President Trump Signs an Executive Order and Three Memoranda to Provide or Extend COVID-19 Relief to Individuals and Businesses

On Saturday, August 8, 2020, President Trump issued an Executive Order and three Memoranda to provide or extend COVID-19 relief to individuals and businesses.  Although the Executive Orders are not currently operational, at Tarlow, we feel that it is important for us to communicate this update.

Payroll Tax Deferral

The executive order directs the Secretary of Treasury to defer the withholding, deposit, and payment of the employee portion of social security tax, excluding Medicare tax, on wages or compensation paid during the period of September 1, 2020, through December 31, 2020. The deferral applies to any employee whose pre-tax wages or compensation during any biweekly payroll period are generally less than $4,000, calculated on a pre-tax basis, or the equivalent amount during other payroll periods. The tax payments are deferred without penalties, interest, additional amounts, or addition to the tax.

The executive order directs the Secretary of Treasury to issue guidance to implement the Memorandum and to identify methods to eliminate the obligation to pay the deferred taxes. It provides only for the deferral of the employee portion of social security tax and, in the event the Secretary of Treasury does not eliminate the deferred tax entirely, an affected employee will be required to pay any remaining deferred tax. We await further guidance; currently, it is not clear how an employee would pay the deferred tax following the end of the deferral period.

Employers have already had 50% of their portion of payroll tax payments due during the period that begins on March 27, 2020, and ends on December 31, 2020, delayed until December 31, 2021, and the other 50% until December 31, 2022, by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, P.L. 116-136.

The other executive orders involve compensation to unemployed individuals, evictions, and student loan relief, as follows:

Disaster Relief/Unemployment Insurance Benefits

The CARES Act provided a $600 per week federally funded unemployment compensation assistance to an eligible unemployed person, in addition to standard state unemployment benefits. This benefit expired on July 31, 2020.

The Disaster Relief Memorandum directs the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”) to provide benefits from the Department of Homeland Security’s Disaster Relief Fund. It also directs states to utilize their Coronavirus Relief Fund allocation to provide financial relief to unemployed Americans affected by COVID-19. The maximum amount is $400 per week supplemental unemployment compensation benefit. In comparison to the $600 supplemental benefit under CARES, the Disaster Relief Memorandum calls for two significant changes in eligibility:

  • Individuals must receive at least $100 per week in regular state unemployment compensation assistance, an increase from $1.
  • Individuals must certify that their lost wages are attributable to disruptions caused by COVID-19.

The funding for this new benefit differs from the funding under the CARES Act in that the federal government will only pay for 75% of the costs associated with this benefit. The remaining 25% will be the responsibility of the state governments, subject to an agreement between the federal government and the state in terms of the program and funding.

Eviction Minimization

The Housing Executive Order directs members of the Cabinet to consider, identify, review, and minimize residential evictions and foreclosures during the COVID-19 pandemic. President Trump directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to consider whether any temporary ceasing of evictions for failure to pay rent are reasonably necessary to prevent further COVID-19 spread. President Trump directs the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to identify Federal funds that could be allocated to provide temporary financial assistance to renters and homeowners struggling to make monthly payments. The President also directs the HUD Secretary to promote the ability of renters and homeowners to avoid eviction or foreclosure, including by providing Federal funds to landlords.

Student Loan Payment Relief

The Education Memorandum directs the Secretary of Education to effectuate waivers of and modifications to the requirements and conditions of economic hardship deferments.  It provides such deferments as necessary to continue the temporary cessation of payments and the waiver of all interest on student loans held by the Department of Education until December 31, 2020. The Education Memorandum also states that student loan borrowers may continue to make payments.

Tarlow is Here to Help – Please Contact Us with Questions

Tarlow Partners and staff members are closely monitoring these executive orders, tax-related legislation and regulations, and new guidance from the SBA and the Department of Treasury. We are readily available to assist business owners and will continue to send updates about relevant news and changing guidelines.  If you have any questions about this update or any tax matter, please contact your Tarlow advisor for assistance.

