In the wake of the pandemic, these are challenging times for architectural firms, particularly regarding the field of commercial real estate. But there are tools you can access to give your firm the competitive edge it needs to triumph in today’s marketplace. One such tool is the AIA Leadership Academy: A Leadership and Business Development Program for Architects.
Consider taking advantage of AIA’s new flagship leadership development program, the AIA Leadership Academy, developed in partnership with The Growth Partnership (TGP), an executive coaching and advisory firm that’s a subsidiary of Engineered Tax Services, an AIA Innovation Partner.
This three-year program is designed for architects who are ready to advance their firms by learning critical business and leadership skills to grow their business, lead change and innovation, empower and engage people, and create immediate impact.
It’s the first—and only—multiyear program for architects that focuses on firm, professional, and community leadership. Expert instructors lead small classes (cohort-based classes) limited to 28 students. Students receive one-on-one personalized virtual coaching sessions.
The curriculum will teach you to lead across four key areas: managing yourself, your firm, your profession, and your community. The program combines annual retreats, virtual classes, and individualized coaching. Sessions include knowledge-based lectures, facilitated exercises, panels, small- and large-group activities, success labs, best practice forums, and project-based assignments between sessions to promote problem solving and application-based learning.
Architects already have the technical knowledge and expertise to be successful, but interpersonal skills and leadership are an area that many professional service providers struggle with.
In addition to the development of leadership skills, it’s important for professionals to offer advisory services and suggestions to bring added value to clients. This can strengthen the client relationship and loyalty.
Differentiate yourself with value-added services
To achieve success as a leader in the architectural world, it’s important to focus not only on technical skillsets, but also to build your personal soft skills. You can act as an advisor to your clients by bringing to the table value-added services, such as a knowledge of incentives and benefits they can claim for projects you’re designing.
This can save your clients millions in tax dollars. For example:
These tax advantages bring substantial value to your clients. In addition, your firm could be claiming R&D credits and 179D deductions directly for some projects.
You can enhance your client’s bottom line by introducing the following tax strategies:
Winning clients by identifying hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional value
Clients can gain substantial tax savings in unexpected ways—but sadly, most CPA firms are unaware of these incentives, and because they require an engineer, they’re overlooked. When most architects hear “tax credits,” their eyes glaze over because they assume their CPA is supposed to handle anything tax-related. As a result, these incentives are left on the table.
Simple suggestions for tax planning might include:
Align yourself with strategic partners
With proper advice, your clients can pre-qualify for energy efficiency tax incentives stemming from 179D and 45L—and 179D’s new regulations make it much more challenging to qualify for. However, utilizing a strategic partner can make you shine. For example:
Yes, architectural firms are facing difficult times. But you’re not alone. The AIA Leadership Academy can help you develop leadership skills so your firm can achieve its full potential. In addition, Engineered Tax Services offers consulting and certification for these tax incentives and partners with hundreds of architectural firms across the United States to offer specialty tax services and consulting to help you achieve even greater success.
The Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) was created to reward employers for retaining employees during the pandemic crisis, even when their businesses faced financial strain. This tax credit must be claimed before the June 30, 2021 filing deadline, and many taxpayers are realizing significant benefits.
Engineered Tax Services and its cohort Rockerbox are experts in identifying and claiming federal tax credits; and with their due diligence and tax knowledge, Rockerbox was able to obtain a restaurant owner in New Jersey over $618,000 in ERTC tax savings, while maximizing the value of both the ERTC and Personal Payroll Protection (PPP) loan programs for the client.
Here’s how it started: ETS Executive Vice President Heidi Henderson was contacted by a CPA client of over 10 years; who has a client that owns a multilocation restaurant business in the Northeast. The CPA firm, being an advisory-focused group, identified the potential benefit for its client and shared the client’s payroll files with Rockerbox.
“With ERTC, the first thing we do is prove the employer is eligible,” said Philip M. Wentworth, Jr., co-founder and CEO of Rockerbox. “You have to have less than 100 FTE [full-time equivalent] employees. We requested a 2019 1094-C from the client; it shows the IRS they’re compliant with Affordable Care Act and they’ve offered employees healthcare coverage. When we asked the CPA firm to confirm the employee listing, it turns out the client sent over the wrong year, 2018, not 2019!
