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Employees Working at Home?

Employees Working at Home? Time to Rethink Your Space.

In a pre-Covid-19 world, working from home was considered a luxury. It is now considered a necessity to keep so many hardworking businesses open and workers employed.

If enough of your employees will and are working from home successfully, it might be time to think about whether this could be something you would consider for the long-term. Employees working from home can mean giving up some pricey real estate space, allowing you to lower rent and utility expenses. Let us take a look at some factors to consider.

Wondering how other businesses are managing these new remote working arrangements? A recent survey by Mercer reveals some interesting findings:

  • 93% had provided “more flexible work options to align to the new way of working” during the pandemic. Of those, only 9% had at least 25% of their employees working remotely
  • 58% said that once regulations are lifted, they expect at least 25% of their employees to work remotely
  • When asked to predict future post-pandemic work-from-home policies, 52% expect they’ll change to “allow for more flexibility to work both on-site and remotely.”

There are a variety of factors to consider:

Estimate how big the opportunity will be for your business. Impact varies from business to business, but consider what you could do if you reduced your rent by 25%. This could save a good chunk of your monthly expenses. You will need to analyze whether the savings in your business would make cutting your space worthwhile or if by reducing your space needs you may be able to afford a more desirable location for the same cost.

What will your new arrangements, in a smaller space, look like? You may still want your remote workers to be in the office some of the time to help stay connected in ways that cannot be accomplished virtually. A time-tested model to solve this issue has been to maintain several flexible workspaces that workers who just pop in can use on an as needed basis.

Take a look at your current space. Think about the wasted space you currently have. Try zero-basing your workspace needs by determining what you require without reference to your current workspace. Looking at your needs from a fresh perspective can be eye opening.

Additionally, you’ll need to consider expenses of having employees who plan to work from home on a long-term basis. You may be footing the bill for a proper desk, chair, and other essential furnishings that you supply for workers in your current space.  You also may need to purchase printers and office supplies in addition to providing a cell phone and internet reimbursements, to compensate home workers that purchase items used for business purposes. You will also want to consider increasing IT safety measures to prevent cyberattacks on less-secure home networks.

What are your current lease obligations? You will need to carefully review all your contracts to assess how soon you can make a change. It never hurts to negotiate but understand that even if you’re using only a fraction of your renter space, you might be stuck until your lease is up.

Be creative! Maybe you could give up some of the space you’re currently renting and sublease the extra space to another tenant. Or, if it’s allowed under your lease contract, you could find a tenant to sublease all the space you are currently renting and relocate to somewhere that better meets your needs. Beware – this will make you a landlord, with all the monetary risks and potential headaches that may arise.

You could also negotiate a buyout of your lease, but you’ll want to analyze the numbers to ensure you’re actually coming out ahead. The current commercial real estate market along with where your rent falls in the market will determine how much your landlord is willing to work with you.

Considering and making a move for a business is no small feat. The cost of moving and setting up shop at a new location could be greater than what you would save in rent, depending on how long you plan to occupy the new, less expensive quarters. It’s important to think long term with whatever you decide.

Paid Medical Leave Eligibility For COVID-19

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act established the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA). Effective April 1, 2020, through Dec. 31, 2020, the EPSLA requires certain employers to provide paid sick leave to employees who are unable to work or telework under certain circumstances EFMLEA provides paid family leave to employees to take care of a son or daughter in the event of a school closure or their child care provider is unavailable due to COVID-19.

Need to know if you or your employee are eligible to take advantage of this paid leave? The Department of Labor (DOL) has launched an online tool to help workers determine if they are eligible for paid leave for Covid-19 under that act. To access the DOL tool click the link below.

https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/ffcra/benefits-eligibility-webtool

We’re Here When You Need Us

Steve & his crystal ballAs things start to get back to the new normal, many employees and business are wondering what is next. A quick look into our crystal ball shows that while it is hard to see what lays around the bend, it’s more important that ever to be prepared for the unexpected.

