Business Real Estate

Separating your business from its real estate

Does your business need real estate to conduct operations? Or does it otherwise hold property and put the title in the name of the business? You may want to rethink this approach. Any short-term benefits may be outweighed by the tax, liability and estate planning advantages of separating real estate ownership from the business.

Tax implications

Businesses that are formed as C corporations treat real estate assets as they do equipment, inventory and other business assets. Any expenses related to owning the assets appear as ordinary expenses on their income statements and are generally tax deductible in the year they’re incurred.

However, when the business sells the real estate, the profits are taxed twice — at the corporate level and at the owner’s individual level when a distribution is made. Double taxation is avoidable, though. If ownership of the real estate were transferred to a pass-through entity instead, the profit upon sale would be taxed only at the individual level.

Protecting assets

Separating your business ownership from its real estate also provides an effective way to protect it from creditors and other claimants. For example, if your business is sued and found liable, a plaintiff may go after all of its assets, including real estate held in its name. But plaintiffs can’t touch property owned by another entity.

The strategy also can pay off if your business is forced to file for bankruptcy. Creditors generally can’t recover real estate owned separately unless it’s been pledged as collateral for credit taken out by the business.

Estate planning options

Separating real estate from a business may give you some estate planning options, too. For example, if the company is a family business but some members of the next generation aren’t interested in actively participating, separating property gives you an extra asset to distribute. You could bequest the business to one heir and the real estate to another family member who doesn’t work in the business.

Handling the transaction

The business simply transfers ownership of the real estate and the transferee leases it back to the company. Who should own the real estate? One option: The business owner could purchase the real estate from the business and hold title in his or her name. One concern is that it’s not only the property that’ll transfer to the owner, but also any liabilities related to it.

Moreover, any liability related to the property itself could inadvertently put the business at risk. If, for example, a client suffers an injury on the property and a lawsuit ensues, the property owner's other assets (including the interest in the business) could be in jeopardy.

An alternative is to transfer the property to a separate legal entity formed to hold the title, typically a limited liability company (LLC) or limited liability partnership (LLP). With a pass-through structure, any expenses related to the real estate will flow through to your individual tax return and offset the rental income.

An LLC is more commonly used to transfer real estate. It’s simple to set up and requires only one member. LLPs require at least two partners and aren’t permitted in every state. Some states restrict them to certain types of businesses and impose other restrictions.

Proceed cautiously

Separating the ownership of a business’s real estate isn’t always advisable. If it’s worthwhile, the right approach will depend on your individual circumstances. Contact us to help determine the best approach to minimize your transfer costs and capital gains taxes while maximizing other potential benefits.

© 2022


SELLER-paid points

Seller-paid points: Can homeowners deduct them?

In its latest report, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) announced that July 2022 existing home sales were down but prices were up nationwide, compared with last year. “The ongoing sales decline reflects the impact of the mortgage rate peak of 6% in early June,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. However, he added that “home sales may soon stabilize since mortgage rates have fallen to near 5%, thereby giving an additional boost of purchasing power to home buyers.”

If you’re buying a home, or you just bought one, you may wonder if you can deduct mortgage points paid on your behalf by the seller. The answer is “yes,” subject to some important limitations described below.

Basics of points

Points are upfront fees charged by a mortgage lender, expressed as a percentage of the loan principal. Points, which may be deductible if you itemize deductions, are normally the buyer’s obligation. But a seller will sometimes sweeten a deal by agreeing to pay the points on the buyer’s mortgage loan.

In most cases, points that a buyer pays are a deductible interest expense. And seller-paid points may also be deductible.

Suppose, for example, that you bought a home for $600,000. In connection with a $500,000 mortgage loan, your bank charged two points, or $10,000. The seller agreed to pay the points in order to close the sale.

You can deduct the $10,000 in the year of sale. The only disadvantage is that your tax basis is reduced to $590,000, which will mean more gain if — and when — you sell the home for more than that amount. But that may not happen until many years later, and the gain may not be taxable anyway. You may qualify for an exclusion for up to $250,000 ($500,000 for a married couple filing jointly) of gain on the sale of a principal residence.

