigator Pilot Program will roll out $100 million in grants total and between $1-$5 million per applicant for “a two-year performance period” to “eligible organizations to provide counseling, networking and to serve as an informal connection to agency resources to help small businesses recover from the economic devastation” brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.

In February 2021, Congress met to provide a blueprint on assistance to small businesses with provisions under the American Rescue Plan. Members of Congress met with constituents to discover at local levels the impact of the pandemic and the effect it is having on businesses that may have been left out in early rounds of relief.

“As someone proudly representing one of the most diverse congressional districts in the country, I am glad the Community Navigator Pilot Program will soon be launching,” said Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux of Georgia. “We have already seen the difficulties diverse communities face in accessing critically-needed relief resources, from securing PPP funds to rental relief. Through targeted outreach to small businesses in underserved communities, we can ensure that everyone is able to take advantage of the resources offered by the American Rescue Plan.”

Here’s how the SBA explains in full what the Community Navigator program is:

“Through the Community Navigator Pilot Program, SBA will engage with states, local governments, SBA resource partners, and other organizations in targeted outreach for small businesses underserved communities. These efforts began with SBA issuing an Information Notice that offers advice and guidance on best practices for adopting the community navigator model for use by SBA district offices, state and local government partners, Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs), Women’s Business Centers (WBCs), Veterans Business Outreach Centers (VBOCs), SCORE, and other resource partners. The Biden-Harris Administration and Congressional leaders supported a $100 million investment, as part of the American Rescue Plan, to establish Community Navigator Programs for individuals with disabilities and/or in minority, immigrant, rural, and other underserved communities across the country.”

Making a Difference in Underserved Small Business Communities.  Key in this initiative are partners and people in the community, serving as a two-way information stream, enabling enterprising business owners to receive the help needed from the SBA. Serving as the foundation of America’s economy, these underserved businesses have areas of concern that need to be addressed. Community Navigator Pilot will provide counseling, networking, and the assistance needed during this time of economic recovery.

“The SBA understands the importance of partnering with organizations as well as smaller, local institutions that are already embedded in the fabric of the Main Street business communities they serve,” said Assistant Administrator for the Office of Women’s Business Ownership Natalie Madeira Cofield. “Community Navigators are the backbone of aiding underserved and underrepresented communities across the nation with recovery.”

For more information on the Community Navigators Initiative, please visit www.sba.gov/navigators.

Tax Highlights of New York’s 2021-2022 Budget Bill

On April 19, 2021, New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the state’s 2021-2022 Budget Bill, which contains significant tax measures including, but not limited to, increased taxes on businesses and high-net-worth individuals and an elective pass-through entity (PTE) tax.

Read the key tax provisions in this comprehensive Budget Bill  HERE. To this end, we anticipate that additional guidance will be issued by the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance (“the Department”), especially addressing the newly enacted PTE tax.

Corporation tax 

The Budget Bill sets the tax rate for corporations with business income that exceeds $5 million at 7.25%, up from 6.5%. It also delays the scheduled phase-out of the capital base tax to Jan. 1, 2024, and establishes a tax rate of 0.1875% for tax years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2021. Note that the phase-out delay does not apply to manufacturers and small businesses.

Personal income tax 

The Budget Bill increases the personal income tax rates on high-income earners for the 2021 through 2027 tax years. The new rates are as follows:

  • 65% for individuals with income over $1,077,550 but not over $5 million; joint filers with income over $2,155,350 but not over $5 million; and heads of household with income over $1,646,450 but not over $5 million
  • 30% for all classes of taxpayers with income over $5 million but not over $25 million
  • 90% for all classes of taxpayers with income over $25 million

Factoring in the current New York City personal income tax rate (3.876%), these new rates will result in a combined state and local personal income tax rate of 14.776% for affected high-income taxpayers with taxable income exceeding $25 million. Clearly, high-net-worth individuals will be significantly impacted by this increase in personal income tax rates.

Pass-through Entity Tax

Partnerships and S corporations can elect to pay an optional pass-through entity income tax on the entity’s taxable income at rates ranging from 6.85% to 10.9%. Partners/shareholders of electing partnerships and S corporations will be allowed to take an offsetting personal income tax credit for the portions of the PTE tax paid by the entity that are attributable to such partners/shareholders.

