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Use Tax Planning Software for New Franchisees

10 minute read

Opening a franchise is exciting, but it can also be stressful, especially when taxpayers try to go it alone. Because franchisees have some unique tax requirements, it’s important that you’re prepared to take on your journey. A good tax planning software will provide you with all the tools you need to you feel confident that your business plans are on track.

Self-Employment Taxes

Franchisees have quite a bit of control over how they run their business; they can hire their own employees, set their own schedule, and build relationships with other businesses in the community. But signing onto a franchise also requires them to give up some freedoms; the franchisor will be the one approving suppliers, creating marketing materials, and establishing training methods.

This loss of freedom is why some people believe that franchisees are not self-employed. But franchisees, just like other business owners, may owe self-employment taxes on their earnings. It’s not their freedoms that determine whether they are self-employed – it’s their taxing entity.

Sole proprietors and single-member LLCs who report business earnings on Schedule Cs will owe self-employment taxes on their net earnings. Partners in a partnership are also considered self-employed and must pay self-employment tax on their distributive share of the partnership’s earnings (this includes owners of multi-member LLCs that are taxed as partnerships). Only corporations, S corporations, and LLCs that elect to be taxed as corporations will not be subject to self-employment taxes.

Self-employment taxes are an additional tax of 15.3% on self-employed earnings. This tax mirrors payroll taxes that employees and their employers pay on wages and salaries. Self-employment taxes are the IRS’s way to ensure self-employed persons pay into Social Security and Medicare.

You will owe self-employment tax on all self-employed earnings regardless of how much cash you take home. For example, partners in a partnership will report their entire distributive share of partnership earnings as self-employed income whether those earnings were paid out in a distribution or reinvested into the business. Prepare by adding this additional liability into their tax projection. If you have a good tax planning software, you can project this liability out over several years. You can use this information to ensure you take enough cash out of the business to cover your tax liability.

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Passive Activity Losses

How active are you in your franchise? If you provided the capital to purchase the business but lets your business partner manage the day-to-day operations, your earnings from that franchise will likely be classified as passive.

To know if they materially participate in their business, you’ll need to ask some of the following questions:

  • How many hours did you participate in the business during the year? Taxpayers who work at least 500 hours on the activity are deemed to have materially participated in the business.
  • What is your participation level compared to others in the business? You may be considered active in a business if you worked at least 100 hours and worked no less than any other individual.
  • How long have you had this business? If you have had this business and materially participated in five of the past ten years, you may be considered an active participant in the business even if you did not pass one of the other participation tests in the current year.

Familiarize yourself with all seven of the IRS’s material participation tests.

Knowing whether your activity is active or passive is important because passive activities are treated differently for tax purposes than other activities. Losses from passive activities can only offset losses from other passive activities. If you reports a passive loss from your franchised business and has no other passive income to offset, you can carry those suspended losses forward, but you cannot deduct that loss against ordinary income like wages or other [active] business earnings.

New Capital Expenditures

The tax code looks kindly on taxpayers who invest capital into their businesses. Capital expenditures, like new equipment and furniture, may be fully deductible in the year of purchase. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) which was passed at the end of 2017 extended 100% bonus depreciation through tax year 2022. Beginning in 2023, bonus depreciation drops to 80% and then reduces 20% each year until it expires in 2026.

Franchisees may also benefit from commissioning a cost segregation study. A cost segregation study is something that you or a specialized CPA can perform to segregate non-building components from the costs of a building. By separating these non-building components from the building itself, those expenditures can be deducted over a shorter recovery period. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act boosted this benefit further when it made qualified improvement property (QIP) eligible for bonus depreciation.

QIP are improvements made by the taxpayer to the interior portion of existing buildings. The CARES Act classified QIP as 15-year property under MACRS, which makes those costs eligible for bonus depreciation. If you have QIP (e.g. drywall, ceilings, interior doors, electrical, etc.) that has been lumped in with the cost of their building, they can separate those costs out using a cost segregation study and potentially deduct those expenses immediately using bonus depreciation.

Tax Incentives

If you own a restaurant franchise or another business where tips are common, you may be eligible for the FICA tip credit. You can claim this credit for FICA taxes you pay on your employees’ tips that exceed the Federal minimum wage. This credit reduces your income tax liability.

Work Opportunity Tax Credit

If you hire employees from groups that face barriers to employment (veterans, ex-felons, food stamp recipients, and others), they can claim a credit of up to $9,600 per new hire depending on the employee’s targeted group and how long they remain employed with your business.

Opportunity Zones

You can defer capital gains recognized from the sale of almost any property if you reinvest those gains into a qualified opportunity zone. The opportunity zone program encourages investment in economically depressed areas by allowing taxpayers to defer (and potentially even eliminate) capital gain for long-term investments. If the franchisor allows for it, you may be able to open their franchised operation within an opportunity zone to take advantage of this incentive.

Use Tax Planning Software to Help Franchisees

New franchisees want a business partner who can join in their enthusiasm but also someone who will tell them the truth, even when they don’t want to hear it. Good quality tax planning software for CPAs can be invaluable to your new business because the reports you generate can help make long-term plans.

Tax decisions should not be made looking just one or two years ahead; it makes more sense for you to look at your tax positions projected many years into the future. Our Corvee tax planning software does this with the click of a button. The simple and easy-to-read reports will show you how you are positioned currently and how your tax position will support your business years down the road.

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