Joseph Belbol

A Few PPP Loan Forgiveness Tactics

You want to make sure that as much of your PPP loan is forgiven as possible. Here are a few ways you may not have thought of:

Non-Payroll Costs:

You can include interest payments on loans, the cost of telephone services, including your cell phone, faxes, VOIP services, and Internet services, fuel for your vehicles, and lease payments for any personal property, such as for vehicles and equipment as long as they were in force before 2/15/2020.

Payroll Costs

Payroll costs include wages, but also include group health care benefits, retirement plan contributions, and state and local payroll taxes.

Deadline

The application expires on October 31, 2020. Once the 8 week period is over do not hesitate to work on the application.

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PPP Loan Forgiveness Application

There is a forgiveness application that was made available from the Paycheck Protection Program and here are the highlights and definitions:

Average Full-Time Equivalent “FTE” Calculation:

To calculate FTE, you can use a simplified version to determine this by assigning a 1.0 for employees who work 40 hours or more per week and 0.5 for employees who work fewer hours.

Covered Period for Payroll Costs

The covered period is the eight-week (56 day) covered period of your PPP loan. The first day is the same date that you received the loan proceeds. For example, if loan proceeds were received on Monday, April 20, then the covered period is April 20th thru Sunday, June 14th.

Alternatively, eligible payroll costs can be calculated by using the eight-week (56 day) period that begins on the first day of the first pay period following the PPP loan disbursement date. For example, if you received your loan proceeds on Monday, April 20th and the first day of the first pay period following the PPP loan disbursement is Sunday, April 26th, then the first day is April 26th and the last day is Saturday, June 20th. This represents a 6 day difference from the first example.

Potential Forgiveness Amount

The potential forgiveness amount is the smaller of the PPP loan amount, 75% of your payroll costs, or the modified total calculation (which is the total of payroll costs, business mortgage interest, rent, and utility payments and then factors in wage reductions and FTE reductions).

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What Will Your Business Look Like and What Changes Can You Make?

Eventually things will open up fully and business activity will be flowing better than it is right now. What will your business look like and what are some changes you can make?

Technology

The use of virtual meeting technology has skyrocketed with apps like Zoom and Google Meet. This pandemic has forced businesses to be nimbler and integrate technology as an essential aspect of business operations. Other technologies that can and should be used include remote servers, cloud-based software, virtual phone systems, and electronic payment processing.

Time Management

Doesn’t the week seem like one big blur? Even though you can have a Zoom meeting with a client at 10:30 PM, doesn’t mean that you should. It is good to keep some structure in place as best as possible. This includes start times, stop times, meeting times, checking and responding to emails, and telephone calls.

Method of Delivery

If you sold products through retail, including restaurants, then now is the time to ramp up your online sales and distribution capabilities. It doesn’t mean that you need to abandon your store front, but online sales and distribution cannot be ignored. The same goes for providing services virtually to your clients. Delivering services online, such as therapy or professional services, has been widely accepted. Rethink if you need to open that second office or if you can be more virtual.

Financial Cushion

Having a financial cushion for your business and also personally is absolutely essential. The weaker businesses will struggle to be up and running quickly, while the stronger businesses can do so easier and may even be able to take advantages of expansion. How much should you set aside? A cushion of 3 months of expenses is a good minimum. It will take a while to do so, so start saving little by little until you get there.

Keep Healthy

There is a great temptation to eat more and exercise less, but this will catch up with you and rob you of your energy and clarity to make good decisions. Don’t ignore your health because it will have a direct impact on your business and ultimately on your finances.

There is so much that is unknown at this time, and it would be great to have all of the answers.

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PPP Loan Forgiveness

It sounds like it would be straightforward to have your PPP loan forgiven, but that’s like saying the tax code is straightforward. Here are details and confusion on loan forgiveness:

8 Week Period

Qualified expenses have to be paid or incurred during the 8 week period after receiving the loan. Is it incurred or paid? The statute is not clear.

75%/25%

At least 75% of loan proceeds need to be spent on payroll costs. The other 25% can be used for interest costs, rent, and utilities. It looks like rent of vehicles, etc. is considered rent also. What about bonuses, and do they count? Unclear also.

Full-Time Equivalent  (FTE) Calculation

The definition of FTE is not in the statute. It is still not clear if the hours of part-timers should be combined to determined full-time equivalents.

Documentation Needed for Forgiveness

You will need to provide documentation verifying FTE’s, payroll tax filings, financial statements verifying payment of debt obligations, and any other documentation the Administrator determines necessary. What exactly does the last requirement mean? I would think that it means that you better have good bookkeeping.

Are you more confused? I am sure that more guidance will be issued, but hopefully very soon.

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What Should We Do?

