Fine Point Consulting Newsletter - February 2021

Staying Connected

Wow! How is that we are already a month into 2021?! That means we made it through January and are now moving “full steam ahead” into tax season. Our controller teams are helping pull all the requests lists so the tax returns can be started and our tax team is juggling our normal tax returns along with keeping tabs on the many unique situations this tax year will bring. Keep reading to see what our team has to say about some of those items!

In addition to keeping up on all the tax laws and upcoming deadlines, during this busy season we are continuing to make team engagement and appreciation a priority. Last month in our virtual happy hour, we all joined in on an online game of Drawasaurus. This gave us something fun to do while also learning who on the team should not pursue a career in art. In addition to asking everyone to come on camera during our all-staff meetings, we also like to start with a cringe-worthy ice breaker.

I am sure everyone is thrilled with our random out-of-the-box questions and I love how it gives everyone a chance to share something! Last month we asked what everyone’s favorite self-care routine was and we were met with a variety of answers from hot-tubbing to ice cream, exercising to listening to 60’s exotica music, and many more. More important than the topic was that everyone got involved and we had some great laughs as we learned new things about each other. If this is something you're focusing on at your company as well, check out our HR tips below for some other ideas to keep letting your employees know how awesome they are (even if you're not face-to-face every day).

While we are looking forward to the days when we are all vaccinated and can get together again for a happy hour outing or our annual Brewer game, these substitutes sure do the trick in the meantime, and I know that many of them we will keep going even once we can "see" each other again!

President, Fine Point Consulting

Embracing ROWE While Chasing Ever Changing Dreams

Bailey Green, Assistant Controller

When I started at FPC in 2015, my husband and I were living in a 250-square foot tiny house outside of Madison, WI. It was a fun 2.5 years working in the office and enjoying many-a-happy hours, but after we got married in 2017 we decided we wanted to venture out west. This plan was achievable in part because FPC was willing to test me out as the first fully remote employee. This was a big undertaking, considering we planned to live 100% off-grid with only solar energy on the top of a mountain in a very rural community near the Canadian border. To make this work, I knew that I had to be accountable for my responsibilities that I had agreed to with Fine Point and even with our remote location, know that I needed to make good on my commitment to be available for my team and my clients. We started a farm with a herd of fiber sheep and goats, chickens, ducks, and rabbits and began growing our own food.

After a couple of years being away from family and friends in Wisconsin, we decided to sell it all and return to Wisconsin’s north woods (Webster, WI). We took the pieces of Washington that worked for us and tried again. Soon after that move, I got the opportunity to become a full time FPC employee as well as the new title and responsibilities of an Assistant Controller. I continued to work remotely, visiting the office whenever I was in the Madison area, utilizing the many technology tools and processes that we had perfected as part of our Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) since I had first made that move to the mountaintop.

When I’m not working at FPC, you’ll find me in our year-round grow room planting seeds, nibbling fresh produce, propagating fruit trees, or tending to our growing mealworm farm. Additionally, we are currently launching a community compost pickup service for residents and businesses to provide us food scraps to turn into nutrient-rich compost, used on our gardens, and we also plan to package and sell retail. At the same time, we bought a school bus and are converting it into a Skoolie camper for our "Tiny House, Take 2"!

ROWE meant I could balance work while launching a compost and garden business. Fine Point has been incredibly flexible allowing me a full-time to part-time transition as I launch and allowing me to work when and where it is convenient for me. The apps we use keep us accountable to our teammates and allow us to communicate on the fly.

Long story short, I was able to pursue my dreams, no matter where in the world they took me, because of the trust and flexibility from the results only work environment that is provided to the employees at FPC.

Tax Spotlight: PPP Deductions on State Tax Returns

By Louisa Else, Tax Practice Leader

Last month, we highlighted many of the uncertainties that are still lingering about the upcoming tax season. This month, we wanted to highlight one of these - the states' approach to deducting expenses paid by PPP funds. When the IRS initially made their decision months ago, they started a waterfall of implications that are still ongoing. While the latest COVID-related package reversed that IRS decision, it does not affect the decisions at the state level. Each state must decide its own treatment of the loan forgiveness and the expenses.

