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In addition to drive, ambition and a great deal of planning, starting and expanding a small business generally requires capital. Capital may come from family, friends, lenders or others. This Financial Guide provides an overview of how to get the capital you need to start or grow your business.
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One key to successful business start-up and expansion is your ability to obtain and secure appropriate financing. Raising capital is one of the most basic of all business activities. But as many new entrepreneurs quickly discover, raising capital may not be easy. In fact, it can be a complex and frustrating process and professional guidance should be considered, especially with regard to financial information needed for the loan proposal. This Financial Guide focuses on ways a small business can raise money and explains how to prepare a loan proposal.
There are several sources to consider when looking for financing. It is important to explore all of your options before making a decision. These include:
It is often said that small business people have a difficult time borrowing money, but this is not necessarily true. Banks make money by lending money; however, the inexperience of many small business owners in financial matters often prompts banks to deny loan requests.
Requesting a loan when you are not properly prepared sends a signal to your lender. That message is: "High Risk!" To be successful in obtaining a loan, you must be prepared and organized. You must know exactly how much money you need, why you need it, and how you will pay it back. You must be able to convince your lender that you are a good credit risk.
Terms of loans may vary from lender to lender, but there are two basic types of loans: short-term and long-term.
A short-term loan generally has a maturity date of one year. These include working capital loans, accounts receivable loans, and lines of credit.
Long-term loans generally mature between one and seven years. Real estate and equipment loans are also considered long-term loans but may have a maturity date of up to 25 years. Long-term loans are used for major business expenses such as purchasing real estate and facilities, construction, durable equipment, furniture and fixtures, vehicles, etc.
Approval of your loan request depends on how well you present yourself, your business and your financial needs to a lender. Remember, lenders want to make loans, but they must make loans they know will be repaid. The best way to improve your chances of obtaining a loan is to prepare a written proposal.
A good loan proposal will contain the following key elements:
Develop a short statement on each principal in your business; provide background, education, experience, skills, and accomplishments.
Clearly define your company's products as well as your markets. Identify your competition and explain how your business competes in the marketplace. Profile your customers and explain how your business can satisfy their needs.
When reviewing a loan request, the bank official is primarily concerned about repayment. To help determine this ability, many loan officers will order a copy of your business credit report from a credit-reporting agency. Therefore, you should work with these agencies to help them present an accurate picture of your business. Using the credit report and the information you have provided, the lending officer will consider the following issues:
The SBA offers a variety of financing options for small businesses. The SBA's assistance usually is in the form of loan guarantees; i.e., it guarantees loans made by banks and other private lenders to small business clients. Generally, the SBA can guarantee up to $3.75 million or 75 percent of the total loan value. The average size of an SBA-guaranteed loan is $368,737.
Whether you are looking for a long-term loan for machinery and equipment, a general working capital loan, a revolving line of credit, or a "microloan," the SBA has a financing program to fit your needs.
The 7(a) Loan Guaranty Program, financing that can satisfy the requirements of almost any new or growing small business. The SBA offers a number of specialized loan and lender delivery programs.
The 7(a) Loan Guaranty Program
The 7(a) Loan Guaranty Program is the SBA's primary loan program. The SBA reduces risk to lenders by guaranteeing major portions of loans made to small businesses. This enables the lenders to provide financing to small businesses when funding is otherwise unavailable on reasonable terms.
The eligibility requirements and credit criteria of the program are very broad in order to accommodate a wide range of financing needs.
When a small business applies to a lending institution for a loan, the lender reviews the application and decides if it merits a loan on its own or if it requires additional support in the form of an SBA guaranty. SBA backing on the loan is then requested by the lender. In guaranteeing the loan, the SBA assures the lender that, in the event, the borrower does not repay the loan, the government will reimburse the lender for its loss. By providing this guaranty, the SBA helps tens of thousands of small businesses every year get financing they would not otherwise obtain.
