business owner

Second Generation Owners Are Often Different from Founders

Smart business families recognize this and adjust their vision accordingly

Key Takeaways:

  • Founding business owners and their children often have differing management styles, communication styles and expectations.

  • Founders appreciate directness and simple solutions.

  • Founders’ children often need more sophisticated solutions in which emotional considerations are as important as the financial ones.


Most business owners I know fall into one of two camps—first generation business owners or later generation business owners. Business families and their advisors who don’t take the time to understand the differing management styles, communication styles and expectations often run into trouble down the road.

Starting a business is incredibly demanding

Starting a business is hard work. Many founders work for years—and against all odds—to create a business that succeeds. Ask any successful business owner who has been around for a decade or two—they’ve experienced countless ups and downs. Often the downs have put the owners on the brink of losing their business. But they never give up!

To make it through the challenging times, entrepreneurs have to be very tough and resilient. They will tell you exactly what they think. They don’t pull punches and expect you to do the same.


First-generation business owners have a thick skin

The good part about first-generation business owners is that you can say almost anything to them as long as you do so with respect. But you’d better be direct and avoid legalese, MBA-speak and fancy marketing terms. If you don’t, you probably won’t be taken seriously.

Second and third generation owners tend to take a more nuanced view of the business. They’re more open to outside ideas than founders tend to be. However, Next Gen owners often make the mistake of thinking that founders will take their advice and implement it without knowing how the advice fits in with the business’s long-term or even short-term goals. If you don’t spend time understanding what drives founders, there’s a good chance they’ll just ignore you or cut you off mid-sentence.

Sure, many founders are gruff. But don’t walk on eggshells around them. To gain the trust of founders, you must get right to the point. If you’re able to do this, working with founders becomes much easier and more enjoyable.

First generation owners aren’t only tough at the workplace

The drive, resiliency and thick skin that it takes to start and build a business is one of brutal honesty. If you’re not brutally honest with yourself, it’s too easy to find excuses for things not working out.

In my experience, first-generation business owners aren’t only tough at work; they’re very tough at home. First-generation owners tend to be tough on their children. Tough love rather than unconditional love is more often their style. The children of business founders often feel they are under the thumb of their parents. This is especially true if children of founders decide to join their parents in the family business.

Second-generation owners are a different story
For their first 25 or 30 years of life, founders’ children will tell you they heard nothing but criticism from parents who had no patience for their mistakes and no tolerance for excuses. There’s something to be said about the value of tough love when so much of parenting today borders on coddling and “helicoptering.” But, this often leaves founders’ children feeling inadequate, with a strong need to prove themselves.

When founders’ children finally get a chance to run the family business, they often have no patience for founders and other advisors telling them where they’re wrong. Instead, they expect their employees, customers, clients and advisors to tell them how wonderful they are and how brilliant their ideas are.

A successful relationship with second-generation owners often means being a cheerleader instead of a true thinking partner. Although second-generation owners start their business careers with a huge advantage over where their parents started, they often struggle to maintain its success, much less take it to the next level. Without accepting honest feedback, it’s just too easy for second-generation owners to take the company in directions that hurt more than help.


The conundrum of second-generation owners

On the flip side, working with second-generation owners can be fun if they’re willing to be coached. You need to feed them ideas in the form of questions and let them adapt your ideas as your own if needed. Don’t force your ideas down their throats, or you’ll just get pushback.


Well-educated second-generation owners may want to use advisors and consultants with prestigious academic degrees and career credentials—people that founders would never consider bringing in. On the surface, it may seem like second generation owners are injecting unnecessary complexity into the business, but it’s best to let NextGen figure that out on their own. As a founder, you can suggest some ways in which simpler is usually better, but don’t try to override the process.

Being blunt with second and third generation owners generally won’t work. You must remember where they came from. It’s not necessarily coddling, but you have to be open to the possibility that there could be a better way of doing things.

Conclusion

One final caveat—generalizations are often wrong. I’ve encountered more than a few (first-generation) founders who are open to new ideas, outside expertise and a more collaborative work environment. Likewise, I’ve worked with many founders’ children who are gruff, relentless and think only one ways of doing things—their way—is right. Be aware of generational predispositions and try to leverage the strengths of each generation’s work habits and management style. Your customers and clients will thank you, and family gatherings around the dinner table will be a lot less stressful.

Feel free to contact me any time if your family or a close friend or relative’s family is considering a leadership change in the family business.

Robert J. Pyle, CFP®, CFA is president of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. (DAMI). DAMI is licensed as an investment adviser with the State of Colorado Division of Securities, and its investment advisory representatives are licensed by the State of Colorado. DAMI will only transact business in other states to the extent DAMI has made the requisite notice filings or obtained the necessary licensing in such state. No follow up or individualized responses to persons in other jurisdictions that involve either rendering or attempting to render personalized investment advice for compensation will be made absent compliance with applicable legal requirements, or an applicable exemption or exclusion. It does not constitute investment or tax advice. To contact Robert, call 303-440-2906 or e-mail info@diversifiedassetmanagement.com.

 

The views, opinion, information and content provided here are solely those of the respective authors, and may not represent the views or opinions of Diversified Asset Management, Inc.  The selection of any posts or articles should not be regarded as an explicit or implicit endorsement or recommendation of any such posts or articles, or services provided or referenced and statements made by the authors of such posts or articles.  Diversified Asset Management, Inc. cannot guarantee the accuracy or currency of any such third party information or content, and does not undertake to verify or update such information or content. Any such information or other content should not be construed as investment, legal, accounting or tax advice.

How Smart Business Owners Plan for their Golden Years

Know the power of retirement plans

Key Takeaways:

  • Most business owners are not going to retire solely on the proceeds from the sale of their business.

  • You need to get up to speed on different types of retirement plans.

  • Business owns are interested in how much money they can save--not what’s a fair plan.



Most business owners have a dream. It’s to build a successful business, sell it for a zillion dollars and ride off into the sunset. The sad fact is that for the vast majority of business owners, this is just a pipe dream. In most cases, business owners will get less than 50 percent of their retirement income from the proceeds of the sale of their business—if they’re fortunate enough to sell it.

Many business owners have spoken with various advisors about diversification. Too often I see advisors warn owners how unsafe it is for the owner to have all of his or her assets tied up in the business. This conversation has merit, of course.

But, the conversation that resonates more is when I help owners understand that they won’t be able to leave their business if they think the business will provide all of their retirement income. This conversation always gets traction. If your client owns a business and employs fewer than 25 people, it’s very easy to design a retirement program that is almost irresistible for the owner.

It’s all about what the owner can get

The first rule of retirement plan design is understanding that it’s all about what you, the owner, can put in your pocket. Most owners I know are also happy to include their employees when it makes economic sense to do so.

Let’s assume you are in a 38 percent marginal tax bracket, as are most successful small-business owners. If that’s true, your plan only needs to cost less than 38 percent for the employees before it’ll make economic sense for you.

For example, if you want to maximize a 401(k) and profit-sharing plan, you will be able to defer $56,000 per year (for 2019). If the employee cost is less than $40,320, then the employer comes out ahead. The reason? If your client wants to save $56,000 in a taxable account, the tax cost would be $43,320.

