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 AAML NJ Blog


  • 14 Jun 2021 4:00 PM | AAML NJ Admin

    By Alex Kransnomowitz, CPA and Rory Gannon, CPA at Smolin Lupin

    Next month, about 39 million households—with roughly 88% of children in the U.S.—will begin receiving payments from the federal government. As part of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), the IRS will make 2021 advance child tax credit (CTC) payments to eligible parents, starting on July 15.

    Divorced parents, however, face a question: which parent will receive the payments?

    Why are these new child tax credits different?

    The ARPA has temporarily changed child tax credits rules from July 15 through December 2021. The amount has increased, the qualifying threshold has come down a little, and how parents receive credits has changed. Payments will now be received in advance: $300 per month for children under six and $250 per month for children six to seventeen.

    The CTC used to be $2000 per qualifying child, but that’s changed for the remainder of this year. Starting in mid-July, the CTC will be $3,600 for each qualifying child younger than six years old and $3,000 for children ages six to seventeen.

    The increased credit amount will be reduced or phased out for households with a modified adjusted gross income above the following thresholds:

         $150,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly and qualifying widows or widowers;

         $112,500 for heads of household; and

         $75,000 for all other taxpayers.

    However, even if a parent’s income is too high to receive the increased advance CTC payments, they may still qualify for the $2,000 CTC on their tax return for 2021.

    What is a qualifying child?

    For 2021, a “qualifying child” must be under age eighteen, related to the taxpayer, and claimed by the taxpayer as a dependent. Generally, it also means the child has lived with the taxpayer for at least six months during the year. The child must also be a U.S. citizen or national or U.S. resident.

    How and when will advance payments be sent out?

    From July through December 2021, the IRS will make advance payments of 50% of the parent’s estimated 2021 CTC. The payments will start on July 15, 2021. After that, they’ll be made on the 15th of each month, unless the 15th falls on a weekend or holiday. Parents will receive the monthly payments through direct deposit, paper check, or debit card.

    According to the IRS, eligible parents “are slated to begin receiving monthly payments without any further action required.”

    For divorced parents, who receives the payment?

    For divorced parents, however, the payments can create a bit of a tangle

    The payments will flow to the custodial parent who’s claiming the child as a dependent in the preceding tax year. If the parties have an agreement in place to alternate the years for which children are picked up as dependents, then the parent who claimed the children in 2020 will likely receive the automatic payment, if they fall below the income thresholds.

    Yet the payments are advance tax credits for 2021—not 2020. The result may lead to a dispute over who should receive the payments. Ultimately, parents will need to discuss the receipt of these funds so that they are reallocated to the parent who is claiming the children as dependents in 2021, based on the divorce agreement.

    With the first payment slated to arrive next month, proactive discussion among the parents may help reduce the stress of all involved.

    Have questions about this new credit? We’d love to help—contact our experienced Tax Professionals at any time.

    Alex is a Member of the Firm and a licensed Certified Public Accountant in New Jersey with over 15 years of experience.  Alex is a Certified Valuation Analyst and member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants. In his role on Smolin’s Litigation Support team, Alex leverages his extensive track record and experience servicing clients in both the private and public sectors.

    Rory Gannon is a Forensic and Valuation Services Manager with the Firm. He is a licensed Certified Public Accountant in New Jersey. He has experience working in insurance, investment banking and public accounting for over 8 years. He provides companies and their clients with forensic accounting services pertaining to matrimonial litigation, fraud investigation, commercial litigation support, business valuation, and shareholder dispute resolution.


  • 30 Apr 2021 12:00 PM | AAML NJ Admin

    By Carolyn Daly, Esq., Founder and Managing Partner of Daly & Associates, LLC with help from special guest contributor Barbara Bel, CPA

    The new stimulus bill sounds like a great deal: extra money the government is giving you, including your children, as long as your income is below certain thresholds. There’s just one problem: who does the IRS give the money to? To better understand the benefits and potential threats to parents, let’s examine what is in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

    Stimulus Funds – where is my money?

