Category Archives: General Business News

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.

How Businesses Can Hedge Against Increasing Inflation

Inflation is on the rise. According to a recent Economic News Release from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the Producer Price Index for final demand grew by 1 percent in March. February saw “final demand prices” grow by 0.5 percent; and January’s final demand prices increased by 1.3.

According to BLS, the Producer Price Index (PPI) consists of many indicators and evaluates the mean difference over a period of time for the “selling prices received by domestic producers of goods and services.” In other words, PPI is a way to gauge how much manufacturers and similar businesses face in increased costs due to inflation.

This inflation gauge takes a broad survey of approximately 10,000 unique manufactured items and the amount of inflation businesses face. The BLS’ PPI measure looks at items produced by fisheries, food growers, miners, manufacturers, etc. It also includes 72 percent of production of the service sector, as the 2007 Economic Census found.

Hedging with Futures  

One way to reduce risk is by hedging. A popular example is with futures contracts. Much like buying an insurance policy, futures contracts can reduce the impact of a negative event, such as a spike in commodity prices.

If a company is worried about the price of oil for their planes or coffee for their cafes, they can enter into a futures contract to buy a designated quantity of that particular commodity at an agreed-upon price, with the ability to exercise it on or before the expiration date.

With a futures contract, a company can better plan its budget based on the contract’s parameters and the cost of the contract. If the price of the commodity rises in the future due to increased demand or limited supplies, the business can save money by taking delivery of the particular commodity at the originally agreed upon price through the futures contract.

Since the goal of hedging is to protect against losses, it’s important to weigh the cost of the futures contract. If the price of the commodity falls for the above-mentioned futures contract example, the company would still be forced to buy the commodity at the contract’s price, which would be a poor investment. If, however, it sells the futures contract before its expiration to avoid receiving the physical commodity at a poor price, that would lead to a loss. Having a contingency plan to reduce losses in futures contracts is always a good part of a hedging strategy.

Negotiate with Suppliers

Much like businesses enter into specified timeframes with suppliers, companies can do the same with their purchased supplies to provide more predictable prices. When the PPI measurement is used, the purchasing company can contract with its supplier to settle on the initial product’s price, and how price fluctuations will be determined going forward. Since the PPI is released monthly, the price can adjust accordingly (decrease or increase, depending on the PPI) for the supplier and purchasing company. It can be re-evaluated every three, six or 12 months, for example.

While there’s no predicting the future and if and how much commodity prices may rise and impact businesses, the more tools that businesses have to mitigate increased costs, the more likely they are to survive rising inflation.

Sources

https://www.bls.gov/ppi/ppifaq.htm

https://leg.mt.gov/bills/2007/fnpdf/HB0204.pdf

https://www.bls.gov/news.release/ppi.nr0.htm

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:

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 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

SBA to Increase Lending Limit for COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loans

The U.S. Small Business Administration announced March 24 that it is increasing the maximum small businesses and nonprofit organizations can borrow through its COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan program.
Starting the week of April 6, the SBA is raising the time limit for the program from six to twenty-four months of economic injury and the maximum loan amount from $150,000 to $500,000. Any COVID-19 EIDL loans in process when the new loan limits go into effect will automatically be considered for the new maximum limits, the SBA said.
“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,” SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman said in a news release. “We are here to help our small businesses and that is why I’m proud to more than triple the amount of funding they can access.”
The SBA has approved more than $200 billion in COVID-19 EIDL loans. The loans have a 30-year maturity with interest rates of 3.75% for small businesses, including sole proprietors and independent contractors, and 2.75% for not-for-profits.
The announcement of the higher loan limits came less than two weeks after the SBA announced March 12 that it was extending deferment periods for all its disaster loans, including the COVID-19 EIDL loans. Due to the new deferment periods COVID-19 EIDL recipients won’t have to start making payments on their loans until 2022.  Borrowers who wish to continue to making payments during the deferment as interest will continue to accrue on the outstanding loan balance.

IRS updates ‘Get My Payment’ tool so you can check on status of your money

Stimulus payments started going out over the weekend as part of the American Rescue Plan.

Now, you can check the status of your money through the IRS’ Get My Payment tool.

Nearly 160 million U.S. households will receive some $400 billion in direct payments of $1,400 per person, helping individuals earning up to $75,000 annually and couples up to $150,000.

Check the status of your 2021 Economic Impact Payment HERE.

For more information on the status of first and second payments, please click here.

 

 

SBA Extends Deferment Period for all COVID-19 EIDL and Other Disaster Loans until 2022

The U.S. Small Business Administration announced extended deferment periods for all disaster loans, including the COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, until 2022.

  • All SBA disaster loans made in calendar year 2020, including COVID-19 EIDL, will have a first payment due date extended from 12-months to 24-months from the date of the note.
  • All SBA disaster loans made in calendar year 2021, including COVID-19 EIDL, will have a first payment due date extended from 12-months to 18-months from the date of the note.

Existing SBA disaster loans approved prior to 2020 in regular servicing status as of March 1, 2020, received an automatic deferment of principal and interest payments through December 31, 2020. This initial deferment period was subsequently extended through March 31, 2021. An additional 12-month deferment of principal and interest payments will be automatically granted to these borrowers. Borrowers will resume their regular payment schedule with the payment immediately preceding March 31, 2022, unless the borrower voluntarily continues to make payments while on deferment. It is important to note that the interest will continue to accrue on the outstanding balance of the loan throughout the duration of the deferment.

“Small Businesses, private nonprofits and agricultural enterprises, including those self-employed individuals, contractors and gig workers, continue to navigate a very difficult economic environment due to the continued impacts of the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, as well as historic Severe Winter Storms in 2020,” SBA Administrator Tami Perrillo said.

“The COVID-19 EIDL program has assisted over 3.7 million of small businesses, including non-profit organizations, sole proprietors and independent contractors, from a wide array of industries and business sectors, through this challenging time,” continued Perrillo.

SBA continues to strive to make available all previously approved Coronavirus Pandemic stimulus funding and administer the new targeted programs related to provisions in the 2020 Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits, and Venues Act (the Economic Aid Act) as quickly as possible.

“The American people and the nation’s Small Business owners need our tireless effort and dedication to get this essential funding to those in great need, and SBA will not rest until we implement President Biden’s “American Rescue Plan” and its’ additional targeted programs and funds allocated for America’s small business and nonprofit communities,” said SBA Senior Advisor Michael Roth.

COVID-19 EIDL loans are offered at very affordable terms, with a 3.75% interest rate for small businesses and 2.75% interest rate for nonprofit organizations, a 30-year maturity. Interest continues to accrue during the deferment period and borrowers may make full or partial payments if they choose.

In mid-February 2020, SBA reached a milestone in the success of the COVID-19 EIDL program, by approving over $200 billion in emergency funding in low-interest loans, providing working capital funds to small businesses, non-profits and agricultural businesses to survive the severe impacts of this catastrophic and historic period within the entire United States of America and its territories. SBA continues to approve over $500 million each week for the COVID-19 EIDL program.

Questions on SBA COVID-19 EIDL and disaster loan payments can be answered by email at DisasterCustomerService@sba.gov or by calling SBA’s Customer Service Center at1-800-659-2955 (TTY: 1-800-877-8339).