Ep. 73 - Mazars USA: CARES Act, PPP, and Business Planning

June 22, 2020 | 21 Minutes

Mazars USA LLP is a global accounting, advisory, audit, tax, consulting firm assisting clients in the most competitive industries in the world. In this episode of Count Me In, three professionals from Mazars joined us to talk about the CARES Act and PPP loan, and discussed what they've been able to do to help their clients navigate through these uncertain times. John Confrey, CPA has more than 7 years of public accounting experience, providing attest and advisory services primarily in the real estate industry for both public and private companies. John’s clients include SEC Registered Investment Advisors, real estate private equity funds, separate accounts for institutional investors, Real Estate Investment Trusts, and residential building owners and managers. Ryan Vaughan, CPA has over 10 years of diversified public accounting experience providing tax and consulting experience to emerging, mid-market, and large multi-national companies. Ryan leads the Chicago Tax practice and Tax Credits & Incentives practice providing tax services to companies in a multitude of industries including manufacturing and distribution, energy, technology, real estate, retail, financial services, and health care. Alisha Jernack, CPA has more than 10 years experience servicing entrepreneur’s and small businesses. She specializes in financial reporting, tax and advisory services to family-owned and owner-operated businesses in trucking, warehousing, logistics, and heavy-haul businesses, as well as various manufacturing and distribution industries, and various service industries. John, Ryan, and Alisha talk about the proprietary analysis tool they developed, explain the kind of value their clients have realized from this model, and discuss what these events mean for business going into the future. Download and listen now!

Mazars USA Links:
Contact Our Featured Speakers:
Ryan Vaughan - https://www.linkedin.com/in/ryanjvaughan/

Adam: (00:05)
Welcome back for episode 73 of Count Me In, IMA’s  podcast about all things affecting the accounting and finance world. I am your host, Adam Larson, and I'm happy to share this very timely conversation held by my cohost Mitch and a small panel from Mazars Business Advisory. He spoke with Alisha Jernack, Ryan Vaughan, and John Confrey about what Mazers has done to help clients with the PPP loan, a proprietary tool to help analyze its client's applications and calculations and the overall business, as it relates to the CARES Act. Our guests also discuss what the recent crisis has done to financial and operational opportunities for sustainability as we enter the new normal and next phase of business. For a highly informative and firsthand experience on this valuable topic. Keep listening as we head over to the conversation now. 

Mitch: (00:58)
So obviously there's been a lot of interest in various discussions around the PPP loan. I know you have done the significant amount of work with this for your clients and tailoring different solutions. So I'm wondering if you can just tell us a little bit about your stance and what you've done for your clients when receiving questions about the loan. 

John: (01:17)
So I would say with the loan and that that's, you know, a lot of moving parts have come about the PPP, you know, at first got introduced rather quickly. I think the bill was, was put out out of necessity, with some speed behind it and with that has come, some fluidity that's been needed as the bill evolves and the guidance evolves, you know, the bill is compounded interim final rules, there's treasury FAQs. So a lot of different things, I think what we've been able to do and it had to do with our clients and be flexible and be nimble, and also having our clients, you know, adapt to the changing environment, which has been an interesting approach for us. 

Alisha: (01:56)
Yeah. We saw from the onset, right with the signing of the CARES Act that there was a, a big rush, upfront to get everybody to apply. I know, I think the bill was signed  late on a Friday, and we had all come through it and we were working literally throughout the weekend to make sure that we were able to understand, you know, what benefits there were within the CARES Act for our clients and then come that Monday, we were ready to roll. And I think, you know, each one of us, we were scheduling, 30 minute calls, you know, over, over two days to make sure that we were having conversations and letting our clients know what the benefits were, and how it applied to them and then, you know, we got hit with a big rush. We were able to develop a tool internally, that we were able to use and help our clients to quickly apply and it ended up being a good thing because soon after the funds quickly ran out, and then some time passed before they, then came out with second round of funding. So it was interesting and it continues to be ever changing, and we're learning every day and adjusting every day. 