    The Rescue Act is the third COVID bill to grant “stimulus funds” to individuals, and it’s the largest award yet: $1,400 per person, including children. There are, once again, caps – you may not receive any stimulus funds if your income is over $80,000 if you file Single, $120,000 if you file Head of Household, and $160,000 if you file married. The IRS is in charge of distributing these payments, and will do so based on your 2019 tax returns (unless you filed 2020 taxes). Like with the last set of payments, the IRS attempts to pay these funds by way of direct deposit.

    This presents the first challenge for those who are recently divorced: what if you filed joint taxes in 2019 and/or 2020? Did previous stimulus funds get deposited into a joint account? Who has access to that account now? If one spouse received all of the funds and refuses to share those funds, what action you should take? To file a motion and recover those funds can cost you more than $1,400.

    For each child or other dependents, you receive $1,400 (again, provided you meet the income requirements). If you are divorced, the IRS will not split the funds. Instead the IRS pays to whoever claimed the children as dependents. This could produce a windfall to one parent. It may not be worth filing a motion to recover the funds. If your dependents are eligible for all stimulus payments, that means for each child the IRS has paid $2,500 over the past year. If you have multiple children and all the payments went to a single parent, it may be worth filing a motion, although that’s still a costly decision to you.

    Temporary Increase to Child Tax Credit set to cause havoc

    If you thought the stimulus payments were difficult, they’re nothing compared to the new rules on child tax credits. Previously, qualifying individuals received up to $2,000 per qualifying child as a credit against taxes owed (up to $1,400 of the $2,000 was refundable if you did not owe). However, the Rescue Act changed the rules for tax year 2021 only. While this may not impact your 2020 taxes, how you file in 2020 may impact who receives money in 2021, so it’s important to start thinking of this issue now.

    First, the maximum credit has been increased, and is also different depending on the age of your children. Assuming you meet income requirements, for each child up to 5 years old by December 31, 2021, you will receive a $3,600 credit, which is fully refundable if you do not owe taxes for 2021. For each child between the ages of 6-17 you will receive a $3,000 credit, also fully refundable if you have no income for only 2021.

    The changes don’t stop there. The Biden Administration wants to get these credits out as soon as possible. They have thus directed the IRS to begin making monthly payments of up to ½ of the benefit amount beginning in July of 2021. In other words, instead of claiming a $3,600 credit for a 4 year-old child on your 2021 tax returns that you have to file by April 15, 2022, you will instead receive $300 per month for each month (July-December 2021), and then claim the additional $1,800 on your 2021 returns next year.

    There are a number of issues with this new plan, the first one being logistical. The IRS has said they cannot guarantee the system will be up and running in July, so it is unclear whether or not the monthly payments will happen as planned. Now that the tax filing deadline is May 17th, this gives the IRS even less time after tax season to implement new programs. The bigger issue is with the money itself. It is customary in divorce cases that parents alternate the deduction, meaning that the parent claiming a child in 2020 is not the same parent claiming the child in 2021. When the IRS pays these advances, they will be paying the parent who claimed the child in 2020 meaning, in most cases, they may be paying the wrong parent.

    There is also an issue because this is a “one time” change to the child tax credit. While the purpose of alternating the deduction is so that each parent gets the same benefits over a two-year period, the parent who is allowed to claim the child in 2021 may actually get more money assuming the advanced monthly payments are made to that parent, but again, it is probably not enough to make it worth the cost to file a motion.

    In households with multiple children, the issue may be the amount of the credit now is different based upon a child’s age. It is common in a household with two children for each parent to claim one child each year. If one of those children are under 6, that parent may be receiving a higher amount for the tax credit than the other parent, when the plan was for the parents to receive an equal exempt amount.