Important Reminder from Tarlow: The Deadline to Apply for a Paycheck Protection Program Loan is Saturday, August 8, 2020

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is a loan designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on payroll. The PPP resumed accepting applications on July 6, 2020, in response to President Trump signing the program’s extension legislation. As an important reminder from Tarlow, the deadline to apply for a Paycheck Protection Program loan is August 8, 2020. The five-week extension was intended to provide small businesses additional time to apply for the approximately $129 billion in PPP funding remaining. The Small Business Administration (SBA), which oversees the program with the Treasury Department, will forgive loans if all employee retention criteria are met, and the funds are used for eligible expenses.

PPP Loan Forgiveness Details 

PPP loan recipients can have their loans forgiven in full if the funds were used for eligible expenses and other criteria are met. The amount of the loan forgiveness may be reduced based on the percentage of eligible costs attributed to nonpayroll costs, any decrease in employee headcount, and decreases in salaries or wages per employee.  PPP loans will be fully forgiven if the funds are used for payroll costs (at least 60% of the forgiven amount must have been used for payroll), interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities. In addition:

  • PPP loans have an interest rate of 1%.
  • Loans issued prior to June 5, 2020, have a maturity of two years and loans issued after June 5, 2020, have a maturity of five years.
  • Loan payments will be deferred for six months.
  • No collateral or personal guarantees are required.
  • Neither the government nor lenders will charge small businesses any fees.

Forgiveness is based on the employer maintaining or quickly rehiring employees and maintaining salary levels.  Forgiveness will be reduced if the full-time headcount declines, or if salaries and wages decrease. The loan forgiveness form and instructions include several measures to reduce compliance burdens and simplify the process for borrowers, including:

  • Options for borrowers to calculate payroll costs using an “alternative payroll covered period” that aligns with borrowers’ regular payroll cycles.
  • Flexibility to include eligible payroll and non-payroll expenses paid or incurred during the 24-week period after receiving their PPP loan.
  • Step-by-step instructions on how to perform the calculations required by the CARES Act to confirm eligibility for loan forgiveness.
  • Borrower-friendly implementation of statutory exemptions from loan forgiveness reduction based on rehiring by June 30, 2020.
  • Addition of a new exemption from the loan forgiveness reduction for borrowers who have made a good-faith, written offer to rehire workers that was declined.

Who Can Apply?

The following entities affected by COVID-19 may be eligible:

  • Any small business that meets SBA’s size standards, either the industry-based sized standard or the alternative size standard.
  • Sole proprietors, independent contractors, and self-employed persons.
  • Any business with a NAICS Code that begins with 72 (Accommodations and Food Services) that has more than one physical location and employs less than 500 per location.
  • Any business, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, 501(c)(19) veterans organization, or Tribal business concern (sec. 31(b)(2)(C) of the Small Business Act) with the greater of:
  • 500 employees, or
  • That meets the SBA industry size standard if more than 500

How Can You Apply?

Entities can apply through any existing SBA 7(a) lender or through any federally insured depository institution, federally insured credit union, and Farm Credit System institution that is participating. Other regulated lenders will be available to make these loans once they are approved and enrolled in the program. You should consult with your local lender as to whether it is participating in the program.

If you wish to begin preparing your application, please contact your Tarlow advisor for assistance. You can also download the PPP borrower application form (revised June 24, 2020) to see the information that will be requested from you when you apply with a lender.

Paycheck Protection Small Business Forgiveness Act 

In addition to the five-week extension for the PPP application period, the Paycheck Protection Small Business Forgiveness Act was introduced to streamline forgiveness of PPP loans for small businesses. This bipartisan legislation includes forgiveness for PPP loans of $150,000 or less if the borrower submits a simple, one-page attestation form to the lender. It also ensures the lender will be held harmless from any enforcement action if the borrower’s attestation contained falsehoods.

Tarlow is Here to Help – Please Contact Us with Questions

Tarlow Partners and staff members are closely monitoring tax-related legislation and regulations, and new guidance from the SBA and the Department of Treasury. We are readily available to assist business owners submit Loan Forgiveness applications and will continue to send updates about relevant news and changing guidelines.  If you have any questions about maximizing PPP loan forgiveness, please contact your Tarlow advisor for assistance.