An irrevocable, annual election must be made by the due date of the first estimated tax payment. For the 2021 tax year, the election must be made on or before Oct. 15, 2021, and there are no estimated taxes required to be remitted.

Resident Tax Credit

The Budget Bill also amends the resident tax credit provisions, and, effective for the 2021 tax year, New York residents who are partners or shareholders in entities that pay “substantially similar” PTE in other jurisdictions will be allowed a credit for their respective share of PTE taxes paid to other states. Prior to this amendment, it was the Department’s position that residents were not eligible for such a resident tax credit for entity-level taxes paid.

Sales and Use Tax 

The Budget Bill increases the threshold from $300,000 to $500,000 for gross receipts from property delivered into New York State and maintains the threshold of 100 sales transactions in the state to require vendors to register in response to the Wayfair decision.

Real Estate Transfer Tax 

The Budget Bill clarifies that the Real Estate Transfer Tax is the responsibility of the grantor. The grantor cannot pass the liability to the grantee unless there is a contract or a written agreement between both parties.

Real Property Tax Relief Credit

Individuals with qualified adjusted gross income of less than $250,000 will be eligible for a new credit if New York real property taxes on their New York State principal residence exceed 6% of qualified adjusted gross income. The credit is based on the real property tax paid in excess of that 6% amount, and the rate is determined on a gradual sliding scale from 14% to 0%.

Qualified Opportunity Funds 

Effective Jan. 1, 2021, taxpayers will no longer be able to defer current capital gains by reinvesting them into Qualified Opportunity Funds. The Budget Bill no longer allows a federal exclusion of the reinvested capital gain amount, and now requires an add-back modification for the gains deferred in the year of such deferral.

Restaurant Return-to-Work Tax Credit

The Budget Bill creates a new “Restaurant Return-to-Work-Tax Credit” program. Eligible businesses can claim a $5,000 credit for each full-time net employee increase, up to a total of $50,000 in tax credits. To qualify, the restaurant should have experienced at least a 40% decrease in gross receipts and/or average full-time employment due to the pandemic.

Employees working outside N.Y. due to COVID-19

Due to COVID-19, many businesses have New York-based employees working remotely. The Budget Bill allows these businesses to treat “such remote work as having been performed at the location such work was performed prior to the declaration of such state disaster emergency,” in order to claim tax credits and incentives requiring a minimum number of employees.

It is critical to note that the Budget Act does not address the personal income tax implications of remote workers. That is, the Department has already made its position clear on remote workers and its interpretation of its “convenience of the employee” rule. In this regard, “if you are a nonresident [of New York] whose primary office is in New York State, your days telecommuting during the pandemic are considered days worked in the state unless your employer has established a bona fide employer office at your telecommuting location.”

Given the magnitude and complexity of the tax changes in the Budget Bill, all taxpayers (New York and non-New Yorkers) should review the new provisions to see how these changes impact their specific tax positions. In addition, given New York State’s tax rate increases on high-net-worth individuals and businesses, coupled with the pandemic’s current remote workforce climate, we would anticipate more individuals contemplating a change in domicile/residency outside of New York State and businesses exploring whether they need to have a physical location within the State of New York.

Moreover, partnerships and S corporations also need to evaluate whether the newly enacted PTE tax should be timely elected and whether this would be beneficial to their respective entities and partners/shareholders. We expect that the Department will need to issue clarifying guidance on the PTE, as we anticipate there will be many open questions that will have to be addressed based on what we have seen in other states that are administering a PTE.

 

SBA Rolls Out New $5B Grant Program for Small Businesses

Small businesses and nonprofit groups hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic now are eligible for additional support under a $5 billion Small Business Administration program.
The new round of Economic Injury Disaster Loan assistance, known as Supplemental Targeted Advances, is available for up to 1 million small businesses and nonprofits with no more than 10 employees.

To qualify, applicants must be located in a low-income community; suffered greater than a 50% economic loss over an 8-week period since March 2, 2020 compared to the previous year; and have 10 or fewer employees.

You can get more information at SBA.gov/eidl. You can also email questions to TargetedAdvance@sba.gov.

To see if your business is located in a designated low-income area, you can use this map.

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.