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Small Businesses, Sales Tax, and How One Mistake Could Close Your Business

Small Businesses, Sales Tax, and How One Mistake Could Close Your Business

All small businesses in the United States must collect and remit sales tax to the city and state in which they are doing business. Typically, this means you must file a monthly or quarterly sales tax form in the state you live in, but if you do business in multiple states, it means you will need to file in all of those states. It can quickly become complicated, especially if you’re a new business owner who isn’t familiar with how sales tax works. Unfortunately, one small mistake with your sales tax can be very costly. In some cases, it could even be costly enough to force you to shut your doors.

 

The Basics of Sales Tax

Sales tax is defined as being a government-set tax on the sale of any goods and/or services. It’s typically a percentage of the price of the item or service, and it’s normally collected from the buyer at the point of purchase. The business holds this sales tax out from their profits and regularly pays it to their state on the required basis.

 It sounds simple enough, but it can get more complicated. You do pay city and, in some cases, county or regional sales tax as well as state sales tax. Fortunately, in the U.S., most states collect all of this tax and split it as needed. You don’t have to pay your city sales tax separately. Unfortunately, while that does make sales tax easier, there are a number of factors that make it more complicated.

 

What Makes Sales Tax Complicated?

If you have a brick-and-mortar business in one location, sales tax is fairly straightforward. You do have to learn how to calculate it, of course. You’ll need to know your state sales tax amount and any additional amount to add for your city or location. Some cities may pass a temporary sales tax increase to raise funds for a specific project. For example, they may add half a cent to all purchases made within the next 18 years to fund a new city park or to renovate all of the local schools. This sales tax is usually voted on by residents.

 

How to Pay Your Sales Tax

Once you know how to calculate it, you’ll need to know when to pay and what forms to file. Fortunately, this process has become much easier thanks to the internet. Most states have an online sales tax portal where you can fill out the correct forms, submit them, and make an online payment. You shouldn’t have to mail in any paperwork.

When to pay can be a little more complicated. Some states require businesses to submit a monthly sales tax report. However, if you make below a certain amount or only do sporadic business in the state, you may qualify for quarterly or even yearly filings. This cuts down on the amount of paperwork you have to do.

Note that you always have to file your sales tax report regardless of how much money you made for that period or how much sales tax you owe. Even if you had no income and, therefore, no tax to pay, you still have to file a report that states you had zero sales for the period.

 

Filing in Multiple States

If you only do business in one state, you will only need to file for that state. However, if you operate businesses in multiple states or often travel to other states for events such as trade shows, you will need to register for a sales tax number in every one of those states. Each state defines what is called a nexus or presence in the state. If the tax regulation determines that you do have a nexus in that state, you will have to pay sales tax there.

This is one area where you may need to consult with a bookkeeping expert to determine where your nexus or nexuses are. Typically, if you sell goods or provide services in a state, you have a nexus there, but it’s not always so cut-and-dry. Online sales have added an entirely new level of complexity to sales tax as well.

 

Selling to Tax-Exempt Organizations

Another complication you may face is if you provide goods or services to an organization that is classified as tax-exempt. The most common type of exempt business is classified as a 501(c)(3), but there are other exemptions. These businesses are usually nonprofit organizations, and as such, they do not have to pay sales tax. Because states differ in how tax exemption works, you will want to consult with a professional to fully understand how to process and report these sales.

Protea Financial Sales Tax

Common Mistakes Small Business Owners Often Make

Many small business owners make simple, yet very costly, sales tax mistakes. The first is simply failing to submit their sales tax paperwork or make a payment. Some new business owners don’t fully understand how to apply for their sales tax number or how to remit the collected taxes. Others may not remember to file or not understand their state’s online filing system. This is especially true if they have no sales to report for a period. Missing a filing may result in a late fee or other fines. If you miss too many filings or make mistakes on multiple filings, you may be audited.

 

Wrong Tax Amounts

Another common mistake is failing to collect the correct amount of sales tax. You will have to pay the correct amount calculated from your sales whether or not you actually charged your customers the right amount. If you find that you haven’t collected enough sales tax, you will have to make up the difference from your profits. Even if you were off a small percentage, that can add up if you had a large amount of sales.

 

Submitting the Wrong Tax Payments

If you don’t enter the correct amount of sales, you may not calculate the correct amount of sales tax you owe. This can be very easy to do if you have multiple locations or often sell at trade shows. It’s also possible to submit an incorrect payment, though most online systems have reduced the chance of making this mistake. If you do submit the wrong amount, you will need to amend your return. If you don’t catch this mistake and are later audited, you may be fined or otherwise penalized. You will also have to pay any back taxes you owe.