    While these changes currently only apply to 2021, there is already a strong push to make them permanent. Parents and attorneys must thus begin preparing for multiple future scenarios – scenarios such as what to do if the changes do become permanent, or do not. According to Barbara Bel, CPA and tax partner at PKF O’Connor Davies who helped with this article, the new Congressional changes impact cash flow in divorce and the negotiations on who gets the child exemptions.

    Who claims the exemption and what happens as a result, are not an IRS problem. It will fall upon the divorced parents, and possibly their accountants and attorneys, to handle these issues. It is therefore essential to know what is in the new law, and what implications it can have for your clients. Here at Daly & Associates, we have worked with our network of outside advisors to understand how this new law will impact our clients, and we are ready to help you work through it as well.

    If you have questions and would like to set up a consultation, call us at (973) 292-9222 or e-mail assistant@dalyfamilylaw.net. We’re working “Daly” for you!

    Barbara Bell is a Tax Partner with PKF O’Connor Davies’ Harrison, New York Office and a Certified Public Accountant. See more at Barbara Bel | PKF O’Connor Davies (pkfod.com)

  • 20 Apr 2021 9:00 AM | AAML NJ Admin

    By Daniel Roche, CPA/ABV, ASA and Stefanie Jedra, CPA

    The year 2020 may best be known for COVID-19, but it was also the Year of the SPAC.  Everyone has one now – from high powered Wall Street investors to celebrities like Shaquille O’Neal, Serena Williams and A-Rod.  But what are SPACs and why did they rise to such prominence in 2020?  The answers to these questions are not that difficult.  What may be difficult however is the valuation of these speculative investments and how that may affect our clients.

    Special Purpose Acquisition Companies, better known as SPACs, have been around for decades.  They are basically publicly-traded cash shell companies (with no operations), with the ultimate goal of acquiring a privately held operating company.  Upon acquisition, this privately held operating company will then become a public company without having to go through the rigor of an IPO process – the IPO process for a cash shell company is much simpler.  Basically, a privately-held operating company either “reverse merges” or is combined with the public cash shell, and viola!, it’s a public company (slightly oversimplified).

    The economics around SPACs are also very interesting.  Most SPACs are funded through sponsor investors.  These sponsor investors provide cash to the SPAC in return for “Units” in the SPAC.  Units typically consist of one (1) common share and one (1), ½ or ¼ of a common share warrant to buy shares in the SPAC in the future at a specified price.  Investor cash is then held in a trust earning interest during the period where the SPAC locates a target company to acquire.  The SPAC then has a finite amount of time to identify and acquire a privately-held operating company – this timeframe is typically between 21 months and 24 months.  If an acquisition is not made during this time period, investor cash (plus interest) is returned and the SPAC fails.  However if the SPAC does make an acquisition, significant returns on investment can be had. This is because, typically, SPACs look to acquire companies that are significantly larger (4x – 6x) their initial capital funding and will look to the private markets to raise capital once a target company is identified.  Therefore, SPAC sponsor investors, some of whom could be your clients, could reap significant returns on their investments if and when a successful acquisition takes place.  

    While the shares of the SPAC are publicly traded, there is a time period between the IPO of the cash shell SPAC and the acquisition of a privately held company.  Between this time period, investors with significant influence, who may be your client(s), participate in due diligence and vote on any potential merger.  This process is not public and therefore the publicly traded shares will not reflect this activity.  However, the knowledge of this activity does exist.

    As you’re probably now thinking, the valuation of equity and derivative investments in SPACs can be quite complex.  Let’s consider the impact on the valuation of SPAC investments in the divorce arena.  With the significant amount of SPAC IPOs in 2020 and 2021, it is likely that we, in the divorce community, will begin to see more and more of these investments sponsored by our clients – or the marital estate in which we are involved.  Since the success of a SPAC is ultimately rooted in a successful acquisition made by this SPAC, there can be significant amount of speculation around the ultimate returns of these investments.  This is where niche expertise comes in.  As always, the concept of known or knowable will be a primary issue in the valuation process as well as the rigor of any amount of due diligence done by the SPAC around a potential acquisition and the ability to acquire information related to these transactions. 

