News & Tech Tips

Strategies for investors to cut taxes as year-end approaches

The overall stock market has been down during 2022 but there have been some bright spots. As year-end approaches, consider making some moves to make the best tax use of paper losses and actual losses from your stock market investments.

Tax rates on sales

Individuals are subject to tax at a rate as high as 37% on short-term capital gains and ordinary income. But long-term capital gains on most investment assets receive favorable treatment. They’re taxed at rates ranging from 0% to 20% depending on your taxable income (inclusive of the gains). High-income taxpayers may pay an additional 3.8% net investment income tax.

Sell at a loss to offset earlier gains

Have you realized gains earlier in the year from sales of stock held for more than one year (long-term capital gains) or from sales of stock held for one year or less (short-term capital gains)? Take a close look at your portfolio and consider selling some of the losers — those shares that now show a paper loss. The best tax strategy is to sell enough losers to generate losses to offset your earlier gains plus an additional $3,000 loss. Selling to produce this loss amount is a tax-smart idea because a $3,000 capital loss (but no more) can offset the same amount of ordinary income each year.

For example, let’s say you have $10,000 of capital gain from the sale of stocks earlier in 2022. You also have several losing positions, including shares in a tech stock. The tech shares currently show a loss of $15,000. From a tax standpoint, you should consider selling enough of your tech stock shares to recognize a $13,000 loss. Your capital gains will be offset entirely, and you’ll have a $3,000 loss to offset against the same amount of ordinary income.

What if you believe that the shares showing a paper loss may turn around and eventually generate a profit? In order to sell and then repurchase the shares without forfeiting the loss deduction, you must avoid the wash-sale rules. This means that you must buy the new shares outside of the period that begins 30 days before and ends 30 days after the sale of the loss stock. However, if you expect the price of the shares showing a loss to rise quickly, your tax savings from taking the loss may not be worth the potential investment gain you may lose by waiting more than 30 days to repurchase the shares.

Use losses earlier in the year to offset gains

If you have capital losses on sales earlier in 2022, consider whether you should take capital gains on some stocks that you still hold. For example, if you have appreciated stocks that you’d like to sell, but don’t want to sell if it causes you to have taxable gain this year, consider selling just enough shares to offset your earlier-in-the-year capital losses (except for $3,000 that can be used to offset ordinary income). Consider selling appreciated stocks now if you believe they’ve reached (or are close to) the peak price and you also feel you can invest the proceeds from the sale in other property that’ll give you a better return in the future.

These are just some of the year-end strategies that may save you taxes. Contact us to discuss these and other strategies that should be put in place before the end of December.

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What to do if your CFO or controller leaves

A leadership departure in your accounting department can create turmoil, at least temporarily. However, it also provides an opportunity to assess the department’s performance and create a vision for how it should perform in the future. Here are four questions to address if your CFO or controller leaves.

1. Is the job description up to date? During the prior leader’s tenure, the needs of your organization may have changed. Take the time to scrutinize the existing job description and the predecessor’s resume. Then, identify the skills and experience that are essential for the role today.

For example, if you’ve recently taken on debt and need to satisfy lending covenants, make sure that’s a requirement detailed in the job description. Also, if you’ve expanded substantially, you may have outgrown the previous department head. For instance, you might need to replace a bookkeeper with a CPA who has the experience and skills to manage a larger accounting team.

2. Were you happy with your previous level of service? The accounting department is critical to the success of your organization. The department should provide accurate, relevant reports in a timely manner. If not, you may need to consider upgrading your in-house accounting staff and training any remaining employees on the latest tax and accounting rules.

3. Does the department’s technology align with your current needs? Sometimes, organizations can rely less on a key internal person and more on accounting software and their external CPA. If this is the case, ensure you have the latest-and-greatest technology to support your accounting functions and in-house personnel.

Also consider whether you’re maximizing the functionality of your current accounting software. Set up a meeting with a vendor rep to discuss what’s working and what’s not and see how they respond. A worthy provider will address issues, provide training and offer ongoing customer support. If your vendor doesn’t provide adequate support, we can also do a complete assessment on the effectiveness of your accounting system and how you’re using it.

4. How will the demands on the department change in the next two to five years? In-house personnel will need to adapt to new challenges as your organization grows and evolves. For example, if your department intends to acquire or merge with a competitor — or pursue another major strategic investment opportunity — your new CFO or controller will need to have sufficient knowledge to support the effort. Streamlining the department’s policies and procedures can also help to improve its performance and position it for the future.

