How to Use Your Tax Windfall

One of the most important things to be thinking about, even as a small business, is how to use the cash from paying less taxes.  Oh sorry, this assumes you are a C Corporation.  S Corporations are probably out of luck on the tax savings side – but that will be tomorrow’s blog.

First, keep in mind that from a banking perspective, your company won’t change.  That is because bank’s typically measure you according to EBITDA – or Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization.  If you have bank covenants with any time of earnings ratio it is based on this, not net profit after tax.

This being said, you should have additional cash flow.  Assuming you are profitable.

An example might help.  Lets say your business has EBITDA of $1,000,000.  From this:

  • Interest on your bank loan is $100,000
  • Depreciation and amortization is $100,000
  • Earnings before taxes is $800,000

Under old law, your tax would have been about $240,000.

Under the new tax law your tax will be $168,000, or a savings of about $72,000.

Honestly, the one thing you may want to avoid is increasing an expense by paying out a bonus, increasing wages, etc.  Paying out that $72K will reduce your EBITDA which could cause a covenant violation.

You also probably can’t issue a dividend to the shareholders because there is another covenant prohibiting such a move.  The bank wants its money first – which is only fair.

So what should you do?  Keeping idle cash around seems foolish, especially if you have a line of credit or term debt.

Ah yes, the debt.

Small businesses should seriously consider using the free cash flow from the reduced income tax rates to pay down debt. I would recommend freeing up the Line of Credit first and then start paying down the term debt.

The sooner you get that debt down the sooner you can start paying dividends – which as my blog yesterday pointed out, might be a better choice than taking payment as wages.  You will need to work with your accounting professional to ensure that this is the most effective way of getting money out to you but it may work out best that way.

Make sure you are on top of your loan covenants before you make big decisions on how to spend the tax savings which start this year.  And, everything else being equal, paying down bank debt will improve your ratios – anything else you do might impair them.

Have a great day.  If you are looking for an accounting and tax advisor who can help you navigate these times, feel free to contact me for a free consultation.

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