PPP Loan Update: Payroll Protection Program Flexibility Act

On June 82020, President Trump signed The Payroll Protection Program Flexibility Act into law, which allows the following changes to the PPP loan program. The SBA, in consultation with Treasury, will issue rules and guidance, a modified borrower application form, and a modified loan forgiveness application implementing the amendments to the PPP made in the new law. In addition confirms that June 30, 2020, remains the last date on which a PPP loan application can be approved, the new rules will implement the following changes:

Extended Covered Period

The covered period may be extended from 8 weeks to 24 weeks: businesses with existing PPP loans may elect to keep the 8 week covered period, or may extend the covered period to 24 weeks. New borrowers who are approved after June 3, 2020 will automatically have 24 weeks to use the loan proceeds.

Payroll Percentage

The percentage of the loan that is used to determine forgiveness that must go toward payroll costs was decreased from 75% to 60%. Prior to H.R. 7010, the requirement was only that 75% of the loan that was used had to be on payroll costs. This is an important point to note, but with the generous extension of the covered period, most businesses should easily reach 60% on payroll costs.

Full Time Equivalents and Restoring Wage Levels

You now have until December 31, 2020 to restore the level of FTEs and restore their wages. This was extended from the original date of June 30, 2020.

Additionally, there is an exemption added to the FTE reduction calculation if the borrower can document the inability to hire employees who were employed as of February 15, 2020 and the inability to hire other employees with similar qualifications as of December 31, 2020. If you are unable to hire other employees by December 31, 2020 due to compliance requirements with the CDC, OSHA, or the Secretary of Health and Human Services, you will also be allowed an exemption for these employees.

Loan Terms

All PPP loans issued after June 3, 2020 will have a loan term with of a minimum of 5 years. Borrowers that have a 2 year term with their PPP loan may renegotiate the terms to follow the terms for new loans if the lender and borrower mutually agree.

H.R. 7010 also allows the deferral of payment until the date the lender receives the forgiveness amount from the SBA, which will likely be longer than the initial deferral period of 6 months.

Deferral of Payroll Taxes

Employers can now defer all of its 2020 Social Security (50% to 2021 and 50% to 2022), even if the loan is forgiven before December 31, 2020. The original Act only allowed deferral until the loan was forgiven.

Taxability of PPP Loan

There is still a major issue with the taxability of the PPP loans.  Although the PPP states that the forgivable loan amount is not taxable, the IRS has taken the position that employers cannot deduct expenses like payroll and rent that are paid with PPP funds.  The IRS claims not allowing the deductions will prevent employers from receiving a “double tax benefit.”  Members of Congress have already spoken out that it was their intent to have the forgiven loan amount be tax free while still allowing the deductions.  Without a legislative fix to this issue, employers should plan for the additional tax ramifications from the PPP loan.

Still unclear? If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us and we’ll sit down and discuss!

The TCJA limit on interest expense deductions

Does it affect your business?

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) introduced a variety of tax benefits for businesses. Among other things, it slashed corporate income tax rates, temporarily reduced individual rates and established a new 20% deduction for certain pass-through income. At the same time, the act placed limits on several tax breaks, including the amount of interest expense a business may deduct.

“Small” businesses are exempt

Before you worry about the mechanics of the business interest limit, you should determine whether you qualify for the small business exemption. Businesses whose average annual gross receipts for the preceding three years are $25 million or less aren’t subject to the limit and, with a few rare exceptions, may deduct all their business interest expense. 

Keep in mind that some related businesses must combine their gross receipts for purposes of the $25 million test. So, you can’t avoid the limit by splitting a larger business into separate entities.

How it works

If your gross receipts exceed the $25 million threshold, then under the TCJA your annual deduction for business interest expense is limited to the sum of:

  1. Your business interest income,
  2. 30% of your adjusted taxable income, and
  3. Your floor-plan financing interest (for dealers in some motor vehicles, boats and farm equipment). 

Put another way, aside from floor-plan financing, your net interest expense — that is, interest expense less interest income — is deductible up to 30% of adjusted taxable income. Note: The limit doesn’t apply to investment interest. 