Important limits

There are some important limitations on the rule allowing a deduction for seller-paid points. The rule doesn’t apply:

  • To points that are allocated to the part of a mortgage above $750,000 ($375,000 for married filing separately) for tax years 2018 through 2025 (above $1 million for tax years before 2018 and after 2025);
  • To points on a loan used to improve (rather than buy) a home;
  • To points on a loan used to buy a vacation or second home, investment property or business property; and
  • To points paid on a refinancing, home equity loan or line of credit.

Tax aspects of the transaction

We can review with you in more detail whether the points in your home purchase are deductible, as well as discuss other tax aspects of your transaction.

© 2022


When hiring, don’t overlook older workers

Is your business hiring? Many companies are — in fact, an employment report released by the U.S. Department of Labor earlier this month revealed that nonfarm payrolls increased by 390,000 in May, and the unemployment rate held steady at 3.6%.

As the job market continues to feel the impact of “the Great Resignation,” the competition for talent remains fierce. One area of the hiring pool that many businesses overlook is older workers. If your company still has open positions, consider the possibility of filling them with workers age 55 and up.

Strengths to look for

Although it’s true that many Baby Boomers have retired, and a few members of Generation X might soon be joining them, plenty of older workers remain available to provide value to the right company.

They offer many benefits. For starters, they’ve lived and worked through many economic ups and downs, so the word “budget” tends to keenly resonate with them. In addition, many are well connected in their fields and can reach out to helpful resources right away. Seasoned workers tend to be self-motivated and need little supervision, too.

How to welcome them

Adding older employees to a workforce predominantly staffed by Gen Xers, Millennials and perhaps members of Generation Z (currently the youngest group) can present challenges to your company culture. However, there are ways to welcome older workers while easing the transition for everyone.

First, ensure internal communications emphasize inclusivity. If you’re concerned that your existing culture might hinder the onboarding process for older workers, begin addressing the potential obstacles before hiring anyone, if possible. Reassure current employees that you’ll continue to value their contributions and empower their career paths.

Second, consider involving other staff members in the hiring process. For example, you could ask those who will work directly with a new hire to sit in on the initial job interviews. You’ll likely experience less resistance if an older employee’s co-workers are involved from the beginning. Just be sure that every participant understands proper interviewing techniques to avoid legal problems.

Third, as appropriate and feasible, offer training to managers who might suddenly find themselves supervising employees with many more years of work experience. Learning to listen to an older worker’s suggestions while sticking to the company’s strategic objectives and operational procedures isn’t always easy.

Finally, consider a mentorship program. Bringing in new employees of a different age group is an opportune time to investigate the potential benefits of mentoring. By pairing newly hired older workers with younger staff members, you could see both groups learn from each other — and the business grow as a result.

A welcome addition

Older workers are often a welcome addition to many companies — and not just as full-time employees. They tend to fit in well as part- or flex-time workers as well. Need help? We can assist you in assessing this idea or other ways to improve the cost-effectiveness of your hiring efforts.

© 2022


Cybersecurity

Is your cloud provider still meeting your company’s needs?

Like many businesses, yours has probably jumped aboard the cloud computing bandwagon … or “skywagon” as the case may be. How’s that going? Some business owners pay little to no attention to a cloud provider once the service is in place. Others realize, perhaps years later, that they’re not particularly satisfied with the costs, features and cybersecurity measures of their cloud vendors.

Given the value of the data and documents that you store in the cloud, it’s a good idea to occasionally review your provider and determine whether you’re still making a good investment.

Are you getting these benefits?

As you’re likely aware, cloud computing providers offer a secure network of third-party servers that you, the customer, can access online. Thus, rather than relying on your own computers or servers, you can remotely store, process, manage and share documents and data. You might also have access to various software. Here are the benefits that you should be enjoying:

Lower costs. Cloud customers typically pay a monthly subscription fee or are billed based on actual usage. Reputable providers regularly upgrade their offerings and provide free security patches.

