Handling Deferred Revenue When Selling Your Business

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One of the most complicated tax accounting items to handle in the context of an M&A transaction is deferred revenue. In the below scenario, we assume the affected taxpayer reports on the accrual basis and uses the deferral method permitted under IRS Revenue Procedure 2004-34. This method permits the deferral of cash payments received in advance over a two-year period.

In a taxable sales transaction involving asset sale or equivalent asset sale tax election, and/or stepped-up transaction form, the described deferred revenue item is generally beyond the scope of this blog and is recognized in full by the selling party. This anomaly triggering event creates unexpected tax results that could adversely affect the overall economics of an equitable deal for you. Therefore, in the context of a pass-through entity seller party where the federal income tax rate differential plays between long-term capital tax rates and ordinary tax rates, the difference could be as much as 19.6%. Without an understanding of the described tax ramifications beforehand can be a deal killer.

Generally, most sophisticated buyers (i.e. private equity, public company, etc.) won’t agree in principle to compensate you for incremental tax with respect to the described acceleration event. The buyer party will always assert that the negotiated price already factors-in all such costs. Accordingly, to hedge this additional tax costs when you start your negotiation process, you need to factor-in the estimated incremental tax. Now, with respect to negotiating your current working capital adjustment that will ultimately affect your overall net selling price, the deferred income item assumed by the buyer party should be capped at what you believe is the estimated fulfillment costs to earn such deferred revenue in the future.

If you are planning to sell your business and would like more information regarding the handling of this tax item, or other transaction-related tax techniques available, please contact Jorge Rodriquez at jrodriguez@aronsonllc.com or (301) 222-8220.

About Jorge Rodriguez

Jorge Rodriguez has written 26 post in this blog.

Jorge L. Rodriguez, CPA, serves as a partner in Aronson's Tax Services Group. He is a seasoned professional with more than 25 years of public accounting experience. He is known for delivering a broad, in-depth tax perspective, informed by his deep, wide-ranging industry knowledge, to every engagement for the benefit of his diverse clientele. Jorge specializes in federal tax consulting and compliance with a special focus on M&A transaction structuring, planning, and modeling. He routinely helps his clients resolve highly complex tax matters including: entity formation, classification, and conversion planning issues; accounting method and period elections and changes; consolidated tax return filling elections and tax accounting concerns; Sec 382 analysis and study; and all aspects of ASC 740 compliance involving purchase accounting and foreign operation reporting areas. Jorge works with a broad cross section of companies. His clients include emerging businesses, middle-market firms, and public business enterprises engaged in a wide variety of industries including government contracting, software development, light manufacturing, IT technology services and products sales, and specialty construction contracting. Jorge is passionate about helping his clients formulate tax strategies that make business sense. He shares his expert insights freely as a regular contributor to Aronson’s Tax Matters blog with series such as “M&A Shop Talk.” Prior to joining Aronson in 2009, Jorge was a practicing tax partner with several regional public accounting firms. He is licensed to practice in Maryland and Virginia. Professional & Community Involvement: Maryland Association of Certified Public Accountants: Member American Institute of Certified Public Accountants: Member Education: University of Maryland: Bachelor of Science in Accounting -Ongoing education in tax matters

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