When I’ve asked business owners if they’d rather give the government $40,320 or give their employees $40,320 while saving $56,000, it’s an easy answer. One hundred percent of the time the business owners will say they would rather give the money to their employees than to the government.

The proper question to ask


Now that you’ve seen the power of a qualified retirement plan, you need to figure out how much you will save. The proper question here is, “Since you have no limits on how much you can save, how much do you want to put in your plan every year?”

As advisors, we too often decide for our clients how much they can or should save. This is actually a question that YOU should answer. If you are over 50 years old and have a company that employs fewer than 25 people, it’s easy to design a plan in which you can save $200,000 per year in your account—or more. I’ve rarely met a business owner who wants—or could afford—to save more than that in a qualified account.

Four power options for business owners

Here are four plans that I’ve discovered business owners find interesting:

1. Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) plan—This is the simplest of all plans. It requires an equal contribution for all employees based on their salary. For tax year 2019, the owner can defer a maximum of $56,000 in this plan. From a tax/employee deferral analysis, it’s hard to make a SEP work with more than ten employees.

A SEP requires that you put the same amount of money away for each employee as a percentage of their salary. This will often cause the amount put away for employees to be larger than the owner’s deferral amount. Once a company reaches ten employees we start to look at 401(k) plans and profit-sharing plans as being more cost-effective for owner retirement savings.

2. 401(k) plan—This plan is best for owners who want to save up to $25,000 per year in their account. You will want to provide a safe-harbor plan for this account. This allows the owner to defer the maximum contribution with no plan testing.

3. Cross-tested profit sharing/401(k) plan—This plan uses age and salary as a method for putting together contribution amounts. The owner can defer up to $56,000 per year. Using a combination of a maximum 401(k) deferral and profit-sharing plan, the cost for all employees is often less than the tax breakeven point.

4. Cash balance—profit-sharing/401(k) plan—Say your owner wants to defer more than $56,000 per year and can reliably do so for at least five years. You can now consider a hybrid plan that combines a cash balance defined benefit plan with a cross-tested profit-sharing plan. Most owners will be able to defer over $200,000 per year, with a significantly lower amount for the employees.  This plan is the secret sauce for an owner who has not saved enough for retirement and has excess cash flow while running their business with little prospects for a great sale when they’re ready to transition their business.

Don’t forget your spouse

In many cases, the spouse of the company’s owner might be on the company’s payroll, too. If your spouse is over 50 years old, he or she can defer up to $25,000 in the company’s 401(k) plan. This brings a simple deferral to $81,000 for the owner of the company and their spouse.

If the owner’s spouse is not on the payroll, it’s pretty easy to justify adding the spouse to the plan for the amount that would be needed for the 401(k) deferral.

Conclusion

A financial plan is a crucial part of the private business planning process. I often do a rough plan on a legal pad to illustrate the problem the business owner has. I call it the four boxes of financial independence. Once I’ve gotten the attention of the owner we will then move to a formal financial plan.

I want to make sure you are moving in a direction that will get you to financial independence. A simple plan will help both of us understand that we’re making a wise decision. Please don’t hesitate to contact me any time to discuss.

Robert J. Pyle, CFP®, CFA is president of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. (DAMI). DAMI is licensed as an investment adviser with the State of Colorado Division of Securities, and its investment advisory representatives are licensed by the State of Colorado. DAMI will only transact business in other states to the extent DAMI has made the requisite notice filings or obtained the necessary licensing in such state. No follow up or individualized responses to persons in other jurisdictions that involve either rendering or attempting to render personalized investment advice for compensation will be made absent compliance with applicable legal requirements, or an applicable exemption or exclusion. It does not constitute investment or tax advice. To contact Robert, call 303-440-2906 or e-mail info@diversifiedassetmanagement.com.

 

The views, opinion, information and content provided here are solely those of the respective authors, and may not represent the views or opinions of Diversified Asset Management, Inc.  The selection of any posts or articles should not be regarded as an explicit or implicit endorsement or recommendation of any such posts or articles, or services provided or referenced and statements made by the authors of such posts or articles.  Diversified Asset Management, Inc. cannot guarantee the accuracy or currency of any such third party information or content, and does not undertake to verify or update such information or content. Any such information or other content should not be construed as investment, legal, accounting or tax advice.

Exit Planning for Business Owners, Part 2

It’s not only about what to do next but when to do it. See our timeline for making the most of your exit

By Robert J. Pyle, CFP®, CFA, AEP®

Key Takeaways

  • Don’t get so immersed in selling your business that day-to-day operations start to slip.

  • The most important driver of your business valuation is recurring revenue and contracts.

  • Make sure your advisors have experience transacting a business like yours—and don’t wait until the last minute to inform them of your plans to sell.

As we discussed in Part 1, exit planning is a multi-year process, not a spur of the moment decision. Most experts say you need to start planning three to five years out. The last thing you want to be doing on the way to your closing is making frantic calls to your attorney or CPA to track down financial statements or contracts the buyer is demanding to see. I can’t tell you how many accountants and lawyers have told me this is how they first learn about a client’s intention to sell their business. Ouch!

Exit Planning for Business Owners Timeline Graphic 3 Revised.png

5 Years Out: Steps to consider

Obtain a professional valuation of your business

Approximately five years before you plan to sell, you should get a professional business valuation (BV) of your enterprise. You want a fair and objective value for your business so you can get a sense of how it compares to other businesses in your industry and how much you can expect to net from the sale. A BV should also tell you your business's market position, financial situation, strengths, and weaknesses (which you can hopefully correct before putting your venture on the market).

You want to find a BV specialist who focuses on valuing your specific type of business or someone who has helped sell a business similar to yours. The most important driver of BV is recurring revenue. The more contracts you have in place with recurring revenue, the better for your valuation.

Get your financials in shape

 

This is also the time to get all of your financial statements in order. Don’t be a do-it-yourselfer here. Hire a competent CPA or bookkeeper to ensure your financials are accurate and consistent. This is also when you have to STOP running lots of personal expenses through your business. Buyers want to see clean expenses for the business only. Don’t procrastinate. You need to go cold turkey here!

Having clean, well-organized books is critical for giving potential buyers an accurate picture of your business. When it comes time to sell, you will have to explain EVERY line item and whether the line item in question is a one-time expense or an ongoing charge. You also need three to five years of accurate financials so buyers can get a sense of any cyclicality or industry trends affecting your business. Your CPA should specialize in working with small business owners. A few designations to look for are Certified Exit Planning Advisor (CEPA) by the Exit Planning Institute and a Certified Valuation Analyst (CVA) by the National Association of Certified Valuator and Analysts.

Consult your financial and tax advisors 

The buyer is going to look at what you pay yourself in terms of W2 salary and, if you are an S-Corp, what your distributions are from the company. From there, the buyer can estimate how long it will take to get their money back on a discounted cash flow basis.

Get your advisory team in place

Start interviewing attorneys and accountants who are proficient in mergers and acquisitions. Strongly consider hiring an intermediary--either a business broker or an investment banker--to represent you and help you through the selling process. 

Hiring a good investment banker will usually result in a higher sale price and/or better deal terms for the owner. Investment bankers typically have industry expertise and knowledge of possible buyers, plus they can screen possible buyers for you. Investment bankers also know how to structure and negotiate the sale. A business broker may or may not have the skills of an investment banker, but he or she will be able to market your business, help you find the best buyers and set a realistic asking price.