Your adjusted taxable income is your taxable income without regard to:

  • Nonbusiness income,
  • Business interest expense or income,
  • The amount of any net operating loss deduction,
  • The 20% pass-through deduction, and
  • Depreciation, amortization or depletion.

The last adjustment expires at the end of 2021. In other words, beginning in 2022, adjusted taxable income will be reduced by the amount of depreciation, amortization and depletion, limiting business interest deductions even further.

Disallowed interest expense may be carried forward indefinitely and deducted in subsequent years, subject to the same limits.

Real property and farming businesses may opt out

Some real property businesses — including development, construction, management, leasing and brokerage — may elect not to apply the business interest limit. The trade-off is that these businesses must forgo 100% bonus depreciation and depreciate specific assets over longer periods. 

Once made, the election is irrevocable. A similar election is available for farming businesses.

What about pass-through entities?

A complete discussion of the application of the business interest limit to pass-through entities is beyond the scope of this article. But in general, the limit applies at the entity level. 

For a partnership, any interest above the limit is passed through to the partners and carried forward until it can be offset against “excess taxable income” allocated to the partners.  Excess taxable income is essentially partnership income in each year that’s sufficient to support interest deductions beyond the partnership’s actual interest expense for that year. 

For an S corporation, excess interest is carried over at the entity level until the corporation generates sufficient income to absorb it.

Next steps to take

If your average annual gross receipts exceed $25 million, estimate the impact of the business interest limit on your tax bill. If it’s significant, consider strategies for softening the blow, such as shifting from debt to equity financing. If you have a real property or farming business, weigh the costs and benefits of opting out of the interest limit.

Is Someone Stealing from my Business?

– Reasons to Outsource Accounting –

A 2018 survey conducted by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners found that internal control weaknesses were responsible for nearly half of frauds.  Small organizations (less than 100 employees) experienced the greatest percentage of fraud and suffered the largest median loss when compared to larger organizations.  This could be due to the fact that larger entities typically have more resources to invest in their internal controls and anti-fraud programs.  For smaller businesses, the internal control may just be the owner overseeing everything themselves.  Making just one change to your business structure could greatly lower the chance of experiencing theft losses.  That one change is to outsource your accounting.  By outsourcing your business’ accounting, you improve your segregation of duties, receive timely financials, and can spend more time focusing on the business, all at a cost that won’t break the bank.

Just as the government has checks and balances, so should your business.  Segregation of duties ensures that at least two individuals are responsible for separate parts of any task.  This reduces your risk for fraud as it prevents any single person from having too much power.  

Outsourcing your accounting with Hobe and Lucas’ Client Accounting Services (CAS):

  • Provides a means for work separation, improving your business’s internal control
  • Our bill pay service will ensure that no payments go out without your authorization
  • You will have ongoing access to your account as well as a receipt of your business’s monthly financial report
  • Time is money à Leaving the accounting to us allows for more of your time to be spent in front of the business, doing what you do best.

Hobe & Lucas is here to provide a cost effective way to help your business take care of business. Outsourcing your accounting with us will enhance your internal control structure by reducing your probability of fraud occurrences and increasing the efficiencies of your business overall.  You will receive timely reconciliations and financials, giving you the ability to always know your financial position for better debt monitoring and tax projections.  Putting your back office accounting services in our hands will free up your time to do all of the things that “there just aren’t enough hours in the day” for.  

Questions?  Ready to get started?  Contact us for a quote today!

Do you need to file gift tax returns?

Avoid these common mistakes

For 2019, the lifetime gift and estate tax exemption has reached a whopping $11.40 million ($22.80 million for married couples). As a result, few people will be subject to federal gift taxes. If your wealth is well within the exemption amount, does that mean there’s no need to file gift tax returns? Not necessarily. There are many situations in which it’s necessary (or desirable) to file Form 709, “United States Gift (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Return” — even if you’re not liable for any gift taxes.

All gifts are taxable, except . . .

The federal gift tax regime begins with the assumption that all transfers of property by gift (including below-market sales or loans) are taxable, and then sets forth several exceptions. Nontaxable transfers that need not be reported on Form 709 include:

  • Gifts of present interests (as opposed to future interests; see below) within the gift tax annual exclusion amount ($15,000 per recipient in 2019),
  • Direct payments of qualifying medical or educational expenses on behalf of an individual (see “Medical and educational expenses: Direct payments only”),
  • Gifts to political organizations and certain tax-exempt organizations,
  • Deductible charitable gifts, and
  • Gifts to your U.S.-citizen spouse, either outright or to a trust that meets certain requirements, or gifts to your noncitizen spouse within a special annual exclusion amount ($155,000 for 2019).