Finding skilled accounting and finance professionals is difficult for many organizations, especially smaller ones. An interim or outsourced CFO can provide an objective, flexible, and cost-effective approach to running the accounting department on a temporary or permanent basis. With the right professional in place, you can ensure that your accounting department continues to operate at a high level, despite the challenges posed by a leadership change. Contact us for more information.

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Accounting policies and procedures are essential for nonprofits, too

Financial reporting isn’t all about profits. Not-for-profit entities can also benefit from implementing formal accounting processes. From preparing budgets and monitoring financial results to paying invoices and handling payroll tax, there’s a lot that falls under the accounting umbrella. Are these tasks, and others, being managed as efficiently at your organization as they could be?

Start with invoicing

A good first step toward accounting function improvement is creating policies and procedures for the monthly cutoff of recording vendor invoices and expenses. For instance, you could require all invoices to be submitted to the accounting department within one week after the end of each month. Too many adjustments — or waiting for employees or departments to weigh in — can waste time and delay the completion of your financial statements.

Another tip about invoices: It’s generally best not to enter only one invoice or cut only one check at a time. Set aside a block of time to do the job when you have multiple items to process.

You also may be able to save time at the end of the year by reconciling your balance sheet accounts each month. It’s a lot easier to correct errors when you catch them early. Also, reconcile accounts payable and accounts receivable subsidiary ledgers to your statements of financial position.

Think through data collection

Designing a coding cover sheet or stamp is another way to boost efficiency. An accounting clerk or bookkeeper needs a variety of information to enter vendor bills and donor gifts into your accounting system. You can speed up the process by collecting all the information on the invoice or donor check copy using a stamp. Route invoices for approval in a folder that lists your not-for-profit’s general ledger account numbers so that the employee entering data doesn’t have to look them up each time.

The cover sheet or stamp also should provide a place for the appropriate person to approve the invoice for payment. Use multiple-choice boxes to indicate which cost centers the amounts should be allocated to. Documentation of the invoice’s payment should also be recorded for reference. And your development staff should provide the details for any donor gifts prior to your staff recording them in the accounting system.

Optimize accounting software

Many organizations underuse the accounting software package they’ve purchased because they haven’t invested enough time to learn its full functionality. If needed, hire a trainer to review the software’s basic functions with staff and teach time-saving tricks and shortcuts.

Standardize the financial reports coming from your accounting software to meet your needs with no modification. This not only will reduce input errors but also will provide helpful financial information at any point, not just at month’s end.

Consider performing standard journal entries and payroll allocations automatically within your accounting software. Many systems have the ability to automate, for example, payroll allocations to various programs or vacation accrual reports. But review any estimates against actual figures periodically, and always adjust to the actual amount before closing your books at year end.

Ongoing review

Accounting processes can become inefficient over time if they aren’t monitored. Look for labor-intensive steps that could be automated or steps that don’t add value and could be eliminated. Also make sure that the individual or group that’s responsible for the organization’s financial oversight (for example, your CFO, treasurer or finance committee) promptly reviews monthly bank statements and financial statements for obvious errors or unexpected amounts. Contact us for more tips on how to improve the accounting function at your nonprofit.

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Computer software costs: How does your business deduct them?

These days, most businesses buy or lease computer software to use in their operations. Or perhaps your business develops computer software to use in your products or services or sells or leases software to others. In any of these situations, you should be aware of the complex rules that determine the tax treatment of the expenses of buying, leasing or developing computer software.

Software you buy

Some software costs are deemed to be costs of “purchased” software, meaning it’s either:

  • Non-customized software available to the general public under a nonexclusive license, or
  • Acquired from a contractor who is at economic risk should the software not perform.

The entire cost of purchased software can be deducted in the year that it’s placed into service. The cases in which the costs are ineligible for this immediate write-off are the few instances in which 100% bonus depreciation or Section 179 small business expensing isn’t allowed, or when a taxpayer has elected out of 100% bonus depreciation and hasn’t made the election to apply Sec. 179 expensing. In those cases, the costs are amortized over the three-year period beginning with the month in which the software is placed in service. Note that the bonus depreciation rate will begin to be phased down for property placed in service after calendar year 2022.
If you buy the software as part of a hardware purchase in which the price of the software isn’t separately stated, you must treat the software cost as part of the hardware cost. Therefore, you must depreciate the software under the same method and over the same period of years that you depreciate the hardware. Additionally, if you buy the software as part of your purchase of all or a substantial part of a business, the software must generally be amortized over 15 years.