 

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3 Years Out: Steps to consider

Organize your legal paperwork
 

Review your incorporation papers, permits, licensing agreements, leases, customer and vendor contracts, etc. The buyer will want to know about customer contracts you have in place and when those contracts expire. The buyer will also want to know about contracts you have with vendors, and when those contracts expire. Most buyers will be anxious to know when they can contractually change to their preferred vendors.


Start your succession plan
 

Retaining your top managers and sales professionals is critical for the success of your business post- sale. Employment contracts and bonuses are key to retaining these top performers. You also want non-compete and non-solicitation agreements in place, so your key people don’t leave and take your best customers/clients with them. This is especially true if your sale is contingent on an earn-out basis.

 

Know the true profitability of your business

Most privately held businesses claim a variety of nonoperational expenses. Make sure you have supporting documentation for these expenses. For example, your business may be paying for your personal automobile lease. Also, there may be infrequent expenses you have incurred during the past three years that should be excluded in a buyer's analysis of recurring cash flow.

There could be one-time expenses such as software conversion fees or location moves that should be excluded from the annual expenses.


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1 Year Out: Steps to consider

REALLY know your reason for selling
 

Buyers are always curious as to why a seller wants to exit a business. Owners have a myriad of reasons for wanting to sell, but it could be a simple as wanting to retire and see the world. Perhaps they know a relative who hung on to their business for too long, so they were never able to retire fully before they or their spouse got too ill to travel.

 

Keep your eye on the ball 

Don't let your business performance decline because you're overly focused on selling your business. A sudden drop in revenue will only give buyers additional negotiating power to lower their offer. If you are immersed in selling your business and focus exclusively on revenue rather than profit, you could make the common mistake of taking on high-maintenance new clients or customers that increase your topline revenue, but decrease your profit margin and thus will be a drain on your business. Focus on bringing in profitable new business only.

 

Spruce up your “curb appeal”


Make sure your place of work is clean and tidy, and that any necessary repairs have been made. If there is equipment required to run your business, make sure it’s all in working order. Make any outdoor improvements to landscaping, signage, etc.  


Conclusion


Selling a business is one of the hardest and most emotionally wrenching transactions you may ever do in your life…..don’t be a do-it-yourselfer or a Last Minute Louie. There are so many things to consider to prepare for the sale, and what to do after the sale, you need someone to help you through this transition. If you or someone close to you is considering selling their business, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I’d be happy to help.

Robert J. Pyle, CFP®, CFA is president of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. (DAMI). DAMI is licensed as an investment adviser with the State of Colorado Division of Securities, and its investment advisory representatives are licensed by the State of Colorado. DAMI will only transact business in other states to the extent DAMI has made the requisite notice filings or obtained the necessary licensing in such state. No follow up or individualized responses to persons in other jurisdictions that involve either rendering or attempting to render personalized investment advice for compensation will be made absent compliance with applicable legal requirements, or an applicable exemption or exclusion. It does not constitute investment or tax advice. To contact Robert, call 303-440-2906 or e-mail info@diversifiedassetmanagement.com.

 

The views, opinion, information and content provided here are solely those of the respective authors, and may not represent the views or opinions of Diversified Asset Management, Inc.  The selection of any posts or articles should not be regarded as an explicit or implicit endorsement or recommendation of any such posts or articles, or services provided or referenced and statements made by the authors of such posts or articles.  Diversified Asset Management, Inc. cannot guarantee the accuracy or currency of any such third party information or content, and does not undertake to verify or update such information or content. Any such information or other content should not be construed as investment, legal, accounting or tax advice.

Is Your Business Still the Right Entity Under the New Tax Rule? Part 1

What you need to know about corporations, partnerships and other structures under which you do business

Key Takeaways:

  • There are six widely used business operating structures. Each has pros and cons depending on the owner’s income and estate planning options.

  • Choosing the right legal form for your business is critical for both legal and tax purposes

  • The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (2017 Tax Act) made significant changes that should be factored into your entity choice.


As many of you know, The 2017 Tax Act made significant changes to the tax code. Most significantly individual tax rates have dropped and now cap out at 37 percent (vs. prior 39.6 percent). Here are some of the other highlights:

  • The C Corp tax rate has decreased from 35 percent to 21 percent

  • Flow-Through entities and Sole Proprietors are generally eligible for 20 percent taxable income reduction which results in a maximum tax of 29.6 percent (vs. 37 percent) on up to $315,000 of Qualified Business Income.

  • Estate and gift tax rates have decreased from 45 percent to 40 percent (but only on net assets exceeding $11.18 million per spouse for 2018 – nearly doubling the prior exemption). However, most of these provisions will sunset in 2026, making long-term planning even more important – and challenging.

One of the most common questions we get from clients and friends is: “Which legal structure should is best for my new or existing business? My standard answer is: “Well, it depends on your specific facts.”

There are a multitude of legal, tax and operating issues to consider, and one size certainly does not fit all. The general choices for operating a business include the following:

1.     Sole Proprietorship – Schedule C

2.     Limited Liability Company (LLC)

3.     Limited Partnership

4.     General Partnership

5.     Subchapter S Corporation

6.     Subchapter C Corporation

There are also other legal entities that may be worth investigating for certain operations, including trusts, cooperatives and joint ventures in unincorporated form.

Following is a general summary of the pros and cons of the most common forms of operations and how structure may impact income tax and estate tax planning.

1) Sole Proprietorship

This is by far the simplest form of doing business and requires very little in the way of startup costs. While legal liability exposure is highest in this form, owners can still have employees, pay themselves a W-2 and fund various benefits in a Schedule C business. As noted above, Sole Proprietors are eligible for the potential 20% deduction against Qualified Business Income, with limitations phased in once taxable income exceeds $315,000 per taxpayer (not available to certain “specified service businesses”).

Estate and Gift Tax – Upon the death of the owner(s), the legal entities’ business and personal assets will transfer to trusts or heirs as outlined in the taxpayer’s trust and estate documents. Various minority and marketability discounts available to other legal structures are not available in a Sole Proprietorship.

2) Limited Liability Company (LLC)

LLCs are by far the most popular form of doing business for a variety of reasons, including limited legal liability for other members’ bad behavior, as well as flexibility in modifying the tax structure as your business plan evolves. There are various federal elections available to treat the entity in a variety of ways for tax purposes – see IRS Form 8832. The remaining discussion assumes a Partnership election is made.

Taxable income and losses (as well as credits) flow through to LLC members (and retain their “ordinary” or “capital” character) and member tax basis is adjusted. In addition, both partner and third-party loans can increase member tax basis. Also, moving assets and members in and out of the LLC is generally easier from a tax perspective than it is for a Corporation. As noted above, LLC’s are eligible for the potential 20 percent deduction against qualified business income, with limitations phased in once taxable income exceeds $315,000 per taxpayer (not available to certain “specified service businesses”).

Estate and Gift Tax – The most significant estate tax advantage associated with operating as an LLC that’s taxed as a Partnership is that upon the death of an LLC member, both the “outside” tax basis in the LLC units inherited and the tax basis in the assets held by the LLC on the date of death will be revalued to their fair market values. This offers a very significant advantage to your heirs when the LLC has increased in value during your lifetime. As discussed later, this “step-up” in basis of the underlying assets of an LLC is not afforded to either S Corporations or C Corporations.