“When they sent over their real 2019 1094-C, we saw immediately they had several hundred employees. Our hearts sank. It looked like they didn’t qualify. Then we figured these all couldn’t be full-time employees, so we asked how many hours each employee worked. We have a magical template that can do amazing things with databases. Our processors did the work, and they whittled down the part-timers from the list until we saw there were only 87 FTE employees! So the client qualified. We had the CPA firm redo the 1094-C form, and the client ended up with a $618,000 tax credit.”
Heidi Henderson pointed out: “Without that due diligence, that employer would not have had access to $618,000 in credits.”
But that’s not all we did for the client. In the wake of the pandemic, ERTCs and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) came out at the same time. Originally, if you got a PPP loan, you couldn’t claim ERTCs. But under the new law, employers who received PPP loans can claim employee retention credit for qualified wages not treated as payroll costs to obtain forgiveness of their PPP loan.
As it turns out, the client had received a PPP loan, but hadn’t filed for forgiveness.
“We applied the funds from the PPP loan to the client’s high-wage earners,” Wentworth said. “We maximized both programs. It could not be a better day for ETS and Rockerbox.”
He added: “Our fees are unique and 100% success-based, so we’re motivated to deliver. If we were being paid a fee, we would have walked away from this engagement, because the initial size of the employee list would have been a red flag; but since our fee is linked to our performance, we had an incentive to clean up the PDF employee list and uncover real value for the client.”
Additionally, this client’s payroll company had assumed they didn’t qualify, due to the number of employees, and the payroll company doesn’t investigate PPP status and ERTCs; it only uses an algorithm. “The payroll company would have left a lot of tax credits on the table,” Wentworth remarked.
Wentworth has calculated that as a result of the ERTC tax credits, the client’s cash flow will increase by 10-15%. “And with a higher cash flow, the client’s bottom line will improve, and their valuation will go up too,” he said.
“In my work, it’s wonderful to hear small business owners talk about their business and tell their story,” Wentworth said. “I’ve been fielding calls from prospects since 6:30 this morning—and I’m not complaining! It’s great thing to help small businesses thrive in America, especially in the wake of the pandemic.”
Please contact Engineered Tax Services for more information on qualifying for the Employee Retention credit or other possible incentives to optimize your income tax structure.
Engineered Tax Services (ETS) continues its relationship with celebrity pro athletes. First, it engaged two-time Super Bowl winner Ray Crockett, formerly of the Denver Broncos, to act as a wealth management advisor to fellow professional athletes and performing artists. Now ETS is sponsoring one of America’s up-and-coming pro golfers, Denny McCarthy, on his PGA TOUR. As of this writing, according to the Official World Golf Ranking, he’s ranked as the 161st best golfer in the world—an amazing achievement!
As part of the sponsorship, he acts as a brand ambassador for ETS, wearing the ETS logo on his golf shirt sleeve at PGA Tour events. He’s also making scheduled appearances on behalf of ETS, while engaging in marketing and social media campaigns to promote the partnership.
“We’re honored to be associated with such a stellar athlete as Denny McCarthy,” said Julio Gonzalez, CEO of Engineered Tax Services. “I know Denny personally, and he’s a wonderful person. We’re proud to be partnering with a rising star who exemplifies our values of hard work, perseverance, and professionalism in our drive to be leaders in our field. He’s a fantastic representative of ETS, and he’s an inspiration to us all. We’re excited to be a part of his story.”
Born in Takoma Park, Maryland, Denny McCarthy has been playing competitive golf since the age of 10, starting with the MAPGA junior tour. After playing varsity golf and basketball at Georgetown Preparatory School, he played college golf at the University of Virginia, where he was a two-time All-American. While a senior, he led the United States to victory in the 2014 World Amateur Team Championship, winning the Eisenhower Trophy. He finished tied for 42nd at the 2015 U.S. Open.
