Year-end tax savings for retailers
By Scott Balestrier & David Des Roches, BDO.com
Proactively managing taxes should always be top of mind for businesses at year-end. Recent Congressional actions and extension of the Bush-era tax cuts are serving as this year’s reminder. As many retailers seem to be returning to profitability, there are several tax and accounting opportunities that should be considered.
On September 27, 2010, The Small Business Jobs Act of 2010, Public Law No. 111-240, was signed. The bulk of the bill focuses on providing loans to small businesses, which are defined as corporations with assets of less than $50 million. From a tax payer perspective, there are significant benefits such as the increased gain exclusion to 100% on investments made in small business stock from September 27, 2010, and before January 1, 2011. The new law also allows businesses to fully deduct up to $500,000 of investments in depreciable property. The dollar limit is reduced by the amount by which the cost of qualifying property placed in service during the tax year exceeds $2,000,000 for 2010 and 2011. For the remainder of 2010, the new law extends the 50% first-year bonus depreciation, which had expired at the end of 2009.
Retailers also need to be conscious of tax changes that have resulted from the IRS decision to require some corporations, like those with assets exceeding certain amounts and that have audited financial statements, to report their uncertain tax positions arising in 2010 and beyond. Compliance is phased in over the next several years based on the amount of a taxpayer’s worldwide assets.
In early 2010, the IRS released Schedule UTP, which is the tax form to be used in 2010, and future years, for the reporting of uncertain tax positions relating to United States federal income tax positions. Retailers should check Schedule UTP and note: for taxpayers with worldwide assets of over $100 million, reporting begins for the 2010 tax year. For taxpayers with assets over $50 million but not exceeding $100 million, reporting is deferred until 2012. Finally, for taxpayers with assets over $10 million but not exceeding $50 million, reporting is deferred until 2014.
The following tax savings ideas may help ease the tax burden for retailers as they look to build on the positive momentum realized in 2010 as we head into 2011 and beyond:
Gift Card Deferral: Advanced payments for gift cards or certificates, which are redeemable for goods, may be deferred until the earlier of redemption or the end of the second taxable year following the year of receipt. Alternatively, businesses can choose to defer gift cards for goods and services until the taxable year following the year of receipt.
Catalog/Promotional Costs: Costs incurred to promote products (e.g. advertising expenses) or to produce catalogs and other such literature (chemicals, ink, printing costs) may be deducted in the year incurred or consumed. Such costs were previously capitalized and amortized.
Warranty Service Income: Warranty service income may be deferred beyond the year of receipt, when it was previously recognized in the year income was received.
Advance Payments: A one-year deferral is allowed for the recognition of advance payments for services, the sale of certain goods, the use of intellectual property, revenue from computer software and other items. Under the one-year deferral method, the company recognizes advance payments into taxable income in the year of receipt to the extent that the payment is recognized for financial reporting, and the balance of the advance payment is recognized in year two.
Trade Discounts: Businesses are permitted to treat advance trade discounts as a reduction in the cost of its inventory when it subsequently purchases the related inventory. Similarly, companies are permitted to treat qualifying volume-related trade discounts as a reduction in the cost of merchandise purchased at the time the discount is recognized.
Cash Discounts: Businesses that receive cash discounts, and that use the gross invoice method of including the price of the goods before discount in the cost of the goods, are permitted to use the net method of accounting by reducing the purchase price by the discount.
Rebates and Allowances: Businesses that are adding reserves for rebates and allowances back into taxable income are allowed to deduct such items to the extent that payment is made within eight and a half months of year end.
The following are tax saving ideas specific to state and local planning:
Sales/Use Tax Refunds: Businesses who have made significant capital expenditures over the past three to four years have often overpaid sales/use taxes. With careful review of transactions by sales tax professionals to identify such overpayments, applications for refunds may be submitted to tax officials in order to benefit the company.
State Credit Review: Many states offer income tax credits to businesses for hiring individuals that reside in designated areas or have employment barriers. Depending on the state, the credit may be as much as $34,000 per employee over a five year period.