3) Limited Partnership

A Limited Partnership must still have a General Partner (GP). LPs are generally not subject to self-employment tax on their K-1 income as is the case with most GP and LLC members. As noted above, Partnerships are eligible for the potential 20 percent deduction against Qualified Business Income.

Estate and Gift Tax – The value of the general and limited units will vary much more than the LLC units, based on the specific partnership terms.

Conclusion

An LLC or Limited Partnership generally provides you with the most flexible lifetime and post-mortem planning opportunities for your business. But you and your advisors must fully evaluate your specific facts and options based on the type of business operations you own and your overall estate plan. It is not uncommon for successful owners to have a variety of entities to achieve the most beneficial operational and income/ estate tax results. In Part 2 of this article we will discuss the other three common entity options: General Partnerships, Subchapter S Corporations and Subchapter C Corporations.

If you or someone close to you has concerns about the tax implications of their business structure, please don’t hesitate to at 303-440-2906 or schedule a call by clicking here.

Robert J. Pyle, CFP®, CFA is president of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. (DAMI). DAMI is licensed as an investment adviser with the State of Colorado Division of Securities, and its investment advisory representatives are licensed by the State of Colorado. DAMI will only transact business in other states to the extent DAMI has made the requisite notice filings or obtained the necessary licensing in such state. No follow up or individualized responses to persons in other jurisdictions that involve either rendering or attempting to render personalized investment advice for compensation will be made absent compliance with applicable legal requirements, or an applicable exemption or exclusion. It does not constitute investment or tax advice. To contact Robert, call 303-440-2906 or e-mail info@diversifiedassetmanagement.com.

 

The views, opinion, information and content provided here are solely those of the respective authors, and may not represent the views or opinions of Diversified Asset Management, Inc.  The selection of any posts or articles should not be regarded as an explicit or implicit endorsement or recommendation of any such posts or articles, or services provided or referenced and statements made by the authors of such posts or articles.  Diversified Asset Management, Inc. cannot guarantee the accuracy or currency of any such third party information or content, and does not undertake to verify or update such information or content. Any such information or other content should not be construed as investment, legal, accounting or tax advice.

Exit Planning for Business Owners

You’ve poured your blood, sweat, tears (and personal savings) into building a successful business. Congrats! You are considered a leader in your community, and you enjoy a sense of personal achievement that no corporate, government or non-profit employee could ever have. But there comes a time when taking some chips off the table—if not all of them—starts to sound appealing.

Most folks imagine you are quite wealthy by now but are you? Sure, you skimped on salary in the early years and didn’t put as much into your retirement account as you could have. But that shortfall will come back to you in spades after you sell, right?

With a median sale price of $225,000 for business, one can infer that only a small fraction of small business owners can cash out with enough money, so they never have to work again.

In fact, more than one-third of business owners (34%) have no retirement savings plan according to Manta, an online resource for small businesses owners. According to Manta data, many owners don’t feel they make enough money from their business to save for retirement. Others feel the need to tap all their savings to keep funding the business and don’t have enough left over to put toward retirement. More concerning, almost one in five owners told Manta they plan on using the expected proceeds from selling their business to retire on.

Supercharge your retirement savings especially if you’re in your 40s, 50s or 60s.

At a minimum, you should set up a 401(k) plan. If the plan is a “safe harbor” plan, then you should be able to contribute the maximum $19,000 a year to your 401(k)--$25,000 per year if you’re over age 50.  (A Safe Harbor 401k plan allows employers to provide a plan to its employees and avoid the annual testing to make sure the plan passes nondiscrimination rules. In this type of plan, employers contribute a minimum required amount to the employees to avoid testing. A non-safe harbor plan involves expensive annual compliance testing.)

Typically, if you make an additional profit-sharing contribution to employees, you should be able to max out at $56,000 a year, or $62,000 if over age 50. If this is still not enough to put you on track for your retirement goals, you can start a cash balance plan and contribute up to $200,000 a year or more to your retirement savings, but this requires an even larger employee contribution. See my article about Cash Balance Plans.

The exit planning process starts 3-5 years out

Rare is the owner who receives a buyout offer out of the blue that’s simply too generous to pass up.
You don’t just wake up one day and decide to sell. You don’t just pace a “for sale” sign on the door outside your offices and expect buyers to line up. It’s going to take some planning and spit and polishing beforehand….just like selling a house or a car. Research shows most owners don’t come close to getting an offer that’s commensurate with what they think the value of their business is. In fact, surveys indicate that one of the biggest deal breakers for prospective buyers of a business is the sloppy record keeping of the owner. It is critical to keep great financial records, so the buyer knows what they are purchasing. In addition, you should have audited financial records.

An AES Nation survey of 107 corporate attorneys three fourth (77%) of them said failing to prepare companies financially was a common or very common problem for business owners. AES Nation says that the three most important ways owners can prepare for a sale are:

1. Improving the balance sheet. This means being more effective with cash management and receivables and getting rid of non-performing assets.

2. Addressing the cost of funds. This means getting the right loan covenants and maximizing working capital.

3. Getting audited financial statements. This reduces the likelihood that you, the entrepreneur, will have liabilities after the sales closes.

I recently gave a presentation to a group of CPAs, and they told me one horror story after another about business owner clients who try to sell their businesses without telling their CPA beforehand. Even worse, the CPA doesn’t hear about the planned sale until the frantic owner calls with a last-minute question on the way to the closing. That is NOT the time to ask your CPA questions or to seek advice. You really need a professional team to strategize with before the sale. I’ll talk more about the kinds of specialists you need in a minute.


Preparing your business for sale—don’t wait until the last minute

In addition to getting your cash flow and financial statements in order, it’s very important to manage your human capital, too. Nearly three fourths (72%) of lawyers surveyed by AES Nation said it was very common for owners to forget to prepare their key personnel for the transition to new ownership. Your key employees are among the most valuable assets you can offer to new ownership. Make sure you have employment contracts in place that incentivize key personnel to stay with the company. You also need non-compete and non-solicitation agreements.

According, to Sheryl Brake, CPA/CGMA, CVA, CEPA of Encompass Transition Solutions, LLC, “The biggest mistake that business owners make when planning to sell their business is not beginning the process early enough.  The ideal time to start the process is 3 to 5 years before they actually want to transition out of their business. Beginning the process early gives the owner ample time to educate themselves, identify their options, and prepare the business for sale so that they maximize the value of the business and exit the business on their terms and their timeline.”

 

Avoid seller’s remorse

According to AES Nation, approximately half of business owners are unhappy after the sale of the company. To maximize the value of your business, you must improve the balance sheet, address the cost of funds, enhance the profits and make yourself “operationally irrelevant.”

One of the best books on business operations is called The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It by Michael Gerber. This book walks you through the steps from starting a business, growing a business and running a mature business. Until you can take a three-week vacation from the business and still have the enterprise run smoothly without you, all you really have is a demanding job. You don’t have a great business.


Don’t give your windfall to Uncle Sam


Selling a business is not all about getting the best price. It’s about maximizing the amount of money you and your family pocket after the sale is completed and what you do with that wealth—including planning the next chapter in your life.