 

Math Errors Can Add Up

While less common now, it’s still possible to make a basic math error on some tax forms. By filing online, you may not need to do any calculations at all. If you do, be sure to double-check your figures. Again, submitting an incorrect form means you’ll later need to amend it if you find the error. If you don’t find these errors and are audited, you can still be fined—honest mistakes are not always easily forgiven when it comes to taxes.

In extreme cases, such as constantly filing late tax forms or consistently making errors, the state’s tax commission may be empowered to void your sales tax permit. This means you cannot legally sell goods or services in the state, which is likely to lead to closing your business.

 

Keep Up with Changing Laws

Tax laws do change, especially at the local level. A new sales tax increase may be voted into effect, an old increase may end, and there may be special events such as tax-free weekends to encourage spending. All of these things affect your business, and you’re going to need to keep up with them. Failing to do so can cost you a good amount of money, especially if you get audited and multiple tax reports are flagged with errors.

 

Don’t Risk Making Mistakes—Hire a Virtual Bookkeeper

A virtual bookkeeper is a great resource to help you handle your sales tax. These experts understand how sales tax works and keep up with the changing regulations. They will be able to advise you on how to apply for the required sales tax numbers and can handle all of the tax reporting for you.

Virtual bookkeepers have an advantage over local bookkeepers, too, because they have clients across the country. This means they have to know how multiple states handle sales tax. They may even be familiar with international reporting and with handling online sales. If they don’t know something, they know where to go to find the right information.

Working with a virtual bookkeeper means you don’t have to try to figure out sales tax on your own. All you have to do is collect it from your customers. Your bookkeeper will keep track of your sales, how much tax you owe, and can file your sales tax reports for you. You’re free to focus on running your business while they take care of the books.

 

Protea Financial Offers Bookkeeping and Other Virtual Accounting Services

Protea Financial has years of experience in virtual bookkeeping, payroll, tax compliance, and other accounting tasks. Our team understands the various sales tax regulations across the country, and we’re ready to help you set up to file your taxes. Whether you’re a new business that periodically sells at trade shows in a single state or a small business with locations in a handful of states, we can help. Contact Protea today to discuss your sales tax needs.

Don't Risk Your Business

Your business is not worth the risk. Know what you’re doing, or hire someone who does!

What Are 1099s?

What Are 1099s?

If you do any type of contract or freelance work for a company, that company may be required to send you a form 1099. This is a tax form required by the IRS to report income for those who are not employees but still do work for and are paid by a company. However, while contractors often receive 1099s, they are not the only people who may get this document. Let’s go over the various types of 1099s, what one contains, why you may get it, and what you do with this document.

 

What Is a 1099?

Any time you are paid for work by a company, that company is required to report your payments to the IRS as income. Typically, this is done through a form W-2 because most, if not all, of the company’s payments go to employees. However, some companies do hire contractors or freelancers. These individuals work on specific projects for a set amount of pay. They typically receive no benefits such as insurance or paid time off. However, they are often free to work at home and on their own schedule. Once the project is complete, they receive their payment and move on to their next job, though they and the company may also agree to a new contract for further work.

When a company pays one of these contractors, the income is reported on a 1099. It’s similar to a W-2, but there are a few significant differences. The size of the company, their industry, or the type of project does not play any part in a 1099. All companies, even small businesses, must issue 1099s to a contractor who did work for them. 

However, according to IRS rules, a company only has to issue a 1099 if they pay a contractor more than $600 within the calendar year. This means a company that paid a contractor $500 is not required to send them a 1099. Contractors who receive one of these forms do need to include that income in their annual tax return just as they would report income earned on a W-2.

In addition to receiving a 1099 for contract work, you may also receive a 1099 for capital gains distributions, interest payments, dividends, and other income. The type of income will determine the type of 1099 form that you receive. There are a number of types of 1099s, including the 1099-MISC, 1099-R, and 1099-C.

 

What Information Is on a 1099?

A 1099 includes much of the same information as you would find on a W-2. This includes the following:

  • The contractor’s full name, address, and social security number or taxpayer identification number.
  • The company’s name, address, and FEIN (or SSN if they are paying as an individual).
  • The total amount of money paid throughout the year.
  • The account number.
  • The total amount of federal and state income tax withheld, if any (typically this is zero for a 1099).
  • The state or payer’s state number.
  • The amount of state income.

