Time to Lead

We, as tax professionals, must not only respond to protect ourselves personally, but to lead in rebuilding and then strengthening the infrastructure of our businesses and, through them, our economy.

TaxForward.org

COVID-19 has significantly altered our lives – including stay at home rules that, in some states, extend into June. The view of our altered landscape extends far into the future. 9/11 permanently moved us to remote servers, cloud computing, and advanced physical and virtual security. The Great Depression changed the way people viewed and used money and their relationship with government.

Our new normal will be shaped by this virus, even when we are allowed out of our homes and back to recognizable routines. Seemingly invincible titans and industries may fall; new hegemons and industries will rise. Our expectations of and the way we interact with the government, the ways in which we do business, and how we engage socially have all been impacted. Due to the size of the financial impact, it is predicted our government will need to invest many trillions of dollars to bring us out of this financial crisis. Our interactions with foreign governments (markets for both selling and purchasing) will change. Something as simple as how we look at shopping has already changed.

Every crisis we have ever suffered has had the benefit of educating us and helping us to become better at our response and our practices. Wars (as this current crisis has been referred to time and again) bring us medical advancements and prove to us we can martial our resources and people to accomplish great things. Natural disasters (as Covid-19 is) make us aware of our shortcomings in planning and preparedness. Financial disasters make us realize what we lack in skills and security and we adjust. Well, we’re in the penultimate of learning experiences now – financial and natural disasters coming together in a war that we must win.

We, as tax professionals, must not only respond to protect ourselves personally, but to lead in rebuilding and then strengthening the infrastructure of our businesses and, through them, our economy. This crisis has forced us to ask a lot of questions about safety nets, preparedness, leadership and how we want to build our future. It is not a matter of getting back to normal. Normal is gone. We need to build our new normal and what that is…is up to us. In a way that is exciting, just as it is daunting. You will notice we’re exploring subjects that are not clearly connected to tax. Our goal in exploring these subjects is to provide you with information that will help you navigate uncharted waters that are changing at a rapid clip.

Solutions to COVID-19 tax and financial concerns

COVID-19 related tax news

Relief from COVID-19

Managing Cash Flow and Transactions During a Pandemic

Following are key takeaways from Part 2 of our Business Health During a Pandemic webinar series. Watch the video here.