Tips to Keep Your Business Afloat During COVID-19

COVID-19 has had an unprecedented impact on all aspects of American businesses, but perhaps none have been as severely affected as small business owners. Surviving this disaster will require more than just time: you will need to take a pragmatic view of what has happened and what steps you are willing and able to take to bounce back. Here are our suggestions:

1. Spending

Review what you’re spending now and what you were spending before to determine what you can eliminate. Efficient spending is going to make a substantial difference in your business’ ability to survive this crisis. If you can break your expenditures down into what is necessary versus what you can eliminate, you’ll be able to give yourself a cash flow advantage.

Perhaps you’ll find that you no longer need the same amount of physical space if you are comfortable with having workers telecommuting. That single example can lead to savings in electricity and other services that can boost your ability to cut expenses. Your goal is to run as lean an operation as possible but to do so without having your cuts impact your ability to provide the service that your clients expect and want.

2. Agility

Examine how the shifts that the pandemic has forced can be incorporated into your business in a more sustained way. Plenty of companies have shown tremendous flexibility and skill in the way that they deliver their products or services, or even in the products themselves. Every business’ success is based on what the market needs. Business owners who can assess how the pandemic’s unique dynamics can be used to their advantage, or how they can adjust to them, will be the ones that are most successful and most likely to survive.

3. Competitive Inspiration

If you’re stuck for what to do to transform your business, look to your competition for inspiration. Perhaps they’ve moved their in-store shopping experience to one that is entirely available online, or they’re providing a new way to use an old product. Maybe they aren’t able to open but are remaining engaged with customers via webinars, podcasts, or live sessions on Facebook or Instagram. Whatever is working for one company, whether in your industry or not, can serve as inspiration for you.

4. Planning

Take a longer view of your business than what is demanded by the immediate moment. Some companies will be able to return to normal, but that is not true of all of them, and taking a clear-eyed look at how consumers are going to look at spending money with your type of business in the future is time well spent. If your business is primarily dependent upon having lots of people gathered in a small space, then you have to think beyond getting back to work. Instead, spend time thinking about the changes you’re going to have to make to allow yourself to stay in business.

5. Learning

If your business operations have slowed or come to a stop as a result of the pandemic, one of the smartest things you can do is to use the time to expand your knowledge and education. There are many courses that you can take online, both free and fee-based, to make sure that you have sharpened your abilities and expanded your knowledge of your business and industry. Taking cues from successful business owners in similar sectors is a great way to boost your expertise. You can find inspiration from innovators and great thinkers, both current and classical. There is a lot more to be gained from the downtime offered by the pandemic than thinking about your inventory and your clients. Use the time to improve yourself, and it will provide a full advantage within your business.

6. Taking Care

Perhaps most important of all, stay healthy and stay positive. If you have extra time that you would have been spending on your business, take the time to make sure that you are taking care of yourself, your family members, and the people in your community. We are living through history, and when it comes to your business, work toward a resilient response that will advance your business beyond this setback.

If you have additional questions about how to keep your business going during COVID-19, please contact us.

3 Ways to Receive Payments in QuickBooks Online

If you crafted 2020 business goals in 2019, you’ve probably had to revise them due to COVID-19. Despite the disruption of the last six months, we hope that you have managed to stay healthy and keep your small business running.

It’s more important than ever to conscientiously record all of the money coming into your company and ensure that it gets deposited into your account(s). QuickBooks Online offers several ways to accomplish this. Whether you’re receiving payment on an invoice, documenting an instant sale, or selling on the road, the site provides tools to make sure that your receipt of the funds is entered in the correct place.

Delayed Payments

Do you send invoices for products and services? If so, there’s more than one way to record payments when they come in. You can, of course, just open the invoice and click Receive Payment in the upper right corner. We find, though, that going to the All Sales screen gives us a chance to check the status of other pending transactions. Click Sales in the toolbar, then All Sales.