As with W-2s, the company will fill out the 1099 and mail a copy to both the contractor and the IRS. The contractor will need to review the information and contact the company right away if there are any mistakes.

 

Protea Financial 1099 Form

Why Are 1099s Issued?

Any contractor or individual who receives over $600 a year from a business, financial institution, or other payer will be issued at 1099. The IRS requires this income to be reported, and there are no exceptions. A company or other payer who fails to submit a 1099 form will face fines from the IRS. Individuals who do not report this income may be subjected to audits and fines as well.

Individuals who own stocks, receive interest on accounts, or are paid other types of income that is not classified as a wage will also receive a 1099 if they made more than $600. Typically, these forms will come from the payer. However, starting in 2021, some online payment processors such as PayPal may issue a 1099 to those who receive over $600 from the same payer. There are still many questions about how this will affect contractors, businesses, and others who receive payments through these processors.

 

How a 1099 Differs from a W-2

The main difference between a W-2 and a 1099 is that a W-2 lists out the various taxes, social security, and other withholdings from an employee’s paycheck. While a contractor may have taxes withheld on a 1099, typically this is not that case. That means the contractor or other individual will need to pay taxes on that money as part of their annual income tax return.

The two forms are similar in that both W-2s and 1099s are generated and sent out in January. Contractors, individuals, and employees should receive these forms by February first. If they do not, they will need to contact the payer. Contractors may receive 1099s from every company they have worked with over the year, while individuals may receive 1099s from every financial institution that paid them interest or dividends.

It’s also possible for someone to be an employee and do contract work. In this case, they will have both a W-2 and at least one 1099 to file.

 

How Do the Types of 1099s Differ?

There are many different 1099 forms. All of these forms are used to report income other than wages earned as an employee. However, each one is slightly different in what income it is used to report. Here are some of the most common types of 1099s:

  • MISC – The 1099-MISC was the form used to report payments made to contractors and other freelancers. However, the form was also used to report other payments, including prize money, payments made to attorneys, rent, and other miscellaneous income. It is no longer used for contractors as of 2021.
  • NEC – The 1099-NEC replaced the 1099-MISC for contractor payments starting with tax year 2021. It lists all non-employee income received in exchanged for services. This is the form that contractors and other freelancers will typically receive. Contractor payments were split out from the 1099-MISC to address certain loopholes.
  • DIV – Individuals who own stock or other types of securities and are paid more than $10 in dividends or distributions will receive a 1099-DIV to report that income to the IRS.
  • INT – The 1099-INT is issued by banks and other financial institutions. It reports interest of over $10.
  • R – Those who receive distributions from a retirement account such as a 401(k) or a Roth IRA will receive a 1099-R stating the total amount of the distributions taken that year.
  • C – This is a special type of 1099 that is only used when an individual settles debt with a credit issuer for less than the amount owed. Typically, this is done during the bankruptcy process, although it could also be done via other types of negotiations. This form shows the amount of forgiven debt, which is not typically taxed as income. However, it still must be reported.
  • Q – A 1099-Q is used to document income received from a 529 educational plan or Coverdell ESA. This form is
  • G – The 1099-G form is used to report several different types of payments. It’s commonly used to report unemployment compensation, but it can also be used to document income tax refunds from the state or local government as well as agricultural payments and income from taxable grants.
  • SSA-1099 – Those who receive social security payments will receive a SSA-1099 form every year detailing the total amount of SSA payments they received that year. This is one of the few 1099 forms in which the identifying letters come before the form number.
  • K – A 1099-K is issued by a third-party payment processor such as PayPal when an individual or business has more than 200 online payment transactions that total over $20,000. Credit card payment processors may also issue 1099-K forms.
  • B – Individuals who sell stock will receive a 1099-B from their mutual fund company or brokerage. This form details the date the stock was sold, the cost of it, and the amount it was sold for.

Protea Financial Understanding a 1099 Form 

As a Business, You Need to Have Your 1099 Forms Prepared Correctly

It goes without saying that any business that issues 1099s must make certain that the forms are prepared correctly and are issued on time. Being late can result in fines, while sending out incorrect forms can cost you time and money in correcting and resubmitting them. Fortunately, most businesses will only need to deal with one or two types of 1099s.

While a 1099 is a fairly simple form to fill out, you will still need a professional bookkeeper on your side to make certain you submit the correct payment amount to the right contractor or other individual. If you don’t have a bookkeeper of your own, you may want to work with a virtual bookkeeper. These experts are just as skilled and knowledgeable as local bookkeepers.