Mitch: (03:09)
So you just mentioned a model that you put into place. Can you tell us a little bit about what went into that and really, you know, what made you decide to take on this kind of initiative and pursue this kind of solution? 

Alisha: (03:21)
Sure. So yeah, at Mazars we work with a lot of privately owned businesses. What would be, you know, deemed small businesses as defined by the SBA and, you know, depending on the size of those clients, they don't necessarily have the teams in place to be able to execute quickly, and with this, we knew that time was of the essence. We also knew from going through the CARES Act that there were certain stipulations in there, and credits and benefits that you couldn't take, you know, it was one or the other, you couldn't take both. So we knew that we had to be able to go through and make a determination one, do our clients qualify? And then two, what is more beneficial to them? And that's really what led us to, hey, we need to develop something, so that we can put together and have an analysis to share with our clients, because if they apply for the PPP, then they're not going to be eligible for other benefits. So we knew we had to help them and, you know, have that quickly to them so that they could make the decision. We knew the funds were likely to run out quickly. So we got together a core team, from the start, it was probably 20 of us. We were literally meeting nightly and, and probably spending two or three hours together, and we developed the tool and, you know, at first it was used primarily on the loan side and again, to assess, the benefits and, you know, with the different provisions within the CARES Act, what would be the most beneficial for them, but then as soon as the loan proceeds were received, which some, you know, were received within, a week, even we were able to then begin modeling out the forgiveness for them so that they could make decisions because they only had an eight week period to do so. So then, you know, we pivoted from first, Hey, let's make sure you get your application into the bank and we can help you, we've developed a tool and we have procedures and here's a request list, get us your information and we can turn it around to you and then following that, it was okay, you know, where are you today? How many employees do you have? Where's your payroll? And you know, what do we expect that this is going to look like over the next weeks and really looking to how we can model it out for them so that we could make decisions to be able to achieve the maximum forgiveness, you know, to the extent that we could. So we wanted, you know, we've put in place, we've put it together really to be able to help them to drive the decision making process and help them to strategize. 

Ryan: (05:55)
Yeah, and I think it was important for us to have kind of a standard template, which then we, I mean, it started off standard. I think we had three or four iterations based on the different rule changes. So, you know, we were trying to be as flexible as we could, kind of behind the scenes, but then also to get out, because obviously the core group of, I think Alisha said 20, which is just probably close, you know, we couldn't service all of our clients. So we wanted to make sure that, we could share it across the firm and really bring the maximum benefit to our clients, which we needed something relatively standard to be able to utilize that. 

Mitch: (06:38)
And you just mentioned something also, you know, the ever changing guidance that's going out. And I know I'm sure you're receiving a lot of questions from your clients as far as, you know, the the continually changing guidance, the forgiveness. So, you know, how has that really impacted you and what are you doing to stay up to date and continue advising, different people who are probably approaching this from different perspectives? 

John: (07:05)
Yeah. The guide  changing  has been interesting and interim final rules, and there's actually one that came out this morning we were reading before this podcast. So, it's interesting, you know, I think it's not something that everyone is necessarily used to, and, and the problem with it, while at times it brings some positives is you're making decisions based on a set of rules that are then thrown upside down or change significantly the next day, and then you have to kind of reevaluate your decisions. And that's really where we've been able to, from the model perspective that the model, every time there's a need for change and then get in front of our clients individually. And then we host webinars to be able to broadcast of these changes and layer in steps and tools to kind of help navigate. I think that's, it's an important piece to what the PPP has been put out, and decision making it needs to be on the fly, which again is not probably in everyone's usual wheelhouse in terms of making a decision and just executing on it. And, you know, this thing is changing on a day by day basis at times. 

Mitch: (08:09)
And what is the value really that you are seeing your clients are recognizing, you know, talk a little bit about what you've been able to accomplish with these, with this tool and the different solutions you're offering? 