If your list isn’t very long, you can just look for the invoice number. If not, you can use the Filter tool to find the original form. Click the down arrow next to Filter in the upper left to see your search options here (StatusCustomer, etc.).


If you have a lengthy list of sales transactions, you can search for the one(s) you want in this drop-down window.

Once you’ve found the invoice, look down toward the end of that row. In the Action column, you’ll see Receive payment. (While you’re there, click the down arrow to familiarize yourself with the other options.) When the Receive Payment window opens, select the Payment method that applies. Leave the Deposit to field showing Undeposited Funds and look over the rest of the screen to make sure everything is accurate. Print it if you’d like, or add an Attachment using the links at the bottom, then Save it.

Tip: Customers tend to pay invoices faster if you allow them to make payments online. If you’re not yet set up for this, your Tarlow advisor can help you.

Instant Payments

Your business may collect payments at the time you provide a product or service. When this happens, you’ll want to supply your customers with a sales receipt instead of an invoice (this is also important for your records). Click the +New button in the upper left and select Sales Receipt under Customers to open a blank form. You’ll fill this out just like you would an invoice by selecting the Customer first, then entering or selecting any data needed for the other fields.

If you don’t anticipate needing all of the fields on your sales forms, you can remove some of them and even add your own. Ask us how this works.

If you’d like to add custom fields to your sales forms, you can do so in QuickBooks Online.

When you’ve completed all of the fields in your sales receipt, you can preview and print it. You can also save and email it to the customer.

Going Mobile

If you generate sales on the road, you can still create sales receipts for customers using the QuickBooks mobile app. Just click the plus (+) sign at the bottom of the screen and select Sales Receipt. The form is similar to the one you’d use on your desktop computer, though the layout is different, of course.

Having a QuickBooks Payments account is especially helpful when you’re making mobile sales. You can even swipe your customers’ credit and debit cards if you order a card reader from Intuit. We can walk you through this process.

You don’t ever want to record a payment incorrectly, of course, but it’s especially important right now to ensure that you’re accounting for every dollar that comes in. Please stay healthy and safe, and contact us if we can help in any way with your accounting and your use of QuickBooks Online.

A Novel Way to Make COVID-19 Relief Donations

Article Highlights:

  • Donating unused vacation time, sick leave and personal time
  • Employer’s Function
  • Great Donation Opportunity

On March 13, 2020, the President issued an emergency disaster declaration under the Stafford Act as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The disaster area covers all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and five U.S. Territories. As a result, and as was done in the past in the wake of major disasters, including Hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, Harvey and Maria, the IRS is providing special relief that allows employees to donate their unused paid vacation, sick leave, and personal leave time to COVID-19 relief efforts.

Here is how it works: if your employer is participating, you can relinquish any available and paid vacation time, sick leave, and personal leave for cash payments, which your employer will donate to COVID-19 relief charitable organizations. The cash payment will not be treated as wages to you, and your employer can deduct the amount given as a business expense. However, since the income isn’t taxable to you, you will not be allowed to claim the donation as a charitable deduction on your tax return. Even so, excluding income is often worth more as tax savings than a potential tax deduction, especially if you generally claim the standard deduction* or you are subject to AGI-based limitations.

This particular relief applies to all donations made before January 1, 2021, giving individuals plenty of time to forgo their unused paid vacation, sick and leave time and have the cash value donated to a worthy cause.

This is an excellent opportunity to provide sorely needed help in the ongoing COVID-19 emergency without costing you anything but time. Contact your employer to donate. If your employer is unaware of this program, refer them to IRS Notice 2020-46 for further details.

If you have questions related to donating leave time for COVID-19 relief efforts or other charitable contributions, please contact us.

 

*Normally, charitable contributions are deductible only if you itemize your deductions on Schedule A as part of your 1040 return. This means you wouldn’t get a tax benefit from your donations if you claim the standard deduction instead of itemizing. However, the CARES Act, passed in late March 2020, allows up to $300 of cash charitable contributions made in 2020 to be deducted from your income even if you use the standard deduction. Of course, as noted above, you can’t deduct the value of COVID-19 relief donations made through leave-based donation programs in any case. Instead, the leave time is non-taxable.

