The COVID-19 pandemic altered the way Americans shop. It also affected the way retail businesses reach customers and position their businesses for growth and prosperity. Looking forward, some of these changes are likely to stick around. Here are the trends small businesses in the retail industry can likely count on for the foreseeable future.
Online shopping was certainly not a new concept when the pandemic hit, but nationwide lockdowns forced more consumers to shop online, and accelerated the rate at which business owners opened e-commerce sites. The shift to more digital business is likely here to stay, even as the world economy begins to recover. A recent study conducted by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the NetComm Suisse e-Commerce Association found that online sales have increased across the majority of product categories. This suggests that consumers are increasingly content to shop online, and retail companies with dedicated e-commerce presences will be able to thrive in a post-pandemic era.
The Effect of e-Commerce on Brick-And-Mortar Stores
Retail strategist and experiential designer, Melissa Gonzalez, believes brands and retailers will be taking a close look at the role of physical stores.
“Capital allocation will have a tiered process where flagship destinations will exist in locales where there is evidence that a physical presence is justified or critical 12 months a year,” Gonzalez said. “Flagship locations will be complemented with smaller-format, specialty locations anchored around a specific purpose or localized effort. Partnering with department stores will also continue to be reimagined as they restructure and reposition as collaborative marketplaces, and there will be a deeper dedication to pop-in-shop retail.”
The pandemic ushered in new safety requirements, changing regulations, and unpredictable staff availability. These changes are leading companies to think about tech-driven solutions that can support growing requirements and evolve with their business. Some of these tools include mobile payments, online shopping, and mobile scheduling. While the pandemic demanded the urgency of customer-driven solutions, like convenience and touchless transactions, they are proving to increase efficiencies as well as customer and employee experiences, and they are likely here to stay.
Personal Shopping Services
The role of a personal shopper, where a store employee shops for a customer, isn’t a new concept, but more retailers implemented this service to compensate for the loss of foot traffic during pandemic lockdowns. While this method is being embraced across the board, personalized experiences are especially well-suited to local and small retailers, who have an opportunity to lead the industry in this area.
A number of factors go into determining an item’s price, but more retailers are depending on automated technology to establish proper pricing. Expect to see more and more automation solutions implemented for small businesses, such as online pricing automation and inventory management systems.
Social Media’s Role
The pandemic accelerated the need for retailers to reach consumers through online and mobile-friendly methods. Social media is a major stimulator of online sales, and consumers want to interact with brands through these platforms. Experts even suggest that hashtags and memes could be just as effective as traditional advertising avenues. Small businesses should think about creative social programming to boost online shopping through avenues like shoppable TikTok and Instagram. This is especially important to reach and maintain younger consumers.
On March 27 the CARES Act was signed into law in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Below is an overview of the types of assistance available to small businesses in an effort to lessen some of the economic impact.
Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loan
This is a $350 billion loan program that will provide loans to small businesses for 2.5 times the average monthly payroll based on payroll reports from the previous year, with a cap of $10 million.
The interest rate for the Payment Protection Plan is 1%, and loan payments for any non-forgivable parts will be deferred for six months. The loan can become forgivable if funds are used for approved expenses: payroll costs, including continuation of health care benefits during periods of paid sick, medical, or family leave; insurance premiums; employee salaries and commissions; payments of interest on any mortgage obligation, rent, and utilities; and interest on any other debt obligation incurred before February 15, 2020. No more than 25% of the loan forgiveness can be related to non-payroll costs, and the amount of the loan available for forgiveness will be reduced if full-time employee count, salaries, or wages decrease.
Businesses and charitable nonprofits with fewer than 500 employees, self-employed individuals, sole proprietors, and independent contractors are eligible. There may be some exception to larger restaurant and hospitality businesses who have less than 500 employees per location.
Emergency Economic Injury Grants
Small businesses, private nonprofits, sole proprietors, and independent contractors who were in operation as of January 31, 2020 are also eligible for $10,000 of SBA economic injury disaster loans (EIDLs) without a repayment requirement. These loans can be used to pay for expenses such as payroll, paid sick leave to employees, production costs, as well as business debts, rent, and mortgage payments. However, using these funds to refinance pre-existing debt or to pay dividends in not permitted. The deadline to apply for an EIDL is December 16, 2020 for most states.