Alisha: (08:21)
Yeah, I'd say, I mean, it's really been, helping clients to identify opportunities, and helping them to strategize again, you know, up until very recently, I think last week it was an eight week window that we had. So with the model that we developed internally, we weren't able to identify gaps if you will, and see where there could be opportunities for them to have additional spend within the eight week period. Of course, within the guidelines so that again, they can achieve that maximum forgiveness. So we were looking at, where we were adding value was, you know, really understanding the law as it was written. So we were seeing that many, there was a lot of confusion around probably five points and those five points continued to come up. So, you know, growth versus net. And, you know, when looking to grow, are you able to pay bonuses are over the eight week period or hazard pay and when comparing for, to determine what the wage reduction amount was, and, you know, if it was an excess of that 25%, we're looking to, well, what does that mean? What are we comparing it to, does that include just our base salary? Or, you know, is that a salary of what happened if we had a bonus and the period that we're comparing to, there was also, you know, opportunities have clients typically paid their year end bonuses, or midyear bonuses at a certain time. We were looking to see, hey, you may have some, room here based on, you know, there was caps in place for the gross wage amounts on a weekly basis. But if, you know, there was room to squeeze additional pay in there, we were encouraging them, Hey, maybe, you know, we should consider paying the bonus on this date, you know, versus a date that fell outside the eight week window on the non-payroll costs. We were seeing that there was many questions around, you know, what gets included in rents, utilities and interests. And, you know, rent, everybody was quick to just assume that that meant office space or, you know, just normal, rent. But as you know, we were going through this, you know, we were encouraging them that, hey, look, it says real and personal property. So if you have a lease agreement in place for equipment, say, you can include that as, you can include that lease expense, you know, whatever's paid during the eight week period. You know, similarly some utilities that normally they wouldn't necessarily be considering and that utility buckets. So really just helping them to understand where there may be gaps and, you know, where we can spend dollars within the eight weeks and how to monitor head count even to just overall make sure that they were achieving, you know, the forgiveness to the extent that they could, or that they wanted to, because there were some instances to where, it didn't make necessarily business sense for them to just spend the funds within the eight week period. So really just, you know, having, being able to see the full picture and educate them and helping them to be able to understand where there may be opportunities and what made sense for their business. 

John: (11:29)
Yeah. And I think too, where the value has been, has been able to provide our clients with the ability to be ready, to apply, to deal with their banks, to deal with key stakeholders in their company. A lot of questions were coming up, for customers even, right, can we help our clients and help their customers at the same time? And so both directly and indirectly helping our clients. And I think that's, they've seen the value there and, it's been a good thing for everyone. And we've been trying to be that trusted advisor to our clients. We've brought in people in the firm that can layer in their expertise and their knowledge to kind of get a cohesive group together, and be able to put out a product that serves our client in the best way possible. 

Ryan: (12:10)
I just want one more thing to add, I think has been, you know, maybe a little bit of a reward for this is seeing some of our clients keep those jobs on during, you know, as a result of, you know as we helped and maximized and work through, you know, we've certainly seen scenarios and, and have those know sometimes tough conversations with clients, but at the end of the day, we're getting, you know, they held on to 10 jobs because of this or whatever that is. So that was certainly rewarding as for us as we went through and really helped our clients. 

Mitch: (12:52)
So that's great. And, you know, it is nice to kind of reap those rewards personally also in you know, just now like to take a step back away from this specific tool and the model you put together, and just look at the business situation, the CARES Act as a whole, you know, kind of hindsight now, what do you think businesses and individuals should really take note of coming out of this? And I know we're still in it, but, you know, how can that kind of, open up some, maybe opportunities now, or in the future for the clients that you work with? 

