Acuity Blog

Reporting UTPs

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Navigating the tax code — and staying atop the latest tax law developments — can be challenging for business owners. In turn, financial reporting for uncertain tax positions (UTPs), such as pending IRS audits or lawsuits, is complicated and subjective. Here’s some guidance to help clarify matters.

Applying the threshold

Companies that follow U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) must identify, measure and disclose UTPs using a “more-likely-than-not” threshold. In short, tax accruals are booked only for uncertain positions that meet this threshold.

This means that a tax benefit is allowed only if there is a more than 50% likelihood that the position would be sustained if challenged and considered by the highest court in the relevant jurisdiction. Unrecognizable benefits with less than a 50% cumulative chance of sustaining an IRS challenge should be reported on the balance sheet as a separate UTP liability.

Identifying tax positions

When reporting UTPs, companies should presume that returns will be audited and tax authorities will have access to all information. Then, management must identify all material tax positions, including those that:

  • Exclude specific income streams from taxable income,
  • Assert an equity restructuring is tax-free,
  • Refrain from filing a tax return in a particular jurisdiction, or
  • Accelerate expense or delay income recognition, such as depreciation or amortization expenses.

When reporting UTPs, management is required to create detailed tabular disclosures and factor into its estimates such costs as accrued interest and penalties. Moreover, unresolved UTPs must be reassessed as of each balance sheet date. Developments such as emerging case law, tax law changes or interactions with taxing authorities could affect tax benefits formerly recognized. In fact, tax reform proposals that Congress plans to introduce in early 2017 could affect UTP estimates for the end of 2016.

Supporting your position

Estimating probabilities and future settlement amounts is a subjective activity and requires the expertise of an experienced CPA. Among the factors an expert will consider are the company’s expected settlement strategy, the nature of the tax liability and applicable tax law precedents. Unsure how to measure and disclose UTPs in today’s uncertain business environment? We are atop the latest proposals and can help you comply with GAAP.

© 2016


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There’s Still Time to Benefit on Your 2016 Tax Bill by Buying Business Assets

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In order to take advantage of two important depreciation tax breaks for business assets, you must place the assets in service by the end of the tax year. So you still have time to act for 2016.

Section 179 deduction

The Sec. 179 deduction is valuable because it allows businesses to deduct as depreciation up to 100% of the cost of qualifying assets in year 1 instead of depreciating the cost over a number of years. Sec. 179 can be used for fixed assets, such as equipment, software and leasehold improvements. Beginning in 2016, air conditioning and heating units were added to the list.

The maximum Sec. 179 deduction for 2016 is $500,000. The deduction begins to phase out dollar-for-dollar for 2016 when total asset acquisitions for the tax year exceed $2,010,000.

Real property improvements used to be ineligible. However, an exception that began in 2010 was made permanent for tax years beginning in 2016. Under the exception, you can claim a Sec. 179 deduction of up to $500,000 for certain qualified real property improvement costs.

Note: You can use Sec. 179 to buy an eligible heavy SUV for business use, but the rules are different from buying other assets. Heavy SUVs are subject to a $25,000 deduction limitation.

First-year bonus depreciation

For qualified new assets (including software) that your business places in service in 2016, you can claim 50% first-year bonus depreciation. (Used assets don’t qualify.) This break is available when buying computer systems, software, machinery, equipment, and office furniture.

Additionally, 50% bonus depreciation can be claimed for qualified improvement property, which means any eligible improvement to the interior of a nonresidential building if the improvement is made after the date the building was first placed in service. However, certain improvements aren’t eligible, such as enlarging a building and installing an elevator or escalator.

Contemplate what your business needs now

If you’ve been thinking about buying business assets, consider doing it before year end. This article explains only some of the rules involved with the Sec. 179 and bonus depreciation tax breaks. Contact us for ideas on how you can maximize your depreciation deductions.

© 2016

 

 

 


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Are You Ready for Audit Season?

Audit Ahead road sign

It’s almost audit season for calendar-year entities. A little preparation can go a long way toward facilitating the external audit process, minimizing audit adjustments and surprises, lowering your audit fees in the future and getting more value out of the audit process. Here are some ways to plan ahead.

The mindset

Before fieldwork begins, meet with your office team to explain the purpose and benefits of financial statement audits. Novice staff members may confuse financial audits with IRS audits, which can sometimes become contentious and stressful. Also designate a liaison in the accounting department who will answer inquiries and prepare document requests for auditors.

Reconciliation

Enter all transactions into the accounting system before the auditors arrive, and prepare a schedule that reconciles each account balance. Be ready to discuss any estimates that underlie account balances, such as allowances for uncollectible accounts, warranty reserves or percentage of completion.