IMMEDIATE ACTION REQUIRED: Important Tax Filing Information for July 15, 2020

The Supreme Court has taken up a case that will determine the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). While it is highly unlikely that the Supreme Court will retroactively deem this Act unconstitutional, the decision to strike down the ACA would likely also invalidate two taxes on high-income individuals, including the net investment income tax and the increased Medicare tax rate.

High-earning taxpayers affected by these ACA specific taxes have the potential to claim a refund for 2016 through 2019 tax years; however, the request for a refund must be filed before the three-year statute of limitations expires. For 2016 tax returns filed before July 15, 2017, that statute of limitations runs out July 15, 2020.

July 15, 2020, is the deadline to file a “protective” refund claim for 2016-2019

Despite the lack of an official ruling by the Supreme Court and the impending statute of limitations, it is still possible for affected taxpayers to preserve their ability to claim a refund by filing a “protective” refund claim before the statute of limitations for each year expires. A protective refund claim is possible when a law is still in question, but the statute of limitations is about to expire, as long as the protective refund claim is filed before the statute of limitations lapses. Filing the protective refund allows the taxpayer to file an amended return and request a refund if the law is ultimately deemed unconstitutional. Taxpayers that filed after July 15, 2017, will have until later in the year to file this refund claim.

Simple filing requirements 

The only requirements for a valid protective claim include an explanation for the claim and the specific years for the potential refund, as well as the taxpayer’s name, address, signature, and legal identification, including either a Social Security number or taxpayer ID number. The protective refund claim must also be postmarked by the statute of limitations end date, but it is not required that the IRS receive the claim by that date.

Instructions and forms to file your “protective” refund claim

It is possible for taxpayers to file their own protective claims using our template; this process ensures the most expedient filing of the claim. Claim filing instructions and templates to expedite the process are included for your use below.

Print out the appropriate templates, fill them out and mail by the end of the business day on Wednesday, July 15, or later if you filed your 2016 income tax return later than July 15, 2017.

Protective Claim Filing Instructions.pdf 

Protective Claim Form – Individual.pdf 

Protective Claim Form – Trust.pdf 

If you believe that you may have paid Net Investment Income Tax, please print the form and mail it to the IRS. You do not need to contact us prior to mailing the form, but please contact your Tarlow advisor to share a copy of your protective claim electronically.

Thank you and please contact us with further questions. We are here to assist you.

U.S. House of Representatives Passes the PPP Extension and The Paycheck Protection Small Business Forgiveness Act is Introduced

On Wednesday, July 1, 2020, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to extend the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) application period by five additional weeks until August 8, 2020.  The U.S. Senate passed the bill by unanimous consent on Tuesday, June 30, 2020, less than four hours before the PPP application window was scheduled to close with more than $130 billion in unspent loan money. It is expected that President Donald Trump will sign the bill into law this week. Members of the House and the Senate are expected to adjourn for the Fourth of July holiday and are scheduled to return in two weeks.

On Tuesday, June 30, 2020, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), which oversees the program with the Treasury Department, had approved nearly 4.9 million loans for a total of more than $520 billion. At midnight on June 30, 2020, the SBA stopped accepting loan applications. The unexpected extension is intended to provide small businesses additional time to apply for the approximately $129 billion in PPP funding remaining.

In addition to the five-week extension for the PPP application period, U.S. Senators Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), members of the Senate Banking Committee, introduced the Paycheck Protection Small Business Forgiveness Act to streamline forgiveness of PPP loans for small businesses. This bipartisan legislation includes forgiveness for PPP loans of $150,000 or less if the borrower submits a simple, one-page attestation form to the lender. It also ensures the lender will be held harmless from any enforcement action if the borrower’s attestation contained falsehoods.

Approximately 85% of PPP loans would be eligible for this simplified loan forgiveness process. The approximately 3.7 million PPP loans of $150,000 or less account for 85% of all PPP approved loans, but only 26% of the PPP funds delivered. The cost of applying for forgiveness for a PPP loan of this size is $2,000 for the small business and $500 for the lender. The bipartisan legislation introduced could save small businesses $7.4 billion and banks nearly $2 billion.