    Marcum LLP is the #1 firm bringing SPACs to market.  Our practitioners have worked through vetting large amounts of external valuations of investments in SPACs and have significant institutional knowledge.  If you find that your clients have investments in SPACs or similar investment vehicles, please reach out to us for advice.


  • 14 Apr 2021 3:30 PM | AAML NJ Admin

    By: Judy Doyle, CPA and Jasmina Woodson, CPA, CFF

    Getting a divorce can be one of the hardest and most life-changing events in a person’s life.  Even the most amicable divorces can be draining both mentally and emotionally. For some people, getting to “D” Day is the light at the end of the long, dark tunnel.  Alimony has been calculated and the assets have been divided, it’s time to move on. But for others, this day brings on a new set of challenges and fears, as they are being forced into the driver’s seat to make financial decisions they never had to make before.  How much do I need for retirement? Can I afford to pay for my children’s college education? Will I have enough money to support my lifestyle and if so, for how long? All of these are valid questions and often times on the forefront of our client’s minds as they are signing their Property Settlement Agreements. So how can our team at Withum help?

    Our firm offers a wide array of accounting and advisory services, one of them being Withum Wealth Management. Withum Wealth is an independent registered investment advisor offering private wealth management solutions to develop a plan to help your clients move forward confidently into the next phase of their lives.  What helps set Withum Wealth apart is that as an RIA, they are true fiduciaries and held to a higher standard than the traditional investment firms.  Withum Wealth is legally required to provide ongoing advice that is in clients' best interests and not simply recommendations that are suitable and which may lead to additional commission or compensation. There are many ways in which Withum Wealth may be helpful to your clients.  Here we highlight just a few of those areas.

    Financial Independence Analysis

    As mentioned above, going through a divorce is a difficult and scary situation for many clients.  For individuals who are not used to making financial decisions this can be paralyzing.  Withum Wealth has developed several methods to help ease client’s fears both during and after the divorce is finalized.

    1. Cash Flow and Budgeting Analysis– Withum Wealth has the ability to prepare various analyses to assist the client in determining their expected ongoing cash flow to support their daily expenses and budgeting to help plan for the future, whether this be during the divorce negotiations or immediately after the divorce is finalized. This analysis takes into consideration all sources of income available to the client, including alimony and income producing assets received in equitable distribution. As it relates to the investments held, Withum Wealth is able to determine exactly how the asset division would occur, the types of assets held, any imbedded tax consequences, and how easily said assets could be transferred between parties. They are then able to run various scenarios to determine how much income could be earned from these assets to support the required lifestyle. This analysis is intended to help the client with their short-term needs following the divorce.
    2.    Full Life Expectancy Analysis– This analysis is intended to help clients in the long-term. Using various models, Withum Wealth has the ability to determine the amount of income required to maintain one’s lifestyle based on the estimated life expectancy. Similar to the above, all sources of income available to the client are considered, including potential inheritances, as well as various major life expenses, such as children’s college expenses and retirement. 

    The goal in preparing the types of analyses outline above is to assist the client in gaining control of their finances. These provide a starting point in the form of an individualized financial framework so the client can make smart financial decisions moving forward.

    Customized Investment Management

    Once an individual has an understanding of the assets he/she will receive in equitable distribution, they can begin to start planning for their new future.  Withum Wealth works with their clients to determine the types of accounts held and appropriate strategies in order to move forward.  This requires in depth discussions with the client to determine their needs and the related risks involved. Each individual has unique circumstances, tolerance for risk, investment objectives and income requirements that need to be considered. 

    In addition to the services outlined above, Withum Wealth also has the ability to provide useful analyses throughout the divorce process. Some examples include the preparation of a rate of return analyses.  This may be of assistance in instances where one of the parties has a pre-marital component to their retirement account which needs to be considered.  Withum Wealth is also able to assist in complex investment consulting in cases where the parties hold highly volatile funds that may require daily monitoring. 