Scalability. You should be able to scale up or down as your data storage or processing needs change. For example, you might generate more data during seasonal peaks.

Convenience. Cloud services shouldn’t be limited to certain geographic areas or within restricted time frames. You should be able to access your documents and data from anywhere, anytime and on any device.

Many of today’s cloud providers also allow businesses to share documents and data with vendors to facilitate production and streamline workflow, as well as to provide some level of access to authorized advisors or other parties such as lenders.

How secure are you?

Serious concerns about cybersecurity in every industry have caused many business owners to “do a double take” when it comes to cloud computing. So, first and foremost, when evaluating your provider or shopping for a new one, verify basic security features. These include firewalls, authorization restrictions and data encryption. Also investigate:

  • How frequently the cloud is updated,
  • Whether data is backed up in multiple locations around the country,
  • Whether the service has experienced any data breaches recently,
  • How quickly the provider has responded to security threats, and
  • Whether you can retrieve your data in a nonproprietary format should the service go out of business.

Reputable providers offer continuous data backup and disaster recovery capabilities, so you shouldn’t have to worry about losing important records because of a physical server failure or a lost or broken hard drive. But, beware, the language of your service agreement might leave you ultimately responsible for any data breach. Consider negotiating restitution clauses into your contract.

Regular reassessment

Cloud services are just like any other technology investment — the features and security risks will evolve over time and call for regular reassessment. Let us assist you in weighing the costs, risks and advantages of your cloud provider.

© 2022


Interested in an EV? How to qualify for a powerful tax credit

Sales and registrations of electric vehicles (EVs) have increased dramatically in the U.S. in 2022, according to several sources. However, while they’re still a small percentage of the cars on the road today, they’re increasing in popularity all the time.

If you buy one, you may be eligible for a federal tax break. The tax code provides a credit to purchasers of qualifying plug-in electric drive motor vehicles including passenger vehicles and light trucks. The credit is equal to $2,500 plus an additional amount, based on battery capacity, that can’t exceed $5,000. Therefore, the maximum credit allowed for a qualifying EV is $7,500.

Be aware that not all EVs are eligible for the tax break, as we’ll describe below.

The EV definition

For purposes of the tax credit, a qualifying vehicle is defined as one with four wheels that’s propelled to a significant extent by an electric motor, which draws electricity from a battery. The battery must have a capacity of not less than four kilowatt hours and be capable of being recharged from an external source of electricity.

The credit may not be available because of a per-manufacturer cumulative sales limitation. Specifically, it phases out over six quarters beginning when a manufacturer has sold at least 200,000 qualifying vehicles for use in the United States (determined on a cumulative basis for sales after December 31, 2009). For example, Tesla and General Motors vehicles are no longer eligible for the tax credit. And Toyota is the latest auto manufacturer to sell enough plug-in EVs to trigger a gradual phase out of federal tax incentives for certain models sold in the U.S.

Several automakers are telling Congress to eliminate the limit. In a letter, GM, Ford, Chrysler and Toyota asked Congressional leaders to give all electric car and light truck buyers a tax credit of up to $7,500. The group says that lifting the limit would give buyers more choices, encourage greater EV adoption and provide stability to autoworkers.

The IRS provides a list of qualifying vehicles on its website and it recently added some eligible models. You can access the list here: https://www.irs.gov/businesses/irc-30d-new-qualified-plug-in-electric-drive-motor-vehicle-credit.

Here are some additional points about the plug-in electric vehicle tax credit:

  • It’s allowed in the year you place the vehicle in service.
  • The vehicle must be new.
  • An eligible vehicle must be used predominantly in the U.S. and have a gross weight of less than 14,000 pounds.

These are only the basic rules. There may be additional incentives provided by your state. If you want more information about the federal plug-in electric vehicle tax break, contact us.

© 2022


The tax obligations if your business closes its doors

Sadly, many businesses have been forced to shut down recently due to the pandemic and the economy. If this is your situation, we can assist you, including taking care of the various tax responsibilities that must be met.