According to an AES Nation, about 85 percent of business owners have not taken steps to mitigate taxes before the sale of a company. One way to lower your tax hit after selling is to utilize a “freezing trust.” This is a trust that passes on the value of your business to your children or grandchildren free of estate tax. I can tell you more about this technique when we meet.

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The general idea of a freezing trust is to gift some of your company stock to a trust and to sell more of the stock to the trust for a promissory note. When you gift the company stock to the trust and sell the company stock to the trust for a promissory note, you are getting the assets and future appreciation out of your taxable estate. When you sell the company, the value of the shares in the trust escapes estate taxes.

Your life v2.0

One of the hardest parts of retirement is deciding how to spend your time in your post-working retire. It’s even harder for successful business owners whose personal identify, values and reason for getting up in the morning is so intertwined with the business. Again, this process must start three to five years (not months) before you plan to sell. Some owners retire completely. Others stay on with the business in an advisory capacity. Others go back to work in another position—some even start a brand-new venture.

Don’t be a DIY when it comes to your exit

While it’s hard for many entrepreneurs to think they can’t sell their own business—who else knows it better? —countless studies show this is not a good idea. Selling a business successfully requires special skill sets that even your CPA and attorney often won’t have, let alone you.

You need a strong team including a CPA with experience in business transactions and possibly an investment banker. According to an AES Nation survey of corporate attorneys, nearly 92 percent strongly recommend using an investment banker if your business is valued between $1 and $10 million and almost all surveyed attorneys recommend using an investment bank if your business was valued at over $10 million. In fact, nearly half of surveyed attorneys (41.1%) recommended using an investment banker even if your business is valued at less than $1 million.

Conclusion

If you or someone close to you is considering selling their business, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I’d be happy to help.

Robert J. Pyle, CFP®, CFA is president of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. (DAMI). DAMI is licensed as an investment adviser with the State of Colorado Division of Securities, and its investment advisory representatives are licensed by the State of Colorado. DAMI will only transact business in other states to the extent DAMI has made the requisite notice filings or obtained the necessary licensing in such state. No follow up or individualized responses to persons in other jurisdictions that involve either rendering or attempting to render personalized investment advice for compensation will be made absent compliance with applicable legal requirements, or an applicable exemption or exclusion. It does not constitute investment or tax advice. To contact Robert, call 303-440-2906 or e-mail info@diversifiedassetmanagement.com.

 

The views, opinion, information and content provided here are solely those of the respective authors, and may not represent the views or opinions of Diversified Asset Management, Inc.  The selection of any posts or articles should not be regarded as an explicit or implicit endorsement or recommendation of any such posts or articles, or services provided or referenced and statements made by the authors of such posts or articles.  Diversified Asset Management, Inc. cannot guarantee the accuracy or currency of any such third party information or content, and does not undertake to verify or update such information or content. Any such information or other content should not be construed as investment, legal, accounting or tax advice.

Buy-Sell Agreements

20-plus issues for every closely held business owner to consider


Key Takeaways:

  • Buy-sell agreements come in three basic forms but must be individually tailored to suit the specific needs of your business.

  • Make sure the agreement meets your ongoing needs, including tax, retirement, insurance and funding issues.

  • Without appropriate “exit” plans in place, ownership changes can be worse than Hollywood divorces—bitter, expensive and devastating to all involved.



Almost all owners of closely held businesses put all of their time, effort and money into launching and growing their businesses. Tragically, they put little effort into protecting what they have built from devastation caused by one or more of the owners leaving the business. Without an appropriate “exit” plan in place, changes in business ownership can be worse than a Hollywood divorce—bitter, expensive and devastating to all involved.

Don’t be fooled! Changes in ownership happen every day in all types of businesses for a multitude of reasons: death, retirement, disability, divorce, voluntary and involuntary termination of employment, lawsuits, financial and economic setbacks, bankruptcy, and selling and gifting interests, just to name a few. The disruptions caused by these events usually result in severe financial consequences for everyone involved, including collateral damage to customer, supplier, banking and employee relationships as well as to long-term company goodwill.

Consider a buy-sell agreement from Day One


Perhaps the biggest tragedy is that most, if not all, of the aforementioned problems can be avoided by putting a well-drafted buy-sell agreement in place right from the start. That’s when all the owners are still in the “honeymoon” stage of the business and relations are most amicable. However, it is never too late to put a buy-sell agreement in place, and some honest thought and open communication will strengthen and protect the business and bring peace of mind to everyone involved. Remember, ownership changes are bound to happen, but having a plan in place to deal with those changes will always smooth out the road ahead.

Next steps


Now that you are convinced that a buy-sell plan is critical for the health and well-being of both the business and the individual business owners, where do you go from here? First, consult with an experienced business lawyer who can walk you through the process and help craft a plan that fits the specific needs of both the business and the individual owners. Second, understand that no two agreements are ever the same, although they generally fall into one of three categories:

1.      Cross-Purchase Agreements, which can be ideal for a business with a small number of owners. When a triggering event occurs, the remaining owners directly purchase the departing owner’s interests in the business.

2.      Stock Redemption Agreements, which can be simpler and easier to structure. Generally they can be better-suited for entities with more owners. With these types of agreements the entity purchases the ownership interests of the departing owner. The remaining owners receive an increase in the value of their interests, not in the number of interests they own.

3.      Hybrid Agreements, which are a combination of cross-purchase agreements and redemption agreements. Generally the entity has the obligation to redeem the interest of the departing owner, but the remaining owners have the option of directly purchasing the departing owner’s interests if the entity is unwilling or unable to do so.

In order to determine which type of agreement will best suit your needs, consider the following issues:

  1. How many owners does the business have today and will have in the future?

  2. Is the business family-owned or are third parties involved?

  3. What type of business is involved, and are there specific issues that need to be addressed relating to the entity’s business, such as professional licensing or trade issues?

  4. What is the legal structure of the business: corporation, S corporation, partnership, limited liability company?

  5. What is the age and health status of each business owner?

  6. Is each of the owners insurable?

  7. What percentage of the business does each owner hold?

  8. What is the value of the business, and how is that value determined?

  9. What are the tax implications of each type of agreement?

  10. What are the transfer implications of each type of agreement?

  11. What restrictions will be put on the transfer of interests?

  12. Will the interests be subject to rights of first refusal?

  13. How will the business be valued and the purchase price determined? How often will the business be revalued? Will the interests be valued differently depending on the specific transfer event?

  14. Will there be penalty provisions for violating the terms of the agreements and/or conduct damaging the business?

  15. How will the transfer of interests be funded? Will insurance such as life insurance and disability insurance be mandated, and if so, how will premiums be paid?

  16. How will the transfers be paid, all upfront or over time? If the payments are over time, what are the terms and the arrangements to secure payment?

  17. Is the agreement aligned with other important legal documents such as the entity organizational documents, employment agreements, business agreements and contracts, banking agreements, and the estate planning documents of the individual owners?

  18. Coordinate the agreement with related property that may be owned by each of the business owners. Examples include affiliated businesses, insurance policies, land and personal property, intellectual property, and leases.

  19. How will termination of the business be handled?

  20. How often will the agreement be reviewed? Doing so annually is a good idea.

  21. How will disputes related to the agreement be handled—litigation, mediation or arbitration?

The foregoing is not a complete checklist of every issue that needs to be considered, but it will give you a good platform to begin discussions between you and your legal counsel.