After playing in the 2015 Walker Cup, McCarthy turned pro and competed on the Korn Ferry Tour. During the 2017-18 season, he finished 12th place on the 2017 Korn Ferry Tour Money List. He finished number one on the 2018 Korn Ferry Tour Money List, winning the season-ending playoff event and earning exempt status on the PGA Tour for the 2018-19 season. He’s a renowned putter who led the PGA Tour in Strokes Gained Putting, for two consecutive seasons; his 2020 season performance ranked as the second-best putting season of the ShotLink era (since 2004). As of this writing, he’s 78th in the FedEx Cup standings.
“ETS is an ideal sponsor,” said Denny McCarthy. “We’re both based in Florida, and I’m thrilled ETS and Julio Gonzalez are so supportive of my golfing career. It makes all the hard work and preparation I put into my athletic performance worthwhile, knowing there’s an organization that believes in high standards so solidly behind me. Julio Gonzalez is a nationally recognized tax reform expert and a devoted friend of small businesses in America, and I’m proud to represent ETS and what it stands for.”
Check out Denny McCarthy’s PGA TOUR schedule.
R&D tax credits incentivize companies for innovation and technological investments. AIA partner Engineered Tax Services explores how three architecture firms are reaping the rewards.
Architects and designers can save tens of thousands of dollars for activities they are already conducting if they understand valuable tax reduction incentives available to them. Federal and state programs exist that reward firms for innovation and activities that overcome technical design challenges. The federal research and development (R&D) tax credit is a tool for driving such innovation and job growth.
The R&D tax credit is intended to incentivize companies to invest in innovation and technological investments so the U.S. can remain at the forefront of these advancements. Two-thirds of U.S. states also offer tax credits for R&D activities. The credit, which is designed to reimburse companies that develop new products, processes, or inventions, offers a percentage back to the company for qualified research activities and qualified research expenses. These savings can offset wages and salaries paid for qualified activities. A firm does not need to be large to qualify.
Many architects and designers are either unaware of the applicability of R&D tax credits to their firms or struggle to understand how the credit applies, if their projects or activities qualify, why they qualify, and how much the credit might be.
The qualitative four-part test for qualifying R&D research
A simple four-part test helps to determine which activities constitute qualified research according to criteria established by the IRS:
In this first example, consider how the design challenges for a residential home in Chicago met the four-part test to qualify as R&D research.
The architect entered into a flat fee contract to design a new home on a unique site with limited space and various geotechnical challenges. The client requested that the home be highly sustainable and exceed all energy-efficiency requirements. The property was on a septic system with no access to a city sewer; therefore, there was a significant amount of uncertainty as to what method to use to properly drain the site and what type of technology to apply.
The firm determined that a septic system would not work because the location was too steep, and it would not meet new codes. To combat this issue, the firm created a hybrid sewer system through a neighboring property to the closest sewer connection that traversed a change of 700 to 800 feet of elevation. The final design included a high-pressure system with a smaller line and a pumping station.
The next two examples demonstrate the potential value of the R&D tax credit incentive.
This Texas architectural firm specializes in commercial and public projects throughout the state, with each design being a unique “one-off” concept.
This small New York firm specializes in a mix of residential and commercial projects. Because of its small size, one large project may span a few years, which increased costs and credit values in those years.
Now that you know the value of the R&D incentive, how would your architectural/design firm determine whether it qualifies?
Claiming R&D tax credits requires a fair amount of documentation, so it’s important to seek professional help from a consultant with strong expertise in helping architects successfully claim these valuable tax credits. R&D experts will examine the fundamentals of your business activities—incorporating operations, engineering, financial, and tax expertise that results in more credits and meticulous documentation that is necessary to support your activities, costs, and credits.
R&D tax credits can be claimed each year. For firms that have never claimed the credit, there may also be credits available for the prior three years. If your company meets the standards outlined above, a discussion with an R&D expert may be worthwhile.
What’s the current state of the accounting profession? And how does my firm measure up compared to others?
Every year for the past 23 years, those are the questions that The Rosenberg Survey has been asking. Today the Survey is prepared by my colleague Charles Hylan of The Growth Partnership, its original creator. I acquired The Growth Partnership last year in part because of its sponsorship of the Survey, which Accounting Today calls “the industry’s barometer for CPA firm practice management.”