To qualify for an SBA guaranty, a small business must meet the 7(a) criteria and the lender must certify that it could not provide funding on reasonable terms except with an SBA guaranty. SBA can guarantee as much as 85 percent on loans of up to $150,000 and 75 percent on loans of more than $150,000. SBA's maximum exposure amount is $3,750,000. Thus, if a business receives an SBA-guaranteed loan for $5 million, the maximum guarantee to the lender will be $3,750,000 or 75 percent. SBA Express loans have a maximum guarantee set at 50 percent.
How The Procedure Works. You submit a loan application to a lender for initial review. If the lender approves the loan subject to an SBA guaranty, a copy of the application and a credit analysis are forwarded by the lender to the nearest SBA office. After SBA approval, the lending institution closes the loan and disburses the funds; you make monthly loan payments directly to the lender. As with any loan, you are responsible for repaying the full amount of the loan. There are no balloon payments, prepayment penalties, application fees or points permitted with 7(a) loans. Repayment plans may be tailored to each individual business.
Permissible Use of Proceeds. You can use a 7(a) loan to expand or renovate facilities; purchase machinery, equipment, fixtures and leasehold improvements; finance receivables and augment working capital; refinance existing debt (with compelling reason); finance seasonal lines of credit; construct commercial buildings; and/or purchase land or buildings.
Terms. The SBA's loan programs are generally intended to encourage longer term small-business financing. However, actual loan maturities are based on the ability to repay, the purpose of the loan proceeds and the useful life of the assets financed. However, maximum loan maturities have been established: 25 years for real estate, up to 10 years for equipment (depending on the useful life of the equipment) and generally up to seven years for working capital. Short-term loans and revolving lines of credit are also available through the SBA to help small businesses meet their short-term and cyclical working capital needs.
Interest Rates. Both fixed and variable interest rate structures are available. The maximum rate is composed of two parts, a base rate, and an allowable spread. There are three acceptable base rates (A prime rate published in a daily national newspaper, London Interbank One Month Prime plus 3 percent and an SBA Peg Rate).
Lenders are allowed to add an additional spread to the base rate to arrive at the final rate. For loans with maturities of shorter than seven years, the maximum spread will be no more than 2.25 percent. For loans with maturities of seven years or more, the maximum spread will be 2.75 percent. The spread on loans of less than $50,000 and loans processed through Express procedures have higher maximums.
Fees. Loans guaranteed by the SBA are assessed a guarantee fee. This fee is based on the loan's maturity and the dollar amount guaranteed, not the total loan amount. The lender initially pays the guaranty fee and they have the option to pass that expense on to the borrower at closing. The funds to reimburse the lender can be included in the overall loan proceeds.
On loans under $150,000 made after October 1, 2013, the fees will be set at zero percent. On any loan greater than $150,000 with a maturity of one year or shorter, the fee is 0.25 percent of the guaranteed portion of the loan. On loans with maturities of more than one year, the normal fee is 3 percent of the SBA-guaranteed portion on loans of $150,000 to $700,000, and 3.5 percent on loans of more than $700,000. There is also an additional fee of 0.25 percent on any guaranteed portion of more than $1 million.
Collateral. The SBA expects every 7(a) loan to be fully secured, but the SBA will not decline a request to guarantee a loan if the only unfavorable factor is insufficient collateral, provided all available collateral is offered. This means every SBA loan is to be secured by all available assets (both business and personal) until the recovery value equals the loan amount or until all assets have been pledged (to the extent that they are reasonably available). Personal guarantees are required from all owners of 20 percent or more of the equity of the business, and lenders can require personal guarantees of owners with less than 20 percent ownership. Liens on personal assets of the principals may be required.
Eligibility. SBA provides loans to businesses; so the requirements of eligibility are based on specific aspects of the business and its principals. As such, the key factors of eligibility are based on what the business does to receive its income, the character of its ownership and where the business operates.