As background, in early April, Congress created the PPP as part of the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.  The PPP was launched to aid the U.S. economy and assist small businesses facing economic hardships created by the COVID-19 pandemic. The program provides forgivable loans of up to $10 million per borrower that small businesses and other qualifying entities can use to cover payroll and other select costs, including mortgage interest, rent, and utilities.

PPP loan recipients can have their loans forgiven in full if the funds were used for eligible expenses and other criteria are met. The amount of the loan forgiveness may be reduced based on the percentage of eligible costs attributed to nonpayroll costs, any decrease in employee headcount, and decreases in salaries or wages per employee.

Tarlow is Here to Help – Please Contact Us with Questions

Tarlow Partners and staff members are closely monitoring tax-related legislation and regulations, and new guidance from the SBA and the Department of Treasury. We will continue to send updates and communications about relevant news and changing guidelines.

We are readily available to assist business owners in submitting Loan Forgiveness applications. If you have any questions about interpreting these new requirements and maximizing PPP loan forgiveness, please contact your Tarlow advisor for assistance.

The U.S. Senate Approved a Vote to Extend the Paycheck Protection Program Application Period

On Tuesday, June 30, 2020, the U.S. Senate approved a vote to extend the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) application period by five additional weeks until August 8, 2020.  The vote was passed by unanimous consent less than four hours before the PPP application window was scheduled to close with more than $130 billion in unspent loan money.

The legislation will require President Donald Trump’s signature for the program to continue. It now heads to the House of Representatives, which had finished voting before the bill was approved by the Senate.  Members of both chambers are expected to adjourn by the end of the week for the Fourth of July holiday and are scheduled to return in two weeks. The House would have to pass the measure and President Trump would have to sign it before the extension would take effect.

As of 5:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday, June 30, 2020, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), which oversees the program with the Treasury Department, had approved nearly 4.9 million loans for a total of more than $520 billion. At midnight on Tuesday, June 30, 2020, the SBA stopped accepting loan applications. The unexpected extension is intended to provide small businesses additional time to apply for the approximately $129 billion in PPP funding remaining.

In early April, Congress created the PPP as part of the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.  The PPP was launched to aid the U.S. economy and assist small businesses facing economic hardships created by the COVID-19 pandemic. The program provides forgivable loans of up to $10 million per borrower that small businesses and other qualifying entities can use to cover payroll and other select costs, including mortgage interest, rent, and utilities.

PPP loan recipients can have their loans forgiven in full if the funds were used for eligible expenses and other criteria are met. The amount of the loan forgiveness may be reduced based on the percentage of eligible costs attributed to nonpayroll costs, any decrease in employee headcount, and decreases in salaries or wages per employee.

Tarlow is Here to Help – Please Contact Us with Questions

Tarlow Partners and staff members are closely monitoring tax-related legislation and regulations, and new guidance from the SBA and the Department of Treasury. We will continue to send updates and communications about relevant news and changing guidelines.

We are readily available to assist business owners in submitting Loan Forgiveness applications. If you have any questions about interpreting these new requirements and maximizing PPP loan forgiveness, please contact your Tarlow advisor for assistance.

Unique IRA Opportunities for 2020

Article Highlights:

  • 2020 Tax Saving Opportunities
  • Traditional IRA to Roth IRA Conversions
  • Paying the Conversions Tax
  • Required Minimum Distribution (RMD)
  • 2020 RMD Waiver
  • Coordinating Distributions with 2020 Income

As bad as it has been financially for many individuals, 2020 does provide some unique tax opportunities for those who have traditional IRA accounts. These range from converting traditional IRAs to Roth IRAs, retirees making larger-than-normal IRA withdrawals, and the decision whether to take advantage of the required minimum distribution suspension for 2020. Let’s look at these prospective tax strategies to see if they might apply to you.