The team here at Protea Financial is ready to assist you with all of your bookkeeping and other financial needs. We can track contractor payments, assist with 1099s, and much more. Contact us today to discuss how we can help you.

Let Us Know if You Have Questions

If you still want help understanding a 1099 or what it is used for, then reach out to us here at Protea Financial. We are here to help!

What is a W-2?

What is a W-2?

One vital task every business owner must do annually is generate and submit W-2 forms to their employees, the IRS, and other entities. These forms are important because without them, employees cannot complete their tax returns. However, while some parts of the form are fairly self-explanatory, some are not. Understanding what a W-2 is and how to fill one out is necessary. If you fail to send these forms out or make mistakes on them, you can be fined by the IRS or subject to an audit. Let’s look at the basics of a W-2, who needs to receive one, and what information is conveyed so you can always be compliant with IRS regulations and answer any questions your employees may have.

 

W-2 Basics

The W-2 is a form that the IRS requires every employer to file for every employee that has worked for them during the year. This includes employees who have left and employees who may have only worked a few weeks before the end of the year. Your employees need the information on the W-2 to accurately file their taxes. The IRS uses their copy of employees’ W-2 forms to ensure that the employees claimed the correct amount of income and deductions on their returns and that your company withheld the correct amount of taxes, social security, and other withholdings.

Protea Financial What Is a W-2

 

Who Receives a W-2?

Any employee who is on the company’s payroll and paid a minimum of $600 during the year must be issued a W-2 by their employer. Again, it does not matter when the individual worked for the company during the year or if they are currently an employee. The only time the length of an employee’s time with the company affects the need to send a W-2 is if they did not earn at least $600.

You may have paid non-employees to do work for you during the year. These individuals are categorized as contractors or freelancers. Instead of a W-2, you may need to submit a 1099-NEC form. These forms are similar to a W-2 but are designed for non-employees.

Businesses need to submit W-2s in triplicate. One is sent to the employee, one to the IRS, and one to the state the employee pays taxes in (typically their state of residence, but not always). While employee W-2s were traditionally mailed, today companies can make them available online and can submit W-2 information to the government electronically.

 

When Are W-2s Sent?

W-2 forms are sent out early in the new year. Employers must have all W-2s postmarked or made available online by January 31 each year. Employees should have them in hand by the middle of February so they can file their tax returns before the April 15 deadline. Employers who do not mail out the forms timely can be fined.

Employees who have left a job can ask that employer for their W-2 at any time. The employer then has 30 days to generate the form and deliver it to them. If the employee does not request the form, the employer does not have to provide it until January, even if the employee left the job early in the year.

 

Why are W-2s Important?

Without a W-2, employees cannot correctly fill out their annual tax return. They need the information provided on the form to determine their gross wages, what was withheld, and other information. The IRS will use the form to make certain the tax return includes the correct figures.

 

Protea Financial W-2 Boxes

What is Reported on a W-2?

A W-2 form is composed of six lettered boxes, 20 numbered boxes, and several other spaces for information. Some of this is self-explanatory, but other boxes are not as clear. Let’s break down the form into sections and look at what information is reported there.

 

Boxes a-f: Employee and Employer Information

  • Box a contains the employee’s social security number.
  • Boxes b and c are for the employer’s EIN/FEIN and the business’s name, address, and zip code.
  • Box d lists the employer’s control number. Some companies have a specific control number to help identify items in their system. However, smaller businesses likely do not have this. Box d can be left blank in that case.
  • Boxes e and f contain the employee’s name, address, and zip code.

 

Boxes 1 through 6: Income and Withholdings

  • Box 1 includes all of the earnings paid to the employee by the employer. This includes wages, tips, and any other compensation. It does not include anything that is considered a pre-tax benefit like contributions to a 401(k) or life insurance.
  • Box 2 is the amount withheld from the employee’s salary for federal income tax.
  • Box 3 is the amount of wages subject to social security tax. Only a specific amount of earned income is subject to this tax. That amount is multiplied by a specific amount (6.2 percent in 2021) and reported in box 4.
  • Likewise, boxes 5 and 6 list how much of the employee’s income is subject to Medicaid tax and how much was withheld.

 

Boxes 7 through 14: Other Reported Income and Information

This section may not be as clear if you have not dealt with a W-2 before. This is where  having a bookkeeper assist in preparing W-2s can truly help because they understand what qualifies as allocated tips, deferred income, and the other items required here.