Of course, a business must file a final income tax return and some other related forms for the year it closes its doors. The type of return to be filed depends on the type of business you have. Here’s a rundown of the basic requirements.

Sole proprietorships. You’ll need to file the usual Schedule C, “Profit or Loss from Business,” with your individual return for the year you close the business. You may also need to report self-employment tax.

Partnerships. A partnership must file Form 1065, “U.S. Return of Partnership Income,” for the year it closes. You also must report capital gains and losses on Schedule D. Indicate that this is the final return and do the same on Schedule K-1, “Partner’s Share of Income, Deductions, Credits, etc.”

All corporations. Form 966, “Corporate Dissolution or Liquidation,” must be filed if you adopt a resolution or plan to dissolve a corporation or liquidate any of its stock.

C corporations. File Form 1120, “U.S. Corporation Income Tax Return,” for the year you close. Report capital gains and losses on Schedule D. Indicate this is the final return.

S corporations. File Form 1120-S, “U.S. Income Tax Return for an S Corporation,” for the year of closing. Report capital gains and losses on Schedule D. The “final return” box must be checked on Schedule K-1.

All businesses. Other forms may need to be filed to report sales of business property and asset acquisitions if you sell your business.

Employees and contract workers

If you have employees, you must pay them final wages and compensation owed, make final federal tax deposits and report employment taxes. Failure to withhold or deposit employee income, Social Security and Medicare taxes can result in full personal liability for what’s known as the Trust Fund Recovery Penalty.

If you’ve paid any contractors at least $600 during the calendar year in which you close your business, you must report those payments on Form 1099-NEC, “Nonemployee Compensation.”

Other tax issues

If your business has a retirement plan for employees, you’ll want to terminate the plan and distribute benefits to participants. There are detailed notice, funding, timing and filing requirements that must be met by a terminating plan. There are also complex requirements related to flexible spending accounts, Health Savings Accounts, and other programs for your employees.

We can assist you with many other complicated tax issues related to closing your business, including debt cancellation, use of net operating losses, freeing up any remaining passive activity losses, depreciation recapture, and possible bankruptcy issues.

We can advise you on the length of time you need to keep business records. You also must cancel your Employer Identification Number (EIN) and close your IRS business account.

If your business is unable to pay all the taxes it owes, we can explain the available payment options to you. Contact us to discuss these issues and get answers to any questions.

© 2022


IRS extends relief for physical presence signature requirement

Under IRS regulations regarding electronic consents and elections, if a signature must be witnessed by a retirement plan representative or notary public, it must be witnessed “in the physical presence” of the representative or notary — unless guidance has provided an alternative procedure.

Recently, in Notice 2022-27, the IRS extended, through the end of 2022, its temporary relief from the physical presence requirement. This is good news for businesses that sponsor a qualified retirement plan.

Requirements for relief

The physical presence requirement is imposed under IRS regulations regarding electronic consents and elections for certain retirement plans — including 401(k) plans. Originally granted in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the relief initially applied for 2020 and has been extended twice since then, most recently through June 30, 2022.

As set forth in the IRS notice granting the original relief, the physical presence requirement is deemed satisfied for signatures witnessed by a notary public if the electronic system for remote notarization:

  • Uses live audio-video technology, and
  • Is consistent with state law requirements for a notary public.

For signatures witnessed remotely by a plan representative, the physical presence requirement is deemed satisfied if the electronic system uses live audio-video technology and meets four requirements:

  1. Live presentation of photo ID,
  2. Direct interaction,
  3. Same-day transmission, and
  4. A signed acknowledgement by the representative.

The relief has now been extended through December 31, 2022, subject to the same conditions. According to the IRS, a further extension of the relief beyond the end of 2022 isn’t expected to be necessary. The tax agency is currently reviewing comments received in connection with the initial relief and subsequent extensions to determine whether to retain or permanently modify the physical presence requirement. Any modification would be proposed through the regulatory process, which would include the opportunity for further comment.