CONVERSION OF A TRADITIONAL IRA TO A ROTH IRA

The first opportunity to explore is converting your traditional IRA account to a Roth IRA account. The reason you might want to do that is a Roth IRA provides tax-free accumulation and, once you reach retirement age, tax-free distributions. A traditional IRA provides tax deferral of earnings, and the distributions are taxable.

Since distributions from a Roth IRA are not taxable, but those from a traditional IRA would be, you generally pay tax on the amount converted. The government isn’t going to allow both the tax deduction when contributing to a traditional IRA and tax-free withdrawal from the Roth on the converted amount. Thus, a conversion provides the most benefit in a year when your income is low, and as a result, you receive a lower tax rate. Timing is critical, and 2020 may be a low-income year when you might find it appropriate to convert some portion of your traditional IRA to a Roth IRA.

Example: Suppose you are generally in the 32% tax bracket but find yourself in the 12% tax bracket for 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. That means you can convert some portion of your traditional IRA to a Roth IRA at a tax cost of only 12% (or $120 per $1,000 converted) as opposed to $320 per $1,000 under normal circumstances.

When considering a conversion, one concern is where the money to pay the conversion tax comes from. Generally, it must come from separate funds. If it is taken from the IRA being converted, for individuals under age 59½, the funds withdrawn to pay the tax will also be subject to the 10% early distribution penalty in addition to being taxed.

Conversions can be tricky, and once made, they cannot be undone. If you reside in a state with state income tax, the conversion may also be taxable by the state. If you are considering a conversion, it might be appropriate to call for an appointment so that this office can help you analyze your conversion options properly or develop a conversion plan that fits your particular circumstances.

REQUIRED MINIMUM DISTRIBUTION SUSPENSION

For 2020, the government has suspended the requirement for certain older* taxpayers to take required minimum distributions (RMDs) from their retirement plans and traditional IRAs. Just because the obligation to take RMDs has been suspended doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take a distribution in 2020.

That decision should be based on two issues:

(1) Primarily, on your need to pay for living expenses, and
(2) Secondly, sound tax planning.

Issue number one speaks for itself. However, there are times when your income is low compared to normal, and it may be beneficial tax-wise to take distribution even if you are not required to. This may be true even if you aren’t of age for the RMD to apply. In these situations, the amount of a distribution can be coordinated with your tax liability to provide a beneficial tax outcome. In some cases, the distribution could even be free from tax or at least subject to a tax substantially lower than in a normal year.

Generally, this strategy is for individuals older than 59.5 and not subject to the 10% early withdrawal penalty. However, there are times when paying the 10% penalty may even be worth it for younger individuals when the tax saving is large enough.

It is important to understand that we are talking about retirement funds. Just because you can receive them out of a traditional IRA or qualified plan for a low tax doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be set aside in a savings account for future retirement needs.

These opportunities are easily overlooked, and it can be complicated to figure out the conversion or distribution amount to optimize the tax benefits. If you have questions or would like this firm to assist you in determining the strategy that best fits your needs, please contact us.

*If not for the COVID-19 suspension, 2020 RMDs would be required by taxpayers who turned age 70½ before 2020 or reach age 72 in 2020.

Post-Pandemic Trends Shifting the Economy for Small Businesses Everywhere

While it’s true that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has created significant challenges for small and large businesses alike, there are also some opportunities resulting from this “new normal.”

Behaviors have changed during the Coronavirus outbreak, and some of these could end up being favorable for small businesses. There are a few core trends, in particular, that may be opportunities just waiting to be taken advantage of by a savvy entrepreneur.

The Shift Towards Digital is Picking Up Speed

With so many people spending more time indoors (even as lockdowns lift), it should come as no surprise that the shift towards digital business is picking up speed. Now, more than ever before, companies operating in the digital space are getting more and more successful. In large part, because the options to do almost anything else were severely limited during stay-at-home phases, and we’re still not back to pre-pandemic norms.

This means that if you’re a small business owner, you don’t need to worry about finding an ideal location and renting physical office space. Once you have your goods and services accounted for, all you need is a computer, a mobile device, and an Internet connection.