 

  • Box 7 is where tips are listed.
  • Box 8 lists allocated tips. These are additional tips given to the employee. Employers are only required to allocate tips in specific situations, so this box may be left blank.
  • Box 9, Verification Code, is no longer used. It should be blank.
  • Box 10 indicates how much was deducted from the employee’s check for insurance for their dependents. These deductions may include matched spending and other benefits.
  • Box 11 is for the total amount of money an employee received from a non-qualified deferred compensation plan.
  • Box 12 will contain one or more letters. These letters are specific codes for types of income. There are four available boxes (12a through 12d).
  • Box 13 is a check box the employer uses to identify if the employee is a statutory employee, contributed to a retirement plan, or received any sick pay from a third-party.
  • Box 14 is essentially a miscellaneous box. It is used to report any income or withholdings that do not fit elsewhere.

 

Boxes 15 through 20: The Remaining Boxes

The bottom line of the form, which includes boxes 15 through 20, is used for state reporting:

  • Box 15 – Employer’s state ID number
  • Box 16 – Employees wages subject to state tax
  • Box 17 – Amount withheld for state tax
  • Box 18 – Wages subject to city or other local/state taxes
  • Box 19 – Amount withheld for these city/local taxes
  • Box 20 – The city/state/other entity that received the taxes from box 19.

 

Other W-series Forms

In addition to the traditional W-2 form, there are a few special variations that some employees may receive. These forms are typically used to report income in U.S. territories. For example, the W-2AS is used by those who live and work in American Samoa. Other forms in the W-series include the W-2CM (used in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands), the W-2GU (used in Guam), and the W-2VI (used in the U.S. Virgin Islands. There is also the form W-2c, which is used to submit corrections to a filed W-2.

One solution to avoid filing a large number of W-2c forms is to work with a payroll provider such as Gusto. This full-service provider does more than just ensure that your employees are paid correctly and on time. They also handle all of their clients’ W-2s, 1099s, and other tax forms. If you do not want to worry about filling out W-2s yourself, you may want to consider working with one of these services.

 

Differences Between a W-2 and a W-4

When an employer hires someone, one of the first things this new employee should do is fill out a form W-4. This form is what the employer uses to determine how much to withhold from the employee’s paycheck. The employee will enter their number of dependents on the W-4 plus indicate any additional amount they want withheld from each paycheck. The employee can make changes to their W-4 at any time. For example, it should be updated if the employee gets married, has a child, gets divorced, or if they determine they want to change their additional withholding amount.

 

The W-2 and W-3

In addition to submitting a W-2 to the Social Security Administration, employers also submit a W-3. This form summarizes the employee’s wages and the amount they contributed to social security. It is used by the Social Security Administration to reconcile the amount received. Employees do not receive a copy of this form.

Protea Financial Can Help You Prepare W-2s and Avoid Fines

If you are new to paying employees, you want to make certain your W-2s are generated correctly and made available to employees before the deadline. For that, you need a professional. Protea Financial can assist you in preparing W-2s and with any other bookkeeping need you may have. Contact us today to learn more about virtual bookkeeping and what we can do for you.

Call Protea Financial for Help Understanding Your W-2

For help understanding a W-2, how to fill it out, or what you need it for, please contact us. We are here to help!

Small Producers Tax Credits for Everyone!

Small Producers Tax Credits for Everyone!

‘Small Producers Tax Credits for Everyone!’ (Said in my best globally famous talk show host voice.)

So you’ve heard that the Craft Beverage Modernization Act was made permanent. And you operate a winery or you support operational reporting for a winery.  Now what?

 

Let’s Begin at the Beginning – Tax Class for Still Wine

Before you can figure out how to take a tax credit, you need to check the tax class.  The rates of tax for still wine can be found in 26 U.S. Code SECTION 5041 (c) or by clicking here if you really want to read tax code.  Effective January 1, 2021, still wine that is not more than 16% alcohol by volume (‘ABV’) is taxed at $1.07USD per gallon and still wine between 16% ABV and not more than 21% ABV is taxed at $1.57USD per gallon.  That means that while the tax rate has not changed, the ABV for still wines in a specific tax class did change.

If you produce still wine and you have removed it tax paid from the winery’s bond, the excise taxes owed are based on the rates listed above.  Still wine that is transferred from the winery’s bond to another bond (typically for storage or order fulfillment) and tax paid later is still eligible for the tax credit.  In short, if you pay tax on still wine of your own production you are eligible for the tax credit described below.