    Withum Wealth’s client-first approach means they are always acting in the best interest of the client, whether it be assisting the client with ad hoc projects or building a long-term relationship in which they manage the client’s assets. Throughout the divorce process the client has an advocate, their attorney, guiding them every step of the way. It is important that after the divorce is finalized the client knows they still have a trusted advisor supporting them as they tackle life after divorce.

    The services we have available at Withum bring world class service to your clients as our knowledge base expands across various industries and service lines.  Withum Wealth is just one of the many areas of expertise our firm has access to which we are able to utilize in your divorce case.

    ***

    For more information or any questions please do not hesitate to reach out to our team. 

    Judy Doyle, CPA is a Senior Manager and Lead of Withum’s Matrimonial Litigation team.  She can be reached at jdoyle@withum.com

    Jasmina Woodson, CPA/CFF is a Manager and a member of Withum’s Matrimonial Litigation team.  She can be reached at jwoodson@withum.com

    To learn more about our Withum Wealth Management services, please visit http://www.withumwealth.com/

    For more on Withum’s Matrimonial Litigation services, please visit https://www.withum.com/sub-service/matrimonial-dissolution/

    Important Disclosure: This message is limited to the dissemination of information pertaining to Withum Wealth Management (“Withum Wealth”) and general economic market conditions. Nothing contained herein should be construed as personalized advice, or an offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities. Past performance is not indicative of future results, and there is no guarantee that the views and opinions expressed in this commentary will come to pass. Withum Wealth is neither a law firm nor an accounting firm, and no portion of this commentary should be construed as legal or tax advice. You are advised to consult with separate legal or tax advisors with respect to any legal or tax advice. Withum Wealth does not make any representations or warranties as to the accuracy, timeliness, suitability, completeness, or relevance of any information prepared by any unaffiliated third party, whether linked to WWM’s web site or blog or incorporated herein, and takes no responsibility for any such content. All such information is provided solely for convenience purposes only and all users thereof should be guided accordingly. Withum Wealth is an investment adviser registered with the SEC. For information pertaining to the registration status of Withum Wealth, please refer to the Investment Adviser Public Disclosure website (www.adviserinfo.sec.gov). For additional information about Withum Wealth, including fees and services, send for our written disclosure statement as set forth on Form ADV Part 2A.


  • 5 Apr 2021 10:30 AM | AAML NJ Admin

    By Sharon L. Klein, Wilmington Trust, N.A. 

    Are your female clients equipped with the knowledge and resources to manage divorce settlement funds? Wilmington Trust’s paper, Women & Investing: A Stronger Grip on Their Financial Futures, points to the fact that, while women are innately talented when it comes to making investing decisions, many still face unique challenges, which can be overcome by aligning with the right advisor.

    Link to article: Women-Investors.pdf (wilmingtontrust.com)

    For more information, reach out to Sharon Klein, Head of National Divorce Advisory Practice at (P) 212-415-0531 or sklein@wilmingtontrust.com.

  • 23 Mar 2021 2:30 PM | AAML NJ Admin

    By Andrea Valencia, Manager, Advisory ServicesWithum

    Have you ever thought about what type of data your phone is collecting? Anything you do online leaves a digital footprint. As technology moves more to the Internet of Things (IoT) and Mobile devices, digital forensics helps us bridge the gap between what you think you know about your day-to-day and what is actually being collected.

    Stayed tuned for our in depth presentation on digital forensics on March 25!  https://aamlnj.org/event-4176828


  • 22 Mar 2021 12:30 PM | AAML NJ Admin

    By Amanda S. Trigg, Cohn Lifland Pearlman Herrmann & Knopf LLP

    As your family starts to recover from the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and financial crisis of 2020-21, you and your attorney will have many questions about your personal and business finances.  In New Jersey, all courts require financial disclosures on a form called the “Family Part Case Information Statement.”  If you prepared the "CIS" before March 2020, and if your life has changed in the past year, it is time to update that CIS.