An appreciable move

Given that the return to in-person business interactions has happened in fits and starts, this extension is likely to be appreciated by employers that sponsor retirement plans and their participants. Although many 401(k) plans are designed to limit or eliminate the need for spousal consents, those that offer annuity forms of distribution are subject to the spousal consent rules. And some 401(k) plans must require spousal consent if a married participant wants to name a non-spouse as primary beneficiary. Contact us for more information.

© 2022


Three tax breaks for small businesses

Sometimes, bigger isn’t better: Your small- or medium-sized business may be eligible for some tax breaks that aren’t available to larger businesses. Here are some examples.

1. QBI deduction

For 2018 through 2025, the qualified business income (QBI) deduction is available to eligible individuals, trusts and estates. But it’s not available to C corporations or their shareholders.

The QBI deduction can be up to 20% of:

  • QBI earned from a sole proprietorship or single-member limited liability company (LLC) that’s treated as a sole proprietorship for federal income tax purposes, plus
  • QBI passed through from a pass-through business entity, meaning a partnership, LLC classified as a partnership for federal income tax purposes or S corporation.

Pass-through business entities report tax items to their owners, who then take them into account on their owner-level returns. The QBI deduction rules are complicated, and the deduction can be phased out at higher income levels.

2. Eligibility for cash-method accounting

Businesses that are eligible to use the cash method of accounting for tax purposes have the ability to fine-tune annual taxable income. This is accomplished by timing the year in which you recognize taxable income and claim deductions.

Under the cash method, you generally don’t have to recognize taxable income until you’re paid in cash. And you can generally write off deductible expenses when you pay them in cash or with a credit card.

Only “small” businesses are potentially eligible for the cash method. For this purpose under current law, a small business includes one that has no more than $25 million of average annual gross receipts, based on the preceding three tax years. This limit is adjusted annually for inflation. For tax years beginning in 2022, the limit is $27 million.

3. Section 179 deduction

The Sec. 179 first-year depreciation deduction potentially allows you to write off some (or all) of your qualified asset additions in the first year they’re placed in service. It's available for both new and used property.

For qualified property placed in service in tax years 2018 and beyond, the deduction rules are much more favorable than under prior law. Enhancements include:

Higher deduction. The Sec. 179 deduction has been permanently increased to $1 million with annual inflation adjustments. For qualified assets placed in service in 2022, the maximum is $1.08 million.

Liberalized phase-out. The threshold above which the maximum Sec. 179 deduction begins to be phased out is $2.5 million with annual inflation adjustments. For qualified assets placed in service in 2022, the phase-out begins at $2.7 million.

The phase-out rule kicks in only if your additions of assets that are eligible for the deduction for the year exceed the threshold for that year. If they exceed the threshold, your maximum deduction is reduced dollar-for-dollar by the excess. Sec. 179 deductions are also subject to other limitations.

Bonus depreciation

While Sec. 179 deductions may be limited, those limitations don’t apply to first-year bonus depreciation deductions. For qualified assets placed in service in 2022, 100% first-year bonus depreciation is available. After this year, the first-year bonus depreciation percentages are scheduled to start going down to 80% for qualified assets placed in service in 2023. They will continue to be reduced until they reach 0% for 2028 and later years.

Contact us to determine if you’re taking advantage of all available tax breaks, including those that are available to small and large businesses alike.

© 2022


Businesses will soon be able to deduct more under the standard mileage rate

Business owners are aware that the price of gas is historically high, which has made their vehicle costs soar. The average nationwide price of a gallon of unleaded regular gas on June 17 was $5, compared with $3.08 a year earlier, according to the AAA Gas Prices website. A gallon of diesel averaged $5.78 a gallon, compared with $3.21 a year earlier.

Fortunately, the IRS is providing some relief. The tax agency announced an increase in the optional standard mileage rate for the last six months of 2022. Taxpayers may use the optional cents-per-mile rate to calculate the deductible costs of operating a vehicle for business.

