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August 2020

business tax credit

How the Empowerment Zones Program Could Help Your Business

By | Tax Credits, Tax Incentives | No Comments

In 1993, Congress passed the Empowerment Zones and Enterprise Communities Act to alleviate poverty in certain regions across the country. The program targeted six strategic cities: New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Baltimore, Detroit, and Philadelphia-Camden. The goal was to uplift the lives of poor communities living in these regions.

The Empowerment Zones program, albeit ambitious, seems to have been forgotten. Here is a brief overview of the fundamental details of the EZ program and how it might apply to your business.

Qualification Requirements for Communities

The Empowerment Zones program was intended to rejuvenate strategic economic regions that were experiencing a decline in growth – Detroit is an excellent example. The program planned to incentivize the private sector to set up businesses in these locations and, by doing so, spur long-term economic growth.

The main requirement for a community to qualify for designation as an Empowerment Zone was a clear economic distress demonstration. Qualifying factors supporting economic distress included:

  • High unemployment levels
  • A poverty rate of at least 20%
  • A declining population rate
  • A clear pattern of divestment by existing businesses

Additionally, these communities had to clearly demonstrate the potential for economic development, which essentially is the program’s main goal. The government considered several factors when gauging these communities’ potential for economic improvement. The main consideration was a community’s capacity to build public-private partnerships. These communities were also required to help provide the necessary private and public resources to help support the economic rejuvenation efforts.

The Application Process

Communities that met the set qualifications were required to apply with the federal government. One of the application requirements was backing by the communities’ local and state governments. This was required to ensure that qualifying requirements received as much support as they needed.

Another important requirement was the submission of a strategic development plan based on the EZ program. The plan had to include the input and insight of all involved parties, including community members, businesses, NGOs, and government institutions. Finally, the communities had to provide a baseline of benchmark goals and measurements to gauge the program’s progress and achievements.

Requirements & Incentives for Businesses

The federal government planned to spur economic growth in these communities by offering tax incentives to businesses who were willing to set up shop there. For starters, businesses were offered a 20% wage credit for the first $15,000 paid in wages to an employee – the employee had to be a resident of the empowerment zone.

In addition to residents of the empowerment zones, businesses also had the option of hiring target employees in exchange for a 40% tax credit on each of these employees’ first-year wages totalling $6,000. Target employees were considered some of the more vulnerable members of the community, including at-risk youth, vocational rehabilitation referrals, SSI recipients, and food stamps recipients.

Businesses that contributed to physical developments in these communities also stood to benefit greatly from subsidized capital expenditures. Under the program’s Round III stipulations, capital expenditure on equipment erected on land parcels within these communities would depreciate by up to $35,000.  

Outcomes of the Federal Empowerment Zones Program

Results of the EZ program were mixed and largely inconclusive. However, there were more positive outcomes than negative ones. For example, five of the six empowerment zones realized an increase in jobs and a boom in minority-owned businesses. However, the incentives were more attractive to large organizations than small businesses. It should also be noted that the program coincided with an economic boom across the country.

Several other programs have been modeled after the Federal Empowerment Zones program of 1993 with the same intention. It is up to the communities and businesses to keep track of these programs and take advantage of whatever they have to offer.

Contact us today to help you learn more about federal empowerment zones, and how your business could benefit from this program.

covid-19 small business tax credits

4 COVID-19 Tax Credits and Tax Relief Programs for Small Business Owners

By | Tax Credits | No Comments

If you are like many business owners, then it is likely that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted you financially in addition to fundamentally changing the way you do business. Fortunately, in an effort to make things easier on businesses that are being affected by this global pandemic, the federal government has passed several coronavirus relief packages that provide financial assistance to businesses and families across the country.

However, what some business owners may not know is that these stimulus packages have created new tax credits and tax relief programs meant to help small business owners during this difficult time. To help ensure that you are taking full advantage of these programs, here is a look at what businesses need to know about COVID-19 small business tax credits and relief programs. 

Employee Retention Tax Credit

In order to help businesses that were hurt financially by the coronavirus pandemic, The Employee Retention Tax Credit provides businesses with a refundable tax credit equal to 50% of wages paid to an eligible employee up to $10,00 per employee. This tax credit is available to all employers regardless of size or tax-exempt status. Qualifying employers can include those that are fully or partially suspended by government order due to COVID-19. Once an employer’s gross receipts go above 80% of a similar quarter in 2019, they no longer qualify for this tax credit.  