While we know that our clients are spread out across many states, we wanted to highlight the current situation here in Wisconsin. If you've been following the situation the past few weeks, you might be aware that there has been some movement in a broad COVID-related bill that is moving between our governor's office and the legislature. As of this writing, no bill has been signed yet. This leaves us with some disparate tax treatment, depending on which PPP loan round we are talking about.

For first round PPP loans (taken out by most companies early in 2020), the treatment for Federal taxation laid out in the original CARES Act was adopted by Wisconsin as part of the 2019 Wisconsin Act 185. This means that just like on the Federal return, the proceeds from the forgiveness of the loan are not subject to tax in Wisconsin. However, since no further state legislation has passed, Wisconsin is still following the original IRS determination that the expenses paid with the PPP funds are not deductible. In practicality, this means that there will need to be state-only addback on the Wisconsin return to increase the Wisconsin taxable income.

For those who qualified and obtained a second round of PPP funding, the rules are, of course, different still. Since nothing has been passed in Wisconsin since the December relief bill, Wisconsin does not conform to the tax-free treatment of the PPP forgiveness. The forgiveness amount will therefore be taxable. It follows then, that the expenses are going to be fully deductible as normal, so in this scenario, the state-only addback will be to add the amount of forgiveness back, which again will increase the Wisconsin taxable income in comparison to the Federal taxable income.

If you're tracking this closely, you'll notice that yes, these two treatments bring you to the same end result. Because it's taxes, they insist on making us take the complicated path to get there, depending on each situation.

If you're based in or operating in other states and you're curious where those states stand, Fine Point's tax team is here to help! Reach out to me at and I am happy to let you know what the treatment in any state is going to be - at least at that specific moment in time.

Workplace Culture in a Remote World

By Steph Breunig, HR Practice Leader

Fine Point Consulting has always prided itself on its awesome culture. We are a casual, fun, friendly group who have historically liked to imbibe, gather for a tailgate, do a little bowling, and even some volunteer spirits bottling on occasion. With more remote workers, even prior to the pandemic, we had been actively working to extend our fun in-person culture to our remote staff who are scattered nationally, literally from coast to coast. We’ve discovered some tools and programs to help with our culture that might be useful to others.

See Your People

Communication is key when working remotely. Fine Point uses Slack - extensively. We use it for internal and external client communications, but we also use it for banter. While we can’t gather by a water cooler for conversations anymore, we absolutely still joke around, share stories, and bond via Slack. Even if you aren’t visibly seeing each other, “see” people by getting personal. Personal connections are pivotal to avoid isolation.

We also make sure we actually see each other, even on remote calls. It is so tempting to have a camera off when working from home but being face-to-face provides an intimacy that is lacking with strictly audio. So take that shower and show yourself!

Treat Your People

While Fine Point Consulting has always provided traditional benefits to full-time staff, hiring more part-time people and having everyone spread out really made us realize that we needed to find ways to extend non-traditional benefits across the company. This is a work-in-progress as we work to find “treats” that are reasonable, apply to everyone, and will be enjoyed no matter where employees are located.

We most recently sent a Bright Box to each employee in January, since that is a crazy month in the accounting world. While we’ve used Amazon for gift cards for birthdays and holidays due to the flexible nature of the products, we’ve also discovered some platforms that deal with gifting credits to employees that can be used with a variety of vendors. Managing gift giving for employees can be a huge administrative headache, but employing a platform for management can make that much easier. Two platforms that are on our radar currently are Fringe and PerkSpot.

Listen to Your People

This one seems easy - just listen! The trick to this is finding ways to get that honest, sometimes brutal feedback and make it into productive action to improve your culture. Employ several means to obtain this feedback - it is not a one size fits all situation. Use a survey with targeted questions regarding culture, use your one-on-one meetings to ask a question for personal feedback, or pose a question at a staff meeting for everyone to answer. Culture is a hard concept so it may take some digging to get at what is at the heart of the problem.