If all your gifts for the year fall into these categories, no gift tax return is required. But gifts that don’t meet these requirements are generally considered taxable — and must be reported on Form 709 — even if they’re shielded from tax by the lifetime exemption.

Traps to avoid

If you make gifts during the year, consider whether you’re required to file Form 709. And watch out for these common traps:

Future interestsGifts of future interests, such as transfers to a trust, aren’t covered by the gift tax annual exclusion, so you’re required to report them on Form 709 even if they’re less than $15,000. Be aware, however, that it’s possible to have gifts in trust meet the present interest requirement by giving beneficiaries Crummey withdrawal powers (the right to withdraw a contribution for a limited time after it’s made).

Spousal giftsIf you make a gift to a trust for your spouse’s benefit and want the gift to qualify as a nontaxable transfer, the trust must 1) provide that your spouse is entitled to all the trust’s income for life, payable at least annually, 2) give your spouse a general power of appointment over its assets and 3) not be subject to any other person’s power of appointment. Otherwise, the gift must be reported. And be careful with gifts to a noncitizen spouse: If they exceed the $155,000 annual exclusion, they must be reported regardless of whether they’re outright gifts or gifts in trust.

Gift splittingSpouses may elect to split a gift to a child or other donee, so that each spouse is deemed to have made one-half of the gift, even if one spouse wrote the check. This allows married couples to combine their annual exclusions and give up to $30,000 to each recipient in 2019. To make the election, the donor spouse must file Form 709, and the other spouse must sign a consent or, in some cases, file a separate gift tax return. Keep in mind that, once you make this election, you and your spouse must split all gifts to third parties during the year.

529 plansIf you make gifts to a 529 college savings plan, you have the option of bunching five years’ worth of annual exclusions into the first year. So, for example, you can contribute $75,000 to the plan ($150,000 if you and your spouse split the gift) and treat the gift as if it were made over the next five years for annual exclusion purposes. To take advantage of this benefit, you must file an election on Form 709.

Consider filing voluntarily

It may be a good idea to file a gift tax return even if it’s not required. For example, if you make annual exclusion gifts of difficult-to-value assets, such as interests in a closely held business, a gift tax return that meets “adequate disclosure” requirements will trigger the three-year limitations period for audits.

Suppose you transfer business interests valued at $10 million over a period of years, through a combination of tax-free gifts to your spouse and annual exclusion gifts to your children. If the IRS finds that the interests were worth $15 million, which exceeds the lifetime exemption amount, it can assess gift taxes plus penalties and interest. If you don’t file regular gift tax returns, the IRS has unlimited time to challenge the values of your gifts.

Stay on the right side of the IRS

A smart gifting strategy continues to offer significant benefits for you and your loved ones. However, to keep from running afoul of the IRS, it’s critical to know when you need to file a gift tax return. We can help you in that determination.

Sidebar: Medical and educational expenses: Direct payments only

Paying tuition or unreimbursed medical expenses on behalf of a child or other loved one is a great strategy for making unlimited tax-free gifts without using up any of your $15,000 annual exclusion or $11.40 million lifetime exemption. But it works only if you make the payments directly to a qualifying educational institution or medical provider.

A common mistake is for a parent or grandparent to advance the child the funds he or she needs to pay the expenses or to reimburse him or her for expenses that have already been paid. These payments are treated as gifts to the child, which must be reported on Form 709 if they exceed the annual exclusion amount.

Have questions? Contact us and we’ll talk it through!

Could Client Accounting Services improve your business?

In a small or growing business, you most likely wear many hats. You’re the leader, you’re the HR department, you could be the entire sales team and you may also be managing the books. A study done by Wasp Barcode stated that the top accounting challenges facing small businesses today are: Accounts Receivable, Cash Flow, Paperwork, Closing the books each month, and Payroll Management.  