Payroll Tax Deferral Relief  

As part of the payroll tax deferral relief offered by the CARES Act, your business has the ability to defer the 6.2% employer portion of the Social Security tax owed on the first $137,700 of an employee’s 2020 wages paid during the deferral period (March 27, 2020 to December 31, 2020). You will then have to repay these deferred payroll taxes in two installments on December 31, 2021 and December 31, 2022. This deferral is available to all employers regardless of the extent to which their business has been affected by COVID-19. It is important to note that this deferral program is unavailable to small businesses, sole proprietors, or self-employed individuals who receive forgiveness of SBA loans issued under the Payment Protection Program that was offered by the CARES Act. 

Retroactive Tax Relief

The CARES Act also provided certain tax relief measures that were retroactive, which can potentially make it beneficial for you to file an amended tax return for past years in order to recover taxes paid. For instance, one provision of the CARES Act significantly liberalizes rules for deducting net operating losses by allowing net operating losses that arise from 2018 to 2020 to be carried back five years. A net operating loss that arises this year can then be carried back to 2015, allowing you to claim refunds for taxes paid in carry-back years. Since tax rates were higher before 2018, net operating losses carried back to those years can result in significant tax refunds, helping provide you with crucial capital during this difficult time.  

Sick/Medical Leave Tax Credit

As part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) signed into law in March, small businesses with fewer than 500 employees must provide limited paid leave benefits to employees affected by the coronavirus emergency. However, these small businesses have access to new tax credits to help pay for these benefits. The act requires that affected employers pay emergency sick leave of $511 per day for up to 10 days to employees in coronavirus quarantine or seeking a coronavirus diagnosis. An employee can also receive up to $200 per day for up to 10 days to care for a quarantined family member or a child whose school or child-care has been closed due to the pandemic. These required benefits are offset by a new tax credit that allows a small employer to collect 100% of qualified sick-leave and family-leave payments made by the employer as required by the law between April 1, 2020, and December 31, 2020. 

Taking advantage of all available tax credits and tax relief programs can be crucial in helping your business to survive the COVID-19 pandemic. You should consider talking to an advisor who can help you to ensure that you are not missing any key tax credits that could help your business during this difficult time. Contact us to learn about how Incentax’s process can help you find tax credits that could help your business through this ongoing crisis.  

federal empowerment zones

What Are Federal Empowerment Zones?

By | Tax Credits, Tax Incentives | No Comments

Federal Empowerment Zones (EZs) are areas within the United States that are economically depressed. Communities that had poverty rates of at least 20% coupled with high rates of unemployment were designated EZs. In addition to high poverty and unemployment rates, the qualified communities also exhibited a high rate of emigration.

History of Federal Empowerment Zones

The Empowerment Zones and Enterprise Communities Act of 1993 made EZs possible. It made incentives available to businesses through the tax code. The act provided bonding authority for infrastructure development. Infrastructure improvements were seen as crucial to business growth and revitalization. A generous grant program was also provided, ensuring that distressed communities had the funding they needed to stimulate their economies.

Since the early 1990s, developments have been through legislation amending the original act. National competitions were held which allowed qualifying communities to compete with each other to gain designation as Empowerment Zones, Enterprise Zones (ECs), and Renewal Communities (RCs). All of these designations were designed to aid the economies of highly distressed communities.

Qualifying communities showed extremely high unemployment, poverty, and emigration rates. These same communities had to have regrowth potential. The aid meted out to EZs, ECs, and RCs indirectly benefited businesses through funds spent on infrastructure improvements. Businesses were eligible for employment tax credits of up to $3,000 per employee. These incentives encouraged business owners to hire within the Empowerment Zone because only wages paid to employees living and working within the zone qualified for the credit. 

Baltimore, a well known Enterprise Zone, also qualified for Empowerment Zone status. Unfortunately, several studies have shown that the results of the program were ineffective. Baltimore has a history of being a highly distressed city. It was not alone in its inability to experience growth. The EZ and EC Act of 1993 had little effect on the overall economies of the cities it was trying to help. The program instituted by Bill Clinton to help economically depressed areas did little more than bolster funding reserves for existing social programs.

