The Next Phase: Update

By Alan R. Sasserath, CPA, MS

As you are aware, since my last writing this past Tuesday, the health and economic issues regarding Covid-19 have changed for the worse and will most likely continue to change for the worse in the short term.

I have to admit, when I saw that accountants were on the list of essential businesses in NYS, I wasn’t exactly sure why.  After reviewing the legislation that has already come, drafts of the stimulus packages that are to come and seeing what our clients faced this past week and what we believe they will be facing in the coming weeks, I completely understand why we are on the list.  We are here to help.

So we are clear, we view our response to assist you through this dark phase in our country’s history as part of our civic duty.  Our firm is going through many of the same things that you are going through.  While we cannot work for free, we understand everyone’s predicament as it relates to this type of work and will be reasonable with all of our clients with regards to our fees and ask them to be reasonable with us.  We are not viewing this as a windfall opportunity for us, but rather we are asking that we end up in no worse shape than any of you when this is all said and done.  We will be making the same tough decisions internally that we believe many of you will be making in the coming days/weeks.

We are writing now to help you understand the resources available to small/mid-sized businesses – We are here for you and want to help you through this.  There are resources available to businesses.  We are waiting to hear about what we hope will be the largest piece of legislation – the Coronavirus Stimulus Package (Expected to be in the range of $1.4 – $1.8 trillion.) being negotiated by congress/senate/president and hope to see that passed as early as tomorrow.  As soon as that comes out, we will digest it and explain how it will apply to many of you.  Before we get that legislation, here is what we know:

  1. Tax Filings: The April 15th tax filing deadline was extended until July 15th.  This includes 2019 personal income tax, corporate income tax, trust and estate income tax as well as first quarter 2020 estimated tax payments.
  2. Families First Coronavirus Response Act: This is a piece of legislation that gives employers/employees relief if the employee or their families have been diagnosed with the Coronavirus.
  3. SBA Disaster Loans:  These are not the typical SBA loan that you apply for from your bank.  These are loans that need to be applied for direct with the SBA.  The website to apply for such a loan is located here. We will have a list available tomorrow of the items/information required to complete the application.

What else should you be thinking about?  Please see my post earlier this week here, especially the highlighted areas, with an update immediately below on certain items:

  1. Cashflow/Cashflow/Cashflow:
    1. Make a cashflow budget.  What cash do you have?  What cash do you expect to come in over the next week, 4 weeks and 8 weeks?  What cash do you need to pay out over the next week, 4 weeks, 8 weeks?  That is the budget, plain and simple.  We can help you with this.  Please don’t hesitate to lean on us.  Update that every week for the subsequent week, 4 weeks, 8 weeks.  Just like the healthcare community is now being very aggressive in fighting the Coronavirus, you need to be very aggressive in managing your cashflow.  You need to take these steps immediately.  Many of those that waited to address this when previous disasters struck were the ones that didn’t make it to the other side.
    2. Based on the budget, control your cash.  Take vendor payments off autopay.  Review your credit line availability.  Defer expenses where possible.  Stay close to your bank, customers and vendors.  Review vendor contracts.
    3. If your business has significantly dropped off and you own a pass through entity consider stopping withholding on your salary, possibly stopping your salary altogether.
  2. Insurance:  Review your policies to see if there is any coverage for this type of event.
  3. Supply Chain: Many supply chains have shut down.  Monitor the chain and find out when vendors expect it to open up, whether they have or will have product once it does open up.  You need to understand the timing that you expect to be back in business.

If things get worse from the health and economic perspective, as we expect it to, keep in mind that scams will most likely increase.  Trust your gut – If something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t right.  Protect your personal and business information.

As I said below, keep communications open with: customers, staff, your team, vendors, bank, attorney, …

We are all in this together.  We are here for you.  We will get through this together.

We will continue to communicate via direct email from me and our constant contact database.

Thank you for your time.

Federal Tax Payment Deadline Extended Due to COVID-19 Disruption

By Alan R. Sasserath, CPA, MS

In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, as well as the recent restrictions and operating hours placed on businesses and social gatherings, the Department of the Treasury announced today that the tax payment deadline of April 15 has been extended by 90 days. Individuals and business filers whose deadline is April 15 now have until July 14 to submit 2019 tax payments without incurring interest or penalties.