Likewise, a lot of companies are enjoying success right now, integrating e-commerce channels into their business that didn’t exist in the past. If you have a product that can be shipped (or even hand-delivered), you can integrate a digital storefront into your existing website and allow people to place orders that way.

Not only is it a great way to remain operational as COVID-19 drags on, but it’s also an opportunity to “future-proof” your operations in case mass shutdowns occur again in the future.

The Flexibility of Location Independence

Teleconferencing software like Skype and Zoom is certainly nothing new. The technology has existed in some form or another dating back to the 1990s. However, COVID-19 has ushered in a new era where businesses leverage these technologies to create a whole new period of location independence in terms of how they offer their goods and services.

One of the best examples of this is taking place in gyms. Fitness classes are regularly moving online so that people can still work out and stay fit right from the comfort (and safety) of their own homes. Healthcare professionals are offering therapy and similar services over technologies like Teladoc and Apple’s FaceTime. Professional service firms are holding online consultations and meetings, which saves all parties a tremendous amount of time, effort, and travel.

City Partnerships Give Businesses an Interesting Boost

Another fascinating trend brought about in the wake of COVID-19 has to do with the unique business boosts taking place in cities across America. Case in point: restaurants.

As states begin to reopen, restaurants are among the businesses facing stringent reopening guidelines. As an example, many restaurants are only allowed to operate at 50% capacity or less. Likewise, there are less-than-normal numbers of patrons who are enthusiastic about going into a physical restaurant to enjoy a “care-free night out on the town,” with virus fears and anxieties so high.

As a result, cities have partnered with restaurants to close streets for specific periods at night and on weekends so that those businesses can set up tables outdoors. Not only does this allow them to serve far more people than they could with their actual indoor option, but it’s a great way to promote social distancing and other safety measures while boosting small businesses.

The Era of Remote Work is Upon Us

Remote work has been getting more and more popular over the last several years; however, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly acted as an accelerant. With so many Americans under strict stay-at-home orders at one point and with all non-essential businesses closed, more people were working remotely than ever before. Not only did employees realize that they enjoyed the freedom and flexibility that came with it, but their employers are also quickly realizing that most of them are just as productive at home, if not more so.

Some employers have started to wonder if, even when things go “back to normal,” they should bother calling everyone back into the office again, or allow the remote work to continue. If employees are allowed to work from home a more significant percentage of the time (or entirely, in some cases), small businesses can potentially save an enormous amount of money on utilities alone. They likely won’t need to invest in large office spaces if far fewer people are using it, representing additional cost savings and money that can be funneled into other areas of the business.

Additionally, some studies indicate that people are more productive when working from home, thus increasing not only the quality of the work but the revenue those employees can generate as well.

The Future of Payments

Last but not least, we arrive at another trend that COVID-19 has highlighted over the last several months: the popularity of cashless and contactless payments.

Paying with cash is less prevalent in the time of coronavirus due to concerns around germs changing hands. Many businesses have even gone “cashless” and will only accept card payments.

“Contactless” payments take this one step further. Along with the various smartphone options (like Apple Pay and Google Pay), many debit and credit cards now include a contactless option where consumers simply wave or tap their card on the reader to pay.

The benefits of contactless payments for small businesses are as enormous as they are immediate. For starters, younger generations tend to prefer this to traditional payments, meaning that offering it as an option could be your ticket to attracting an entirely new audience.

Likewise, contactless transactions are faster than their traditional counterparts. So, not only are you giving people additional options in terms of how they pay for your goods and services, but you’re also creating an environment where you can execute more transactions in a faster, more secure way as well. It truly is a win-win situation, regardless of how you choose to look at it.

In the end, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we do business, likely for good. But for every struggle that the coronavirus brought with it, it’s also clear that it unlocked a world of new opportunities for businesses, too. That’s why, as more and more states are opening up and things are slowly returning “to normal,” a lot of small businesses are asking themselves how they can continue applying some of these new strategies for the long-term.

If your business is facing challenges keeping up with the changing demands of your customers due to COVID-19, please contact us. Your Tarlow advisor can help you seize this chance to pivot and embrace new opportunities to grow.