Congratulations! You are one of the lucky recipients of the Paycheck Protection Program Loan. Not everyone can say the same. Once you receive approval, the bank has ten calendar days to disburse the money. As soon as you receive those funds, the 8-week clock begins to tick. Do not waste time.
For the eight weeks immediately following your loan funding, your expenses must meet certain criteria if you hope to have the loan forgiven. Loan forgiveness is not automatic. You will have to apply for it prior to repayment in six months. Currently, there are no guidelines for the forgiveness application. They will share that information as they develop it.
Using the Loan Proceeds
The entire purpose of the PPP Loan is to maintain payroll. Naturally, using the money for payroll is high on the government’s agenda. Therefore, you must use 75% or more of the money for payroll costs. If payroll costs in the eight-week period do not exceed 75% of the loan proceeds, the amount of loan forgiven will be reduced by the shortage. Payroll costs include:
WARNING: You may think, well, if I cannot make the 75% in regular payroll, I’ll just bonus myself the difference. Be very careful about unusually high bonuses or commissions to trick the system. You will need documentation. I anticipate random audits and reviews of PPP loan proceeds over the next two years. Free money from the government is a prime opportunity for rampant fraud. Additionally, your employee count must not dip below 25% of your January 31, 2020 employee count.
Not more than 25% of the loan forgiveness may be attributable to non-payroll costs, such as rent, utilities, and mortgage interest. All expenses made in the eight-week period must be for “costs incurred and payments made” within that eight-week period. While this hasn’t been clearly defined, we can assume that you cannot pay your rent six months in advance with the money, nor pre-pay your utilities.
TIP: If you have rent, mortgage, or utilities on autopay, take them off now. Be sure to pay the bills inside the eight-week period for periods included in that eight-week period.
If you do not keep accurate time records of your employees’ work, now is a great time to start. You will need proof of commissions, bonuses, pay raises, and vacation/sick time. You will also need to prove that any time off does not overlap with the payroll tax credits of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). Have all time accurately recorded. Salaried employees do not need to keep time unless they are taking paid time off. Those hours should be clearly documented as to the purpose and length of leave. The FFCRA has more detailed documentation requirements for the employment credits.
Keep and store copies of your rent and utility bills. Utilities include gas, water, electric. Utilities do not currently include internet or cloud hosting at this time. You are required to maintain these records for four years.
Update Your Accounting System
Create a separate account in your accounting system for COVID-19 Expenses and create a list of sub-accounts. Here is a picture of mine:
Be very careful over the eight-week period to carefully post information into the correct category. You want to be able to easily run reports to track your expenses for forgiveness. A quick rundown of the sub-accounts above.
Forgiveness – What to Expect
There is another really great reason to separate these expenses. The portion of the loan that is forgiven is technically income to you. The federal government has stipulated this will not be taxable for federal tax purposes. Sounds great, right? Of course! However, there are other considerations.
Be aware that not all states follow the Internal Revenue Code and unless your state specifically excludes the loan forgiveness, you may find yourself paying state income taxes on it.
Also note that it is entirely possible that the expenses that allow the forgiveness of the loan may not be deductible on your tax return, thereby making the loan a complete wash. You (or your tax preparer) will want a nice easy way to find the expenses that are not deductible. Using my method above will go a long way to identify the non-deductible expenses.
It is not clearly stated at this point if those expenses will be non-deductible. At the same time, it is not clearly stated that they will be. We can expect future guidance from the Internal Revenue Service on this. Until then, play it safe and segregate your costs as much as possible. It’s better to be over prepared and not need it, than need it and not be prepared at all.
Stay safe out there!
If you agree that “there’s no place like home,” then you may also have a wish to work from home more often. In many cases, you can, and here are some tools you need to get started.
If the products and services your business sells can be sold or delivered digitally, then you’re a candidate for working from home most of the time. If you have a storefront where customers visit to purchase your products and services, you can still perform some of your business duties remotely or rely on staff to greet and serve the customers.
You may also be able to be proactive about moving more and more of your business online. Some examples include:
Meeting with Customers
The next best thing to greeting customers in person is using video-conferencing. You can easily start with FaceTime (for iPhone users). Android users have it a little tougher, but many use Facebook’s Messenger, Google’s Duo (both parties need to download the app), or imo (ditto on both parties).