Many of our clients have had to learn to work from home, ignoring distractions and sharing internet connections along with work space with children that were dealing with distance learning for the first time. While governors told us what businesses and employees were “essential” and “non-essential”.

The truth is that every business and every employee is essential. Every business is essential to those who invested their hard-earned money, the people that work in the business, and the customers that support them. In this new world it is more important than ever to support the local businesses that invest in our community, employ our friends and neighbors, and provide the products and services we have come to rely on.

Many businesses are still suffering the effects of shut down, curfews, and forced reduced capacity. This is exasperated by increased expenses to assure the public that it is safe to return. These expenses include additional cleaning supplies and staff, protective gear, such as gloves and masks, and even erecting safety shields between customers and employees.
While these challenges are unique, this is not the first time the business owners we work with have faced challenges and I am certain it won’t be the last time. For many years we have helped businesses and individuals not just survive challenging times but grow and prosper in spite of them.
Through all these challenges we have been here for our clients and friends, to answer your questions, provide the latest information on government programs, and provide support.

Tax-excluded Education Payments by an Employer Temporarily Include Student Loan Repayments

The CARES Act extends the traditional ability of employers to exclude payments on behalf of an employee for educational expenses of up to $5,250 per year to include the repayment of employee student loans. In both cases, payments are deductible to the employer while excluded from the gross income of the employees. Student loan payments may not exceed $5,250 per employee and made before January 1, 2021. When an employer makes a payment on a student loan on behalf of an employee that employee may not deduct any student loan interest paid in the year of the payment.

What can I Deduct Since I Have Been Forced To Work From Home?

One of the questions we are getting the most right now is regarding what those who have been forced by their business or company to work at home can deduct. The truth is if you are an employee working from home as the tax law currently stands, deductions for employee business expenses are no longer allowed.

Employees should speak to their employers about the possibility of being reimbursed for business related expenses; reimbursements would be deductible to the employer and not taxable to the receiving employee. Reimbursements can include things like internet service fees, office supplies, cell phone fees, and even business use of auto. Employers can also provide things like funds to purchase computers, printers and software and deduct them while excluding the payments under code section 139. Disaster Relief Payment also allows the payment of certain other expenses for employees due to a presidentially declared disaster, like COVID-19. These include reimbursement or payment of reasonable and necessary personal, family, living, or funeral expenses incurred as a result of a qualified disaster, but only to the extent any expense compensated by such payment is not otherwise compensated for by insurance or otherwise.

Those that are self-employed may deduct all ordinary and necessary expenses related to the operation of their self-employed business and of those of working from home. If you are a shareholder and employee of a S or regular corporation, the corporation can use the reimbursement rules stated above to reimburse you and any other employees it designates necessary to the ongoing operations of its business and to deduct those reimbursement.

IRS Clarifies PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) Loan Tax Consequences

The IRS recently released Notice 2020-32 which explains that while amounts forgiven under PPP loans are not taxable to the recipients of the loan, the expenses used to qualify for said loan forgiveness are also not deductible.

The CARES Act provides for PPP loan forgiveness when the use of proceeds meets certain conditions. If the recipient of a covered loan uses the proceeds to pay (1) payroll costs, (2) certain employee benefits relating to healthcare, (3) interest on mortgage obligations, (4) rent, (5) utilities, and (6) interest on any other existing debt obligations, and meets all other qualifications then loan will be forgiven. The CARES Act also excludes this loan forgiveness for income. It makes no reference however to the deductibility of the expenses paid with the loan fund forgiven.

The IRS however, in Notice 2020-32 has determined that based on the existing tax code these expenses will NOT be tax deductible, as in effect they are not being paid with the funds of the taxpayer and are in effect being paid with loan forgiveness funds provided by the government.

The notice spells out the revenue sections and other information on which the IRS has based the notice. Since the CARES Act does not make specific reference to the deduction of these expenses, and there is no way to determine congressional intent or court decision to rely on, this would seem to be the best guidance on how these expenses will be handled for now.