Debt Relief for SBA Borrowers
Included in the stimulus package is $17 billion for immediate relief to small businesses through standard SBA 7(a), 504, or microloans, which covers loan payments for existing SBA borrowers for six months. This includes principal, interest, and fees. This relief is also offered to new borrowers who take out an SBA loan within six months after March 27, 2020.
Employee Retention Credit
For employers whose businesses were fully or partially suspended as a result of COVID-19, the CARES Act specifies a refundable payroll tax credit for 50% of wages paid by employers during the pandemic. This also applies to business owners whose gross receipts declined by more than 50% when measured against the same quarter in 2019. Qualified employers with 100 employees or less are entitled to the credit, whether business is open or subject to a shut-down order. However, employers with greater than 100 employees qualify for the credit based on wages paid to employees while business is halted due to COVID 19-related circumstances.
Year-end tax planning is especially challenging this year because Congress has yet to act on a host of tax breaks that expired at the end of 2013. Some of these tax breaks may be retroactively reinstated and extended, but Congress may not decide the fate of these tax breaks until the very end of this year (and, possibly, not until next year).
These breaks include, for individuals: the option to deduct state and local sales and use taxes instead of state and local income taxes; the above-the-line-deduction for qualified higher education expenses; tax-free IRA distributions for charitable purposes by those age 70- 1/2 or older; and the exclusion for up-to-$2 million of mortgage debt forgiveness on a principal residence.
For businesses: tax breaks that expired at the end of last year and may be retroactively reinstated and extended include: 50% bonus first year depreciation for most new machinery, equipment and software; the $500,000 annual expensing limitation; the research tax credit; and the 15-year write off for qualified leasehold improvement property, qualified restaurant property, and qualified retail improvement property.
Higher-income-earners have unique concerns to address when mapping out year-end plans. They must be wary of the 3.8% surtax on certain unearned income and the additional 0.9% Medicare (hospital insurance, or HI) tax that applies to individuals receiving wages with respect to employment in excess of $200,000 ($250,000 for married couples filing jointly and $125,000 for married couples filing separately).
The surtax is 3.8% of the lesser of: (1) net investment income (NII), or (2) the excess of modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) over an unindexed threshold amount ($250,000 for joint filers or surviving spouses, $125,000 for a married individual filing a separate return, and $200,000 in any other case). As year-end nears, a taxpayer’s approach to minimizing or eliminating the 3.8% surtax will depend on his estimated MAGI and net investment income (NII) for the year. Some taxpayers should consider ways to minimize (e.g., through deferral) additional NII for the balance of the year, others should try to see if they can reduce MAGI other than NII, and other individuals will need to consider ways to minimize both NII and other types of MAGI.
The additional Medicare tax may require year-end actions. Employers must withhold the additional Medicare tax from wages in excess of $200,000 regardless of filing status or other income. Self-employed persons must take it into account in figuring estimated tax. There could be situations where an employee may need to have more withheld toward year end to cover the tax. For example, an individual earns $200,000 from one employer during the first half of the year and a like amount from another employer during the balance of the year. He would owe the additional Medicare tax, but there would be no withholding by either employer for the additional Medicare tax since wages from each employer don’t exceed $200,000. Also, in determining whether they may need to make adjustments to avoid a penalty for underpayment of estimated tax, individuals also should be mindful that the additional Medicare tax may be overwithheld. This could occur, for example, where only one of two married spouses works and reaches the threshold for the employer to withhold, but the couple’s income won’t be high enough to actually cause the tax to be owed.