Did you know? More than 50% of small businesses have the CFO or Controller as the one managing all of these accounts! In order to ensure accuracy in these areas, segregation of duties and timeliness is key.  Handling all these duties, all while running the business, can be daunting. More often than not, the accounting gets pushed to the wayside, leaving companies scrambling at year end to get everything put together.

Are you a candidate?
Before you think about making a change or adding another service, it’s important to see if what you’re doing right now could be streamlined, automated or outsourced. 

  • Do you have difficulty monitoring your payables or receivables?
  • Are you struggling to keep up with compliance and financial reporting?
  • Are you looking for improved financial forecasting and strategic planning?

Our Client Accounting Services (CAS) program will utilize the latest technology and cloud based solutions to streamline your accounting functions, providing you real-time access to your information.   Every business is different, so we know there is no “one size fits all” CAS plan. We personalize our services to fit you and your distinct business needs.  

What exactly is CAS? Some of the services provided in our CAS package can include:

  • Keeping track of your receivables→  Know what’s owed to you and get notified when income is past due
  • Transaction processing and bill payment
  • Go Paperless→  Our cloud based storage software will link receipts to transactions, reducing the risk of missing/misplaced documents
  • Timely account reconciliations and financial statement preparation→   Know how much cash/credit you really have available
  • Payroll and payroll compliance
  • Periodic tax payments (Sales Tax, CAT Tax, etc.)
  • Outsourced CFO and business advisory services

Client Accounting Services will make strategic tax planning easier, as you will always have up-to-date access to your information.  Included in your custom CAS package is a review of your financial information by a CPA who will be analyzing the data to uncover trends, anomalies, new areas to pursue (if desired) and to provide input on possible strategies to help improve your business.

We’ll help you improve your segregation of duties, reduce the risk of misappropriation of assets and make for a better overall internal control structure.  With Client Accounting Services, leave the back office work to us, so you can focus on moving your business forward. As you grow, we are here to grow with you, every step of the way.

Ready to learn more or get started now? Contact us for a free review to see if your business would benefit.

Hobe & Lucas CPAs Kicks Off 2019 with the Acquisition of Flask, Kusak and Company

CLEVELAND, OH – February 9, 2019

Hobe & Lucas CPAs, a full-service certified public accounting and business consulting firm located in Independence, Ohio has acquired Flask, Kusak and Company, located in Parma, Ohio. The acquisition strengthens Hobe & Lucas’ overall service offerings and provides additional resources to increase its current levels of customer and client service.  This acquisition takes their total employee count to 43.

“Throughout the process of the acquisition it was apparent that the Flask team not only offered great technical expertise, but they also shared Hobe & Lucas’ number one core value, People First”,  said Louis Loparo, Shareholder, “We felt that Flask, Kusak and Company was a perfect addition to our firm given their commitment to exceptional customer service and dedication to truly being a partner to their clients.”

This transaction marks the first major growth move of Hobe & Lucas’ new leadership team. Flask, Kusak and Company team members will relocate their offices to the Hobe & Lucas CPAs office in Independence.


About Hobe & Lucas CPAs

Hobe & Lucas Certified Public Accountants, Inc. is a full-service public accounting and business consulting firm dedicated to providing clients with exceptional value. Hobe & Lucas CPAs has been serving clients since their founding in 1978. As one of the largest independent accounting firms in Northeast Ohio, they offer a broad portfolio of services and possess extensive expertise in a wide range of industries and specialty practices. Hobe & Lucas CPAs pride themselves on delivering the personal attention, responsive communication and collaborative relationships their customers need to succeed.

For Media Inquiries:

Patty Austin


Prepare for valuation issues in your buy-sell agreement

Every business with more than one owner needs a buy-sell agreement to handle both expected and unexpected ownership changes. When creating or updating yours, be sure you’re prepared for the valuation issues that will come into play. Issues, what issues?

Emotions tend to run high when owners face a “triggering event” that activates the buy-sell. Such events include the death of an owner, the divorce of married owners or an owner dispute. The departing owner (or his or her estate) suddenly is in the position of a seller who wants to maximize buyout proceeds. The buyer’s role is played by either the other owners or the business itself — and it’s in the buyer’s financial interest to pay as little as possible.