Software that’s leased

You must deduct amounts you pay to rent leased software in the tax year they’re paid, if you’re a cash-method taxpayer, or the tax year for which the rentals are accrued, if you’re an accrual-method taxpayer. However, deductions aren’t generally permitted before the years to which the rentals are allocable. Also, if a lease involves total rentals of more than $250,000, special rules may apply.

Software that’s developed

Some software is deemed to be “developed” (designed in-house or by a contractor who isn’t at risk if the software doesn’t perform). For tax years beginning before calendar year 2022, bonus depreciation applies to developed software to the extent described above. If bonus depreciation doesn’t apply, the taxpayer can either deduct the development costs in the year paid or incurred, or choose one of several alternative amortization periods over which to deduct the costs. For tax years beginning after calendar year 2021, generally the only allowable treatment is to amortize the costs over the five-year period beginning with the midpoint of the tax year in which the expenditures are paid or incurred.

If following any of the above rules requires you to change your treatment of software costs, it will usually be necessary for you to obtain IRS consent to the change.

We can help

Contact us with questions or for assistance in applying the tax rules for treating computer software costs in the way that is most advantageous for you.
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Preparing for year-end inventory counts

How accurate is the amount reported in your company’s perpetual inventory system? To best answer that question, a physical count is essential at year end. For calendar-year entities, year end is fast approaching on December 31.

Planning tips

Though physical counts may be seen as time consuming and disruptive, a well-executed count of what’s on-hand can provide valuable insight into operational efficiency. Here are five tips on how to prepare for your count to maximize the benefits and minimize the hassle.

  1. Order (or create) prenumbered inventory tags. Most companies use two-part tags to count inventory. One tag stays with the item on the shelf; the other is returned to the manager at the end of the count. Tags are numbered sequentially to ensure the manager can account for every tag issued. Using a tagging system prevents items from being counted twice or omitted. Each tag should identify the part number, location, quantity and person who performed the count. To avoid scrambling around last minute, assign someone in your accounting department to get this task done at least a month before your count is scheduled to start.
  2. Preview inventory. Most companies do a dry run a few days before the count to identify any potential roadblocks and determine how many workers to schedule. This makes the count more efficient and gives warehouse personnel the opportunity to correct any foreseeable problems, such as missing part numbers, unbagged supplies and an insufficient amount of inventory tags.
  3. Assign workers to count inventory. Assemble two-person teams to prevent fraudulent counts. Assign each team a specific area of the warehouse to count. (A map often helps workers identify count zones.) Never give employees inventory listings to reference during the count — otherwise, they may be tempted to duplicate the amount from the listing, rather than bring attention to a possible discrepancy.
  4. Write off any unsalable items. All defective or obsolete items should be thrown away or recycled before the inventory count begins. There’s no sense counting items that will be written off.
  5. Pre-count and bag slow-moving items. To make the physical count faster, some items that aren’t expected to be used before year end can be counted a few days in advance. Pre-counted items should be tagged and placed in sealed containers. If a broken seal is noticed on the day of the actual physical count, the items in the container should be recounted.
Inventory values

Under U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), inventory is recorded at the lower of cost or market value. However, estimating the market value of inventory may involve subjective judgment calls, particularly if your company converts the goods from raw materials into finished goods available for sale. The value of work-in-progress inventory can be especially hard to objectively assess, because it includes overhead allocations and, in some cases, may require percentage of completion assessments.

The value of inventory is always in flux as work is performed and items are delivered or shipped. To capture a static value at year end, it’s essential that business operations “freeze” while the count takes place. Usually, it makes sense to count inventory during off-hours to minimize the disruption to business operations. For larger organizations with multiple locations, it may not be possible to count everything at once. So, larger companies often break down their counts by physical location.

Your auditor’s role

If your company issues audited financial statements, one or more members of your external audit team will be present during your physical inventory count. Auditors aren’t there to help you count inventory. Instead, they’ll observe the procedures (including any statistical sampling methods), review written inventory processes, evaluate internal controls over inventory, and perform independent counts to compare to your inventory listing and counts made by your employees.

They’ll also look for obsolete, broken or slow-moving items that need to be written off. Be ready to provide them with invoices and shipping/receiving reports. Auditors review these documents to evaluate cutoff procedures for year-end deliveries and confirm the values reported on your inventory listing.

For more information

Contact us to discuss physical inventory counting procedures. We can help you get it right and investigate any discrepancies between your count and the amount reported in your company’s perpetual inventory system.

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