Ryan: (13:27)
So the CARES Act, I mean, the PPP program certainly, you know, kind of stole the spotlight, but, but there's, there's a lot of beneficial tax planning, aspects of the CARES Act that, you know, are really now starting to be addressed, and will be for the rest of the summer and into the early fall as, income tax returns come due for 2019. As you may recall, it was extended to July 15th for the original due date federally, most States conformed, and then the extension into the early fall. So there's, there's opportunities to, carryback net operating losses and accelerate cash flow from a tax standpoint, which we've seen a lot of clients start to really plan around and optimize, to provide further relief, on the income tax side, which has been, you know, really beneficial, and there's been some nice provisions with the NOL carryback, temporary suspension of limitations, for taxpayers to take advantage of different areas. So, that's on the business side. On the individual side, there's other areas, reducing penalties or waiving penalties for minimum distributions, retirement accounts increase in charitable deduction limitations, and then the $1,200 check that everyone got or certain individuals got, I think most of those have been distributed already, so that certainly helped on the individual side. So, there's a lot of areas of the CARES Act that added additional value, outside of the PPP that, they're really being dug into now, and we're helping our clients, you know, really mining their data, mining their historical tax situations to come up with a planning strategy to maximize, you know, the benefits and relief available under the CARES Act. 

Mitch: (15:44)
And I guess to close things out now, what I'd like to do is kind of take it even one step further from what you were just talking about, you know, what can you advise clients as far as, you know, financial planning, you know, strategic planning moving forward, and what do you have to offer as far as, you know, maybe being you can ever be fully prepared, but, you know, with the idea that this could potentially, you know, business could be in jeopardy again in the future for one reason or another, you know, what kind of advice do you have for the clients as far as that goes? 

Ryan: (16:18)
Yeah, so, you know, obviously this pandemic hit rather quickly, and I think there was a need to adapt just  on the fly. And, you know, I think looking past the PPP and as things start to begin, the new normal as we can call it for now, there's a need to reevaluate, I would say your business and see where, you know, what steps you need to take to get back to where you were prior to the  pandemic. And what we've been able to do is put together a financial sustainability program. It's part of our strategic business planning group that we have, that we're all a part of, and you know, what we can do is help clients see where they are, see where they need to get to and lay out steps to bridge that gap, as long as that's what they want to do. And so, we have this program in place, it's great to kind of layer things out and see, see what's next. 

Alisha: (17:09)
Yeah, and just to add to that, it's really, I mean, we're looking at it, and we're doing it across, you know, many different industries. So of course, any industries such as retail and restaurants that have been hit the hardest, we're really looking at it as a crisis action plan, and you know, phase three of this pandemic. So we've gotten past the PPP, you know, so now we're looking to what do we do next? And as John mentioned, how do we bridge that gap? And in, you know, cases where the business has been significantly disrupted, it really almost becomes a bridge to, you know, recovery for them, and looking to, almost a modified business plan, whereas, you know, pre-pandemic, we would of course have a business plan in place. And now we need to come up with alternative strategies, and breakthrough objectives to help us to cover our overhead over the next, you know, 12, 18 months. So we're looking to, help the clients assess, you know, first, what did they look like pre pandemic, you know, then we get into what is the impact, what impact has this crisis had on their business and whether or not it's been significant to them. And then we really, you know, go deep into what are the shareholders strategies and priorities, what, you know, breakthrough objectives, can we identify our high level strategies as you take an , restaurant, for instance, you know, they're going to have to look to a revised business model altogether and looking to maybe meal kits or grocery model, or extending, you know, their delivery services. And then building that in. And we're looking at that, really today with the crisis over three year period where we would normally in our strategic business planning model look to five years, and we're getting more granular with it. So we break it into the pandemic into phases. So we look at it during the, you know, locked down and where everybody was had, there was stay at home orders. And then we look to next, you know, this social distancing phase, and then finally the recovery. And really during, you know, the first year or so, we're looking at this monthly and we're making sure that we've put plans in place to help our clients to actually be able to, you know, one execute and then two monitor, along the way. So looking at this minimally on a monthly basis, setting goals, and be able to measure against, you know, any key performance indicators and track to see how they're actually doing and are they executing on this, on this plan? So, you know, we're, we're doing it already. We see a lot of value in it. and again, it doesn't necessarily have to be just target sectors. It can be done with, with any business. 

Closing: (20:03)
This has been Count Me In IMA's podcast, providing you with the latest perspectives of thought leaders from the accounting and finance profession, if you like, what you heard, and you'd like to be counted in for more relevant accounting and finance education, visit IMA's website at www.imanet.org.