Friday, October 5, 2018
Companies often grant licenses to others allowing them to use intellectual property — such as a patent or proprietary computer code — in exchange for royalties. Licensors can hire an external audit firm to ensure the licensee pays the correct royalty rate and amount. Here’s how the audit process works.
The parties’ attorneys usually create a royalty agreement that governs the use of the intellectual property. This legal contract between the licensor and licensee details the terms of the arrangement. It spells out how the licensee may use the asset, the duration of the license and how much the licensee agrees to pay the licensor in royalties for the right to use the asset.
Unfortunately, royalty payments sometimes fall short of the agreed-upon amount. This may be due to a clerical error, confusion regarding the agreement’s terms — or even fraud. To detect and deter shortfalls, most contracts include a “right-to-audit” clause, meaning that the licensor retains the legal right to hire an outside firm to audit the licensee’s payments to confirm compliance with the terms detailed in the agreement.
The auditor’s role
When auditing royalty agreements, CPAs typically perform the following six steps:
1. Review the agreement to understand its scope, including the asset under license, the duration of the contract, prohibited uses and the royalty rate.
2. Analyze sales data used to derive royalty payments to date. Depending on the type of asset under license, the audit team may request production and inventory records.
3. Perform a detailed walk-through of the process the licensee follows to identify, track and report sales subject to a royalty payment.
4. Conduct random sampling of sales data to ensure the licensee applies the correct rate to generate the royalty payment.
5. Review sales and royalty payment trends to confirm that the licensee’s sales align with the royalty payments.
6. Gather individual invoices from key customers to locate and confirm that sales transactions subject to royalties actually generated a royalty payment.
Usually, the licensor assumes the cost of the royalty audit. However, some agreements include a clause that requires the licensee to assume responsibility for the cost of the audit if the audit uncovers underpayment of royalties by a certain margin.
Keep licensees on their toes
Most licensing arrangements function without a hitch. But a minor error or oversight could result in a significant shortfall in royalty payments. Periodic royalty audits can prevent small, but honest, mistakes from spiraling out of control — and help reduce the temptation for dishonest licensees to commit fraud. Contact us to discuss the benefits of auditing your royalty agreements.
Friday, September 28, 2018
If your not-for-profit is contemplating a merger or acquisition with another organization, you have a lot of work ahead of you. One of the most daunting challenges is keeping leaders focused and invested in the process. Most nonprofits are run by both board members and internal management, and this structure can bog down decision making and make transitions difficult.
Discussions between merging nonprofits often begin a year or more before the actual integration takes place. And whether it’s a merger forming a new organization or an acquisition enlarging an existing nonprofit, leaders must make critical decisions during five phases:
1. Idea. Internal managers, and then board leadership, typically meet as a group to discuss the benefits of joining forces.
2. Formalizing. Here, the two nonprofits formalize their decision to combine. This can be achieved in a letter of intent that outlines expectations, agreed-upon roles for each organization and a timeframe. It’s in this phase that the two organizations and their leaders learn about each other and decide whether they want to go forward with the plan.
3. Development. Key leaders must be evaluated for their complementary skills and the role each might play in the new organization. Also, the board and management must develop a shared vision for the new organization. Mutual respect and trust, flexibility, and a willingness to compromise are important at this stage.
The team that works through the development phase must include representatives of all stake-holder groups. This includes board members, key management and staff, and constituents served. Involvement of all groups will result in greater buy-in and smoother integration.
4. Due diligence. Due diligence involves formal research into each of the combining organizations. Leaders ensure that financial and legal advisors have the materials they need to review and evaluate issues and potential impediments to the proposed merger.
5. Transition. Planned changes are implemented during this final phase, making it the most difficult and time-consuming for leadership. You may need to make an official name change, apply for a new tax-exempt status, communicate changes with the community and physically move locations.
All hands on deck
Your organization’s leaders should participate in evaluating the strategic potential of a merger and preparing the transition. Some of your executives and board members may have experience combining organizations. But even with such in-house expertise, your nonprofit needs to involve professionals such as accountants and attorneys in the process. Contact us for information.
Friday, September 21, 2018
Do you own a vacation home? If you both rent it out and use it personally, you might save tax by taking steps to ensure it qualifies as a rental property this year. Vacation home expenses that qualify as rental property expenses aren’t subject to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act’s (TCJA’s) new limit on the itemized deduction for state and local taxes (SALT) or the lower debt limit for the itemized mortgage interest deduction.
Rental or personal property?
If you rent out your vacation home for 15 days or more, what expenses you can deduct depends on how the home is classified for tax purposes, based on the amount of personal vs. rental use:
Rental property. If you (or your immediate family) use the home for 14 days or less, or under 10% of the days you rent out the property, whichever is greater, the IRS will classify the home as a rental property. You can deduct rental expenses, including losses, subject to the real estate activity rules.
Your deduction for property tax attributable to the rental use of the home isn’t subject to the TCJA’s new SALT deduction limit. And your deduction for mortgage interest on the home isn’t subject to the debt limit that applies to the itemized deduction for mortgage interest. You can’t deduct any interest that’s attributable to your personal use of the home, but you can take the personal portion of property tax as an itemized deduction (subject to the new SALT limit).