If you have more complex meeting needs, software like Zoom is perfect to get you started. Hardware-wise, you’ll need a webcam, and a microphone is preferred. If you have a cell phone, you can use the mic and speakers in the headset provided.
Simply create your account at Zoom, and set up a meeting. Invite people by emailing them a link to join you. Join the meeting at the set time, and conduct your business with your customer. You can hide your webcam if you’re shy, and you can share your screen in case you want to go over a report or something else with your client. Zoom has a free account option and can be found at https://zoom.us.
And remember, if you’re a little too shy for videoconferencing, you can always conduct business with clients using the good old-fashioned telephone or email.
Sharing Documents with Customers
If you have documents to share with all of your customers, you can post them online on your website. If you have private documents, you can use portal software to securely create a private section of the portal exclusively for that client. Apps that can do this and that are not accounting-specific include Citrix ShareFile and Box.com.
You can also share documents that don’t have sensitive financial or company information with clients using Google Drive. Simply create them, then share them using the email addresses of the appropriate clients.
Receiving Client Communications
Already customers are reaching out to businesses via all of the social media platforms as well as the messaging platforms, such as Messenger and WhatsApp. Your virtual team can easily track all of these incoming messages by watching for notifications from anywhere in the world.
You might also be using an industry-specific app for customer interactions. For example, if you’re in the wellness space, MindBody apps are ubiquitous. If you’re an attorney, you’re likely using Clio.
Keeping in Touch with Your Team
You can use the same tools mentioned above to connect with your team members, but you will probably want one or two more apps – a private messaging app for when urgent things come up that need an immediate answer, and in some cases, a task management system.
Software like Slack is perfect for you to stay in touch with your team and keep communications private. It provides messaging functionality and more.
For task management, there are literally hundreds of apps to choose from. The simplest is something like Todoist, and typical small business options include software such as Asana and Monday.com.
If you want a Swiss-army-knife suite of tools that perform many of the above functions and are deeply integrated, Microsoft Teams fits the bill by providing a full collaborative platform for businesses of all sizes.
There’s No Place Like Home
We hope these apps provide you with the ability to stay in touch with your customers and your business while working from home, sweet home.
On Friday, March 27, 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) was signed into law, and one part of it includes two loan programs for small businesses.
Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loan
Owners of businesses, including nonprofits, with less than 500 employees that have been impacted financially due to the coronavirus can apply for a nonrecourse loan up to the lesser of $10 million or roughly 2.5 times the average monthly payroll (there is a formula to calculate the loan amount) to help them maintain their employees.
The proceeds of the loan must be tracked separately, preferably in a separate bank account and only be used to cover payroll, rent, utilities, mortgage interest, and health insurance costs. A portion of the loan can be forgiven if it has been used properly. If any employees were terminated during the loan period, forgiveness will be reduced accordingly.
The loan terms are 2 years, payments to start in 6 months, and 1% interest. You can apply at any SBA-approved 7(a) bank; here is a list of some of them: https://www.sba.gov/article/2020/mar/02/100-most-active-sba-7a-lenders
The loans are first-come, first-served and are available until the $349 billion fund runs out or June 30, 2020, whichever is sooner. The application form is here: https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/136/Paycheck-Protection-Program-Application-3-30-2020-v3.pdf. However, many banks have created their own applications and have also created additional conditions. For example, Bank of America requires borrowers to have an account with them.
Wells Fargo is no longer taking any more applications. https://update.wf.com/coronavirus/paycheckprotectionprogram/
Chase was encouraging borrowers to get in the queue here, and right now, it’s down: https://recovery.chase.com/cares1
Bank of America has already taken billions of applications and is taking them here:
Fifth Third is taking applications: https://www.53.com/content/fifth-third/en/alerts/covid-sba-cares-act.html
Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL)
A second option is the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL). Owners of businesses, including nonprofits, with less than 500 employees that have been impacted financially due to the coronavirus can apply for a loan up to $2 million to help them cover payroll, rent, and utilities. There is a $10,000 forgivable advance that is supposed to be funded in 3 days.
The interest rate on this loan is higher and payments start in one year. There is no forgiveness on this loan (except for the advance). A business cannot get both loans. If a business has already applied for the EIDL, it can be rolled into the PPP loan.