SBA generally does not specify what businesses are eligible. Rather, the agency outlines what businesses are not eligible. However, there are some universally applicable requirements. To be eligible for assistance, businesses must:
Ineligible Businesses. A business must be engaged in an activity SBA determines as acceptable for financial assistance from a federal provider. For a list of businesses types are not eligible for assistance because of the activities they conduct visit the SBA website.
What You Need to Take to the Lender. Once you have decided to apply for a loan guaranteed by the SBA, you will need to collect the appropriate documents for your application. The SBA does not provide direct loans. The process starts with your local lender, working within SBA guidelines.
Use the checklist below to ensure you have everything the lender will ask for to complete your application. Once your loan package is complete, your lender will submit it to the SBA.
In addition to the standard loan guaranty, the SBA has targeted programs under 7(a) that are designed to meet specialized needs. Unless otherwise indicated, they are governed by the same rules, regulations, interest rates, fees, etc. as the regular 7(a) loan guaranty.
The 7(m) MicroLoan Program
The 7(m) MicroLoan Program provides small loans up to $50,000. Under this program, the SBA makes funds available to nonprofit intermediaries; these, in turn, make the loans. The average loan size is $13,000.
Use of Proceeds. Microloans can be used for working capital, inventory or supplies, furniture or fixtures, and machinery or equipment. Proceeds from an SBA microloan cannot be used to pay existing debts or to purchase real estate.
Terms Interest Rates and Fees. Loan repayment terms vary according to several factors such as loan amount, planned use of funds, requirements determined by the intermediary lender, and the needs of the small business borrower. The maximum repayment term allowed for an SBA microloan is six years. Interest rates vary, depending on the intermediary lender and costs to the intermediary from the U.S. Treasury. Generally, these rates will be between 8 and 13 percent.
Collateral. Each nonprofit lending organization will have its own requirements but must take as collateral any assets purchased with the microloan. In most cases, the personal guaranties of the business owners are also required.
Eligibility. Virtually all types of for-profit businesses that meet SBA eligibility requirements qualify.
The CAPLines Program
The CAPLines Loan Program is the program under which the SBA helps small businesses meet their short-term and cyclical working-capital needs. The maximum CAPLines loan is $5 million.
Four loan programs for small businesses are available under CAPLines:
Use of Proceeds. CAPLines may be used to:
The Export Working Capital Program
The Export Working Capital (EWCP) Loan provides advances for up to $5 million to fund export transactions from purchase order to collections. This loan has a low guaranty fee and quick processing time.
Contact your local lender to see if they are approved to underwrite EWCP loans. You can apply for EWCP loans before finalizing an export sale or contract.
With an approved EWCP loan in place, you have greater flexibility in negotiating export payment terms. However, disbursements can only be made against firm purchase orders from a foreign buyer or to support foreign accounts receivable.
Use of Proceeds. Proceeds may be used for:
The International Trade Loan Program
The International Trade Loan offers loans up to $5 million for fixed assets and working capital for businesses that plan to start or continue exporting.
Eligibility. International Trade Loans are available if your small business is in a position to expand existing export markets or develop new export markets. These loans are also available if your small business has been adversely affected by import competition and can demonstrate that the loan proceeds will improve your competitive position. Contact your existing lender to determine if they are an SBA-approved 7(a) lender. If so, they are authorized to underwrite an International Trade Loan. SBA will work with your lender to determine borrower eligibility.
Use of Proceeds. The borrower may use loan proceeds to acquire, construct, renovate, modernize, improve, or expand facilities and equipment to be used in the United States to produce goods or service involved in international trade and to develop and penetrate foreign markets. Funds also may be used to refinance an existing loan.
Disaster Assistance Loans Program
SBA provides low-interest Disaster Assistance Loans to businesses of all sizes, private non-profit organizations, homeowners, and renters. SBA disaster loans can be used to repair or replace the following items damaged or destroyed in a declared disaster: real estate, personal property, machinery and equipment, and inventory and business assets.