With business closings, unemployment, restrictions, and people directly or indirectly impacted by the virus, what should we do? Here are some things we can do:

Don’t Make Drastic Changes

When possible, do not make significant, time-consuming, and cash-consuming changes. These are not normal times and no one knows how long this situation will last.

Adapt and Change

Many businesses have been adapting and changing their business models to accommodate COVID-19 restrictions. Can you do the same? Think of how you can modify your product or services to deliver them in a safe and different way. This is not always easy to do, but there are always possibilities.

Don’t Be Too Positive or Negative

Let’s not be foolishly optimistic about the situation because with each passing week or month that you expect things to change, your disappointment will keep on growing. However, do not be so negative to think that the world will never open back up.

Only Think About What You Can Control

If this pandemic has taught us one thing, it is that a lot in life is out of our control. What you can control are your reactions to others, actions you take, choice of words, reactions to your emotions, and the amount of news that you view. A formula that is probably true is More News = More Anxiety.

There is so much that is unknown at this time, and it would be great to have all of the answers.

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COVID-19 Updates: I Received my PPP Loan, Now What?

If you received your PPP loan, what should you do now?

The main purpose of the PPP loan is to keep your employees on payroll and the proceeds should be used for:

  • Payroll costs, including payment of state and local taxes based upon compensation
  • Group healthcare benefits and retirement
  • Interest on mortgage obligations
  • Rent
  • Utilities (electricity, gas, water, telephone, or internet)

How to obtain forgiveness

  • Your loan forgiveness will be reduced if you decrease your full-time employee headcount during the covered loan period.
  • Your loan forgiveness will also be reduced if you decrease salaries and wages by more than 25% for any employee that made less than $100,000 annualized in 2019.
  • You have until June 30, 2020 to restore your full-time employment and salary levels for any changes made between February 15, 2020 and April 26, 2020.
  • 75% of the proceeds must be used towards payroll costs
  • The period to use the proceeds is the eight week period after receiving the loan

The act excludes from payroll costs the compensation of individual employees that make an annual salary of $100,000. Also, the whole point of this loan is to help pay your employees for two months plus other critical expenses during this time period.

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COVID-19 Tax and Financial Updates 04-17-2020

Tax Updates

  • Some taxpayers have started to receive their Economic Impact Payments
  • The CARES Act also provided retroactive tax law changes, such as allowing improvements to nonresidential buildings to be eligible for bonus depreciation (the ability to be expensed 100% in one year), while reducing the number of years of depreciation from 39 to 15 years
  • Business losses from 2018, 2019, and 2020 are eligible to be carried back up to five years and losses carried to 2019 and 2020 can now offset 100% of taxable income versus 80% previously

Paycheck Protection Program Info

  • The PPP loans have reached their maximum in less than two weeks, and now we have to wait to see if there will be an increase to the limitation.
  • So far, not one client has informed me that they received funds from the PPP

Adapting to the Situation

  • We hear stories from our clients and others who are making changes to their businesses to help adapt and survive through this financially. Some changes include:
    • Virtually serving clients and customers, when possible
    • Creating new services that are in demand now
    • Selling products online versus traditional retail
  • It also appears that there is a renewed sense of putting things in perspective, focusing on what is important, not living just to work, and a general sense of community. I like those changes.

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COVID-19 Tax and Financial Updates 04-10-2020

Here are the latest updates and some reminders:

Tax Updates

  • Tax deadlines: both New Jersey and New York have finally extended the tax deadline from April 15th to July 15th.
  • If you have an existing installment agreement with the IRS, payments due between April 1 and July 15, 2020 are suspended.
  • CARES Act economic impact payments: payments will begin this month and you do not have to take any action if you filed a return for 2018 or 2019.

Paycheck Protection Program Info

  • Sole proprietors, independent contractors, and self-employed persons can start applying for this loan starting today
  • The banks are completely overwhelmed with loan applications and some have temporarily stopped taking new applications, especially if your business does not have an existing relationship with the bank
  • The information required consists mainly of prior year’s payroll filings, loan applications, etc.
  • The program will be available until June 30, 2020
  • We are not sure how long it will take to receive funding, but if you have received funding, then please let us know

Existing SBA Loans

  • The SBA will automatically pay the principal, interest, and fees of current 7(a), 504, and microloans for a period of six months.
  • The SBA will also automatically pay the principal, interest, and fees of new 7(a), 504, and microloans issued prior to September 27, 2020.

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COVID-19 Tax and Financial Updates 04-03-2020

Here are the latest updates and some may have already changed after this was written:

Tax Updates

  • Tax deadlines: both New Jersey and New York have finally extended the tax deadline from April 15th to July 15th.
  • CARES Act economic impact payments: payments will begin in the next three weeks and will be distributed automatically. Who is eligible?
    • Tax filers with adjusted gross income up to $75,000 for individuals and up to $150,000 for married couples filing joint returns will receive the full payment. For filers with income above those amounts, the payment amount is reduced by $5 for each $100 above the $75,000/$150,000 thresholds. Single filers with income exceeding $99,000 and $198,000 for joint filers with no children are not eligible. Social Security recipients and railroad retirees who are otherwise not required to file a tax return are also eligible and will not be required to file a return.
    • Eligible taxpayers who filed tax returns for either 2019 or 2018 will automatically receive an economic impact payment of up to $1,200 for individuals or $2,400 for married couples and up to $500 for each qualifying child.