Nonrental property. If you (or your immediate family) use the home for more than 14 days or 10% of the days you rent out the property, whichever is greater, the IRS will classify the home as a personal residence. You can deduct rental expenses only to the extent of your rental income. Any excess can be carried forward to offset rental income in future years.
If you itemize deductions, you also can deduct the personal portion of both property tax and mortgage interest, subject to the TCJA’s new limits on those deductions. The SALT deduction limit is $10,000 for the combined total of state and local property taxes and either income taxes or sales taxes ($5,000 for married taxpayers filing separately). For mortgage interest debt incurred after December 15, 2017, the debt limit (with some limited exceptions) has been reduced to $750,000.
Be aware that many taxpayers who have itemized in the past will no longer benefit from itemizing because of the TCJA’s near doubling of the standard deduction. Itemizing saves tax only if total itemized deductions exceed the standard deduction for the taxpayer’s filing status.
Keep in mind that, if you rent out your vacation home for less than 15 days, you don’t have to report the income. But expenses associated with the rental (such as advertising and cleaning) won’t be deductible.
Now is a good time to review your vacation home use year-to-date to project how it will be classified for tax purposes. By increasing the number of days you rent it out and/or reducing the number of days you use it personally between now and year end, you might be able to ensure it’s classified as a rental property and save some tax. But there also could be circumstances where personal property treatment would be beneficial. Please contact us to discuss your particular situation.
Friday, August 31, 2018
There’s no law that says you can’t prepare your own estate plan. And with an abundance of online services that automate the creation of wills and other documents, it’s easy to do. But unless your estate is small and your plan is exceedingly simple, the pitfalls of do-it-yourself (DIY) estate planning can be many.
Dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s
A common mistake people make with DIY estate planning is to neglect the formalities associated with the execution of wills and other documents. Rules vary from state to state regarding the number and type of witnesses who must attest to a will and what, specifically, they must attest to.
Also, states have different rules about interested parties (that is, beneficiaries) serving as witnesses to a will or trust. In many states, interested parties are ineligible to serve as witnesses. In others, an interested-party witness triggers an increase in the required number of witnesses (from two to three, for example).
Keeping abreast of tax law changes
Legislative developments during the last several years demonstrate how changes in the tax laws from one year to the next can have a dramatic impact on your estate planning strategies. DIY service providers don’t offer legal or tax advice — and provide lengthy disclaimers to prove it. Thus, they cannot be expected to warn users that tax law changes may adversely affect their plans.
Consider this example: A decade ago, in 2008, George used an online service to generate estate planning documents. At the time, his estate was worth $4 million and the federal estate tax exemption was $2 million.
George’s plan provided for the creation of a trust for the benefit of his children, funded with the maximum amount that could be transferred free of federal estate tax, with the remainder going to his wife, Ann. If George died in 2008, for example, $2 million would have gone into the trust and the remaining $2 million would have gone to Ann.
Suppose, however, that George dies in 2018, when the federal estate tax exemption has increased to $11.18 million and his estate has grown to $10 million. Under the terms of his plan, the entire $10 million — all of which can be transferred free of federal estate tax — will pass to the trust, leaving nothing for Ann.
While even a qualified professional couldn’t have predicted in 2008 what the estate tax exemption would be at George’s death, he or she could have structured a plan that would provide the flexibility needed to respond to tax law changes.
Don’t try this at home
These are just a few examples of the many pitfalls associated with DIY estate planning. To help ensure that you achieve your estate planning objectives, contact us to review your existing plan.
Friday, August 17, 2018
Analytical procedures can make audits more efficient and effective. First, they can help during the planning and review stages of the audit. But analytics can have an even bigger impact when used to supplement substantive testing during fieldwork.
Defining audit analytics
AICPA auditing standards define analytical procedures as “evaluations of financial information through analysis of plausible relationships among both financial and nonfinancial data.” Analytical procedures also investigate “identified fluctuations or relationships that are inconsistent with other relevant information or that differ from expected values by a significant amount.” Examples of analytical tests include trend, ratio and regression analysis.
Using analytical procedures
During fieldwork, auditors can use analytical procedures to obtain evidence, sometimes in combination with other substantive testing procedures, that identifies misstatements in account balances. Analytical procedures are often more efficient than traditional, manual audit testing procedures that typically require the business being audited to produce significant paperwork. Traditional procedures also usually require substantial time to verify account balances and transactions.
Analytical procedures generally follow these five steps:
1. Form an independent expectation about an account balance or financial relationship.
2. Identify differences between expected and reported amounts.
3. Investigate the most probable cause(s) of any discrepancies.
4. Evaluate the likelihood of material misstatement.
5. Determine the nature and extent of any additional auditing procedures needed.
When using analytical procedures, the auditor must establish a threshold that can be accepted without further investigation. This threshold is a matter of professional judgment, but it’s influenced primarily by the concept of materiality and the desired level of assurance.