Conclusion


First, properly structured buy-sell agreements are critical to the survival of any closely held business; they are not an option. Second, these agreements must be tailored to the specific needs of the business. One size doesn’t fit all. Finally, businesses and relationships constantly change; consequently, buy-sell agreements must be reviewed and updated regularly. An out-of-date agreement is next to worthless.

 

Robert J. Pyle, CFP®, CFA is president of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. (DAMI). DAMI is licensed as an investment adviser with the State of Colorado Division of Securities, and its investment advisory representatives are licensed by the State of Colorado. DAMI will only transact business in other states to the extent DAMI has made the requisite notice filings or obtained the necessary licensing in such state. No follow up or individualized responses to persons in other jurisdictions that involve either rendering or attempting to render personalized investment advice for compensation will be made absent compliance with applicable legal requirements, or an applicable exemption or exclusion. It does not constitute investment or tax advice. To contact Robert, call 303-440-2906 or e-mail info@diversifiedassetmanagement.com.

 

The views, opinion, information and content provided here are solely those of the respective authors, and may not represent the views or opinions of Diversified Asset Management, Inc.  The selection of any posts or articles should not be regarded as an explicit or implicit endorsement or recommendation of any such posts or articles, or services provided or referenced and statements made by the authors of such posts or articles.  Diversified Asset Management, Inc. cannot guarantee the accuracy or currency of any such third party information or content, and does not undertake to verify or update such information or content. Any such information or other content should not be construed as investment, legal, accounting or tax advice.



Smarter Business Exit Strategies

Too many business succession plans don’t work out as planned, but smart owners can get back on track and stay that way for the long-term.


Key Takeaways:

  • Most business owners create unnecessary risks for their families, employees and clients by failing to fund business succession plans.

  • Every business owner should establish a clear vision for his or her transition and look for ways to improve after-tax returns.

  • Business owners can reduce the costs of succession plans by 50 percent by using pre-tax dollars to pay for insurance.

 

Many successful entrepreneurs, especially Boomers, may be thinking that now is the right time to exit their businesses. Unfortunately, business transitions don’t usually go as smoothly as expected. The failure rate of succession plans is now at eyebrow-raising levels. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

What motivates most business owners to think about a business succession plan?

Scary stories about failed companies motivate business owners to consider implementing a business succession plan. Despite the obvious need, few plans are actually designed, drafted and funded properly. High professional fees and insurance costs often take the blame when business owners are asked why they did not implement a succession plan.

Why do so many succession plans miss the mark?

Most business succession plans fail. According to Harvard Business Review, only 30 percent of the businesses make it to Generation Two and a mere 3 percent survive to generate profits in Generation Three. Estate planning experts such as Perry Cochell, Rodney Zeeb and George Hester came up with similarly disappointing numbers. Given this dismal success record for family business transitions, it is no wonder that 65 percent of family wealth is lost by the second generation and 90 percent by the third generation. By the third generation, more than 90 percent of estate value is lost despite the efforts of well-meaning advisors. It does NOT have to be this way.

What is the biggest problem business owners face when they try to implement succession plans?

Unless a business succession plan addresses tax issues, company owners can lose much of their wealth to taxes on income, capital gains, IRD, gifts, estates and other taxes. In most successful businesses, the company will generate taxable cash flow that exceeds what is needed to fund the owner’s lifestyle. This extra cash flow is usually taxed at the highest top marginal state and federal income tax rates. When the after-tax proceeds are invested, the growth is subject to the highest capital gains rates. Ultimately, when the remaining assets are passed to family members or successor managers, there could be a 40 percent gift or estate tax applied.

How can owners and their advisors solve this tax problem?

Every business owner should establish a clear vision for his or her transition and look for ways to improve after-tax returns. Tax-efficient planning strategies are needed to guide decisions about daily operations and business exit strategies. An astute advisor can help you find ways to fund business succession agreements in ways that generate current income tax deductions while allowing the business to generate tax-free income for the business owner and/or successors.

What are some other ways to reduce taxes?

There are many tax-advantaged business succession techniques that give business owners a competitive edge. Qualified plans provide tax deductions in the current years, but they are not typically as tax-efficient for funding a buy-sell. More advanced planning strategies involving Section 79 and Section 162 plans can provide tax-free payments for the retiring executive or death benefits for family members, but limit the tax deductions when the plans are funded. There are very few options when owners seek up-front tax deductions, tax-free growth and tax-free payments to themselves and/or their heirs.

Bottom line

Advanced planning strategies allow business owners to fund business continuity plans more cost-effectively. Business owners should work with advisors who can design a plan that can convert extra taxable income into tax-free cash flow for retirement and/or the tax-free purchase of equity from the business owner’s estate.

Once the plan has been designed, experienced attorneys will draft legal documents to facilitate the tax-efficient plan funding. This integration of design, drafting and funding helps ensure effective implementation of the strategy as well as proper realization of benefits under a variety of scenarios. An experienced advisor should be able to help you quantify how planning costs are just a small fraction of the expected benefits. More important, these financial benefits bring peace of mind to the business owner, the owner’s family and to key executives. Great clarity and confidence results from having a business continuity plan that has been designed properly, drafted effectively and funded tax-efficiently.

Robert J. Pyle, CFP®, CFA is president of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. (DAMI). DAMI is licensed as an investment adviser with the State of Colorado Division of Securities, and its investment advisory representatives are licensed by the State of Colorado. DAMI will only transact business in other states to the extent DAMI has made the requisite notice filings or obtained the necessary licensing in such state. No follow up or individualized responses to persons in other jurisdictions that involve either rendering or attempting to render personalized investment advice for compensation will be made absent compliance with applicable legal requirements, or an applicable exemption or exclusion. It does not constitute investment or tax advice. To contact Robert, call 303-440-2906 or e-mail info@diversifiedassetmanagement.com.

 

The views, opinion, information and content provided here are solely those of the respective authors, and may not represent the views or opinions of Diversified Asset Management, Inc.  The selection of any posts or articles should not be regarded as an explicit or implicit endorsement or recommendation of any such posts or articles, or services provided or referenced and statements made by the authors of such posts or articles.  Diversified Asset Management, Inc. cannot guarantee the accuracy or currency of any such third party information or content, and does not undertake to verify or update such information or content. Any such information or other content should not be construed as investment, legal, accounting or tax advice.

Six Really Dumb Things That Business Owners Do at Year-End

Avoiding calendar-related cardinal sins

Key Takeaways:

  • Spending money just to get a tax write-off is a really dumb thing to do.

  • Rushing to finish a project just because it’s year-end will often end up badly.

  • When you buy stuff you don’t need, it often ends up in the trash.

  • Paying bonuses just because you always pay them every year sets a bad precedent.

 

Around this time of year you start seeing lots of advice about what you should do for year-end planning. I’m going to take a slightly different tack. I’m going to talk about some of the really dumb things I see business owners do at year-end to reduce taxes.

Let’s face it; none of us likes to pay taxes. At the same time, a tax deduction is just a tax deduction. If you’re spending money unwisely, you’re taking at least 60 cents out of every dollar you spend and just flushing it down the toilet. This isn’t something you want to do, is it?

1. Buy capital equipment you don’t need

Just because you are having a good year doesn’t mean you should go out and buy equipment to get a tax write-off. Before you buy any type of capital equipment, always do an analysis to see if there is a true payoff for the expense.