A comprehensive buy-sell agreement takes away the guesswork and helps ensure that all parties are treated equitably. Some owners decide to have the business valued annually to minimize surprises when a buyout occurs. This is often preferable to using a static valuation formula in the buy-sell agreement, because the value of the interest is likely to change as the business grows and market conditions evolve. What are our protocols?

At minimum, the buy-sell agreement needs to prescribe various valuation protocols to follow when the agreement is triggered, including:

  • How “value” will be defined.
  • Who will value the business?
  • Whether valuation discounts will apply.
  • Who will pay appraisal fees?
  • What the timeline will be for the valuation process.

It’s also important to discuss the appropriate “as of” date for valuing the business interest. The loss of a key person could affect the value of a business interest, so timing may be critical. Are we ready? Business owners tend to put planning issues on the back burner — especially when they’re young and healthy and owner relations are strong.  Additionally, once the appropriate documents are put in place, business owners may have a tendency to put it in a drawer out of sight. The agreement should be considered a “living document” and the valuation formulas should be tested periodically to make sure that the original criteria are still a good basis for the agreement. It is much easier to discuss the issues when it is an exercise and not an actual triggering event.

So try and be prepared for the unexpected, the more details that you put in place today, including a well-crafted buy-sell agreement with the right valuation components (and some occasional testing) the easier it will be to resolve issues when they arise.

3 keys to a successful accounting system upgrade

Technology is tricky. Much of today’s software is engineered so well that it will perform adequately for years. But new and better features are being created all the time. And if you’re not getting as much out of your financial data as your competitors are, you could be at a disadvantage.

For these reasons, it can be hard to decide when to upgrade your company’s accounting software. Here are three keys to consider:

Your users are ready.

When making a major change to your accounting software, the sophistication of the system needs to align with the technological savvy of its primary users. Sometimes companies buy expensive software only to have many of its features gather virtual dust because the employees who use it are resistant to change. But if your users are well trained and adaptable, they may be able to extract added value from a more sophisticated accounting system. For instance, they could track key performance indicators to generate more meaningful financial reports.

The price is right.

You’ll of course need to consider the costs involved. As holds true for any technology purchase, project leaders must set a budget and focus the search on products and vendors offering only the functions your company needs. But don’t stop there. Explore add-on services such as free trials, initial training and ongoing support. You want to get the most value from the software, which goes beyond the new and improved features themselves.

You need to integrate.

This is the concept of networking your accounting system with your other mission-critical systems such as sales, inventory and production. For most companies today, integration is essential to maximizing the return on investment in accounting software. So, if you haven’t yet implemented this functionality, an upgrade may be highly advisable. Just be aware that a successful company wide integration will call for buy-in from every nook and cranny of your business.

Sometimes a complete overhaul of your accounting system is not necessary.  We have created partnerships over the years with vendors of various applications that compliment accounting systems.  

For instance, a client with a small accounting office was looking to implement controls and efficiencies in there payables process.  We assisted them with implementing, a payables automation system.  We had another client that was looking for an easy way to gather credit card receipts that would sync with QuickBooks Online. We helped put receipt-bank in place to track and automatically sync with their QuickBooks.  In addition, we have also used other tools like Mile IQ and expensify to assist clients in organizing their spending.

If a company doesn’t need any major accounting process changes, it probably doesn’t need a major accounting software change either. But if upgrading both will help grow your business, it’s absolutely a step worth considering. It’s time to see how we can help.

Why our culture makes us a Top Workplace in Northeast Ohio

Last month, we celebrated a momentous achievement in our firm’s history…we were named a 2018 Top Workplace by the Plain Dealer and Advance Ohio…for the first time!

This was certainly a great honor for our business, but it’s also a celebration of our culture. We’ve always lived by our founder’s motto of “Full service. Full value.” throughout the forty years we have been in business, but this wouldn’t have been possible without the guidance of our leadership team and the employee culture we have all created together.

Whether you’re a potential employee or current client, our goal is to exceed your expectations both in a business aspect, but also by building a real relationship with you. We can only do that if we all work together to create a fun, positive environment filled with the best talent in Northeast Ohio! Being a Top Workplace was only our first step.