 

Side Note – Labelling Rules

TTB labeling rules for listing the ABV on wine labels did not change.  I received questions about this over the past two years and the listing requirements along with permitted tolerances, can be found HERE.

 

Tax Credit?  What Tax Credit?

Effective January 1, 2021, among other changes, the words ‘For Small Domestic Producers’ is removed from that same 26 U.S. Code SECTION 5041(c) mentioned above. This permanently establishes that the following tax credits are available to all wine producers and importers:

  • $1.00USD/gallon on the first 30,000 gallons produced in the United States or imported into the United States in a single calendar year
  • $.90USD/gallon on the next 100,000 gallons
  • $.535USD/gallon on the next 620,000 gallons

Up to 750,000 gallons of wine are eligible for some form of tax credit in a single calendar year.  Note that while the tax class changes only applied to still wine, the tax credits apply to all types of wine.

Excise Tax Class? Check.  Tax Credit? Check.  Where Do I Claim the Credit?

Before you can claim the tax credits listed above, you need to first tell the Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (‘TTB’) that you have removed the wine from bond to tax paid status.  If you work on the winemaking side of the business or support winery operations, you’ve probably heard the terms ‘702’ or ‘5120’, depending on your vintage in the industry.  Those terms apply to the TTB Report of Wine Premises Operations, found HERE on the TTB’s website. This report is where a wine producer declares how much wine they have produced, what winemaking activity (including bottling) occurs and, among other things, what wine is removed from bond during a given reporting period.  (Reporting periods vary based on production volume.) Just in case you’ve looked up the form and you’ve never filled one of these out before, there are two rows on the form where you list wine removed tax paid – Section A (Bulk Wines) on row 14 and Section B (Bottled Wines) row eight. Both rows have multiple cell options depending on the tax class and type of wine or hard cider that was removed, but those rows are where you specify what has been removed tax paid. Once wine has been reported as ‘removed taxpaid’, excise tax is owed on that wine.  After the operations report is filed, it is time to file and pay the excise tax for the wine removed from bond along with claiming available tax credits.

The TTB Excise Tax Return or TTB F 5000.24sm, is where you declare the taxes you owe and credits allowed.

 

Updated Forms Available

There are now forms available for winemaking activity prior to January 1, 2018 and activity from January 1, 2018 to present.  You can find the most common TTB forms HERE.

 

A Permanent Tax Credit is Not a Change in Tax Rate

Making these two changes permanent is great news for producers large and small.  What needs to be clear is that these are two different changes – one to the up to 16% ABV tax rate and the other allowing all producers to claim a tax credit that had previously been reserved for small producers.  While the net impact may be a reduction in taxes paid, it is not a reduction in a tax rate across the board.

For anyone who has read the relevant section of the 5,000 plus page document where these changes were made permanent, you will notice something missing from this post.  This post is directed at domestic wine producers and does not explain how it may apply to importers of wine in the United States.

 

Need More Information?

Cronbach Law Group PC is a law firm located in Napa, California.  Our focus is helping our clients understand the complex world of alcoholic beverage regulation –  50 states, 51 sets of rules. Let us be your guide and keep your busines priorities top of mind on along the way.  www.winedeal.law

 

 

 

 

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Preparing Your Winery for Natural Disasters

Preparing Your Winery for Natural Disasters

It’s been a tough summer. First, the COVID pandemic slowed down commerce, and most recently the massive wildfires are burning throughout Northern California. This year’s fires came earlier than they historically have and this early arrival means grape harvesting is caught in the crossfire. 

Many winery owners are rightfully nervous about what the future holds and are thinking about what they can do to protect their business. Fortunately, the government has stepped in to help businesses impacted by the wildfires and there are numerous action steps you can take today to help prepare you and your business for future natural disasters.

Extended Tax Deadlines

The IRS recently granted some relief to taxpayers impacted by the California wildfires.  It extended the filing deadline for all tax returns and payments that were due starting on August 14 through December 15. The new deadline for these returns and payments is December 15. The California Franchise Tax Board followed suit and issued a similar extension.

So, C-corporations that timely filed for an extension to file their annual tax return would have had to file by October 15. The new deadline is now December 15.

Likewise, S-corps, partnerships, and sole proprietors would have had to file by September 15 but now have until December 15 to do so.

Any estimated income tax payments that would have been due on September 15 are now bumped back until December 15.

Those 3rd quarter payroll tax returns and any payment that would have been due on October 31 are now due by December 15.