When you and your advisor are contemplating what to do about some extra cash that’s burning a hole in your company’s pocket, make sure you figure out how to assess the ROI on the intended purchase. If the purchase doesn’t cover its cost of capital, then you shouldn’t spend the money, period.

Make sure you acknowledge the tendency we all have to overspend in December — with the inevitable cash crunch in February. You and your advisor will be glad you did.

2. Pay bonuses because you had a good year

When business owners do this, I call it the “pennies from heaven” bonus. Employees don’t know why they’ve received the bonus. They surely will appreciate it, but you haven’t communicated with your employees about why they received the extra money.

The real problem with a ”pennies from heaven“ bonus system occurs after you have done this two or three years in a row and then have a terrible year. Employees become resentful if they feel their employer is skipping the annual bonus to which they feel entitled. Even worse, when ”pennies from heaven“ bonuses are the norm, many employees have already spent the bonus money (at least in their minds) before it ever shows up in their paychecks. After all, it’s been paid in the past and now it’s perceived as an expectation, not just a reward.

I love variable compensation. I just want my employees and yours to understand why they’ve earned it. If you want to pay year-end bonuses, make sure the bonuses are based on some company metrics. If you do this, make sure your employees know throughout the year how they are tracking toward earning a bonus. If there isn’t one in the future, communicate early and clearly why a bonus isn’t going to be paid.

3. Rushing to buy a business before year-end

There is nothing magical about December 31. If you’re really not ready to close the transaction, don’t do it. The world won’t come to an end.

Rushing into any transaction, let alone buying a business, is always a bad idea. It’s really hard to do an acquisition that’s accretive under the best of circumstances. The only way to make a business purchase that actually works is to be mindful and carefully follow a purchase process that you’ve designed before you start.

The process should not be based on anything happening at any special time. That is, unless there is an unusual reason that the seller has to sell before the end of the year.

I’ve never seen an acquisition go quickly. Stay the course and follow an acquisition process that you know has a chance of making a smart purchase that you will be proud of.

4. Rush because it’s year-end

For that matter, don’t rush to finish up a project just because the end of the year is coming. I made that mistake when I launched our new website. For some reason I decided that I had to rush to get our site up and running before the end of the year.

One of the things I missed was making sure that all of the pages from our old site were linked to the proper pages on our new site. Our old site was never mapped to our new site. Because we didn’t map our site properly, Google penalized our site for almost a year. This happened just because I rushed a project for no really good reason.

5. Increase your inventory

If you are a cash-based taxpayer, you can deduct inventory as you buy it. The problem with loading up on inventory is that you then have to sell it. If you have too much inventory, you can be sure that some of it is going to go bad.

Don’t fall prey to end-of-the-year deals. They’re always just so your suppliers can make their numbers. If you must load up on inventory, make sure you have a way to return stuff you can’t use. Otherwise, you’re just going to rent a dumpster for those great deals you couldn’t resist.

6. A tax write-off still means you’re spending money

The days of tax credits for buying stuff are long gone. Don’t buy stuff just because you have money burning a hole in your pocket. You shouldn’t either. A tax write-off is only part of the money you spend. It really does come out of your pocket.

A tax deduction is just that, a deduction. Spending money just to get a deduction often turns out really poorly. We either end up junking stuff, throwing inventory away or resenting the feeling that we have to pay a bonus.

Buying capital equipment, setting a precedent for compensation or increasing your inventory because it’s a good deal too often means you just spent money that you’re going to need in the next year. Even worse, being forced into a major activity like buying a business can be worse than painful. It might just end up being a business disaster.

Conclusion

Be smart and think about your year-end purchases just like you would for one in April. If you need it and can afford the expenditure, go for it. Otherwise wait. You’ll be glad you did.

Robert J. Pyle, CFP®, CFA is president of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. (DAMI). DAMI is licensed as an investment adviser with the State of Colorado Division of Securities, and its investment advisory representatives are licensed by the State of Colorado. DAMI will only transact business in other states to the extent DAMI has made the requisite notice filings or obtained the necessary licensing in such state. No follow up or individualized responses to persons in other jurisdictions that involve either rendering or attempting to render personalized investment advice for compensation will be made absent compliance with applicable legal requirements, or an applicable exemption or exclusion. It does not constitute investment or tax advice. To contact Robert, call 303-440-2906 or e-mail info@diversifiedassetmanagement.com.

The views, opinion, information and content provided here are solely those of the respective authors, and may not represent the views or opinions of Diversified Asset Management, Inc.  The selection of any posts or articles should not be regarded as an explicit or implicit endorsement or recommendation of any such posts or articles, or services provided or referenced and statements made by the authors of such posts or articles.  Diversified Asset Management, Inc. cannot guarantee the accuracy or currency of any such third party information or content, and does not undertake to verify or update such information or content. Any such information or other content should not be construed as investment, legal, accounting or tax advice.

Maximizing Small-Business Tax Deductions

Maximizing small-business tax deductions

How small-business owners can take advantage of Section 199A

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) passed in December 2017 offers a wealth of opportunities to small-business owners. Among the most notable provisions is Section 199A, which provides for qualified business income (QBI) deductions. These deductions are available to taxpayers who are not corporations, including S corporations, partnerships, sole proprietorships and rental properties.

While Section 199A provides a huge tax break for small-business owners, determining who is qualified can be complicated. In addition to eligibility requirements, there are income thresholds after which deductions are phased out. Here’s a look at who is eligible to use Section 199A, as well as strategies business owners above phase-out thresholds can use to recapture QBI deductions. 

Are you eligible?           

In general, small-business owners may qualify for QBI deductions if they meet one of the following criteria:

  •  No matter the type of business, if a business owner’s taxable income falls below $157,500 for single filers or $315,000 for joint filers, that business owner is eligible for a QBI deduction. That deduction is equal to the smaller of 20% of their qualified business income or 20% or their taxable income.

  • Businesses that offer specified service—such as lawyers, accountants, athletes, financial services, consultants, doctors, performing artists, and others with jobs based on reputation or skill—may have deductions phased out if they make too much money. If your income is above $207,500 for single filers or $415,000 for joint filers, you can no longer claim the QBI deduction.

  • If you own a business that is not a service business or a specialized trade, the QBI deduction is partially phased out if your taxable income is above $157,500 for single filers or $315,000 for joint filers. The deduction is limited to the lesser of either 20% of qualified business income or the greater of the following: 50% of W-2 wages paid, or the sum of 25% of W-2 wages paid by the business generating the income plus 2.5% times the cost of depreciable assets

The retirement solution

If your income is above the phase-out limits, you can preserve your full deduction by making smart use of retirement plans. Here’s a look at a few examples of ways to strategically employ retirement plans to reduce your income and recapture a QBI deduction:

Example 1: A couple, age 50, with a specified service business

A couple, each 50 years old, has a specific service business in the form of an S corp that pays W-2 wages of $146,000 and pass-through income of $254,000, for a total income of $400,000. The couple claims the standard deduction of $24,000, making their adjusted gross income $376,000. Because of their high earnings, the couple’s QBI deduction is only $19,812 due to QBI phase-outs. Their total income is  $356,188.