But instead of us telling you, we’ve summed it all up by asking our awesome team what they like best about working here and why our culture ranks high against other area companies:

What do you like most about working at Hobe & Lucas?
“Work-life balance. Hobe & Lucas provides employees with the opportunity to earn as much paid time off as possible, while also compensating them for overtime hours worked.”
“The partners all really care, not only about your success at the firm, but about your success as an individual as well. The ability for work-life balance and being included as part of the Hobe & Lucas team is sensational.”
“The variety of work and the opportunity to learn about so many different facets of accounting and tax as it pertains to businesses and individuals.”

How would you describe the work environment?
“The diversity of work that I do based on my experience and skills along with unique projects or challenges allowing me to step outside my comfort zone in a positive direction.”
“Supportive and helpful, with everyone willing to kick in and help each other when needed.”

How would you describe the culture?
“Fosters a culture of learning.”
“This firm provides a very unique office environment where everyone you come in contact with is exceptionally humble and kind.”
“A positive work-life balance, which keeps me engaged and motivated.”
“A team oriented environment where everyone is given appropriate responsibilities.”

And the best answer to the final question is something one of our team member’s said, but we all believe: We’re here to help our clients, first and foremost.

So what’s next for us (and you)?
We’re excited to continue to grow our team, our capabilities and our leadership in this region to ensure we can provide the best tools and knowledge to run your business. Whether you’re an existing client or thinking about partnering with us, we’re working hard to create even more value for your business. The first forty years have been built on working with the best clients who need a CPA firm with national level services, but with a small firm mentality. We’re excited for this honor and the next forty years ahead!

Ready to work with us? Schedule some time with us here to go over our full suite of business solutions

Do you have a plan for your paperwork?

by: Devin Cunningham

Every January we all make resolutions for the year ahead. A common goal, both professionally and personally, is to get better organized – and a great first step is to create and maintain an effective record retention policy.

The essence of an effective record retention policy is to keep what you need and get rid of the documents that no longer matter. This sounds so simple in theory, but can be difficult without some guidance. This is where we can help!

Some benefits of a well-implemented retention policy include:

  • Reduction in data storage costs by eliminating unnecessary items
  • Mitigating risk in the event of a data breach
  • Reduced litigation or regulatory costs
  • Improve speed/accuracy of record retrieval

Here is our suggested record retention policy for both businesses and individuals:

General Rules of Thumb 

Businesses and individuals should retain copies of filed tax returns indefinitely. These should be kept in a safe place. If you prefer to keep your records electronically we can provide you with a secured pdf copy. However, be sure to back up your computer records effectively if you choose to retain only electronic records. Once you have made the decision to dispose of paper documents, be sure to shred them thoroughly before throwing away. These documents contain a great deal of personal information that you don’t want falling into the wrong hands!

IRS Examinations 

The IRS generally will not audit returns after three years, though there are exceptions that can extend the IRS audit window. We included a link to the IRS webpage concerning record retention.

What about Ohio? Ohio’s statute of limitations is 4 years. this period begins on the date that the Ohio income tax return was due without extensions. The state of Ohio is permitted to examine your tax returns for one year longer than the IRS. We recommend that our Ohio business and individual clients retain all documentation for 4 years in the event of exam. Many states have statutes that differ from the IRS regulations. Be sure to check the rules in your specific state before disposing of any records.

What about Non-Tax Related Business Records?

Certain business documentation should be kept indefinitely. This includes:

  • Articles of Incorporation
  • Legal communications
  • Patents, copyrights, trademarks
  • Audited financial statements and CPA audit reports
  • General ledgers and year-end trial balances

Aside from supportive tax records, other documents such as accounts payable/receivable ledgers, inventory reports, bank statements and reconciliations, invoices and expense reports should be retained for a minimum of 7 years.

Final Thoughts

There IRS will expect you to be able to deliver documents promptly should they ever ask. It is extremely helpful to maintain an efficient record-keeping system, whether you prefer to keep hard copies or electronic records. Please consult your legal team or advisors for the record retention adoption policy that best suits your organization.

Remember, we’re here to be your financial and tax partner year-round, not just at tax time! If you would like to discuss your individual or business situation, please give us a call at 216.524.8900.

Click here to download your copy of our Record Retention sheet for Individuals and Businesses.