  • Stay healthy, take the advice of health experts seriously
  • Remain calm but act now – don’t wait
  • Key is just surviving and weathering the storm – ideal is to thrive
  • Learn as quickly as you can
  • Partner with:
    • Advisers
    • Suppliers and lenders
    • Existing and potential sources for referrals
    • Donate use of space and/or materials
    • Sources for new products and markets – such as alcohol distillers partnering with soap and perfume manufacturers to make hand sanitizers
  • Opportunities:
    • Strengthen relationships with clients
    • Focus on what your business does best
    • Competitors withdrawing from market
    • Businesses can redefine themselves – look into new markets, tools, ways to deliver products (e.g. online events)
    • Automate, reduce people
    • Data mining and analytics
    • Urgency resulting in relaxation of rules and regulation – faster to market, expanded options
    • As an independent consultant, this is your opportunity to show people the way
  • Innovation:
    • E-commerce as a revenue stream – Larissa Rapoport recommends on focusing on this first, expects them to see a spike in sales
      • Amazon – highest recommendation
      • Facebook
      • eBay
      • Etsy
      • WooCommerce
    • Ease cash collection (if not using the services above)
      • Square
      • Stripe
      • PayPal
    • Online communication tool for engaging internal and external customers
    • Help other companies innovate or take advantage of opportunities
    • Go out of way to add value to what offering or delivering to client, even if delivered for free, in order to build relationships and good faith
  • Strategic approach to cash:
    • Protect receivables / money coming in – call clients now to negotiate terms
    • Try to reduce A/R (convert to cash) and boost A/P (reserve cash)
    • Cut dividends
    • Private companies, do capital calls with owners to get money in
    • Borrow – go to secondary markets (higher interest rates) if don’t have a line of credit
    • Spend on producing revenue and keeping employees
    • Focus on social media promotion as a lot of people are spending time at home/in place on social media
    • Eye towards long term survival because we don’t know how long this will last
    • Prepare for a long winter and prioritize expenditures accordingly
    • Be first in line to negotiate with vendors, before companies no longer have wiggle room
    • Consider alternatives to cash, including bartering services
    • Insurance (business interruption, if plan has a civil authority clause)
      • Track your losses to take advantage of any government relief programs
      • Document all direct and indirect costs – cancelled orders, delayed orders, monetary time on managing business interruption, etc.
      • Appoint one person whose sole responsibility is dealing with business interruption, produce cash flow projections at least weekly, looking at fixed costs and negotiating them, rethinking how business is run, reviewing variable costs and how they can be reduced, only necessary costs (don’t take on unnecessary costs), get as much cash as you can, SBA loans if necessary, look for tax incentives, significant tax benefits available from advanced industry accelerator grant.
  • Evaluate financials for risk factors:
    • look at largest clients and source of cash, communicate with them frequently so that they remain a source of cash
    • Reduce cash outflows, start with big numbers first
    • Payroll, contractors, and consultants
    • Partner with companies that have provided good and steady insight in the past or companies with expertise in helping companies optimize business outcomes
    • Challenge every category in the financials for room for improvement
    • Get buy-ins from every team in your organization
    • Create proforma financials you can use as a roadmap for credible lenders and track success of workout plan
    • The two biggest reasons businesses fail or turnaround is because you never made a product someone wanted, or your business model doesn’t work. The longer you deny reality that your target has moved, environment has changed, and/or what you’re doing no longer works, you’ll go out of business or end up in a turnaround situation
  • If you were in the midst of a transaction (M&A, IPO), leaders recommend forestalling if you can rather than letting fall apart – be transparent, set expectations, a lot of communication – actions during a time like this could backfire; on buyside, trying to get a steal could result in “disastrous” integration that doesn’t supply the ROI you were seeking
  • The future (changes we might see):
    • Potential changes to healthcare: process automation, tele-medicine, machine learning, population health management, bio-banking, symptom checkers, remote care
    • A lot of things we don’t need will be eliminated

Business Strategies for Surviving a Pandemic

Following are key takeaways from Part 1 of our Business Health During a Pandemic webinar series. Watch the video here.

