goodwill

How to Drastically Reduce Taxes by Allocating Goodwill

You may hear the word “Goodwill”  thrown around a lot, especially during business valuation and/or buying and selling a business, but what does it really mean?  When it comes to selling your business, the term refers to all the “sweat equity” that the seller put into a business during his/her ownership tenure. Goodwill can be thought of as the difference between the various tangible assets that a business has and the overall purchase price.

The M&A Dictionary defines goodwill in the following way, “An intangible fixed asset that is carried as an asset on the balance sheet, such as a recognizable brand, product name, or strong reputation. When one company pays more than the net book value for another, the former is typically paying for goodwill. Goodwill is often viewed as an approximation of the value of a company’s brand names, reputation, or long-term relationships that cannot otherwise be represented financially.”

Goodwill vs. Going-Concern

Now, it is important not to confuse goodwill value with “going-concern value,” as the two are definitely not the same. Going-concern value is typically defined by experts, as the fact that the business will continue to operate in a manner that is consistent with its intended purpose as opposed to failing or being liquidated. For most business owners, goodwill is seen as good service, products and reputation, all of which, of course, matters greatly.

Below is a list of some of the items that can be listed under the term “goodwill.” As you will notice, the list is surprisingly diverse.

42 Examples of Goodwill Items that Drive Core Value

  • Phantom Assets
  • Local Economy
  • Industry Ratios
  • Custom-Built Factory
  • Management
  • Loyal Customer Base
  • Supplier List
  • Reputation
  • Delivery Systems
  • Location
  • Experienced Design Staff
  • Growing Industry
  • Recession Resistant Industry
  • Low Employee Turnover
  • Skilled Employees
  • Trade Secrets
  • Licenses
  • Mailing List
  • Royalty Agreements
  • Tooling
  • Technologically Advanced Equipment
  • Advertising Campaigns
  • Advertising Materials
  • Backlog
  • Computer Databases
  • Computer Designs
  • Contracts
  • Copyrights
  • Credit Files
  • Distributorships
  • Engineering Drawings
  • Favorable Financing
  • Franchises
  • Government Programs
  • Know-How
  • Training Procedures
  • Proprietary Designs
  • Systems and Procedures
  • Trademarks
  • Employee Manual
  • Location
  • Name Recognition

As you can tell, goodwill, as it pertains to a business, is not an easily defined term. It is also very important to keep in mind that what goodwill is and how it is represented on a company’s financial statements are two different things.

Here is an example: a company sells for $2 million dollars but has only $1 million in tangible assets. The balance of $1 million dollars was considered goodwill and goodwill can be amortized by the acquirer over a 15-year period. All of this was especially impactful on public companies as an acquisition could negatively impact earnings which, in turn, negatively impacted stock price, so public companies were often reluctant to acquire firms in which goodwill was a large part of the purchase price. On the flip side of the coin, purchasers of non-public firms received a tax break due to amortization.

The Federal Accounting Standards Board (FASB) created new rules and standards pertaining to goodwill and those rules and standards were implemented on July 1, 2001. Upon the implementation of these rules and standards, goodwill may not have to be written off, unless the goodwill is carried at a value that is in excess of its real value. Now, the standards require companies to have intangible assets, which include goodwill, valued by an outside expert on an annual basis. These new rules work to define the difference between goodwill and other intangible assets as well as how they are to be treated in terms of accounting and tax reporting.

Before you buy a business or put a business up for sale, it is a good idea to talk to the professionals. The bottom line is that goodwill can still represent all the hard work a seller put into a business; however, that hard work must be accounted for differently than in years past and with more detail.

Generally speaking when you purchase another business, you are only buying the assets of that business. In other words, you are not buying the entity. Why not? Well, the entity could have a lot of skeletons in the closet. If the previous owner had made a mistake on a tax return and that mistake led to $100,000 in damages for the client, as the new owner do you want that responsibility or exposure? Nope.

There are circumstances where an asset sale is NOT ideal. At times the entity holds a license that is non-transferrable such as a liquor license or the entity has a contract with the government that took 7 years to bid and be awarded, and is also non-transferrable. But for most transactions, you will be executing an asset sale.

Within that asset sale is allocation of assets. Buyers and sellers have competing interests on price of course, but they also have competing interests on tax consequences. And to add to the complication, based on each party’s unique circumstances, a buyer and seller’s interests might be in concert with each other. In other words, an asset allocation might provide a favorable tax position for the buyer because of his or her own tax world, while still providing a favorable or at least neutral tax position for the seller. And these issues can affect the purchase price as well.

As business consultants, the Business Acquisition Experts is very aware of these competing interests and how they interplay with price negotiations. Let us help!

Let’s review some basics.

Asset Priority Buyer Seller
Cash Class I NA NA
Investments Class II NA NA
Accounts Receivable* Class III NA Ordinary Income
Inventory, Book Value Class IV NA None
Fixed Assets Class V Amortized, Varies Recapture / Gain
Intangibles Class VI Amortized, 15 Years Capital Gain
Goodwill Class VII Amortized, 15 Years Capital Gain
Non-Compete NA Amortized, 15 Years Ordinary Income
Consulting Agreements NA Expensed Income + SE Tax

* Sellers using an accrual method of accounting would not recognize income for the sale of their Accounts Receivable

The IRS breaks assets into classes, and essentially once you’ve allocated everything to Class I thru Class VI, whatever is left over is then considered Goodwill. So if the price is $200,000 and all your assets add up to $150,000, then you are also purchasing $50,000 in Goodwill.

 

For more on selling your business and how to negotiate the many parameters of a deal contact Business Acquisition Experts today!

 

Copyright: Business Acquisition Experts, Inc.