While developing an awesome workplace culture in this pandemic world can be hard, we CAN do hard things and culture is so worth the effort. If your people are happy, their productivity and engagement are higher, they will stick with your company and that is good for business.

Executive Profile: Louisa Else, Tax Practice Leader

This month, we wanted to share a little more about our newest Executive Team member, Louisa Else. Louisa started with Fine Point in July 2019 as a controller and the manager of our growing tax team. She quickly jumped in on both sides, especially dedicating herself to expanding and defining the young tax offering, and moving up to be the Tax Practice Leader this past August. In this role, Louisa continues to serve as a controller for many clients, leads the tax team in all manners of income tax support, and works with the other members of the Executive Team on the larger goals for the company.

Long before joining Fine Point, Louisa has been an advocate for less traditional work models for the accounting world. She started her career at BDO in Anchorage, Alaska, where she fell in love with both the mountains and the challenges and victories of business taxation (with plenty of individual returns thrown in too). Within a year of starting her career, she had her first child and realized that while the work and the team culture that comes with public accounting is so rewarding, it is one of many careers where the "traditional" path leads to difficulties for parents. She requested permission for a flex-work schedule, a relatively new offering at that time. She became the first associate-level staff member to be granted a full-time, flexible schedule. She began working remotely two days a week and in the office the other three days. She has gone on to utilize the technology that allows her to excel for her clients and her family by employing either formal or informal flexible schedules at all of her jobs since then.

That drive is what brought her to Fine Point as well - the vindication that here was a firm doing what she had been saying for years was possible. It takes work and it takes people with dedication to the philosophy, but it is successful. By empowering the team members to work when and how it works for them, Fine Point provides a service level of highest caliber because the employees are excited about the work they are doing, and are also able to function outside of work in the way that they need, without sacrificing time on either side.

Louisa gained her CPA in 2014 and has worked in tax departments of all sizes, both at traditional public accounting firms and with internal tax teams. She has experience coordinating with outside auditors, controller teams, and working with teammates scattered literally all across the globe. Her favorite part of her work at Fine Point is working with clients to develop a tax plan that is a year-long relationship. She shows clients how putting the time in throughout the year makes the traditional tax crunch in the first couple months of the year run much more smoothly. This unique approach to a tax department and the growth it has seen since Louisa joined Fine Point is one of the things she is most proud of in her career.

Outside of Fine Point, most of Louisa's time is dedicated to her two high-energy children, but she also enjoys movie marathons with her husband, all the football watching they can fit in, crocheting, reading, and journaling. During COVID-19 quarantine, she even taught herself to knit, cementing her "old lady in a 30-something's body" status. Her family is also always counting down to their next visit back to those Alaskan mountains.

Looking forward to her future at Fine Point and her overarching career, her goal is simple: "Everything I do is done with my kids at the heart. I want to build a career and an example that shows my daughter there is a way to be both a highly successful, career-driven woman while also being a present, engaged mom. I want my son to see the same, and to know that he can support any future woman he meets with that same encouragement. Working parents of all types can and should keep kicking at the doors that block us to build meaningful careers that recognize these priorities, so that there are fewer doors for our kids to have to kick and they can find their own improvements to add."

Mark Your Calendar!

  • 3/1/21 – WI Business Personal Property Tax Reporting Due
  • 3/1/21 – Annual DE Corporation Franchise Tax Reporting Due
  • 3/2/21 – Form 1095-B and 1095-C Due to employees (for employers with 50+ ee’s)
  • 3/15/21 – LLC and S Corporation Tax Filing Deadline (Forms 1065 and 1120S)
  • 3/31/21 – Annual WDFI Franchise Tax Reporting Due
  • 3/31/21 – WI QNBV Reporting Deadline
  • 4/15/2021 – Individual and Corporate Tax Filing Deadline (Forms 1040 and 1120)
  • 4/15/2021 – First Quarter 2021 Estimated Tax Payments Due

Fine Point Consulting is a boutique consulting firm offering expert-level professional accounting & human resources services customized to meet your budget. We help entrepreneurs who are trying to scale fast, get more done, and stay lean.

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