If your county has been declared a federal disaster area by FEMA, you will receive this automatic extension. This new extended deadline is automatically applied by the IRS and there is no need to file any paperwork.  As of September 2020, FEMA has declared the following counties federal disaster areas: Sonoma, Napa, Lake, Yolo, Butte, Solano, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, and Monterey.

All penalties and interest will be waived so long as you file all your returns and pay all your tax by December 15. 

Disasters and Insurance

Most wineries have multiple layers of insurance protection. Property, business interruption, and viticulture policies just to name a few. 

Now might be that time you need to make use of your insurance. If you’ve suffered damage from the wildfires, contact your insurance agent right away. Many property insurance policies cover natural disasters like wildfires. And some policies will cover a portion of lost revenue and increased expenses due to business interruptions.

Reviewing your insurance needs should be a regular occurrence. And if you haven’t had that conversation with your agent in a while, now is a good time. Talk through all your business needs to craft the coverage that’s right for your winery. 

Disaster Preparation

It’s never a fun topic to discuss but disaster preparation and plans should be an important part of your winery’s business strategy. With a proper plan and early preparation, you can lessen the chance of being negatively impacted by a natural disaster.

Regular Maintenance Is a Must

Winery owners should make sure their property is in the best possible shape to withstand any natural disaster. Repairs and maintenance should be made regularly, including clearing fallen debris and removing dead or dying landscaping. 

Create a Continuity Plan

Have a plan in place to communicate with winery staff in the event of an emergency. Create a contact list with all employee’s names and phone numbers and establish procedures about how communication will happen in the event of a disaster. Don’t forget to consider how you’ll communicate with customers and suppliers. 

Have a point person at your winery who is responsible for monitoring natural disasters. This person should have clear authority to make decisions about the safety of your crop, inventory, and staff. 

Ensure your plan includes how you’ll protect your equipment, buildings, and inventory.

Protect Your Electronic Data

With so much of your business data stored electronically, be sure that it’s backed up regularly. The backup should happen off-site so that in the event your computers and servers are damaged, you’ll still have access to all your records.

If you’ve been hesitant to use the cloud to store your data, consider making the switch. Most cloud storage providers make multiple backups each day and access is easy from anywhere you have an internet connection. Cloud storage could help your employees to continue working even if your winery has been evacuated or damaged from a natural disaster.

Document, Document, Document.

Keep thorough and complete records of all your business assets and keeping pictures of all your assets will help if you have to make a claim to your insurance carrier. 

You’ll want to document:

  1. The type of asset, including model number and serial number, if applicable
  2. The year it was placed in service
  3. The price you paid for it
  4. Any customizations made to the asset

A good place to start would be using a fixed asset schedule or report. If you don’t keep this schedule, your tax accountant should have a copy. 

Keep in mind all your assets might not be on the fixed asset schedule. Inexpensive equipment like computers or office furniture may not be on the fixed asset schedule, but you’ll want to keep track of those, too. 

Managing and Protecting Inventory Before a Disaster

Inventory is one of the largest assets a winery owns. With a robust inventory management system, you’ll know exactly what you have, and protecting your inventory from a natural disaster should be included in your contingency plan. 

Your wine racks should be sturdy enough to withstand the shaking of an earthquake or strong winds from storms and your wine inventory should be well organized and labeled correctly. 

Keeping your inventory system up to date and organized will be helpful in the event you need to file an insurance claim. 

Your inventory management system should know the exact dollar value of all your inventory at any given moment.  And if you hold a large amount of inventory, ensure your insurance policy covers all of it.  A report with your costs and quantities can be created quickly.

If your business has been affected by the wildfires in California or you could use a helping hand with your business strategy or accounting, get in touch with Protea now.  Our professionals are experts at bookkeeping for wineries and work tirelessly to ensure your financial goals are met. Learn how outsourced accounting and bookkeeping can save your winery time and money. 

American Viticultural Area Valuations Offer Potential Tax Savings for Wineries

American Viticultural Area Valuations Offer Potential Tax Savings for Wineries

Producers and consumers place great value on where their wine grapes are grown. The famous wine-grape producing areas—such as Napa Valley, California, and Walla Walla, Washington— have come to be publicly associated with quality.

However, many wineries are surprised to learn this perceived quality can be quantified and used to offset tax liabilities in the years following a vineyard purchase. The more prestigious the land area, the greater the potential savings.

This complex process includes an American Viticultural Area (AVA) valuation, and the potential tax savings can be significant. Here’s what wineries and vineyard owners need to know about the process to potentially benefit from the savings opportunity.

What’s an AVA Valuation?