  • Set priorities – our guests recommend cash first, communication second, and control third
    • Cash: they recommend projecting cash runway and how long it will last – see Part 2 for more
      • Negotiate
      • Consider (accepting or offering) cash alternatives, such as equity
      • Take grace periods
    • Communications:
      • Communication, and planning, are key! Be transparent with employees, investors, and customers
      • To employees, clients, vendors, this needs to be done quickly and clearly, ideally it should be coordinated and consistent
      • Communicate to customers and vendors now rather than when the bad news hits, prepare them
      • Communicate that you have a plan and are in control
      • Stay connected with team and colleagues, such as with virtual lunch, in order to keep morale up
      • Remind employees of EAP program
    • Control: Rapidly assess what you can control and immediately assert control over those items – stop spending, review budget and forecast, and use tools available to gain control (e.g. policies and procedures on expense report, staff, purchasing, etc.)
  • Opportunity – to transform
    • Improve practices
      • This is forcing companies to move to paperless and test remote working situations
      • Improve customer service
      • Adapt to tools and technologies that represent best practices now
    • Differentiate – differentiate customer service by calling clients and seeing how you can help them get through this
    • Test new products and methods
    • Approach new customers
    • Explore new supply chains and distribution channels
    • Test new ways to use current resources (e.g. manufacturing line, human capital, distribution)
    • Leverage financially troubled areas, like Appalachia, manufacturing that has ground to a halt, local resources (e.g. for materials such as paper)
    • If your company has transitioned to a virtual work environment, consider the possibility of keeping it that way after this is over to reduce costs/open up your talent pool
    • 3D printing presents substantial opportunities
    • Focus on marketing
      • Evaluate your business model and approach to marketing for weaknesses and new opportunities
      • Ask – Is there another way you can deliver your product? Is there another product you can deliver? Is there another market for your product?
    • This could lead to cheaper prices for supplies, human capital, and overhead
    • Now may be a good time to acquire a company you think would be a good fit
    • Review contracts for clauses exempting payment obligations due to disaster
    • If you don’t already have it, consider Business interruption insurances for future situations such as these
    • Now is the time to negotiate – with customers and vendors (payables) – on cash and alternatives to cash
    • Slow things down to gain greater control
  • Innovation – will be critical to succeed! (See more tips on our website.)
    • Be strategic about staffing – e.g. furloughs in lieu of layoff
    • Seek out new partnerships (e.g. distillers now working with soap or cologne manufacturers)
    • What services can you deliver differently, such as online or through someone else’s distribution system?
    • Reduce constraints and become more flexible
    • Develop or enhance your online communication tools, or come up with a new product, or target audience.
  • Evaluate books and practices
    • Evaluate your books for risks and weaknesses and take action
    • Is this part of an ongoing system problem or something new?
    • Opportunity to clean up financials to apply for loans or show shareholders you will be okay
  • Leverage your network – consult with your advisors, service providers, and others for solutions
  • Track COVID-19 driven expenses and data, including sick vs. COVID-19 related leave, as completely and accurately as possible for:
    • A variety of potential tax credits
    • To tie sales losses to the period
  • Companies best positioned to succeed:
    • Innovate
    • Can help other companies innovate efficiently and cost effectively (e.g. delivery services, apps)
  • Uncertainty
    • There’s a lot of it, and this is unlike anything anyone currently alive has experienced
    • Mitigate by planning, such as around staffing if mandatory social distancing continues several months
  • Takeaways for the future (changes we might see):
    • Wise companies will anticipate what the recovery will look like and capitalize on that strategically
    • More contract and temp work as companies are reluctant to hire initially which will favor companies that provide solutions for contract and temp work
    • Diversify your supply chain
    • Moving to working remotely may open companies up to a new pool of clients and candidates
    • Use of apps, such as whiteboard apps and Zoom, for work will increase

Reality Bites: Oy Corona!

If you have been wondering what is the big deal about COVID-19 (you’re not alone), here is the scoop: COVID-19 spreads so fast that, if unchecked, experts worry the sick could overwhelm hospitals, forcing them to ration care, having to choose who receives services (ergo lives) and who doesn’t – an equation favoring the young, healthy, and wealthy. This occurred in Wuhan, China, and is occurring throughout Italy. The resulting strain on our medical system weakens our society’s ability to respond to other catastrophes.

If seeing is believing, the circumstantial evidence (and science) indicates COVID-19 spreads rapidly. Within five days of a conference held in Massachusetts last month, 50 out of the 175 attendees had flu-like symptoms and 70 confirmed COVID-19 cases could be linked to the conference, according to the Boston Globe. In Italy, one person is thought to have infected 43 people, according to Nicholas Christakis, MD, PhD, MPH, a Yale professor who studies networks, in an interview with WBUR. China went from 266 cases on December 31, 2019, to 80,000 by mid-March 2020.

Hospitalizations among the infected are high – ranging from 15% in China to more than 50% in Italy according to Liz Specht of STAT; the percentage of infected requiring critical care (e.g. placed in ICUs) range from 5% in China to 10% in Italy according to Ms. Specht. Estimates of the number of infected who will require hospitalization in the U.S. range from 10% to 20%.

Yet, U.S. hospitals do not have the resources – beds, equipment, and people – to care for everyone who would require treatment if the virus spreads unchecked, according to experts like Eric Richards, MD, an infectious disease specialist serving six Denver area hospitals. The U.S. has less than 3 hospital beds for every 1,000 people, or less than 0.3% of the population, according to the OECD. That translates into 8,400 beds in the Denver metro area, 12,900 in the Boston metro area, 13,100 in the San Francisco Bay area, and 19,600 in the Houston metro area – covering over 19 million people – if none are in use. When I spoke with Dr. Richards on the morning of March 13, he said the six hospitals he serves were already “full to capacity” without having a single COVID-19 patient in their beds.

