It’s hard to believe that tax season is here already. In an effort to help our clients be...
Business owners need very specific help from a financial advisor, which is dependent on the stage of ownership. As a successful business owner myself, one of the best pieces of advice I can give a new business owner is to make sure you get your legal structure right from the beginning. Should your firm be a corporation, an LLC or a sole proprietorship? If a corporation, should it be a C- or S-corporation?
The answer to the first question depends on the short and long-term plans for the business. There are many factors, including:
- How many employees will there be short and long-term
- Expected revenue
- Capital structure
- Asset ownership
We help our clients work through all those questions before recommending a structure. The two main reasons to structure any business are tax considerations and risk management. It is imperative to consider both.
Once the structure is established, the next consideration is cash flow management. We help clients plan to maximize cash flow. “Cash Is King.”
There are also employee benefits that need to be considered if there are multiple employees. Should you establish a 401(k), health insurance, Health Savings Accounts, executive benefits and many other options for attracting and retaining the best employees? If you plan on employing the younger generations, consider a Roth 401k option.
A full employee benefit review is important at least once every three years. Are you still maximizing the executive benefits? Is your 401(k) plan still competitive from both a cost and investment choices perspective? Are there any new options from tax law changes?
Our advanced planning for business owners includes, at a minimum, strategies to reduce taxes, protect your assets, grow your assets after the sale, and meeting any philanthropic goals you may have.
The most beneficial tax planning for businesses occurs when initially structuring your company and again when structuring the sale of your company. We discussed considerations when initially structuring your company above. Typically, the biggest tax impact on the sale of a business is if the sale is classified as an asset or stock sale.
The difference might appear to be small but it can be very different in the net proceeds to the seller(s). Just like it sounds, an asset sell is when company/individual A buys the assets of company B and a stock sale is when company/individual A buys the stock of company B.
The buyer almost always wants an asset sale due to favorable tax advantages available to them. For the seller, in most cases an asset sale works just fine. The one major exception is if your structure is a C-Corp. If so, an asset sale can be very inefficient for you. This is because the sale will typically be taxed twice. The buyer buys your assets but those are owned by the corporation, which means the corporation has to pay taxes on any gains. Then those same proceeds will be taxed again when distributed to the shareholders. If it is a stock sale, the stock is owned by the shareholders, thus only being taxed once.
If possible, owners of a C-Corp should typically push for a stock sale. We recommend that you speak to your financial advisor to discuss the strategies most beneficial to your unique situation.
You have worked hard to get established or sell your company. Now it is time to protect your hard-earned money. This can be done inexpensively via umbrella insurance policies or more expensively through asset protection trusts. There are many frivolous lawsuits out there and a person with significant money can find themselves on the wrong end if not careful. There are too many different options to get into in depth on this page so I will just summarize with the following: unless you just don’t care who ends up with your money, work with a wealth management specialist to protect your assets.
Successful entrepreneurs usually fall into two categories when it comes to their investment philosophy: overly aggressive or overly conservative. We strongly believe in taking the emotions out of investments, which means avoiding both of those unless it is the best option. This means figuring out what return you need to meet the goals for the rest of your life and then only chasing the return necessary to meet those goals. That is a logic-based plan. Excess risk is how good money goes to waste.
You might have a desire to meet some philanthropic goals once you have more liquid wealth. There are several ways to do this including a foundation or a charitable remainder trust but I find the Donor Advised Funds are the most practical for most people. Regardless, here are high-level descriptions of the four main options:
- Foundations are the most flexible for a donor but also the most complicated and time-consuming option. It is the equivalent of running a business in regards to records and book keeping. Very work intensive but also with the flexibility to donate to most any qualified charity you choose.
- Donor Advised Funds (DAF) are the most simple and efficient plan for charitable giving. A DAF allows you to donate money today and receive the full tax deduction allowed, without having to give all the money to a specific charity during the same year. Those funds can grow tax free until you designate where the DAF donates the funds, as long as the charities are IRS approved organizations. This is a great option many times for a business owner who just sold because they typically need upfront charitable donation deductions but they might not be ready to donate all that money all in one year because they have been busy running and then selling a business. This allows the business owner to slow down and be sure where they want to donate the money.
- Charitable Remainder Trust is an annuity in which you donate today, then you can take a reasonable distribution from the annuity (5%-6%) each year until you die. When you die, whatever is left over goes to the charity you named. These are irrevocable trusts.
- Just donate money to a specific charity.
Which of these options you choose depends on many factors. Our job is to educate you on the benefits and weaknesses of each option. You can read more about these strategies on our Gifting webpage.
Selling Your Business
After all your hard work comes the exit strategy phase. Many business owners with established profitable companies have already been contacted by a private equity firm. The important thing here is to not wait until you are ready to exit to start working on your exit strategy. Planning ahead provides opportunities to lower your tax liability when you sell.
Our strategy is built using our expertise as well as leveraging other experts like CPAs, City National Rockdale Business Owners team, and estate planning lawyers trained and having experience in the sale of a business. Here at Virtus Wealth Management, we don’t care who does your taxes or your estate plan, we just want to make sure your plan is the best fit for you. We work with any tax or legal professional who is willing to listen to ideas.
You can read our 5 tips to optimize your results on our webpage dedicated to Sale of a Business.
How Virtus Wealth Management Can Help
The right financial advisor can help business owners in many ways and during each phase of ownership. Here at Virtus Wealth Management, we have over 50 years of combined experience working with business owners, as well as partnering with firms with decades of helping business owners. We would appreciate the opportunity to see if we may be able help you.
Get started today by scheduling your complimentary consultation with our team of advisors.
The opinions voiced are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.