For the second half of 2022 (July 1–December 31), the standard mileage rate for business travel will be 62.5 cents per mile, up from 58.5 cents per mile for the first half of the year (January 1–June 30). There are different standard mileage rates for charitable and medical driving.

Special situation

Raising the standard mileage rate in the middle of the year is unusual. Normally, the IRS updates the mileage rates once a year at the end of the year for the next calendar year. However, the tax agency explained that “in recognition of recent gasoline price increases, the IRS made this special adjustment for the final months of 2022.” But while the move is uncommon, it’s not without precedent. The standard mileage rate was increased for the last six months of 2011 and 2008 after gas prices rose significantly.

While fuel costs are a significant factor in the mileage figure, the IRS notes that “other items enter into the calculation of mileage rates, such as depreciation and insurance and other fixed and variable costs.”

Two options

The optional standard mileage rate is one of two methods a business can use to compute the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business puroses. Taxpayers also have the option of calculating the actual costs of using their vehicles rather than using the standard mileage rate. This may include expenses such as gas, oil, tires, insurance, repairs, licenses, vehicle registration fees and a depreciation allowance for the vehicle.

From a tax standpoint, you may get a larger deduction by tracking the actual expense method than you would with the standard mileage rate. But many taxpayers don’t want to spend time tracking actual costs. Be aware that there are rules that may prevent you from using one method or the other. For example, if a business wants to use the standard mileage rate for a car it leases, the business must use this rate for the entire lease period. Consult with us about your particular circumstances to determine the best course of action.

© 2022


How to keep remote sales on point

The pandemic has dramatically affected the way people interact and do business. Your company likely undertook various changes to adapt to the initial lockdowns and the ongoing public health guidance over the past two years.

An interesting byproduct of the crisis is that it created a somewhat involuntary experiment in remote work. Many businesses that were previously reluctant to allow telework — and remote sales, in particular — have learned that they can be highly effective.

If your company continues to deploy a remote sales staff, don’t assume it will “run itself” or that this tech-based approach is finished evolving. Here are some tips on keeping remote sales on point.

Devise sound strategies

No matter what the method, sales efforts should be targeted. Remote sales teams can lose their focus when they’re able to literally reach out to the world via the Internet. Don’t let sound sales and marketing strategies fall by the wayside.

For example, it’s far easier to sell to thoroughly researched prospects or, best of all, existing customers — who are already familiar with your products or services and those with whom you have an established relationship.

Continuously leverage technology

This might sound like a silly point given that remote sales are wholly dependent on technology to occur, but tech solutions are constantly evolving. Stay on the lookout for video chat and virtual meeting solutions that might work better for your business.

In addition to video-based products, other types of technology can enhance or support the sales process. For instance, software platforms that enable you to create customized, interactive and visually appealing presentations can help overcome some of the challenges of remote sales. And salespeople can use brandable “microsites” to:

  • Share documentation and other information with customers and prospects,
  • Monitor customers’ activities on these sites, and
  • Tailor follow-ups appropriately.

Also, because different customers have different preferences, it’s a good idea to offer a variety of approaches to communication — including email, texts, instant messaging, videoconferencing and live chat. Good old-fashioned phone calls should, of course, be an option as well.

Provide an outstanding experience

The ultimate goal of any remote sales team is to close deals and bring in revenue. But, rather than getting too caught up in the numbers, your salespeople should always be cognizant of the experience they’re helping provide customers.

Today’s buyers, whether consumer or business-to-business, largely prefer the convenience and comfort of self-service and digital interactions. That’s half the battle. However, your remote sales staff must still ensure that customers’ experiences with both your technology and people are overwhelmingly positive. This might entail occasionally taking off their sales hats and donning a customer service or tech support hat to solve a problem.

Stay competitive

The lasting impact of the pandemic isn’t yet completely clear, but the manner in which it has accelerated the use of remote technology is readily apparent. To stay competitive, businesses need to continue incorporating and enhancing remote sales techniques and IT solutions. Let us assist you in weighing the costs, risks and advantages of your investments in this area.

© 2022