For example: If ABC Company receives a PPP loan for $100,000 which is forgiven based on $80,000 in payroll expenses and $10,000 in rent and $10,000 in utilities during the 8 week qualifying period, and total expenses for these items for the tax year of $1,000,000 for payroll, $100,000 for rent and $120,000 for utilities, then the tax deductions for these items would be payroll ($1,000,000 – $80,000) = $920,000, rent ($100,000- $10,000) = $90,000 and utilities ($120,000-$10,000)=$110,000.

For a closer look at IRS Notice 2020-32 click here.

Not All Businesses Will Recover

TooJay’s Deli Files for Bankruptcy

South Florida-based TooJay’s deli files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy; is this just the first of what is going to be a tsunami of bankruptcy filings to come? Will your company or employer be added to the list? No one ever wants to declare bankruptcy but it happens.

If you are a business owner, how do you stop your company from being added to the list of those filing for bankruptcy? Now is the time to start thinking about how you can reduce your expenses and preserve your cash so that you can survive the upcoming hard times. Survival almost always means being quick to adapt and keeping your eyes on two important things: your CASH and your Accounts Receivable.

Cash is the fuel required to keep your doors open, pay your employees, rent, and operating expenses. While accounts receivable is nothing more than future cashflow that is at risk.

At risk means that it’s something someone else can destroy – if you don’t control it. Make your credit policy too tight and you will lose sales and growth, but make it too loose and you end up with sales that you never collect payment on. Uncollected sales mean not only do you lose the cash you can’t collect, you also lose the cash expended to make the sale and the cash expended to purchase the goods sold.

Customers that have been good payers for years could be running into trouble through no fault of their own. The important thing is to prevent their trouble from becoming your trouble.

What can you do? Review the list of customers you extend credit too. Reevaluate their ability to meet their commitments, watch the balances of credit accounts, and be sure to cut them off early, as soon as they become delinquent. Keep in touch with those that owe you money and remember getting something now beats getting nothing later. When possible offer alternative payment terms, like payment by credit card.

Preserve your cash. Review expenses to see what recurring expenses can be eliminated. Check your credit card bills for services that automatically bill each month and are no longer used. Reduce the number of telephone lines, and eliminate services you don’t need like cable TV, window cleaners and other services that lower sales mean you can do in house.

Make a plan to protect your assets so that should things go down hill you are not left with nothing to show for many years of hard work. Talk to your accountant and your attorney about how to best protect your personal assets, and remember a business is not a ship, and in business the Capitan does not have to go down with the business. Be sure to save a spot on the lifeboat so if necessary you have the resources to start over.

IRS Employee Recall Begins

IRS recalls employee. Effective April 27th 2020 the IRS began recalling certain employees in mission-critical functions. We are hopeful this means that the IRS will again begin processing Powers of Attorney and other documents submitted as well as responding to transcript requests.

The IRS Human Capital Officer is instructing employees returning to work that, face coverings to be required in IRS facilities and workspaces.

Click here for a full copy of the memo from the IRS Human Capital Officer.

Economic Impact Payment Check Mailing Schedule


The IRS Says “The Check Is In The Mail” or Will Be

If you did not get a direct deposit and are still entitled to an Economic Impact Payment the check is in the mail or will be. The IRS says that paper checks will be mailed as follows, based on the AGI (Adjusted Gross Income) show on your 2019 return if filed. If your 2019 return has not been files then they will base the mailing on your 2018 AGI:

