Mastering Taxes for Merchant Cash Advance Businesses – Cash Basis 101
David Roitblat is the founder and CEO of Better Accounting Solutions, an accounting firm based in New York City, and a leading authority in specialized accounting for merchant cash advance companies. To connect with David or schedule a call about working with Better Accounting Solutions, email email@example.com.
For funders in the merchant cash advance industry, navigating through various funding scenarios is a common challenge. There are many different ways to fund your MCA business–including institutional money, using your own funds, partnering with syndicators, or involving outside investors– and understanding how to recognize income for reporting to your partner, syndicators, investors and the IRS is essential to avoid tax and compliance issues down the line.
When I started Better Accounting Solutions in 2011 and began working with clients in our industry, I found the accounting world wholly unprepared for the different funding streams MCA businesses worked with, and in the years since, we’ve managed to systematize and customize the income recognition process for the entire industry, particularly in the context of accrual basis reporting, as we’ve become more and more ingrained in the space..
Let’s explain how, starting by exploring the different funding scenarios your business might find itself in:
Using Company’s Own Funds: Some funders rely solely on their own company’s money to provide advances. In this scenario, the funding is entirely self-financed, and the company does not seek external investments.
Equity Partner of the Funding Company as Syndicators: Other funders collaborate with partners who contribute money as syndicators, in addition to using the company’s funds. This means that both the company and its partners are involved in funding the deals.
Outside Syndicators and Investments: Certain companies involve outside syndicators, who are not part of the company’s core team or partners, to provide additional funding. This setup allows the company to expand its funding capacity beyond internal resources and institutional investors.
Income Recognition for Reporting and Tax Purposes
Typically, for funders using their own company’s money, there are two primary ways to recognize income— one for reporting purposes and the other for tax purposes.
Cash Basis Reporting: Cash basis reporting recognizes income and expenses when actual cash is received or paid. In this method, income is recognized when the money hits the bank account, and expenses are recognized when the money leaves the credit card or bank account.
Accrual Basis Reporting (GAAP): Accrual basis reporting, also known as Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) reporting, is used by Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) when auditing financial statements. Unlike cash basis reporting, accrual basis recognizes income when earned, regardless of when the cash is received, and expenses are recognized when they are accrued. (More about GAAP in a future article)
Challenges in Income Recognition for Merchant Cash Advance
Recognizing income in the merchant cash advance industry can be complex, especially when dealing with cash advances rather than traditional loans. Unlike loans, where regular payments consist of interest and principal, merchant cash advances involve the purchase of future receivables.
Consider this example: A merchant cash advance provider funds a merchant with $100,000 at a commission expense of 12% and a Junk Fee income of 10%. The bank fee income and RTR/Factor Rate is.5, while the merchant will pay back $150,000, $1,500 daily assuming a 100 day duration.
Cash Advance Income Recognition Approach in Cash Basis Accounting:
Because of this unique funding structure, here’s how my team at Better Accounting Solutions recommends reporting the income (BAS will typically use Accrual Basis reporting for business owners, and note-holder investors, and cash basis for tax reporting if the company’s revenue is less than $10 million annually):
Commission Expense and Junk Fee Income: The commission expense and junk fee income are recognized immediately (in most scenarios) on the day the advance is given, deducted from the funded amount.
Factor Income: Until the full contract funded amount of $100,000 is received in the funder’s bank account (not just the amount wired), no additional income is recognized. Once the contract amount is fully received on a cash basis, any payments received after that point constitute factor income or RTR income.
What’s the benefit of reporting this way?
By reporting on a cash basis you are deferring the recognized tax income. For example, if you have a deal that was funded in November over five months, you will have been only about forty percent in the payback by the time the tax calendar year is over. Since you would have not received the contract funded amount back yet , you would not recognize any of the factor income for tax purposes until the following year, thereby deferring your tax liability. This means you have more time to spend that money and grow your actual business.
It’s important to acknowledge that accounting practices can vary, and accountants may have differing opinions on income recognition. The approach outlined here is definitely an aggressive method, but one I continue advocating using for IRS and tax purposes, for the reasons listed above.
As we’ve said, navigating income recognition in the merchant cash advance industry can be challenging due to the unique nature of cash advances. Understanding the funding scenarios, recognizing income for reporting and tax purposes, and considering different accounting methods are crucial for funders and companies in this space, and will give you a leg up come Tax Season.
It’s essential to emphasize that this article is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as accounting or financial advice. It’s strongly recommended for funders and companies to seek guidance from qualified accountants or financial professionals to ensure compliance with accounting standards and tax regulations tailored to their specific circumstances.Last modified: December 7, 2023
David Roitblat is the founder and CEO of Better Accounting Solutions, an accounting firm based in New York City, and a leading authority in specialized accounting for merchant cash advance companies.
To connect with David, email firstname.lastname@example.org.