The U.S. Treasury has also announced that individuals, and pass-through businesses utilizing the individual code on a business owner’s personal tax return, will be able to defer up to $1 million in tax liability to the IRS for 90 days. Corporations will likewise be allowed to defer up to $10 million in tax liability.

So far, this extension does not affect the April 15 deadline to file tax returns, although requests for extra time can still be submitted. The federal government continues to urge Americans to file their tax returns by the April 15 deadline to receive their tax refunds as soon as possible, which could help with much-needed cash resulting from reduced work hours and a stalled economy. Approximately 70% of Americans receive tax refunds each year.

We anticipate that the states will follow suit and will advise you accordingly.  We also anticipate that the 90-day extension would apply to estates and trusts, but we have not been able to confirm that yet.

As for the March 15 deadline that has just passed for partnerships and S-corporations, payments due in connection with those returns, as well as the extension deadlines for those who did not file on March 15, have not changed. As the situation is rapidly evolving, Sasserath & Zoraian will report any updates to our clients as soon as the information becomes clear.

While we are not physically in the office, we remain ready to serve you without interruption. Please contact our office with any questions.

UPDATE: March 18, 2020 – The extension also includes payment of estimated taxes for the first quarter of 2020.

The Next Phase

By Alan R. Sasserath, CPA, MS

We hope this finds everyone safe and healthy.

To some of us that owned our own business in 2001 (9/11), 2008 (Financial Crisis) and 2012 (Hurricane Sandy), the current economic situation looks and feels familiar, not good, but familiar.  Maybe there is more uncertainty now?  I don’t know.  I do know that just like those periods of uncertainty and darkness, we will recover.  Whether the recovery is slow or fast, now is not the time to panic, but rather a time to plan and execute.  For many of us, 2020 went from a time to thrive to a time to survive over a matter of days.  For those in that situation, we need to put a plan in place to get us through this period of uncertainty until we are in a place where we can, once again, thrive.

There is no one-size fits all answer to the issues that we face, however, there are some things that we all must do to keep moving forward.  Below are some key points that everyone should address as they apply in no particular order.  Please note that the foundation to all of the factors below is communication.  Communication with clients, vendors, staff/team, finance, legal, …  Communication should come from one source and be consistent and honest.

Customers What are they going through and how will the current events affect them?  Are you in a position where you can help them through their issues?  Now is the time to get closer and not more distant.

Vendors and Supply Chain Continue to monitor the supply chain and be realistic with your expectations of your own output.  Do you have commitments?  What are they? What needs to be done about them?  If your cash flow budget says that you will need to adjust payment terms, have you discussed this with them?

Cash and finance What does your projected profit and loss statement look like?  What are your fixed expenses?  How can they be reduced or utilized in another fashion?  What is your current cash position?  What does your cash flow budget look like – short and long term?  What access do you have to credit facilities?  Once you have these answers, have you spoken with your bank?  Are there any programs that can help you get through this challenge?

Team/Staff:  Your team is what will get you through this challenge.  You need to be consistent and honest with them.  There will be some tough decisions to be made in the coming days/weeks.  Our experience is that if there needs to be a lay-off or an hours cut, to do it swift, to do it at one time and then once it is done, call everyone together and let them know that it is over and we are prepared to move forward.

IT Management/Security:  As many of us move to some or all of our team/staff working remotely, security risks increase.  What can be done to minimize the risk?  Two-factor authorization?  Are your IT advisors giving input to minimize security risks?  Understand the risks and act accordingly.

We continue to prepare to work remotely, but the majority of us continue to work out of our main office.  This may change as more information becomes available.

We also continue to monitor government updates and programs:

  • Attached is a summary of some of the provisions that may affect you from the Bill that passed the House of Representatives this weekend: H.R. 6201 – Families First Coronavirus Response Act.  The Senate is expected to vote on this shortly and is currently discussing additional aid to be offered.  This Bill will most likely change before it becomes law.
  • All indicators point to an extension of the April 15th tax filing deadline by as much as 90 days.  We are hopeful to hear definitive news on this by the end of this week.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Continue to review the information available to you and to make decisions to move your company forward.