An AVA is a geographic area where wine grapes are produced, as defined by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). As of June 3, 2020, there are 248 established AVAs in the United States, with 139 in California.

An AVA may have an intangible value associated with the quality of the grapes produced within it. Unlike land, producers may be able to amortize the value of this asset for tax purposes, but doing so requires a valuation to determine the intangible value of the AVA.

Intangible Value

Simply put, the intangible value of a production area results from the perceived value of the wine and wine grapes produced there. This value comes from a number of factors, such as established root stock, weather, soil quality, and consumer preference.

Wineries are only allowed to claim their wine was produced in an AVA if the following conditions are met:

  • 85% of the grapes used to produce it were grown there
  • The wine is registered with the TTB

Grape Pricing Comparison

Prices paid for grapes from different regions can vary dramatically. The graphs below illustrate 2019 bulk grape pricing in California, as reported by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) for different crush districts.

Grape Pricing Comparison

For example, in the Cabernet Sauvignon grape pricing chart, we can see that in district four—which is Napa County—the median price of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes was approximately $9,000 per ton.

This can be compared to the median of district 10—which includes the Sierra Nevada Foothills counties such as El Dorado and Amador—where the median price for Cabernet grapes was $1,625 per ton.

Potential Tax Benefit

When a buyer purchases a vineyard, the AVA intangible creates a potential tax savings by amortizing the AVA value in the 15 years after the purchase occurs.

If an AVA intangible isn’t measured at the time of a purchase, an AVA valuation can still be performed and the amortization expenses can be retroactively applied to recognized deductions not taken in prior years.

Amortization

Amortization is the gradual recognition in income of a capital expense over a specific period of time. It’s typically associated with intangible assets—like trademarks—or, in this case, AVAs.

Essentially, it expenses the intangible value of the AVA associated with the land. This option allows vineyard owners to put some of the money they’ve spent to acquire land in a highly desirable AVA back into their businesses.

AVA Valuation Methods

If you purchase a vineyard, you can’t depreciate or amortize the value of the land used to grow the grapes. There’s a distinct separation between the AVA value and the value of the land.

Quantifying the AVA value happens through a complex process known as an AVA valuation. The resulting amount is what vineyards are able to claim for amortization.

There are a few different methods used to determine the potential AVA value.

With and Without

This method involves looking at two scenarios in which vineyards producing the same grapes of similar quality are compared. One vineyard is within a particular AVA, and one isn’t.

By comparing different prices of the grapes produced in each area and the subsequent effect on projected cash flows from the vineyards, the AVA’s intangible value can be calculated.

Relief from Royalty

Estimating a hypothetical avoided royalty or licensing fee is a common way to value tradenames. Distinguishing that a wine is made with grapes from a specific AVA is much the same as marketing that wine with a specific trademark.

While we know AVA designations can’t be licensed, wine brands, as well as brands for other similar products, can be. Comparing the licensing and royalty fees that might be paid by wineries wishing to use different brand names on their packaging offers many insights into the potential value an AVA designation could offer.

Generally, the more profit a winery can produce by licensing a brand, the higher the value of the associated intangible asset.

Vineyard Land Sales

Also known as the market approach, comparing the sale records of different vineyards offers an indirect way to quantify the effects of an AVA designation on land value.

While the price of vineyards can be impacted by many factors, these designations can have a significant impact on comparative vineyard value. The goal is to separate the cost of the land from the value provided by the AVA designation.

Getting Started

With owners making claims about AVA value due to the potentially significant tax savings, the IRS and states are increasing scrutiny on these claims. The larger the claim, the more likely an examination could occur.

Making a well-supported claim should be the ultimate goal. Utilizing multiple valuation methods, providing the appropriate documentation, and working with an advisor with deep industry expertise can help the process move smoothly.

Next Steps

For more information about AVA valuations and how they could help your winery save money, contact an accounting or consulting professional.

Donovan Trone has worked in finance and research since 2009, performing valuations services for operating companies, partnerships, and limited liability corporations for mergers and acquisitions and financial reporting. He can be reached at (408) 558-4320 or donovan.trone@mossadams.com.

Alex Luke has worked in data processing and analysis since 2013. He has extensive experience in data solutions, marketing and business, and valuations analysis. He can be reached at (425) 961-7029 or alex.luke@mossadams.com.

Assurance, tax, and consulting offered through Moss Adams LLP. Investment advisory services offered through Moss Adams Wealth Advisors LLC. Investment banking offered through Moss Adams Capital LLC.