Paycheck Protection Program for Small Businesses

Here is a summary of the program and you can start applying for this as of today, April 3rd. You 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. Remember, guidance is changing on an almost daily basis so this information can change and probably already has.

  • Overview: This program, also known as PPP provides funds to pay for payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities. The amount of the loan is generally calculated by multiplying 2.5 by your average monthly payroll costs.
  • Eligibility: Small businesses with 500 or fewer employees—including nonprofits, veterans organizations, tribal concerns, self-employed individuals, sole proprietorships, and independent contractors – are eligible. Businesses with more than 500 employees are eligible in certain industries
  • Forgiveness: Loan funds may be fully forgiven if used to pay for payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities within 8 weeks beginning on the date of the loan. 75% of the funds must be used for payroll to be forgiven.
  • Headcount: You must maintain or quickly rehire your employees and also maintain salary levels. Forgiveness will be reduced if headcount declines or if salaries and wages decrease.
  • Maturity: The loan has a maturity of 2 years and an interest rate of 1%.
  • The loan does not have a personal guarantee.
  • An application form is attached to see more details of what is required.

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COVID-19 Tax and Financial Updates 03-27-2020

There have been a lot of tax and financial announcements due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some highlights of updates as of this writing:

Tax Updates

  • Tax deadlines: The Treasury Secretary announce that the tax deadline for all businesses and individuals is delayed from April 15th to July 15th. Additionally, they will be able to make payments without interest or penalties. This also applies to the first quarter 2020 estimated income tax payment that is due on 4/15/20, however it does not postpone the second quarter estimated tax payment due on 6/15/20. Yes, that is strange, but we are living in unique times. IRA contributions for the year 2019 can be made until 7/15/20. So far, there isn’t any news from the State of NJ.
  • Existing Installment Agreements: For taxpayers under an existing IRS installment agreement, payments due between April 1 and July 15, 2020 are suspended. Taxpayers who are currently unable to comply with the terms of an Installment Payment Agreement, including a Direct Deposit Installment Agreement, may suspend payments during this period if they prefer. Furthermore, the IRS will not default any Installment Agreements during this period. By law, interest will continue to accrue on any unpaid balances.

Families First Coronavirus Response Act: Employee Paid Leave Rights

Generally, the Act provides that employees of covered employers are eligible for:

  • Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay where the employee is unable to work because the employee is quarantined (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider), and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis; or
  • Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay because the employee is unable to work because of a bona fide need to care for an individual subject to quarantine (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider), or to care for a child (under 18 years of age) whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19, and/or the employee is experiencing a substantially similar condition as specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of the Treasury and Labor; and
  • Up to an additional 10 weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave at two thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay where an employee, who has been employed for at least 30 calendar days, is unable to work due to a bona fide need for leave to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.

Covered Employers: The paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave provisions of the FFCRA apply to certain public employers, and private employers with fewer than 500 employees.

Eligible Employees: All employees of covered employers are eligible for two weeks of paid sick time for specified reasons related to COVID-19. Employees employed for at least 30 days are eligible for up to an additional 10 weeks of paid family leave to care for a child under certain circumstances related to COVID-19.

Qualifying Reasons for Leave: Under the FFCRA, an employee qualifies for paid sick time if the employee is unable to work (or unable to telework) due to a need for leave because the employee:

  1. is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;
  2. has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine related to COVID-19;
  3. is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis;
  4. is caring for an individual subject to an order described in (1) or self-quarantine as described in (2);
  5. is caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed (or child care provider is unavailable) for reasons related to COVID-19; or
  6. is experiencing any other substantially-similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of Labor and

Important points for employers:

  • The effective date of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act is April 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020.
  • The law is intended to be neutral for employers. Employer pays benefits and recovers the cost of such leave through a refundable, dollar-for-dollar payroll tax credit (up to certain dollar limits)
  • Employer receives 100% reimbursement for paid leave and certain health insurance costs, but
  • the amount is includible in income
  • Paid leave itself is exempt from employment taxes, and if the employer continues the employee’s health insurance coverage while he/she is out on leave, then the credit is grossed up to cover this additional expense

SBA Loans

The SBA is offering low-interest loans of up to $2 million with a low interest rate of 3.75% and long repayment terms. The SBA is waiving the “credit elsewhere” clause. The process should take 2 to 3 weeks and the website to go to is:

https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela

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