    In 2021, a CIS includes information not previously seen, including the various benefits of the 2021 Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and other benefits that arose in 2020.  PPP loans, stimulus checks, mortgage forbearance or any other new financial issue that you encountered during the pandemic will need to be addressed. 

    Everyone filing for divorce in New Jersey uses the same form for financial disclosure, to ensure that each party has the same information. It also helps Judges, mediators, and arbitrators to assess the parties' situation, including what assets and liabilities might be divided, how much each party earns, and how much everyone spends.  We provide our clients with an electronic data input form, to be filled in, saved as a "Word" document, and emailed back to us.  We then import the data into the software approved by the New Jersey Courts for final formatting and review by you.    

    You will need to disclose your income, a budget of your joint lifestyle expenses, a budget of your current lifestyle expenses including the expenses for the house, transportation, and personal costs, and a summary of the value of all assets and current debts, to show your total financial circumstances.  Your Case Information Statement must be as accurate as possible because you are required to certify that the contents of the form are true. It helps establish your lifestyle which is an important component of alimony/spousal support if any is appropriately considered. The monthly expenses must be reviewed and should be based on actual expenditures such as those shown from checkbook registers, bank statements, or credit card statements from the past 24 months. The asset values should be taken, if possible, from actual appraisals or account statements. If the values are estimates, it should be noted that they are estimates.  It is also very important that you attach copies of relevant documents as required by the Case Information Statement, including your most recent tax returns with W-2 forms, 1099s, and current income information.

    To make this as easy as possible, find as many of the following documents as you can: 

    • 2019 income tax returns
    • 2020 and 2021 year to date bank statements and credit card statements
    • 2020 investment or retirement account statements
    • Current mortgage statement, showing the balance due, interest rate, monthly payment, escrow for taxes, and insurance.
    • Vehicles – lease or loan agreements or recent/ current statements.
    • Your credit report and your social security earnings history from ssa.gov.

    Preparing the CIS takes time and careful attention to detail.  It must be updated when it is out of date, especially after any type of big financial change such as you may have experienced due to COVID-19 or the recent economic upheaval.   We understand the importance of your CIS and that your finances may include much more than we can address on this standardized form.  Talk to your lawyer about adding footnotes, comments, and attachments so that you use this opportunity to explain your situation to the Court and your spouse as clearly as possible.  The experienced family law attorneys in the AAML can help you, answer your questions, and provide additional assistance with making this full financial disclosure, for everyone’s benefit in protecting your family’s finances. 

    *Updated blog, originally posted on www.njlawfirm.com on August 5, 2020. 


  • 9 Mar 2021 12:30 PM | AAML NJ Admin

    By Stefanie Jedra, CPA and Amy Sara Cores, Esq.

    Before the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (“TCJA”), which was enacted on December 22, 2017, alimony was deductible for federal and state tax purposes. With the deductibility of alimony came the dreaded discussion of alimony recapture, which could cause alimony to be taxable if payments were frontloaded. The Internal Revenue Code (“I.R.C.”) outlined the calculation to determine whether alimony payments had been frontloaded in I.R.C. § 71(f).

    For divorces finalized after December 31, 2018, alimony is no longer deductible for federal tax purposes and in most states. It seems as though alimony recapture is something that we have not had to think about when drafting inter-spousal agreements for the last few years. While alimony is deductible for state tax purposes in six states (namely, Arkansas, California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania), the state tax laws in these jurisdictions do not mention alimony recapture or any similar disincentive to front-load alimony payments. So why are we talking about it now, is alimony recapture even a thing anymore? It is.

    I.R.C. § 71(f) outlines the calculation to determine whether there has been front-loading of alimony payments leading to alimony recapture. The calculation involves 2 years post separation. As we all know, there was a rush to finalize divorces in 2018 in order for clients to be grandfathered-in and maintain the deductibility of alimony going forward. We are now in the 2020 tax season and alimony recapture may really be a thing right now. For that reason, a brief refresher is appropriate.