• People with up to $10,000 in AGI: the week ending April 24.
• Between $10,000 AGI and $20,000 AGI: the week ending May 1.
• Between $20,000 AGI and $30,000 AGI: the week ending May 8.
• Between $30,000 AGI and $40,000 AGI: the week ending May 15.
• Between $40,000 AGI and $50,000 AGI: the week ending May 22.
• Between $50,000 AGI and $60,000 AGI: the week ending May 29.
• Between $60,000 AGI and $70,000 AGI: the week ending June 5.
• Between $70,000 AGI and $80,000 AGI: the week ending June 12.
• Between $80,000 AGI and $90,000 AGI: the week ending June 19.
• Between $90,000 AGI and $100,000 AGI: the week ending June 26.
• Between $100,000 AGI and $110,000 AGI: the week ending July 3.
• Between $110,000 AGI and $120,000 AGI: the week ending July 10.
• Between $120,000 AGI and $130,000 AGI: the week ending July 17.
• Between $130,000 AGI and $140,000 AGI: the week ending July 24.
• Between $140,000 AGI and $150,000 AGI: the week ending July 31.
• Between $150,000 AGI and $160,000 AGI: the week ending Aug. 7.
• Between $160,000 AGI and $170,000 AGI: the week ending Aug. 14.
• Between $170,000 AGI and $180,000 AGI: the week ending Aug. 21.
• Between $180,000 AGI and $190,000 AGI: the week ending Aug. 28.
• Between $190,000 AGI and $198,000 AGI: the week ending Sept. 4.
• All other checks (e.g., those who didn’t have tax info on file): the week ending Sept. 11.

Remember that it may take some time after the IRS puts your check in the mail for the post office to deliver it, so patience is important.

If you don’t get the check you are entitled to there is not a lot that can be done right now as most of the IRS staff has been sent home and only a few departments are actually working, worst of all these departments will be able to answers about these checks. If the elf’s and gremlin working to get these checks out at the IRS mess-up and don’t send yours all is not lost, you will be able to file a claim for your missing payment when you file your 2020 tax return.
The information above comes from an IRS internal document published by The Washington Post.

The information above comes from an IRS internal document published by The Washington Post.

Understanding the Employee Retention Credit

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic has caused widespread, government ordered, shutdowns of many sectors of the United States economy, which has caused extensive job loss. Over 10 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits in March and far more claims are expected in the month of April, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

In an effort to help curb the massive layoffs that we have been seeing, Congress has created a new federal income tax credit for employers that keep their workers on the payroll, and therefore out of the unemployment lines. The tax credit amount equals 50% of eligible employee wages paid by an eligible employer in a 2020 calendar quarter. It is subject to an overall wage cap of $10,000 per eligible employee.

Wondering if your business is eligible? Here’s a breakdown of eligibility criteria:

Eligible Employers:

Forced Closure This credit is available to employers, including non-profits, whose operations have been fully or partially suspended during a 2020 calendar quarter as a result of an order from an appropriate governmental authority that limits commerce, travel, or group meetings due to COVID-19.

Decline in Receipts The credit can also be claimed by employers that have experienced a greater-than-50% decline in gross receipts for a 2020 calendar quarter. The credit is disallowed for quarters following the first calendar 2020 quarter during which gross receipts exceed 80% of gross receipts for the corresponding 2019 calendar quarter. In short, you can be eligible in one quarter of the year and ineligible in another.

Number of Employees An eligible employer must have had an average of 100 or fewer full-time employees in 2019. In this instance, all employee wages are eligible for the credit (subject to the $10k wage cap) regardless of whether employees are furloughed due to COVID-19.

The 50% employee retention credit is available to cover eligible wages paid between March 13, 2020 and December 31, 2020. The $10k cap includes allocable health plan expenses as well.

Rules and Restrictions

The 50% employee retention credit is NOT allowed for:

  • Emergency sick leave wages or emergency family leave wages that small employers (those with fewer than 500 employees) are required to pay under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). Those mandatory leave payments are covered by federal payroll tax credits granted by the FFCRA.
  • Wages taken into account for purposes of claiming the pre-existing Work Opportunity Credit under Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 21.
  • Wages taken into account for purposes of claiming the pre-existing employer credit for paid family and medical leave under IRC Sec. 45S.

The Employee Retention Credit is NOT available for employers that receive a potentially forgivable Small Business Administration (SBA) guaranteed Small Business Interruption Loan, issued pursuant to the