We have compiled a checklist of additional actions based on current tax rules that may help you save tax dollars if you act before year-end. Not all actions will apply in your particular situation, but you (or a family member) will likely benefit from many of them. We can narrow down the specific actions that you can take once we meet with you to tailor a particular plan. In the meantime, please review the following list and contact us at your earliest convenience so that we can advise you on which tax-saving moves to make:
Year-End Tax Planning Moves for Individuals
- Realize losses on stock while substantially preserving your investment position. There are several ways this can be done. For example, you can sell the original holding, then buy back the same securities at least 31 days later. It may be advisable for us to meet to discuss year-end trades you should consider making.
- Postpone income until 2015 and accelerate deductions into 2014 to lower your 2014 tax bill. This strategy may enable you to claim larger deductions, credits, and other tax breaks for 2014 that are phased out over varying levels of adjusted gross income (AGI). These include child tax credits, higher education tax credits, and deductions for student loan interest. Postponing income also is desirable for those taxpayers who anticipate being in a lower tax bracket next year due to changed financial circumstances. Note, however, that in some cases, it may pay to actually accelerate income into 2014. For example, this may be the case where a person’s marginal tax rate is much lower this year than it will be next year or where lower income in 2015 will result in a higher tax credit for an individual who plans to purchase health insurance on a health exchange and is eligible for a premium assistance credit.
- If you believe a Roth IRA is better than a traditional IRA, and want to remain in the market for the long term, consider converting traditional-IRA money invested in beaten-down stocks (or mutual funds) into a Roth IRA if eligible to do so. Keep in mind, however, that such a conversion will increase your adjusted gross income for 2014.
- If you converted assets in a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA earlier in the year, the assets in the Roth IRA account may have declined in value, and if you leave things as is, you will wind up paying a higher tax than is necessary. You can back out of the transaction by recharacterizing the conversion, that is, by transferring the converted amount (plus earnings, or minus losses) from the Roth IRA back to a traditional IRA via a trustee-to-trustee transfer. You can later reconvert to a Roth IRA, if doing so proves advantageous.
- It may be advantageous to try to arrange with your employer to defer a bonus that may be coming your way until 2015.
- Consider using a credit card to pay deductible expenses before the end of the year. Doing so will increase your 2014 deductions even if you don’t pay your credit card bill until after the end of the year.
- If you expect to owe state and local income taxes when you file your return next year, consider asking your employer to increase withholding of state and local taxes (or pay estimated tax payments of state and local taxes) before year-end to pull the deduction of those taxes into 2014 if doing so won’t create an alternative minimum tax (AMT) problem.
- Take an eligible rollover distribution from a qualified retirement plan before the end of 2014 if you are facing a penalty for underpayment of estimated tax and having your employer increase your withholding isn’t viable or won’t sufficiently address the problem. Income tax will be withheld from the distribution and will be applied toward the taxes owed for 2014. You can then timely roll over the gross amount of the distribution, i.e., the net amount you received plus the amount of withheld tax, to a traditional IRA. No part of the distribution will be includible in income for 2014, but the withheld tax will be applied pro rata over the full 2014 tax year to reduce previous underpayments of estimated tax.
- Estimate the effect of any year-end planning moves on the alternative minimum tax (AMT) for 2014, keeping in mind that many tax breaks allowed for purposes of calculating regular taxes are disallowed for AMT purposes. These include the deduction for state property taxes on your residence, state income taxes, miscellaneous itemized deductions, and personal exemption deductions. Other deductions, such as for medical expenses, are calculated in a more restrictive way for AMT purposes than for regular tax purposes in the case of a taxpayer who is over age 65 or whose spouse is over age 65 as of the close of the tax year. As a result, in some cases, deductions should not be accelerated.
- You may be able to save taxes this year and next by applying a bunching strategy to “miscellaneous” itemized deductions (i.e., certain deductions that are allowed only to the extent they exceed 2% of adjusted gross income), medical expenses and other itemized deductions.
- You may want to pay contested taxes to be able to deduct them this year while continuing to contest them next year.
- You may want to settle an insurance or damage claim in order to maximize your casualty loss deduction this year.