    For divorces finalized in 2018:

    In the first-year post-separation (or 2019) alimony was taxable to the extent that payments received in the first-year post-separation exceeded $15,000 plus the average of:

    • alimony or separate maintenance payments paid by the payor spouse during the 2nd post-separation year, reduced by the excess payments for the 2nd post-separation year, and
    • the alimony or separate maintenance payments paid by the payor spouse during the 3rd post-separation year. I.R.C.  § 71(f)(3)

    In the second-year post-separation (or 2020) alimony was taxable to the extent that payments received in the second-year post-separation exceeded $15,000 plus:

    • the amount of the alimony or separate maintenance payments paid by the payor spouse during the 3rd post-separation year. I.R.C.  § 71(f)(4)

    Unless alimony becomes tax deductible again, and the repeal of I.R.C. § 71 is revoked, this may be the last time that alimony recapture is a pertinent issue for many of our clients.

    Amy Sara Cores, Esq. is a Fellow of the International Academy of Family Lawyers, Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Matrimonial Law Attorney, a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, and a National Board of Trial Advocacy Board Certified Family Law Trial Advocate. She is the owner of Cores & Associates, LLC a boutique family law firm in Freehold, New Jersey where she handles a variety of complex and high conflict family law cases.

    Stefanie Jedra, CPA is a business valuation and forensic accounting expert who specializes in valuation of privately held businesses, complex asset tracing, cash flow and lifestyle analyses, and analyses related to equitable distribution.


  • 22 Feb 2021 2:30 PM | AAML NJ Admin

    By Tom Fulton, CPA, Cowan, Gunteski & Co., P.A.Litigation & Valuation Services Group732.676.4117tfulton@cgteam.com

    We are almost a year into the coronavirus pandemic, and have heard and seen the impact upon the country, the state, and the community. On a national level the US economy contracted 3.5% on an annual basis in 2020, the largest contraction for any full year since the demobilization from World War II in 1946. However, there was a precipitous contraction in the second quarter followed by a partial rebound in the second half of 2020. According to statistics by the International Monetary Fund1, the proportion of people out of work in the US hit an end of year total of 8.9% although it was in double digits during the year.

    Yelp’s Local Economic Impact Report (September 2020)2 provides the Covid-19 pandemic hit restaurants and retail businesses the worst. We all have had some experience with this. Nationally, as of August 31, 2020 the restaurant industry witnessed 32,109 closures with 19,590 of those closures likely to be permanent. Breakfast/brunch restaurants, burger joints, and Mexican restaurants were among the types that reported the highest business closures. Additionally, the pandemic has affected gift shops, men’s clothing, and women’s clothing boutiques the second hardest after the restaurant industry. 

    When a new client calls, and he or she is the owner (or the spouse of an owner) in one of these hard hit small business sectors, should you instantly assume it’s all doom and gloom? The statistics, the news, and other media sources seem to indicate it is. However, this is when you and your forensic accountant need to understand the facts and circumstances of that business, its operations, and the capital and monthly cash flow requirements. This can be even more critical if you are representing the non-business owning spouse.

    Some restaurants have maintained their cash flow with take-out services and those that can adapt have survived and even flourished.  Living in a New Jersey beach town all my life, I have seen different businesses handle this crisis in their own way.  Some popular summer bars and restaurants chose to close, even all summer. Some stayed open and put up tents in their parking lot and effectively brought the restaurant and social scene outside.

    As many are aware, if you live at the Jersey Shore, the beach towns have an annual influx of recently graduated twenty-something year-olds, and in some areas this year was no exception. These twenty-something year-olds stayed the whole summer, worked remotely, often didn’t go back to their parent’s home during the week, and went out to eat, drink, and socialize every day during the summer rental season.  Many of the bar/pubs and restaurants that had an outdoor space had a great year. Additionally, many people had more disposable money because they didn’t have commuting costs and other costs associated with the pandemic. Is your new client in one of these situations or the spouse of your client? A site visit and an in-depth knowledge of what actions were taken during the crisis to gain specific knowledge is more important than ever.    

