How CPAs Can Help Small Business Clients Beyond Just the PPP

The speed and scope of the impact of COVID-19 has upended even extremely successful small businesses. But most of them just need some breathing room to weather this difficult time and resume operations once the pandemic passes.

Apr 22nd 2020
VP, Small Firms AICPA
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The pandemic has impacted all businesses, but small businesses in particular are facing a serious cash flow crunch. Their ability to meet their payroll and other financial obligations has drastically slowed or shuttered their operations. So how can CPAs help, outside of loan advice?

In my role, I speak with hundreds of CPAs firms of all sizes across the country each year. I know first-hand that CPAs are in the prime position to help their small business clients navigate the multiple options available to them to acquire short-term funding and remain operational.

CPAs understand balance sheets and income statements, know financial histories and what small businesses need to continue to succeed. That’s why your small business clients have been working with you to put plans in place to meet their immediate needs.

The Federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is a great option for small businesses that need cash to stay in business during these difficult times. The American Institute of CPAs has advocated for a simple, efficient process to disburse funds so workers could remain on payroll and ensure businesses are positioned to get up and running quickly when it is safe to do so. As the program ran out of funds, we have been vocal about the need for additional funds (which, hopefully will be coming soon).

The PPP program is ideal because it provides funding quickly, within 10 days of approval, to cover payroll, utilities and rent or interest on a mortgage. And the PPP loans are forgiven if a business maintains headcount on June 30 and meets certain other requirements, providing organizations what is essentially a free lifeline through these unprecedented times.

Beyond the PPP

For those clients who did not qualify for PPP funds, were not successful in obtaining a PPP loan or who need funding in addition to the PPP, there are still other options available to keep a business alive during the pandemic and help them resume full operations quickly and easily once the pandemic ends and life returns to normal.

1. EIDL

The first option is the Small Business Administration (SBA) Economic Impact Disaster Loans (EIDL). This program currently provides small businesses impacted by COVID-19 emergency advances up to $10,000. The funding is based on the number of employees a business has and can cover operation costs, including payroll, rent, and inventory. In fact, this is a particularly useful option for some small businesses to supplement their PPP funding, which is limited in what it can fund.

The EIDL is a fairly simple loan process, and businesses can apply on the SBA website. What makes this loan so attractive are its terms, as it is a 30-year loan at 3.75 percent.

During normal times, it takes 3-5 days for approval, then about three weeks for funding to come through. However, there has been extreme demand for assistance to small business and the EIDL has limited funds, much of which were been provided through emergency advances.

CPAs should monitor the developments of any additional funding bills being debated by Congress, as there has been talk of including additional funds for the EIDL. As these loans are processed on a “first come, first served” basis – time is of the essence.

2. Express Bridge Loans

CPAs can also point clients to other resources available through the Small Business Administration. The SBA offers Express Bridge Loans of up to $25,000 to businesses with an existing relationship with an SBA Express Lender. This loan can carry a business until it receives EIDL funding.

3. SCORE

The Service Core of Retired Executive (SCORE) program offers funding grants to some participating operations. The SBA has several programs and grants specifically for women-, minority- or veteran-owned businesses. The local SBA service center will have more details and can confirm if your clients qualify.

4. Other Alternate Means

There are also several tax incentives and credits to consider when helping small businesses through this time, such as the employee retention credit, payroll tax deferrals, net operating loss carrybacks, acceleration of alternative minimum tax credits or increased percentage of leasehold improvements available for accelerated depreciation. Some of these options are not available to those who have received PPP funding, but CPAs can advise their small businesses clients on which, if any, are appropriate options.

CPAs can also work with small business clients to find other means for accessing capital or reducing their current costs. For example, look to see how much can be saved on utility and rental costs, such as reduced internet service or temporarily halting television services.

One area that many CPAs are helping their clients with is negotiating with their client’s landlords or mortgage holders to discuss deferring rent or principal payments. Yes, this will increase costs later on, but it may be enough to allow the business to survive in the near term, and this can be built into long term plans for the business.

Lastly, CPAs can help small businesses start developing plans to manage this pandemic and resume operations once things begin to reopen. This is a tough time and things may seem bleak for some business owners. But as CPAs, we can help them take a breath, see the big picture and start making a plan for a comeback.

The AICPA has compiled extensive resources to help firms navigate the coronavirus pandemic and better assist their clients.

Related Articles

How to Post PPP Loan Income and Expenses

Advising Clients on the SBA's EIDL

Replies (4)

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By Michael Abrams
Apr 24th 2020 15:25

While I generally agree with everything in your article because you have to do what you have to do in certain situations, I think there is one huge elephant in the room that is generally ignored by most business advisors:

This is a wake up call to improve liquidity.

In my opinion, it's the perfect time to re-think debt and tax avoidance and focus more on having appropriate cash reserves available - six to 12 months depending on the business - to cover basic operating expenses: Payroll, benefits, rent, utilities, etc.

Banks aren't really interested in your business; they're interested in how much credit they can provide that you don't need (try getting a loan when you actually NEED it!!)

In reality, with proper planning and execution, most SMBs shouldn't need any sort of debt save for maybe a standby line of credit for seasonal anomalies.

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Replying to Michael Abrams:
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By SkinnVinny
Apr 24th 2020 20:18

I agree with this completely. Many SMBs and individuals are operating in panic mode for something that, in all honesty, really shouldn't be anything more than a (very annoying) inconvenience.

Both businesses and individuals should have at least 3 months of operating and personal living expenses available in cash, ideally 6-12 months. Access to a low-interest LOC is desirable as well.

There are way too many "pretend-rich" middle-class folk living paycheck to paycheck with no fat in their budgets for events like this.

Recently I did a tax return for a man who had AGI of around $300k. I looked at his 1098 and he's paying PMI. On that income he couldn't even put 20% down on a house. Didn't have the money to open an IRA, either. Money just slips through his fingers!

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Replying to SkinnVinny:
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By Michael Abrams
Apr 27th 2020 19:51

It sounds like your client is old-school OPM - Other People's Money. My dad was that way. When the tax rates were higher and the write-offs more numerous, it may have made some sense back in the day. But not now. As Dave Ramsey puts it:

"Cash is king, debt is dumb and the paid-off home mortgage has taken the place of the BMW as the status symbol of choice."

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Stephen H.
By Stephen Halasnik
Apr 24th 2020 16:31

In times like these business owners and their accountants are always getting to know their income statement and balance sheet better as Carl suggests.

I've been through numerous recessions before and what every business owner is going to see is a major tightening of credit and financing.

Companies that are actually doing or going to do well are going to be surprised at how banks will be making it harder to be approved or renewed for a traditional business loan or line of credit.

Since the recession of 2008, there are new options for financing with alternative lenders that MIGHT be more a little more expensive but can still make it worthwhile.

My company, for example, provides a line of credit that costs nothing until used, there is no PG or security required, and only takes a few days to get set up.

Certainly, try to be approved at your bank but unlike in the past, there are other options.

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