Recently I sat down with Charles to discuss the upcoming Rosenberg Survey, which started collecting data from CPA firms January 15th.s
Julio Gonzalez: Charles, could you tell us what’s the purpose of the Rosenberg Survey?
Charles Hylan: It’s a financial benchmarking survey within the national CPA industry, and it’s known for its accuracy, thoroughness, and high participation rate.We survey a robust pool of participants, and because we have a very high repeat rate, we get valid year-to-year comparisons. In addition, we provide statistics not seen in other surveys.
Julio Gonzalez: Why do you think this year’s Survey might be different from the others?
Charles Hylan: The pandemic, no question. When we released last year’s survey in September 2020, it was based on questions we’d drawn up before COVID hit. Then early last December, we released a flash survey composed of 20 questions to see how accounting firms were handling the pandemic, and 179 firms responded. What we learned was an eye-opener.
Julio Gonzalez: What did you learn?
Charles Hylan: We in the accounting industry adapted quickly, and we coped well. More than two-thirds of firms met or exceeded budget for revenue and net income growth in 2020. Very few firms had to either furlough or permanently lay off employees. Over 80% of the firms expected some or significant fee growth in 2021. Firms did an outstanding job pivoting to virtual work arrangements, and nearly 80% expected to expand their more virtual work policy.
Julio Gonzalez: But that was based on a flash survey. I imagine that the findings of this year’s Survey are going to be much more thorough and comprehensive.
Charles Hylan: We think it will be the definitive snapshot of how the accounting profession grappled with COVID—and won.
Julio Gonzalez: If I’m a CPA firm, how do I participate in the Rosenberg Survey and learn its findings?
Charles Hylan: It’s easy! Simply go to www.rosenbergsurvey.com to begin the process. The survey is open and will remain open until July 15.
Julio Gonzalez: What do I get for participating?
Charles Hylan: A customized benchmarking sheet for your firm, 40 pages of narrative analysis, and row-by-row data for each firm we interview—100 benchmarks in all. We include dozens of special analyses, such as the number of firms using each of the six major partner compensation systems; breakout of profits for firms by population size of their markets; how staff-to-partner ratio impacts profitability; with a correlation of partner charge hours to profitability.
Julio Gonzalez: How can the Survey help me in the competitive arena that the accounting profession has become?
Charles Hylan: You’ll be able to stay on top of what’s happening in our constantly changing industry. The Survey can help you to compare yourself to others, to see what you’re doing well, where you’re struggling, and to recognize emerging best practices in the accounting profession.
Julio Gonzalez: Do you have any predictions about what new trends might be uncovered by the next Survey?
Charles Hylan: One trend that I think will be noticeable is the uptick inM&A activity. The succession challenge many firms are dealing with is forcing them to merge up.
Julio Gonzalez: No question of that. Well, Charles, thank you very much for getting us ready for the launch of this year’s Rosenberg Survey. We look forward to reading the results in September. Maybe by looking back on how we handled last year, we can all have a better chance of dealing with the year coming ahead.
A long-awaited extension of the 179D tax deduction could save architects thousands of dollars. AIA partner Engineered Tax Services explains how to secure your allocations.
On December 20, President Trump signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2019 (H.R. 1158). This bill is notable for the architecture, construction, and engineering industries because it includes a long-awaited extension of the 179D deduction for energy-efficient commercial buildings and the 45L tax credit for energy-efficient homes and multifamily properties, both of which expired on December 31, 2017.
In addition, this extension has now made both tax incentives retroactive for projects completed in 2018, 2019, and 2020 and encourage the design and installation of energy-efficient building systems and overall energy conservation in commercial buildings and multifamily properties.
What is 179D?
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 originally passed in 2005 and has been renewed numerous times since with several changes to the level of efficiency required to qualify for the deduction.
The 179D tax deduction incentivizes building owners and designers for installing energy-efficient buildings systems, including lighting, HVAC, and building envelope components, and it applies to both new construction and retrofits. Any commercial building or multifamily properties that are four stories or higher may claim the deduction.
