No, this is NOT just another “here’s what we’re doing about COVID-19” message. The time for that was last week. Every brand and their brother sent out those messages, and they lost their usefulness — right now, it’s a marketplace expectation that we’re all taking serious steps.
Regardless of what you feel about this situation, or the governmental response to it, it’s time that we recognize that the ground has already shifted under our feet. You can waste your (precious) breath to rail against that, or you can get productive. But more about that in a moment.
For now, you don’t need any medical advice from me, nor would it be beneficial for me to share with you my “work from home tips” (though those will be coming sometime soon). Instead, I’m going to stay in my lane, and discuss your individual personal finances and business right now.
I will also offer this before I begin: If you need business help and/or financial advice right now, please get in touch. Send me an email at email@example.com and we can schedule a time to talk or video conference. We’re here for you. That stuff aside, and in the interest of everyone’s time, I will try to keep this short.
Let’s First Talk About Taxes
As you may already know, the IRS has extended the payment deadline for both taxes owed for 2019 and for the first estimated tax payment for 2020 originally due April 15, 2020. The new payment deadline is July 15, 2020. Tax returns must still be filed or extended by April 15th. Although we are continuing to work with clients on their taxes, we anticipate filing many extensions this year as we get our arms around new tax legislation and assist clients with this crisis.
Allow me to say this: with all of the cultural and economic chaos out there, I recommend that you allow us to be your guide through all of the changes and turmoil soon to come with your business, your books, and your taxes.
This is NOT the time to rely upon harried, underpaid chat support for online tax software, or to try to “go it alone” and navigate contacting the IRS by yourself. This is, after all, what we do. As a tax professional, we have dedicated support from the IRS, extensive tax research services, countless peer groups, as well as many years of experience in handling these kinds of chaotic situations with various clients who have dealt with natural disasters, etc. I have supported clients through the 2008-2010 financial crisis and have dealt with these issues before.
We are in your corner.
Now let’s talk about your financial mindset.
When this was a purely medical, cultural issue, this COVID-19 outbreak fell mostly under the category of “news”. But now … well, we all probably know at least one person who is financially affected by this. We have clients who are, and maybe YOU are. I will have more to say about this in subsequent weeks, but allow me to offer these quick points:
1) There is no benefit to marinating in others’ panic. Don’t fall prey to the temptation that “you’ll get better news from social media” (Twitter, Facebook, etc.). Whatever practical gains you might get from “hearing about something first” online, you will LOSE in your spirit by allowing other people’s panicky conversation to impact your mind.
I suggest you set aside time for “batch processing” of the news, and busy yourself with productivity in your other pursuits.
2) DO ensure that you and your family are financially and logistically prepared for what is to come. Don’t allow others to shame you for this preparation, as long as you are not hoarding unnecessarily or profiting from other people’s fear.
Once you have taken care of these most important things (your mind and your family), I suggest these practical steps on the financial front:
3) Consider refinancing your home, if you carry a mortgage. Mortgage rates are extremely low right now.
4) Make sure you have some ready, liquid assets (i.e., cash in the bank, and in hand) if you are able. Cash is king!
- Review lines of credit
- Explore refinancing opportunities
- If you owe taxes for 2019, consider applying for an installment plan with the IRS until the dust settles. Cash is king in a crisis like this. The IRS allows repayment over 72 months and is often automatically approved. At the very least, take advantage of the IRS delays in payments for any income tax payments due 4/15/2020 and delay them until July 15, 2020. By then, we will hopefully have a better understanding as to what the next 3-6 months might look like.
5) Set aside plans for any big spending until the dust settles
6) Especially look out for your small business owner friends and vendors.
Many small businesses are getting decimated already, and anything you can do to maintain contracts, purchase services in advance, or otherwise help THEM (rather than big corporate brands who have MANY emergency funding options not available to small business owners) will be appreciated.
Are You A Business Owner?
Let’s Talk About Your Business
Business owners are struggling, an example are those who have trade show services. Their businesses are being massively affected by this virus and causing unexpected cancellations.
The reality is that this will pass, but whether it passes like 9/11 or a full-blown recession, or it passes like every other smaller social impact is unknown.
These business owners are crafting messages to each of their constituencies above, letting them know his company understands their horrible situation and is available to help however they need. He’s taking the proactive stance that business will eventually resume and is using this downtime to get his company’s systems in place, to be ready to blast out of the gates when it happens. Even if that’s 6 months down the road.
There are a lot of business owners that are going to slash their staff and hunker down as though they’re getting ready for the apocalypse. It’s a natural response to protect ourselves when we feel threatened. It’s part of our reptilian brain, hard-wired over countless generations.
So, what can you do about this right now in your business?
1) I’d suggest letting every one of your customers know that you are thinking about this and care about them.
This should not JUST be a “here’s what we’re doing about COVID” message. Go deeper, get real, be a resource … even if things are looking bleak for YOU, you can still be a light to your customers … and they WILL remember that when the dust settles.
Others are retracting in the face of this (some by shutting their doors), and others are bursting at the seams (I’m looking at you, Amazon and Netflix).
But NOT to communicate about this is sticking your head in the sand. Get ahead of things.
2) You’re probably in this mode anyway, but I suggest you hold off on anything new until things become clearer. You DON’T want to be spending money thinking you’ll strike while the blood is in the streets just yet. The chaos drowns out every message right now. Conserve cash where possible. “Cash is King”.
But there will, indeed, be opportunities all over the place from this, if you’re smart.
3) If your business is getting massively impacted, let’s talk. Don’t make sudden moves out of panic. Let us be your port in the storm. Let’s make a plan together so that you can thrive, and not just react out of knee-jerk fear. There are financing options available for many businesses, and tax-smart strategies for tapping reserves if necessary.
4) Monitor our blog at flatironadvisors.com/blog, our Facebook page at facebook.com/flatironadvisors/ and these emails for updates to ideas, tips and assistance programs that are being announced every day.
Lastly, I Will Say This:
The underlying realities of our economy are still strong. This situation WILL pass.
But it does remain to be seen how long it will take. However, when we stick together, we will get through this (even if we have to do that over the internet ;).
Steve Trojan, CPA
P.S. I’m grateful for your trust, and for your referrals for our tax work. We will be happy to take on any of your friends that you’d like to send our way.