The couple can capture their full QBI deduction by setting up and funding a 401(k) plan. They can set up an individual 401(k) plan, deferring $24,500 as an employee contribution and contributing 25% of salary, or $36,500, as a profit sharing contribution. The deferral and profit sharing max out their individual 401(k) plan with a total contribution of $61,000. In this way, their W-2 wages are reduced to $121,500, and their pass-through income is reduced to $217,500 after the profit sharing contribution. Their total income after the standard deduction is $315,000.

As a result, the couple can claim their full QBI deduction of $43,500 (20% of 217,500), and their income is now $271,500. With a $61,000 contribution to a 401(k), the couple was able to effectively reduce their income by $84,688. In other words, this couple was able to get 1.39 times the income reduction for every dollar they contributed to a retirement plan. 

Example 2: A couple, age 55, with a higher-income specified service business,

Business owners who earn higher income may need to deploy additional retirement plans to capture their QBI deduction. Consider an S corp that pays W-2 wages of $146,000 to the couple, and pass-through income of $317,500 for a total income of $463,500. They claim the standard deduction of $24,000 and their adjusted gross income becomes $439,500. The couple does not receive a QBI deduction because their high income results in a complete phase-out. Their total income therefore remains $439,500.

However, this couple can still take advantage of a QBI deduction by setting up an individual 401(k) plan and deferring $24,500 as an employee contribution. They also can add a defined benefit (DB) plan or a cash balance (CB) plan and contribute even more to a retirement plan. Suppose they set up a DB or a CB plan and the actuaries calculated they could contribute $100,000 to the plan for a total combined contribution of $124,500. In this case, their W-2 wages are reduced to $121,500 and their pass thru income is $217,500.

The couple’s total income after the standard deduction is $315,000. Their QBI deduction is $43,500 (20% of $217,500) and their income is now $271,500. With $124,500 in contributions to their individual 401(k) plan and DB or CB plan the couple received a $168,000 income reduction. This couple was able to get 1.35 times of income reduction for every dollar they contributed to a retirement plan.  

This material is for educational purposes and is not intended to provide tax advice. Talk to your tax professional to find out how QBI deductions may apply to your financial situation.

To learn more about how to maximize your QBI deduction, please email us at rpyle@diversifiedassetmanagement.com or call (303) 440-2906.

Robert J. Pyle, CFP®, CFA is president of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. (DAMI). DAMI is licensed as an investment adviser with the State of Colorado Division of Securities, and its investment advisory representatives are licensed by the State of Colorado. DAMI will only transact business in other states to the extent DAMI has made the requisite notice filings or obtained the necessary licensing in such state. No follow up or individualized responses to persons in other jurisdictions that involve either rendering or attempting to render personalized investment advice for compensation will be made absent compliance with applicable legal requirements, or an applicable exemption or exclusion. It does not constitute investment or tax advice. To contact Robert, call 303-440-2906 or e-mail info@diversifiedassetmanagement.com.

The views, opinion, information and content provided here are solely those of the respective authors, and may not represent the views or opinions of Diversified Asset Management, Inc.  The selection of any posts or articles should not be regarded as an explicit or implicit endorsement or recommendation of any such posts or articles, or services provided or referenced and statements made by the authors of such posts or articles.  Diversified Asset Management, Inc. cannot guarantee the accuracy or currency of any such third party information or content, and does not undertake to verify or update such information or content. Any such information or other content should not be construed as investment, legal, accounting or tax advice

Business Owner or Corporate Exec: Are You On Track to Retire (Someday)?

If you are a business owner, corporate executive or similar professional, “success” often means at least two things. There’s the career satisfaction you’ve worked your tail off for. Then there’s that question that starts whispering in your ear early on, growing louder over time: 

Am I on track to retire on my own terms and timeline? (And if not, what should I do about it?) 

While every family’s circumstances are unique and personalized retirement planning is advised, the ballpark reference below can help you consider how your current nest eggs stack up. It shows the savings you’ll want to have accumulated, assuming the following: 

•  You’re saving 10–16% of your salary (or equivalent income) and receiving an annual raise of 3%.

•  Your annual investment return is 6%.

•  At retirement (age 65) you want to spend 40% of your final salary (with Social Security making up an additional 20–40% of the same). 

•  You plan to withdraw 4% annually from your portfolio.

Salary vs. Age vs. Desired Savings Today (To Retire at 65)

Savings 2.JPG

Still feeling a little overwhelmed by the size of the chart? Let’s look at some plausible scenarios. 

Let’s say you are a 40-year-old couple earning $100,000 annually. The table suggests you should have saved about $317,000 by now. If you continue to save 10–16% of your salary every year and the other assumptions above hold true as well, you should be on track to retire at age 65 and replace 40% of your final paychecks by withdrawing 4% of your portfolio each year. If you’re already 50 and pulling in $200,000, your savings should be right around $1.067 million to be on track in the same manner. 

Do your numbers not add up as well as you’d like? No need to panic, but it’s likely you’ll want to get planning for how you can make up the gap. That may mean saving more, retiring later in life, investing more aggressively or employing a judicious combination of all of the above. 

If you’re not sure how to get started, I recommend turning to a professional, fee-only advisor who you’re comfortable working with. He or she should be able to offer you an objective perspective to help you decide and implement your next steps. In the meantime, here is one tip to consider. 

How To Channel Your Salary Increases Into Retirement Assets

As you approach retirement, many business owners’ or corporate executives’ salaries tend to increase, while some of their expenses (such as the mortgage) remain level. If that’s the case and you’re behind on your retirement savings, you may be able to direct your annual salary increases into increased saving. 

For example let’s say you’ve been saving 7% of your salary, or $10,500/year, and you receive a 3% raise.  Take that extra 3% ($4,500) and direct it into savings. Without having to alter your current spending, you’re now saving 9.7% of your salary or $15,000 total.  If you get another 3% raise the following year, do it again and you’ll be saving $19,635 or about 12.3% of your $159,135 salary. 

And so on. If you can’t allocate all of every raise every year to increased savings, do as much as you’re able and the numbers should start adding up, without having to significantly tighten your belt. Who knows, as you and your spouse see the numbers grow, you may even begin to enjoy the exercise. 

One repeated caveat before we go: Remember that the table above offers only rough saving guidelines. It’s certainly not the final word, and should not be taken as such. In addition to saving for retirement, you’ll want to ensure that the rest of your financial house is in order, so your plans won’t be knocked off course by life’s many surprises. 

Again, a financial professional can assist. He or she can help ensure that your investment portfolio is well diversified (to manage investment risk), your estate plan is current, your advance directives and insurance policies are in place, and your tax strategies are thoughtfully prepared.  

So, start with the chart, and give us a call if we can tell you more. 


Robert J. Pyle, CFP®, CFA is president of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. (DAMI). DAMI is licensed as an investment adviser with the State of Colorado Division of Securities, and its investment advisory representatives are licensed by the State of Colorado. DAMI will only transact business in other states to the extent DAMI has made the requisite notice filings or obtained the necessary licensing in such state. No follow up or individualized responses to persons in other jurisdictions that involve either rendering or attempting to render personalized investment advice for compensation will be made absent compliance with applicable legal requirements, or an applicable exemption or exclusion. It does not constitute investment or tax advice. To contact Robert, call 303-440-2906 or e-mail info@diversifiedassetmanagement.com.
 


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