Should EZs and ECs Continue?

With the current stormy economic climate, many more cities will experience highly distressing conditions. Unemployment for roughly half of the U.S. is at or above 11% as of the summer of 2020. Large national stimulus packages have been rolled out. The global economy is projected to experience an unprecedented blanket recession. Does targeted funding work? 

The previous studies conducted by government and independent agencies weren’t promising. This model for economic reform won’t meet the demands of a post-pandemic nation. The evidence for the efficacy of the EZ and EC Act of 1993 was inconclusive.

Does Your Business Qualify for EZ or EC Credit?

The original legislation of 1993 was extended by additional legislation into subsequent years. It is important for businesses to do their due diligence when it comes to tax filings. Many eligible business owners did not claim the tax credits associated with Empowerment and Enterprise community designations simply because they didn’t know about them. 

The original EZ and EC Act of 1993 was extended multiple times. The most recent extension allows employers to claim WOTC for employees that were hired within the zone prior to tax year 2020 and also live in the qualifying area. Wage credits can be claimed retroactively dating back two years.

Capital gains tax exclusion on business sales within the zones as well as other tax incentives and bond privileges were part of the Empowerment Zones and Enterprise Communities Act of 1993 and its subsequent extensions.  Many local businesses were unaware of these tax privileges and did not take advantage of them.  Contact us for help in filing for the tax credits you and your business are eligible for.

tax credits real estate

4 Ways Your Real Estate Company Can Save on Taxes

By | Real Estate, Tax Credits | No Comments

For independent real estate agents, it can be difficult to find the time to manage your finances. For many real estate agents who run their own agency, taking care of your clients, and developing new leads, can eat into your time. You may find tax preparation moving down your priority list. However, you do not want to make the mistake of being surprised when tax season rolls around.

Taking the time to look at your finances now can help you to make sure that everything is in order and that you are taking advantage of all possible tax deductions available to you when April arrives. Finding the right tax deductions can help save your business thousands of dollars each year. To help get you started, here is a look at just a few ways that your real estate company can save money on taxes this year:

Commissions Paid

There are several tax deductions that you can take as a real estate agent. An important one to keep in mind is that you can deduct commissions that you have paid to employees or business partners. As a business owner, paying commissions is a cost of doing business, and the IRS generally considers commissions paid to be a fully deductible business expense.

This is an important deduction to remember to take as it can represent significant money saved or a lot of money left on the table if you do not take advantage of this deduction. When you go to fill out your tax paperwork, deductions for commissions paid would be placed on your Schedule C tax form on the 10th expense line.  

Marketing Expenses

As a small business owner and sole proprietor, it is likely that you invest a significant amount of money in marketing and advertising your business. Even with the advent of cost-effective marketing methods such as creating social media accounts for your business, it is likely that you still spend a large amount of money marketing your business and listings by purchasing signs, flyers, and advertisements in local papers. Many real estate agents also outsource their social media and content marketing to experts, which is an added expense.

Fortunately, marketing and advertising costs can also be deducted as a business expense. Even money spent developing your website and running digital ads on social media and Google can be deducted as marketing expenses. These deductions can be made on Line 8 of your Schedule C tax form.  

Fees, Licenses, and Memberships

A common expense for independent real estate agents is annual fees for things such as license renewals, professional association memberships, and multiple listing service (MLS) dues. Fortunately, many of these fees can be deducted as a cost of doing business. Money paid towards premiums for general business insurance and errors and omissions insurance are also both fully deductible business expenses as well.

It is important to keep track of everything that you spend maintaining your business and professional memberships. This will help ensure that you take advantage of all tax deductions available to you.  

Deduct Travel Expenses

Of course, unless you are lucky enough to have only local clients within a few miles of your home or office, it is likely that you do a lot of driving, and the miles can add up fast. This can mean spending more money fueling and maintaining your car than the average driver. Fortunately, you can deduct $0.575 per mile you drive for your business in 2020. You may also be able to deduct maintenance and repair costs for your vehicle as well. 

Keeping track of all the tax deductions and credits available to you as an independent real estate agent can quickly become overwhelming, and it is easy to forget a credit or deduction. Contact us to learn how Incentax’s streamlined process can help you to identify and maximize all the tax credits available to your real estate company. This can help to significantly reduce your tax liability.