- Take required minimum distributions (RMDs) from your IRA or 401(k) plan (or other employer-sponsored retired plan) if you have reached age 70- 1/2. Failure to take a required withdrawal can result in a penalty of 50% of the amount of the RMD not withdrawn. If you turned age 70- 1/2 in 2014, you can delay the first required distribution to 2015, but if you do, you will have to take a double distribution in 2015—the amount required for 2014 plus the amount required for 2015. Think twice before delaying 2014 distributions to 2015—bunching income into 2015 might push you into a higher tax bracket or have a detrimental impact on various income tax deductions that are reduced at higher income levels. However, it could be beneficial to take both distributions in 2015 if you will be in a substantially lower bracket that year.
- Increase the amount you set aside for next year in your employer’s health flexible spending account (FSA) if you set aside too little for this year.
- If you are eligible to make health savings account (HSA) contributions in December of this year, you can make a full year’s worth of deductible HSA contributions for 2014. This is so even if you first became eligible on Dec. 1, 2014.
- Make gifts sheltered by the annual gift tax exclusion before the end of the year and thereby save gift and estate taxes. You can give $14,000 in 2014 to each of an unlimited number of individuals but you can’t carry over unused exclusions from one year to the next. The transfers also may save family income taxes where income-earning property is given to family members in lower income tax brackets who are not subject to the kiddie tax.
Year-End Tax-Planning Moves for Businesses & Business Owners
- Businesses should buy machinery and equipment before year end and, under the generally applicable “half-year convention,” thereby secure a half-year’s worth of depreciation deductions for the first ownership year.
- Although the business property expensing option is greatly reduced in 2014 (unless legislation changes this option for 2014), don’t neglect to make expenditures that qualify for this option. For tax years beginning in 2014, the expensing limit is $25,000, and the investment-based reduction in the dollar limitation starts to take effect when property placed in service in the tax year exceeds $200,000.
- Businesses may be able to take advantage of the “de minimis safe harbor election” (also known as the book-tax conformity election) to expense the costs of inexpensive assets and materials and supplies, assuming the costs don’t have to be capitalized under the Code Sec. 263A uniform capitalization (UNICAP) rules. To qualify for the election, the cost of a unit-of-property can’t exceed $5,000 if the taxpayer has an applicable financial statement (AFS; e.g., a certified audited financial statement along with an independent CPA’s report). If there’s no AFS, the cost of a unit of property can’t exceed $500. Where the UNICAP rules aren’t an issue, purchase such qualifying items before the end of 2014.
- A corporation should consider accelerating income from 2015 to 2014 where doing so will prevent the corporation from moving into a higher bracket next year. Conversely, it should consider deferring income until 2015 where doing so will prevent the corporation from moving into a higher bracket this year.
- A corporation should consider deferring income until next year if doing so will preserve the corporation s qualification for the small corporation alternative minimum tax (AMT) exemption for 2014. Note that there is never a reason to accelerate income for purposes of the small corporation AMT exemption because if a corporation doesn’t qualify for the exemption for any given tax year, it will not qualify for the exemption for any later tax year.
- A corporation (other than a “large” corporation) that anticipates a small net operating loss (NOL) for 2014 (and substantial net income in 2015) may find it worthwhile to accelerate just enough of its 2015 income (or to defer just enough of its 2014 deductions) to create a small amount of net income for 2014. This will permit the corporation to base its 2015 estimated tax installments on the relatively small amount of income shown on its 2014 return, rather than having to pay estimated taxes based on 100% of its much larger 2015 taxable income.
- If your business qualifies for the domestic production activities deduction for its 2014 tax year, consider whether the 50%-of-W-2 wages limitation on that deduction applies. If it does, consider ways to increase 2014 W-2 income, e.g., by bonuses to owner-shareholders whose compensation is allocable to domestic production gross receipts. Note that the limitation applies to amounts paid with respect to employment in calendar year 2014, even if the business has a fiscal year.
- To reduce 2014 taxable income, consider deferring a debt-cancellation event until 2015.
- To reduce 2014 taxable income, consider disposing of a passive activity in 2014 if doing so will allow you to deduct suspended passive activity losses.
