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A Year Like No Other
End-of-year advice from the advisors at Haefele Flanagan

Businesses, even the most successful, rarely run like clockwork. There are economic downturns, upturns, weather events and even social media trends that could change supply and demand. Still, some aspects have always been predictable. Taxes are due in April. Rent, that’s monthly. And fixed costs should stay fixed. But in this pandemic year, few things remain certain, and the impact on businesses big and small has been incalculable. 

As business owners scramble to meet the demands of 2020, planning has taken a turn toward the more complicated. The certified public accountants and financial advisors at Haefele Flanagan offer these end-of-year tips to help businesses not only survive, but thrive.

1. Rethink your strategic plan 

David Gill
Partner, Haefele Flanagan

In March, financial conversations quickly shifted from routine tax paperwork to planning for an economic shakeup that few saw coming. It left many wondering what they need to do to stay afloat, says David Gill, a partner at Haefele Flanagan. 

“We spent a lot of time meeting with clients about what was going on in the world and making plans for how to survive with the economy shut down for an unknown period of time,” says Gill. “We needed to be thoughtful and proactive about this – how will a business sustain for a month, 6 months, a year with lowered revenue and increased costs? Our goal has always been to make sure everyone survives this.”

For his clients, that meant reevaluating their business plan thoroughly and often. Whereas advisors typically met with clients to plan for long-term success, they’ve shifted to analyzing immediate needs. 

“It used to be we’d meet with a business and plan for a year, 2 years, 5 years down the line,” he says. “Now we’re sitting down with our clients more often to create a structured plan for the next 60 to 90 days. We have to be able to pivot quickly to keep on top of the changing economy.”

2. Explore every assistance option

Normally, the CPAs and advisors at Haefele Flanagan are busy issuing financial statements, creating business forecasts and preparing for audits, but this year their clients face an added year-end obstacle: navigating new financial assistance programs that kept their doors open. 

For those who reached for a lifeline through the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), it’s time to contact the bank to make a move. 

“You need to go directly to the same bank where you applied for the loan to submit for forgiveness,” says Gill. 

The amount of money that can be forgiven is based on how the money was used, he says. At least 60 percent had to be used for payroll and the remaining 40 percent for eligible expenses like rent, utilities and business interest on real property. 

But every business is different, Gill says, and it’s not always so straightforward. 

“When these loans started coming out, there was a lot of confusion,” he says. “It was like the Wild West with everyone gunning to make sure they got their application in before they fully understood the program. Now, we need to make sure our clients fully realize the advantages and limitations of their loans.”

For many businesses that had to reduce staff through furloughs or layoffs, that will affect forgiveness as well. 

“The reality of the pandemic hit hard for many businesses,” he says. “If you’ve laid people off or asked employees to take greater than a 25 percent pay cut, then you’ll have to make some adjustments to your forgivable amount.”

3. Sweat the (tax implication) details 

A thorough understanding of the tax implications of loans like PPP is crucial to ensuring your business doesn’t take an unexpected hit once tax season rolls around.   

“The money that you received in PPP funding is not considered income, so it isn’t taxed,” he says. “But the one caveat is that, as it stands now, any amount that’s forgiven will lower the available expenses you can claim on your tax return.” 

But these aren’t the only tax caveats to consider, and consulting a professional can help make sure you fully take advantage of all programs that could help your business when it’s time to file.  

“We talk most about PPP loans, but there are many more provisions to explore, like the Family First Act,” Gill says. “This provides extended leave, so tax credits are provided for businesses whose employees have been affected by Covid or who have employees who took time off work to care for someone affected by Covid-19.”

4. Dive into the numbers 

It seems obvious to take control of the books and know where your business is financially, but now is the time to dive deeper, says Gill.  

“You need to look at your numbers often,” he says. “It’s not enough to check monthly numbers – it has to be on a daily basis. The world is changing too quickly, and you need to know how to adapt.”

Small businesses that don’t have that luxury should hone in on their important metrics and track them on at least a weekly basis, he says. 

And although the federal government provided assistance 6 months ago, businesses should never rely on receiving help in a crisis, he says. Having money set aside can be life or death for a small business.  

“Long before the pandemic, we were telling businesses to always understand their cash flow needs and always have a contingency plan in place,” says Gill. 

5. Ask for help

Owning a business means having your hands in a million different things. But you don’t have to be an expert in finance to be successful, says Gill. 

“Going to an outside team of experts can absolutely ensure that your business priorities are clearly defined and your finances are on track,” he says. “You don’t have to do it all yourself.” 

Haefele Flanagan offers outsourced accounting, strategic planning, tax planning and business consulting among other expert services to provide businesses with the help, support and solutions they need to be financially secure.   

“Yes, there are businesses that are not going to make it through this,” says Gill. “Businesses that didn’t pivot quickly enough or were already on the brink, this put them over the edge. But on the other side, when you’re able to look at your business from all angles and make a plan, you might find ways to strengthen your business that you never would have expected before.” 

“That’s what we’re here for,” he says. “We can look out for your business’s financial wellbeing.”

 

Haefele Flanagan | 1000 S. Lenola Rd. | Building 2, Suite 200 | Maple Shade

(856) 722-5300 | Hfco.com

 

October 2020
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