The tax benefit is a federal tax deduction from $0.30 per square foot to $1.80 per square foot based on the following requirements:
How is 179D allocated to architects?
The 179D deduction may be taken by any private property owner whose building meets the energy requirements reflected above; however, the most valuable benefit for architects is the ability to allocate the deduction to the architect or the entity who designed the technical specifications for a public entity. Because public entities are non-taxable, the deduction cannot be utilized, so the tax code allows this deduction to be gifted to the architect or designer as an incentive to focus on energy efficiency and conservation in our public spaces.
Eligible buildings include city, state, county, and federal buildings such as public universities, K-12 schools, police and fire stations, military bases, and federal government buildings.
Previous requirements that small businesses pay a fee for signing 179D allocation agreements have since been backtracked, so architects should not be required to do so by their state and local government entities. Architects should not have to pay a fee to local and state government entities to receive an allocation letter, per the Department of Treasury. (Consult with Engineered Tax Services should you face such a requirement.)
In recent years, some city and state agencies have implemented processes for determining who can receive the allocation and how to issue them. The tax code itself states simply, “The allocation of the deduction [is] to the person primarily responsible for designing the property in lieu of the owner of such property.” 26 U.S.C. § 179D
Some state agencies also have created processes for handling requests. For example, before signing the allocation letter, Utah requires a signed affidavit from all architects and engineers on eligible projects, stating whether they will participate in the deduction or choose to opt-out. This process ensures transparency and equal opportunity to involved parties who often share a percentage of the tax deduction and certification fees.
Getting the deduction
Architects with eligible public projects that were completed between January 1, 2016, and December 31, 2020, can claim the deduction on the applicable tax return. Submitters must include the signed allocation letter and a letter of certification from a third-party engineer who has performed the required energy modeling and a physical site visit on each building.
Engineered Tax Services, for example, is a licensed engineering firm specializing in this type of energy modeling related to IRS tax requirements and offers complimentary benefit analysis and quotes for certification.
45L tax credit for low-rise multifamily
The 26 U.S. Code § 45L offers a $2,000 tax credit to the developers of low-rise multifamily properties of three floors or less, and to single-family residential homes. The energy-efficiency requirements include:
Although only the dwelling unit’s heating and cooling systems’ energy consumption are used to
determine the requirements for the tax credit, many other factors play a key role. These factors include insulation, internal heat gains from lights and appliances, window coverings, exterior building color, mechanical ventilation, size of windows, exterior shading, climate zone, duct location, and unit’s air tightness, just to name a few.
Engineered Tax Services offers a complimentary “Builders Guide to 45L,” which can be used to evaluate a property’s qualifying ability and to proactively consult with clients during the design process for capturing this valuable tax credit.
If you are interested in more information relating to the 179D or 45L incentives, or a review to determine eligibility, contact Heidi Henderson at Engineered Tax Services.
In his 14 years in the NFL, Ray Crockett earned two Super Bowl rings with the Denver Broncos as a cornerback in 1991 and 1998. Today he’s a financial advisor, specializing in insurance, real estate, and financial and tax planning. As Vice President of Operations of the Engineered Advisory family of companies, he’s giving wealth management advice to today’s athletes so they can learn from his experience.
“When I was playing, tax was a five-minute conversation,” he said. “No planning. In fact, we had a fear of taxes. You know, two things you can’t dodge—death and taxes. We didn’t know how to use our tax dollars.
“Now you have young players with tax bills of $10, $20 million a year—legacy money—and now we’re noticing that some of the wealthiest people in the country aren’t paying the kind of tax bills that we are. Why is that? Why can’t players be able to minimize their taxes too? Why can’t NFL players get the same kind of tax treatment as Fortune 500 CEOs?”
As remedial tax strategies, Ray is recommending his athlete clients consider limited liability corporations (LLCs), family offices, limited partnerships, alternative investments, and tax credits to preserve wealth.
“Athletes should be made aware of these options,” Ray said. “My job is to get players to understand them, because managers and agents don’t know about taxes.”
Ray credits his friendship with Julio Gonzalez, CEO of the Engineered Advisory family of companies (which includes Engineered Tax Services, The Growth Partnership, and ABLE), with his understanding of how tax laws and wise financial planning can directly benefit professional athletes.