Types of loans include:
SBA Express Loan Program
The SBA Express Loan Program features an accelerated turnaround time of 36 hours for SBA review in response to an application. Capital is available to businesses seeking loans of up to $350,000 without requiring the lender to use the SBA process. Lenders use their existing documentation and procedures to make and service loans plus SBA Form 1919. The SBA guarantees up to 50 percent of an SBA Express loan. Loans made under this program generally follow SBA's standards for the 7(a) Loan Program. Your local SBA office can provide you with a list of SBA Express lenders.
Lenders and borrowers can negotiate the interest rate. Rates can be fixed or variable and are tied to the prime rate (as published in The Wall Street Journal), LIBOR, or the optional peg rate (published quarterly in the Federal Register) and may be fixed or variable, but they may not exceed SBA maximums: lenders may charge up to 6.5 percent over the base rate for loans of $50,000 or less, and up to 4.5 percent over for loans over $50,000. Lenders are not required to take collateral for loans up to $25,000; may use their existing collateral policy for loans over $25,000 up to $350,000. For revolving credits, small business owners may take up to seven years after the first disbursement to repay the loan.
The Certified Development Company (504) Loan Program
The Certified Development Company (504) Loan Program enables a nonprofit corporation (Certified Development Company or CDC) to contribute to the economic development of its community. CDCs are located nationwide and operate primarily in their state of incorporation (Area of Operation). CDCs work with SBA and private-sector lenders to provide financing to small businesses through the CDC/504 Loan Program, which provides growing businesses with long-term, fixed-rate financing for major fixed assets, such as land and buildings.
The Role of CDCs is to market the 504 program; package and process 504 loan applications; close and service 504 loans in its Area of Operation. A portfolio must be diversified by business sector. CDCs should also provide small businesses with financial and technical assistance, or help small businesses obtain assistance from other sources, including preparing, closing, and servicing loans under contract with lenders in SBA's 7(a) Loan Program. Loan amounts to the borrower equal to the value of all or part of the borrower's contribution to a project in the form of cash or land, including site improvements.
Newly certified CDCs will be on probation for a period of two years.
Eligibility. A CDC must:
Small Business Investment Company Program
There is a variety of alternatives to bank financing for small businesses, especially business start-ups. The Small Business Investment Company Program fills the gap between the availability of venture capital and the needs of small businesses that are either starting or growing. Licensed and regulated by the SBA, SBICs are privately owned and managed investment firms that make capital available to small businesses through investments or loans. They use their own funds plus funds obtained at favorable rates with SBA guarantees and/or by selling their preferred stock to the SBA.
SBICs are for-profit firms whose incentive is to share in the success of a small business. In addition to equity capital and long-term loans, SBICs provide debt-equity investments and management assistance.
The Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) Program, administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), is a multi-billion investment program created in 1958 to bridge the gap between entrepreneurs' need for capital and traditional sources of financing. Over the past five years, the program has channeled $17 billion of capital to more than 5,900 U.S. small businesses representing a variety of industries across the country. These results were achieved through a proven public-private partnership that leverages the full faith and credit of the U.S. government to increase the pool of investment capital available to small businesses.
The SBIC Program provides funding to all types of manufacturing and service industries. Some investment companies specialize in certain fields while others seek out small businesses with new products or services because of the strong growth potential. Most, however, consider a wide variety of investment opportunities.
Surety Bond Program
By law, prime contractors to the federal government must post surety bonds on federal construction projects valued at $150,000 or more. Many state, county, city and private-sector projects require bonding as well. SBA helps small contractors by guaranteeing bid, performance, and payment bonds issued by participating surety companies for contracts up to $6.5 million. SBA can guarantee a bond for a contract up to $10 million if a Federal contracting officer certifies that SBA's guarantee is necessary for the small business to obtain bonding.
Fees. SBA charges the small business 0.729 percent of the contract price for a payment or performance bond. There is no charge for a bid bond. SBA charges the surety company 26 percent of the fee the surety company charges the small business.
Click here for information on funding your business. If you are interested in obtaining further information for a specific loan program listed below, click on the loan program and you will be brought to the SBA Web site.