Check the schedules to reveal discrepancies from what’s expected based on the company’s budget or prior year’s balance. Also review last year’s adjusting journal entries to see if they’ll be needed again this year. An internal review is one of the most effective ways to minimize errors and adjusting journal entries during a financial statement audit.

Work papers

Auditors are grateful when clients prepare work papers to reconcile account balances and transactions in advance. Auditors also will ask for original source documents to verify what’s reported on the financial statements, such as bank statements, sales contracts, leases and loan agreements.

Compile these documents before your audit team arrives. They may also inquire about changes to contractual agreements, regulatory or legal developments, additions to the chart of accounts and major complex transactions that occurred in 2016.

Internal controls

Evaluate internal controls before your auditor arrives. Correct any “deficiencies” or “weaknesses” in internal control policies, such as a lack of segregation of duties, managerial review or physical safeguards. Then the auditor will have fewer recommendations to report when he or she delivers the financial statements.

Value-added

Financial statement audits should be seen as a learning opportunity. Preparing for your auditor’s arrival not only facilitates the process and promotes timeliness, but also engenders a sense of teamwork between your office staff and external accountants.

© 2016

 


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Year End Tax Strategies for Accrual Basis Taxpayers

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The last month or so of the year offers accrual-basis taxpayers an opportunity to make some timely moves that might enable them to save money on their 2016 tax bill.

Record and recognize

The key to saving tax as an accrual-basis taxpayer is to properly record and recognize expenses that were incurred this year but won’t be paid until 2017. This will enable you to deduct those expenses on your 2016 federal tax return. Common examples of such expenses include:

  • Commissions, salaries and wages,
  • Payroll taxes,
  • Advertising,
  • Interest,
  • Utilities,
  • Insurance, and
  • Property taxes.

You can also accelerate deductions into 2016 without actually paying for the expenses in 2016 by charging them on a credit card. (This works for cash-basis taxpayers, too.) Accelerating deductible expenses into 2016 may be especially beneficial if tax rates go down for 2017, which could happen based on the outcome of the November election. Deductions save more tax when tax rates are higher.

Look at prepaid expenses

Also review all prepaid expense accounts and write off any items that have been used up before the end of the year. If you prepay insurance for a period of time beginning in 2016, you can expense the entire amount this year rather than spreading it between 2016 and 2017, as long as a proper method election is made. This is treated as a tax expense and thus won’t affect your internal financials.

Miscellaneous tax tips

Here are a few more year-end tax tips to consider:

  • Review your outstanding receivables and write off any receivables you can establish as uncollectible.
  • Pay interest on all shareholder loans to or from the company.
  • Update your corporate record book to record decisions and be better prepared for an audit.

Consult us for more details on how these and other year-end tax strategies may apply to your business.

© 2016


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Signs of Inventory Fraud

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Is your inventory being stolen by dishonest employees or customers? Inventory is a prime target for fraud schemes, second only to cash. And it doesn’t always involve the physical theft of items. Here are some early warning signs that your inventory has been targeted.

Know your risk profile

Some companies are more at risk for inventory fraud than others. Obviously, service companies with minimal inventory on hand bear little risk of inventory embezzlement; instead, it’s more common among retailers, manufacturers and contractors. In general, higher-value inventory items, such as electronics or jewelry, tend to be more attractive to thieves.

Sometimes, however, the inventory account is just a convenient place to hide financial misstatement ploys, such as skimming or bogus sales. Thousands of journal entries are typically made to the inventory account, and it’s closed out to cost of sales each year. So, thieves with access to the accounting systems may bury their scams in the inventory account. Then, victim-organizations may write off discrepancies between the computerized perpetual inventory records and physical inventory counts as external pilferage, obsolescence or errors — when, in fact, it’s due to intentional manipulation of the accounting systems.

Monitor inventory metrics

If your year-end inventory counts aren’t adding up, don’t just write off the discrepancy as a cost of doing business; investigate why. You can shed light on the situation by computing various inventory ratios, including:

  • Days in inventory (average inventory divided by annual cost of sales times 365 days),
  • Gross margin (sales minus cost of sales) as a percentage of sales,
  • Inventory as a percentage of total assets,
  • Returns as a percentage of annual sales, and
  • Shipping costs as a percentage of sales.

These metrics should be consistent over time and comparable to industry benchmarks. Sudden changes require immediate action.

Catch fraud early

The median duration — from inception to detection of a fraud scam — is 18 months, according to the 2016 Report to the Nations on Occupational Fraud and Abuse by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. Many victims are unaware that inventory balances are inaccurate until they’ve accrued substantial losses. Diligent managers know the signs of inventory fraud and can identify anomalies early. Contact us for help investigating a suspected inventory scam.

© 2016


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