Please be cautious when applying for any loan. There are very strong penalties for failing to comply with the requirements of these loans. If you need help with the payroll computation or setting up tracking for the loan proceeds and subsequent spending, please reach out any time.
Now that countries around the world have stimulus packages in place, what is the best use of that money and opportunity?
In the United States, our government passed two packages in the past month. Your head may be spinning with the best course of action for your business. I have some suggestions. But first, allow me to offer a quick glossary of terms:
FFCRA – Families First Coronavirus Response Act – passed March 18, provides paid sick and family leave for your employees for up to 80 hours.
CARES Act – Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, passed March 27, 2020 to maintain businesses and workers.
PPP – Paycheck Protection Program – included with the CARES Act, provides forgivable loans to cover payroll expenses and other necessary business expenses.
EIDL – Economic Injury Disaster Loan – included with the CARES Act and provides immediate relief for payroll and business expenses. You can apply for this today at: https://covid19relief.sba.gov/#/
Prepare Documentation for Loans
Regardless of which program you choose to help your business, your company finances will need to be in order. Some loans will require documentation prior to offering a loan, others will require documentation after you use the funds. This article is to help you prepare. Contact your favorite banker and place them on notice that you want to apply for relief. They may be able to give you a list of documentation they will require. If not, use mine.
You will need proof of expenses, so your accounting system must be in order. If it is not, you have a small window of opportunity to get it ready while the SBA, states, and other agencies build guidelines in the coming weeks.
You will need to provide proof of payroll from 2019. The number of employees, the average monthly payroll cost, and average monthly payroll taxes for three months between February 15, 2019 and June 30, 2019.
You will need tax returns for the past two years. If you have not yet filed your tax returns, do so as quickly as possible. Additionally, you will need to provide support for rent payments, mortgage payments, and utility payments. Start now so you are ready when the banks are ready to help you.
Begin Tracking COVID-19 Expenses
Consider creating a bucket of expenses in your accounting system to track all expenses related to COVID-19. In this bucket, you should have some subaccounts:
You will need to separately track your payroll for COVID-19, especially if you obtain a PPP loan. Additionally, the FFCRA requires a separation for paid sick and family leave. These two items will be treated differently for the tax credits. Use your PSA or whatever time tracking system you use to manage this. Create a code for C-19 Sick/FML. This will help you obtain the proper credits for wage reimbursement un FFCRA. Create another code to track worked hours during the covered periods for PPP and EIDL. You will need to support your claims if you plan to apply for loan forgiveness.
Speaking of loan forgiveness, do not apply for these loans with the expectation they will be forgiven. Expect to pay them back and be pleasantly surprised if you later do not have to. This is not guaranteed free money.
The remaining expenses are self-explanatory, except for the MSP Tools. Many MSPs are helping their customers move employees to home-based work. This may include the offering of RMM seats, anti-virus, web security, and other tools you will use to keep them secure and patched. If you are not charging your customer for those extra seats as a gesture of goodwill, or even expectation, place those costs here. You may also want to track any internal expenses your company incurs in a separate expense account. At the end of this year, you should have a very clear picture of how much COVID-19 cost your business.
Develop a Strategy
The best course of action is to develop a strategy for using these funds. Consider creating a separate bank account for the money and use it for its intended purposes. For the PPP loan, your company expenses will be analyzed for the eight-week period following the loan origination date. The dollars you spend on payroll, utilities, rent, or mortgage interest will be added together for the forgiveness total.
Any remaining amounts of loan that were not used for those purposes will enter into a repayment schedule. However, if your company lays off employees, who make less than $100,000, during that eight-week period, the loan forgiveness will be reduced by the amount of the pay cut. If you have employees that you are considering letting go, do so before obtaining the loan so they will not interfere with your program.
While the PPP loan is paying your business-critical expenses, consider using the money you would have spent on payroll and rent to aggressively pay down existing debt, or increase marketing.
Develop a system for marking expenses for COVID to get them entered properly.
Meet with your accounting team and accounting professionals to build a plan that will use this money to keep your company running efficiently in the coming months. Develop a budget to only spend where necessary. Keep your eye on the budget and do everything you can to stay within it.
Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay sane.