Property and Payroll Factor Apportionment Review: An analysis of dormant stores and facilities as well as review of personnel traveling outside of state as a regular part of their job can result in a shifting of income from high tax rates states to lower tax rate jurisdictions.
Leasing Company for Store Equipment: Establish a leasing company to spread sales tax due on equipment purchases over the life of the lease.
Next year will surely bring new challenges for retailers. However, a careful review of tax accounting methods leading up to the year-end could help retailers generate new or additional tax savings while working to potentially eliminate exposure to risks.
Scott Balestrier and David Des Roches are Tax Partners in the Retail and Consumer Product Practice at BDO USA, LLP, an accounting and consulting firm. For more information visit the Consumer Business Compass blog at blog.bdo.com or visit bdo.com/industries/retail/.
National Hardware Show to shine brighter light on seasonal
The Seasonal area of the National Hardware Show is in for a boost, according to the show organizers, who point to a growing emphasis on holiday décor and lawn-and-garden-related merchandise around the industry.
The Seasonal area will be expanded to include hundreds of the industry’s most innovative products during the May 10 to 12 event in Las Vegas, according to organizers.
The move is a response to market demand. "Holiday décor is thriving in the marketplace, and the number of hardware retailers carrying holiday décor is increasing every year," said Christina Barnes, general manager of Accents Unlimited, a seasonal products company.
Seasonal has also become an important category for Organize.com, where holiday storage for Christmas trees, wreaths, garlands, lights, ornaments and décor is at its peak in December and January. "Stocking stuffers have always been a key component of our holiday assortment, but we see our customer looking to us for holiday décor, tabletop, and entertaining while they shop Organize.com during the holiday season," says Deborah Shearer, Organize.com’s vice president of marketing and merchandising.
"A New Way to Market" will be the major theme of the 2011 event, which intends to expand on its list of global attendees, not only from traditional retail and wholesale outlets but untraditional channels like grocery, mass, drug, catalog and the Internet – all representing almost $240 billion in sales revenue.
Arett Sales, for example, sends a large team of buyers to the National Hardware Show® and considers the Seasonal area critical to the growth of its business. The company distributes a wide assortment of Halloween, Christmas and fall harvest products, as well as seasonal Lawn & Garden products related to home vegetable gardening – including containers, raised beds, organics and naturals and hydroponics.
"As a distributor, it is our obligation and commitment to our retailer customers that we offer the newest, most innovative and most exciting new products available," said Mike Mallon, vice president of merchandising and marketing for Arett Sales. "The layout is organized and easy to get around. The new products area, an area that is very important to us, is informative and is always packed with product. Overall, the Hardware Show is among the best show experiences a buyer would want."
Jo-Ann Stores to be acquired for $1.6 billion
HUDSON, Ohio -Jo-Ann Stores announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to be acquired by an affiliate of Leonard Green & Partners, L.P., for a total price of approximately $1.6 billion, or $61 per share in cash. The offer price represents a 34% premium to the closing price of Jo-Ann’s shares on Dec. 22.
The board of directors of Jo-Ann Stores, on the recommendation of a special committee comprised entirely of independent directors, approved the merger agreement by a unanimous vote of the non-employee directors and recommends that the company’s shareholders adopt the agreement.
Darrell Webb, chairman and chief executive officer of Jo-Ann Stores, commented, “We are excited about the prospect of working with Leonard Green & Partners as we further capitalize on opportunities to accelerate the expansion and upgrade of our stores and pursue market share gains. With the help of our talented and dedicated team, we will continue to offer our customers a superior shopping experience for all of their fabric and craft needs.”
If the acquisition is approved by the holders of a majority of Jo-Ann Stores’ shares of common stock, the transaction is expected to close in the first half of calendar 2011. The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, including the receipt of regulatory approvals, but is not subject to any condition with regard to the financing of the transaction. In accordance with the merger agreement, the board of directors will also be permitted to solicit alternative proposals through Feb. 14, 2011, to ensure the transaction is the best available for its shareholders.