H.R. – 6201, Families First Coronavirus Response Act – A Practical Summary for Businesses

By Alan R. Sasserath, CPA, MS

As someone that works with government on a regular basis and reads political Facebook posts, I have little faith that any legislation passed will do what it claims to do. But this bi-partisan legislation is a good piece of legislation that will help employers with fewer than 500 employees AND their employees as well for those employees and their families who have come into contact with coronavirus.

This legislation is wide-reaching covering many topics including expanded funding for many programs that I had never heard of.  We have selected a few sections that could apply to many of our friends and clients to discuss below.  These sections apply to employers with fewer than 500 employees.

EMERGENCY FAMILY & MEDICAL LEAVE

  • Employer Rules/Employee Benefits: This section provides employees of employers with fewer than 500 employees who have been on the job for at least 30 days with the right to take up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, to be used for any of the following reasons:
  1. To adhere to a requirement or recommendation to quarantine due to an exposure to or symptoms of coronavirus;
  2. To care for an at-risk family member who is adhering to a requirement or recommendation to quarantine due to an exposure to or symptoms of coronavirus;
  • To care for a child of an employee if the child’s school or place of care has been closed, or the child-care provider is unavailable, due to a coronavirus.

After two weeks of paid leave, employees will receive a benefit from their employers that will be no less than two-thirds of the employee’s usual pay.

  • Employer Benefit – Payroll Credit for Required Paid Family Leave: This section provides a refundable tax credit equal to 100% of qualified family leave wages paid by an employer for each calendar quarter.  The amount of qualified family leave wages taken into account for each employee is capped at $200 per day and $10,000 for all calendar quarters.

EMERGENCY PAID SICK LEAVE ACT

  • Employer Rules/Employee Benefits: Under this provision, employers with fewer than 500 employees are required to provide employees two weeks of paid sick leave, paid at the employee’s regular rate to (“Situation A”) quarantine or seek a diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus; or paid at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate to care for (“Situation B”) a family member for such purpose or to care for a child whose school has closed, or child care provider is unavailable due to coronavirus.

Full time employees are entitled to two weeks (80 hours) and part-time employees are entitled to the typical number of hours that they work in a typical two-week period.

  • Employer Benefit – Payroll Credit for Required Paid Sick Leave: The section provides a refundable tax credit to the employer equal to 100 percent of the qualified paid sick leave wages paid by an employer for each calendar quarter.  The tax credit is permitted against the employer portion of Social Security taxes.  Any excess is refundable and applied on a quarterly basis.

This section makes a distinction between qualified sick leave wages paid for employees in Situation A above (the employee, him- or herself is affected by the coronavirus directly) and those in Situation B (the employee is caring for a family member with coronavirus).  Under Situation A, the amount of qualified sick leave wages taken into account for each employee is capped at $511 per day.  Under Situation B, the amount of qualified sick leave wages is capped at $200 per day.  In either case the aggregate number of days may not exceed the excess of 10 over the aggregate number of days taken into account from all preceding calendar quarters.

  • Self-Employed Individuals: There are a similar required paid family leave and sick leave tax credits available to self-employed individuals who are either afflicted directly, like Situation A or caring for a family member, like Situation B. The credit is allowed against income taxes and, again, is refundable.

A few important items to note:

  1. While the House of Representatives has passed this legislation and the President has stated that he will sign it, as of this writing it has not passed the Senate yet. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell issued the following statement after the bill passed the House: “Of course, Senators will need to carefully review the version just passed by the House. But I believe the vast majority of Senators in both parties will agree we should act swiftly to secure relief for American workers, families, and small businesses.”
  2. This is a high-level overview of a handful of the topics covered by this legislation. The devil is in the details.  The Secretary of the Treasury has been given broad authority to issue regulations and guidance necessary to carry out the purposes of the tax credit sections referred to above, including regulations and guidance related to avoidance, penalty waivers with respect to deposit amounts, compliance, record-keeping requirements, relief and benefit recapture.
  3. Many of these changes would take effect 15 days after the bill is enacted, would not be retroactive and would terminate December 31, 2020.
  4. There are other ways that small business may qualify for relief such as:
    • The Small Business Administration is providing up to $2 million in low-interest disaster recovery loans to businesses
    • According to a Wall Street Journal Article, New York City is offering interest-free loans of up to $75,000 to firms with fewer than 100 employees that see a 25% decline in sales.

Once we have final legislation, we will update the information above in more detail. Please contact us to discuss your particular challenges and together we can plan the path forward.