In Wuhan, people requiring care were being turned away from hospitals because there were not enough beds for the sick, resulting in death as the sick convalesce at home. In Italy, experts are concerned about this and a collapse within the medical system.

According to Dr. Richards, more than 50% of the population falls into one or both of the two groups with the highest risk of complications or death from COVID-19: (a) those over age 65 and (b) those with compromised health. You’re bound to know someone who could be at risk if infected.

The U.S. has been struggling to test for and thereby track and contain the spread of the virus. As such, the only way to protect ourselves and the ones we love is by separating ourselves – the social distancing you might have been hearing about. As word of the crisis began to trickle in from Asia, many self-imposed their isolation. Now, it is being mandated by several levels of government.

As millions sacrifice for the social good, much as great generations have in the past, eyes are turning to D.C. and state and local governments for thoughtful leadership to provide relief and prevent a secondary national crisis.

While payroll tax reductions will help, they will not arrive in time to avert the crisis nor in amounts large enough to save homes and credit. They cannot feed children of furloughed employees while the sacrifice is being made.

The biggest priority for most families will likely be job security, their health and welfare, being able to feed their families, buying medicine, and keeping their homes. As thousands become unemployed (or, for the 10% of the workforce that is self-employed and the 20% of the workforce employed by them, lose revenue), promptly implementing policies such as the following could ease their turmoil.

  • Relaxing requirements for unemployment benefits;
  • Creating a paid leave program covering this period;
  • Creating a temporary safety net for the self-employed;
  • Extending deadlines for all tax payments coming due in the next three months, including income, property taxes, sales/use taxes, and payroll taxes;
  • Extending filing deadlines for all tax returns coming due in the next three months;
  • Deferring payments on government backed loans; and
  • Providing treatment for COVID-19 regardless of a person’s insurance coverage.

If you’re bunkered at home waiting for the pandemic wave to ebb and looking for ways to lighten the experience, here are a few ideas.

  • Sleep in an extra hour
  • Check on your neighbors
  • Help those in need
  • Serenade your neighbors
  • Binge watch TV with your family
  • Write a story, develop an app, or design a game with your kids
  • Make your friends laugh with videos
  • Watch more hilarious videos by John Garrett

TaxForward will be taking the following steps to assist you and our community during this saga.  

  1. Moving the March 25 Master Tax Mixer and webinars to May 6, 2020, to protect the health and safety of our speakers, attendees, and community. Registrants will receive the option of a credit towards an event or a full refund.
  2. Extending the early adapter pricing for the Spring Tax Detox to April 15, 2020, to provide time to decide as the situation stabilizes.
  3. Providing and referring materials, including webinars and articles, that will address critical questions for businesses, such as the following, on our website and social media. If there are any webinars and articles you’d like us to recommend, please send the information to Info@TaxForward.org.
    • How to advise employees;
    • Travel and leave practices;
    • Interaction with clients and vendors;
    • Whether and how to cancel events;
    • Whether and how to change store practices (including setting purchase limits);
    • Distribution channel and productivity concerns;
    • Continuity plans;
    • Cash flow options; and
    • What insurance options are available to help mitigate potential losses and risks.

We wish you and your family good health and safety!

Take (and double!) Your Discount – 6th Annual Spring Tax Detox

Time is running out to double your discount on TaxForward’s Spring Tax Detox tickets. Register before March 15th and save $5! And to sweeten the deal, you can double your discount by bringing a friend!

Less than a week left to take advantage of this double discount! Purchase tickets HERE and save $$$!

Early adapter discount: Register before April 15, 2020 and save $5! Register with a friend and you can each save $5 more!

Join us at Lime, Cantina & Tequila Bar, Denver Pavilions for one of TaxForward’s most popular annual social events. Unwind from another Busy Season, reconnect, and make new friends. Price includes food and drinks. Opportunities to win great prizes, including a Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey tour, plus a silent auction that includes a cooking class for two, an escape room experience, and much more!

Learn more and purchase tickets HERE.