    Like many large retailers, small retailers mostly struggled in 2020, but some business sectors were minimally affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Firms of lawyers, accountants, architects, and other professionals may not have had the dramatic negative financial impact.  Accounting firms may have picked up a lot of new business with the PPP loan process including the initial applications and the subsequent applications for debt forgiveness.  Your client may have had a significant increase or decrease in cash flow. 

    Auto related businesses and the construction trades both had under 10 out of 1,000 businesses close up for the six month period ended August 31, 2020. Professionals (lawyers, architects, and accountants) had an estimated 2.0 closings per 1,000 businesses. That’s not bad. By contrast restaurant and small retailers had as high as 55 out of 1,000 closures nationally. Keep in mind these statistics were only through August. A December 2020 poll by the “New Jersey Restaurant & Hospitality Association”3 found that more than a third of restaurants polled felt they may close in the next six months.

    Conversely, real estate professionals at the Jersey Shore have been very busy. By way of example, in Monmouth County, New Jersey new home sale closings were up 13.3% in 2020 over 2019. While simultaneously, the closing time decreased by 13.1% and the median price increased 17.1%.  People were moving out of New York city and North Jersey and were looking for homes with space and yards in some areas and willing to sink some money in them. Other counties experienced similar statistics including Morris, Ocean, and Somerset. Some counties were negatively impacted.  If you have a client or the spouse of a client who owns a real estate agency, law office, title search company, or is in one of the construction trades, you need to know the unique circumstances of the area that they are located. And certainly, your retained expert better know the uniqueness. 

    Understanding the specifics of your client’s or the spouse of your client’s business has always been important.  Much of the impact from the coronavirus pandemic may have led to a significant change in your client’s ability to meet alimony and child support obligations as well as in the value of their businesses.  That said, there have been unique opportunities for success and prosperity and your client may have encountered one of those opportunity areas. Just don’t assume everything and everybody’s business was negatively impacted.  As always, It’s a case by case basis and fact sensitive.

    1. Jones, L., Palumbo, D., & Brown, D. (2021, January 24). Coronavirus: How the pandemic has changed the world economy. BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/business-51706225

    2. Bialik, C., & Gole, D. (2020, September). Yelp: Local Economic Impact Report. Yelp Economic Average. https://www.yelpeconomicaverage.com/business-closures-update-sep-2020

    3. Nearly 40% of New Jersey Restaurants May Close Within 6 Months: Poll. (2020, December 9). NBC New York. https://www.nbcnewyork.com/on-air/as-seen-on/nearly-40-of-new-jersey-restaurants-may-close-within-6-months-poll/2769293/


  • 3 Feb 2021 5:33 PM | AAML NJ Admin

    By Sharon Klein of Wilmington Trust

    When a marriage ends and a spouse is a trust beneficiary, are the trust assets accessible or off limits in a divorce? Wilmington Trust’s Sharon Klein, president, Eastern U.S. Region and Elena Karabatos, partner at Schlissel Ostrow Karabatos, PLLC in New York met with Dan Couvrette, CEO of Family Lawyer Magazine, to examine what types of trusts, trust provisions, trust history and trust administration make trusts more vulnerable to attack in divorce; how to potentially change even irrevocable trusts; and ways to ameliorate surprising tax consequences that might otherwise distort results.

    Link to the interview:

    https://cdnapisec.kaltura.com/html5/html5lib/v2.82.2/mwEmbedFrame.php/p/1971712/uiconf_id/39341551/entry_id/1_tjw5uwix?wid=_1971712&iframeembed=true&playerId=kaltura_player_1581352506&entry_id=1_tjw5uwix


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