- If you own an interest in a partnership or S corporation consider whether you need to increase your basis in the entity so you can deduct a loss from it for this year.
These are just some of the year-end steps that can be taken to save taxes. Again, by contacting us, we can tailor a particular plan that will work best for you. We also will need to stay in close touch in the event Congress revives expired tax breaks, to assure that you don’t miss out on any resuscitated tax saving opportunities.
Do not hesitate to call us to set up an appointment before end of the year to make sure you are taking the right steps for year-end tax preparation. You are also always welcome to give us a call with any questions. 317-549-3091 or email us at email@example.com
As the third year of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) approaches, employers need to be aware of additional fees that will be assessed on insurers and plan administrators of self-insured plans beginning in 2013. In addition, reporting health care costs to the government begins.
The new fees will increase the cost of providing group health plans for employees. They include:
- Fees to fund research on patient-centered outcomes
- Transitional reinsurance fees
- Pay or play penalties
- Cadillac tax
Fees to fund research on patient-centered outcomes
Health care reform created the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), which is charged with promoting research to evaluate and compare the health outcomes and clinical effectiveness, risks, and benefits of medical treatments, services, procedures, and drugs. PCORI is to be funded in part by fees assessed on health insurers and sponsors of self-insured group health plans. This fee is commonly referred to as the “comparative effectiveness fee” or “PCORI fee.” The PCORI fee will be assessed at $1.00 times the average number of covered lives (employees and dependents) for the first plan or policy year ending on or after October 1, 2012. Employer plan sponsors must choose a method for calculating the average number of covered lives for their required annual fees by December 31, 2012, for calendar year plans.
Transitional reinsurance fees
The transitional reinsurance program will require health insurance issuers, as well as certain plan administrators on behalf of self-insured group health plans, to make contributions to a transitional reinsurance program for the three-year period beginning January 1, 2014. This fee is likely to result in additional costs for employer plan sponsors and – depending on whether the plan at issue is self-administered – certain additional reporting obligations.
Pay or play penalties
In 2014, large employers with fifty or more full-time equivalent employees could be subject to two potential penalties: the No Coverage Penalty and the Unaffordable Coverage Penalty. The No Insurance Penalty subjects certain employers to a $2,000 per full-time employee penalty (excluding the first thirty full-time employees) under specific conditions. The Unaffordable Coverage Penalty applies if an employer offers its full-time employees the opportunity to enroll in coverage under an employer plan that either is unaffordable (relative to an employee’s household income) or does not provide minimum value. This penalty is $3,000 for every full-time employee who receives a subsidy for coverage in a state exchange.
In some cases, the total cost of these penalties may be less than the total cost of providing coverage. CliftonLarsonAllen’s Health Insurance and Penalty Calculator provides information about the impact of reform on individual companies.
Starting in 2018, insurers of employer-sponsored plans or companies that self-insure their own plans will be subject to an excise tax if their premiums are in excess of $10,200 for individual coverage and $27,500 for family coverage. Roughly 60 percent of large employers believe their plans would trigger the tax unless they take action to avoid it, according to a 2011 survey by Mercer, a human resources consulting firm. Although the tax is to be imposed on insurers, the effects are likely to trickle down to consumers.
Many health care reform provisions will impact the cost to provide health care coverage for employees. Employers should be aware of the additional fees and reporting requirements and work with their benefits consultants to determine the financial impact of health care on their businesses. Plan sponsors should have already verified that they have the systems in place to determine and report the aggregate cost of applicable employer-sponsored coverage for 2012 on employees’ Forms W-2.
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On September 19, the Center for Audit Quality (CAQ) released its sixth annual “Main Street Investor Survey,” which shows that investor confidence in capital markets has increased 4 percentage points since 2011, with 65 percent saying they have “a great deal of confidence, quite a bit of confidence, some confidence, very little confidence, or at least some confidence.” The survey defines “investors” as those with $10,000 or more in such investments as mutual funds, stocks, IRAs, 401(k)s.
By way of comparison, confidence in capital markets outside the United States fell 8 percentage points, to 35 percent.