For differences that are due to misstatement (rather than a plausible explanation), the auditor must decide whether the misstatement is material (individually or in the aggregate). Material misstatements typically require adjustments to the amount reported and may also necessitate additional audit procedures to determine the scope of the misstatement.
Your role in audit analytics
Done right, analytical procedures can help make your audit less time-consuming, less expensive and more effective at detecting errors and omissions. But it’s important to notify your auditor about any major changes to your operations, accounting methods or market conditions that occurred during the current accounting period.
This insight can help auditors develop more reliable expectations for analytical testing and identify plausible explanations for significant changes from the balance reported in prior periods. Moreover, now that you understand the role analytical procedures play in an audit, you can anticipate audit inquiries, prepare explanations and compile supporting documents before fieldwork starts.
Friday, August 10, 2018
Come tax time, owner-employees face a variety of distinctive tax planning challenges, depending on whether their business is structured as a partnership, limited liability company (LLC) or corporation. Whether you’re thinking about your 2016 filing or planning for 2017, it’s important to be aware of the challenges that apply to your particular situation.
Partnerships and LLCs
If you’re a partner in a partnership or a member of an LLC that has elected to be disregarded or treated as a partnership, the entity’s income flows through to you (as does its deductions). And this income likely will be subject to self-employment taxes — even if the income isn’t actually distributed to you. This means your employment tax liability typically doubles, because you must pay both the employee and employer portions of these taxes.
The employer portion of self-employment taxes paid (6.2% for Social Security tax and 1.45% for Medicare tax) is deductible above the line. Above-the-line deductions are particularly valuable because they reduce your adjusted gross income and modified adjusted gross income, which are the triggers for certain additional taxes and phaseouts of many tax breaks.
But flow-through income may not be subject to self-employment taxes if you’re a limited partner or the LLC member equivalent. And be aware that flow-through income might be subject to the additional 0.9% Medicare tax on earned income or the 3.8% net investment income tax (NIIT), depending on the situation.
S and C corporations
For S corporations, even though the entity’s income flows through to you for income tax purposes, only income you receive as salary is subject to employment taxes and, if applicable, the 0.9% Medicare tax. Keeping your salary relatively — but not unreasonably — low and increasing your distributions of company income (which generally isn’t taxed at the corporate level or subject to employment taxes) can reduce these taxes. The 3.8% NIIT may also apply.
In the case of C corporations, the entity’s income is taxed at the corporate level and only income you receive as salary is subject to employment taxes, and, if applicable, the 0.9% Medicare tax. Nevertheless, if the overall tax paid by both the corporation and you would be less, you may prefer to take more income as salary (which is deductible at the corporate level) as opposed to dividends (which aren’t deductible at the corporate level, are taxed at the shareholder level and could be subject to the 3.8% NIIT).
Whether your entity is an S or a C corporation, tread carefully, however. The IRS remains on the lookout for misclassification of corporate payments to shareholder-employees. The penalties and additional tax liability can be costly.
As you can see, tax planning is extra important for owner-employees. Plus, tax law changes proposed by the President-elect and the Republican majority in Congress could affect tax treatment of your income in 2017. Please contact us for help identifying the ideal strategies for your situation.
Friday, August 3, 2018
If your not-for-profit wants to improve its budgeting, forecasting, fundraising or other functions but is having a hard time identifying both problems and solutions, data analytics can help. This form of business intelligence is already considered invaluable in the for-profit world. But it can be just as useful to nonprofits.
Informed decision making
Data analytics is the science of collecting and analyzing sets of data to develop useful insights, connections and patterns that can lead to more informed decision making. It produces such metrics as program efficacy, outcomes vs. efforts, and membership renewal that can reflect past and current performance and, in turn, predict and guide future performance.
The data usually comes from two sources:
1. Internal. Examples include your organization’s databases of detailed information on donors, beneficiaries or members.
2. External. This type of information can be obtained from government databases, social media and other organizations, both non- and for-profit.
Data analytics can help your organization validate trends, uncover root causes and improve transparency. For example, analysis of certain fundraising data makes it easier to target those individuals most likely to contribute to your nonprofit.
It typically facilitates fact-based discussions and planning, which is helpful when considering new initiatives or cost-cutting measures that stir political or emotional waters. The ability to predict outcomes can support sensitive programming decisions by considering data on a wide range of factors — such as at-risk populations, funding restrictions, offerings available from other organizations and grantmaker priorities.
Needs dictate your purchase
Your organization’s informational needs should dictate the data analytics package you buy. Thousands of potential performance metrics can be produced, but not all of them will be useful. So keeping in mind your most important programs, identify those metrics that matter most to stakeholders and that truly drive decisions. Also ensure that the technology solution you choose complies with any applicable privacy and security regulations, as well as your organization’s ethical standards.
You can adopt the most cutting-edge software, but if your staff aren’t on board, data analytics will be of little benefit. Note that you may need to hire or develop qualified staff to conduct data analytics and convert the results into actionable intelligence.
Make the most of it
Before you choose a technology, make sure your organization, including your staff, is ready to make the most of it. We can help steer you in the right direction.