Julio mentioned an example of how athletes are treated unfairly by tax laws.
“The bigger issue is that NFL players play 16-17 games a year,” Julio said. “So if they’re making $1 million dollars a year, for each game, they’re taxed 1/16 of their total annual salary—but they’re taxed according to what city and state they play in. For that 24 hours, they’re taxed according to a different jurisdiction.
“The rationale here is to make athletes pay for the stadiums. It’s unfair. No one else is being taxed that way. I’ve put together some language for Congress to consider in reshaping tax laws for athletes like Ray.”
Ray states that it’s his mission to educate players. “All athletes have short careers,” he said. “Earning time is short. Considering players can easily spend 20-30% of their total income on taxes, I believe in offering wealth-gaining opportunities. As advisors, we don’t want to take money from them; we want to give it back to them.”
Ray’s advice to today’s athletes?
“The biggest mistake is to listen to the wrong person,” he said. “If you’re a player and you look at the five people closest to you, they’re not well off financially themselves. How is someone going to tell you how to become a millionaire if they’re not a millionaire themselves? I trusted my agent and I lost millions. I invested in a hedge fund that turned into a Ponzi scheme like Bernie Madoff’s. The guy behind it lost hundreds of millions of dollars for celebrity clients and ended up taking his own life.
“The lesson? There’s no rush to invest. Two doctors I used to play golf with told me they were making a 25 percent return on this hedge fund, and they kidded me for only making five percent on my other investments. To which I say: better to keep your money and make five percent! You still have your money.”
Many male members of Ray’s family were and are Marines, and he grew up with the motto: “Prepare for war in time of peace.” By the same token, he encourages athletes to prepare for their post-sports career now while the capital is flowing.
“Before you invest in anything, know what the risks and rewards are,” he said. “We need our financial literacy. Prepare now, and save your money now. When you’re busy playing pro ball, you’re too busy to focus on your finances.”
Ray has a four-step plan he shares with clients:
Currently Ray holds both a real estate license and an insurance license, and he specializes in selling insurance to the high-net-worth market.
“For example, I showed a client how they could get a $20 million life insurance policy without paying a dime by putting up real estate as collateral,” he said. “These are the strategies I want to offer my clients. Like I said, why shouldn’t professional athletes have access to the same kind of tax-intelligent planning that Fortune 500 CEOs use every day?”
Julio Gonzalez, the founder of Engineered Tax Services, joined us from Florida for this episode of Where Accountants Go, the Accounting Careers Podcast.
We find our guests for the show from many sources, but in this case we just noticed some intriguing content online and decided to delve deeper and find out more. Julio Gonzalez’ early career took him into the specialized tax field, and that opportunity and knowledge base eventually led to him starting his own specialty practice and building it into an organization of several hundred people. Engineered Tax Services now helps accounting firms and their clients in the areas of cost segregation, R&D tax credits, energy credits, and much more. In addition, the company also has other offerings focused on helping the CPA firms they work with improve various aspects of their own practices.
If building a niche specialty interest you, or simply building a complex organization over time is something you aspire to do, this episode will be of great value. We were fortunate that Julio spent the time to record this. I’m sure you will enjoy the episode.
Julio Gonzalez, CEO of Engineered Tax Services, talks with Jeff about the red flags that can trigger an IRS audit. He also discusses special challenges that tax filers will encounter when doing their taxes this year.
NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–tZERO, a leader in blockchain innovation and liquidity for digital assets, announced today that it has signed an agreement with Engineered Tax Services, Inc. (ETS), the country’s largest licensed tax credits and incentives advisory firm. ETS is a licensed engineering firm with over 150 employees that focuses on federal, state, and local tax credits and incentives. ETS caters to a diversified client base, which largely consists of several thousand private CPA firms and their related clients in the businesses of real estate, manufacturing, and energy. This partnership will introduce tZERO to ETS clients seeking technology services to digitize their capitalization tables (i.e., tokenization). tZERO’s tokenization standard is interoperable with the tZERO ATS trading ecosystem, giving issuers optionality to a secondary liquidity solution.