Confidence in investing in US publicly traded companies leveled off at 71 percent this year, a 1-point drop from 2011, and a 5-point drop from years 2008 through 2010.
CAQ Executive Director Cindy Fornelli said, “Individual investors, as a group, have confidence in audited financial information released by public companies and believe that auditors are effective in looking out for investors’ interests.”
- 69 percent of those surveyed say they have confidence in audited financial information released by public companies.
- 70 percent believe the American economy will either stay the same or improve over the next year; 20 percent believe it will get worse.
- 25 percent expect their personal financial situation to improve; 64 percent expect it to stay the same over the next year.
- The top four economic concerns are: (1) not having enough money for retirement, (2) not being able to afford health care in case of serious illness or injury, (3) not being able to maintain their current standard of living, and (4) fear of losing their jobs
The survey was conducted after some disappointing news that was expected to dampen consumer confidence but didn’t: the lackluster initial public offering of Facebook and news that JPMorgan Chase and Co. lost more than $4 billion in derivatives trading. But, according to an InvestmentNews.com report, Fornelli said, “I don’t know that the average investor is that attuned to individual companies and individual stocks.”
The CAQ conducted just one of a flurry of consumer confidence surveys. The National Association of Home Builders says the “builder confidence index” is at its highest point since 2006, and new-home construction is up nearly 30 percent from a year ago, New York magazine reports.
In his New York magazine article, “The Confidence Game: The Economy Is Recovering, Most of Us Think,” Kevin Roose says, “So, with a pile of imperfect polls and statistics mostly pointing in the same direction, it’s relatively safe to say that four years after the near-collapse of the financial system, we’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel – or at least we think we are.”
Yet another survey indicates that perceptions don’t always match the facts. BusinessWeek reported on a survey by Franklin Templeton that asked individual investors about their perception of markets since the previous year. In 2011, 48 percent of investors said the markets were down over the course of 2010, when the Standard & Poor (S&P) 500-stock index rose more than 15 percent. Data released September 18 shows that 53 percent thought the S&P had dropped 2011, but it actually rose 2 percent.
Full article: http://www.accountingweb.com/article/investor-confidence-us-companies-inching-upward/219889
The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) has issued for public comment a proposed Accounting Standards Update (ASU) that is intended to improve the presentation of reclassifications out of accumulated other comprehensive income. The proposed amendments balance the benefits to users of financial statements without imposing significant additional costs to preparers, according to FASB’s In Focus documents. The proposed update would apply to all public and private organizations that issue financial statements in conformity with US GAAP and that report other comprehensive income.
The ASU Comprehensive Income (Topic 220), Presentation of Items Reclassified Out of Accumulated Other Comprehensive Income, would require a tabular disclosure of the effect of items reclassified, which presents, in one place, information about the amounts reclassified and a road map to related financial disclosures. This information is currently presented throughout the financial statements under US GAAP.
Other comprehensive income includes gains and losses that are initially excluded from net income for an accounting period. Those gains and losses are later reclassified out of accumulated other comprehensive income into net income.
Some items of other comprehensive income that are reclassified after a reporting period, and which FASB uses in its presentation examples, include cash flow hedges, unrealized gains and losses on available-for-sale securities, and foreign currency translation adjustments. US GAAP disclosure requirements already require this information to be disclosed, the Exposure Draft (ED) of the amendments states.
The ED provides examples of tabular formats and addresses the needs of life insurers. It also refers to US GAAP requirements for defined benefit pension costs.
“Stakeholders raised concerns that certain requirements about the reclassification of items out of accumulated other comprehensive income would be costly for preparers and add unnecessary complexity to financial statements,” said FASB Chairman Leslie F. Seidman. “Based on this new feedback, the Board is proposing a revised approach that will present information about other comprehensive information in a useful way that is more cost-effective.”
No decision has been made regarding an effective date. Stakeholders are asked to provide their written comments on the proposed ASU by October 15, 2012.
Full article: http://www.accountingweb.com/article/fasb-proposes-changes-presentation-reclassified-income/219733