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California Combo Tax Attorney & CPA for Construction Companies

California Combo Tax Attorney & CPA for Construction Companies

Everyone in the construction industry is impacted by complex tax regulations, which often lie at the center of costly yet avoidable lawsuits, IRS disputes, and contractual disputes. If you own a construction company, are a construction contractor, or plan to start a construction business in California, not only must you comply with state and federal tax codes; you must also ensure that you are prepared for the possibility of a Federal (IRS), or California (EDD, CDTFA and FTB) tax audit or criminal tax investigation.

The IRS and California taxing authorities like to use high-profile audit’s, eggshell audit, reverse eggshell audit, or criminal tax investigation, as a deterrent to those considering or currently engaging in tax fraud in the construction industry. No contractor or construction company wants to be the subject of a federal or California criminal tax investigation or, worse, a criminal tax prosecution. Criminal indictments for tax fraud are often initiated through the audit/examination process by the IRS, FTB, CDTFA, or EDD Agents who find evidence of criminal tax fraud and refer the file to the relevant federal of California Criminal Investigation Division. Across the country, we have seen contractors and construction companies, that we do not represent, consistently being indicted for tax evasion and fraud.

At the Tax Law Office of David W. Klasing, we are California tax attorneys & CPAs with a long record of success representing construction companies, construction workers, and independent contractors in civil and criminal audits, Appeals & Litigation before the IRS, in addition to California tax agencies such as the Franchise Tax Board (FTB) and Office of Tax Appeals (OTA). Equipped with over 20 years of business bookkeeping and accounting experience, including more than a decade of public accounting auditing experience, our California construction tax lawyers & CPAs can protect and advise your small or large business on all of the issues impacting your profits, from service tax on construction contracts to accounting for percentage of completion. Whether you need help preparing your business for an IRS audit, are concerned about criminal tax exposure, or have questions about the best accounting methods for construction companies, our office delivers an unmatched level of personal, practical service.

The IRS is extremely meticulous in its approach and has a deep understanding of all vulnerable areas related to the tax filings of those in the construction industry. The IRS audits construction companies so frequently that it has even developed a construction tax guide as a “cookbook” enabling agents to consistently hit pay dirt in tax examinations within this industry. The IRS uses this guide to assist its IRS Revenue Agents during audits by providing insight into the issues, accounting practices, and methods unique to the construction industry. In general, the guide identifies issues unique to the construction industry of which the Revenue Agents should be aware. It directs Revenue Agents to look for certain vital sources of information and outlines steps and techniques to be taken in conducting effective and focused audits / investigations of construction companies. The exact focus of the audit / investigation will vary depending on the type of contractor involved.

However, these guides are not only helpful to the IRS Revenue Agents who will be conducting your examination; they are also helpful to us while we prepare you for your audit. In essence, we have the other team’s game plan, and we use it fully to our advantage. Having the IRS game plan for auditing construction companies gives us what we need to get you prepared for the dreaded IRS audit.

See our Audit Representation Q and A Library

State + Federal Tax Audit Attorneys for Construction Companies in California

You are advised to seek legal guidance from a dually California licensed tax attorney and CPA immediately if you or your business has received a notice from the IRS, FTB, Employment Development Department (EDD), or California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) concerning a tax audit, a tax deficiency, a worker classification determination, or any other unresolved issue involving your records, employees, or corporate accounts (including offshore accounts). Depending on what the auditor finds, an examination of your business could lead to devastating outcomes, including an unexpected tax assessment, costly accumulated interest, and/or substantial civil penalties – none of which even begins to approach the danger involved in an IRS criminal investigation. If the government believes there is strong enough evidence to prosecute you for tax evasion or related offenses successfully, you will be at risk of jail time, in addition to much higher fines.

See our 2011 OVDI Q and A Library

See our Foreign Audit Q and A Library

See our FBAR Compliance and Disclosure Q and A Library 

A field audit begins with a Revenue Agent sending a letter specifying the tax returns selected for audit, the day and time the audit is to begin, and the records the Revenue Agent wishes to examine. As soon as you get any kind of tax audit notice from the IRS, FTB, EDD, or CDTFA, a good first step is to consult with an experienced dually California licensed Tax Attorney and CPA immediately. You may have an accountant who regularly prepares tax returns for your company. However, consulting with a tax lawyer about the process and your particular facts can be an extremely shrewd initial step. It will certainly pay to have a dually California licensed Tax Attorney and CPA handle the audit from the start, rather than (as is common) waiting to bring in a tax lawyer at the conclusion of the audit for the ensuing administrative or court appeals. The tax lawyer is often able to head off trouble early and thus truncate the entire process even if the issues at hand are purely civil in nature. If the case involves potential allegations of tax fraud, a Tax Audit Attorney is an absolute must if you seek to secure the highest odds of avoiding a criminal tax prosecution.

A large percentage of criminal tax cases originate through referrals from civil auditors in normal civil audits. If an IRS, FTB, EDD, or CDTFA auditor discovers badges of fraud in your audit, the auditor can simply hand of the case to the relevant Criminal Investigation Division. The authorities are generally not obligated to inform the construction contractor that this criminal referral is or has occurred.  Normally the civil auditors simply suspend the audit without any explanation and become unexplainable unavailable. Thus, the contractor might assume that the audit is over or, more likely, that the IRS, FTB, CDTFA or EDD is too busy to continue and will eventually pick up where they left off. The contractor often has no idea that the IRS, FTB, CDTFA or EDD believes there has been a criminal violation and begins quietly building a criminal case that often is undetected and thus undefended, until the criminal tax investigation is well underway and thus nearly impossible to dissuade.

Where badges of fraud are found to exist, a civil tax audit can quickly escalate into a criminal tax investigation, making it wise to retain the services of a dually licensed Tax Attorney & CPA from the outset of an audit. In contrast to the weak and jurisdictionally dependent, unevenly recognized accountant-client privilege, the attorney-client privilege is robust and recognized in all state and federal courts. Nearly anything that you disclose to a Tax Lawyer, or the Kovel accountants he works with, are protected and confidential and cannot be used against you, provided that the attorney-client privilege is maintained and protected. The attorney-client privilege permits a taxpayer to speak frankly regarding mistakes, errors, and other intentional acts so that the Tax Attorney can prepare a defense to the audit or criminal tax investigation techniques and other tactics you are likely to face. Furthermore, if you work through a tax attorney, consulting accountants can receive derivative attorney-client privilege and confidentiality through what is known as a Kovel letter.

The CPAs and CPA candidates that the Tax Law Office of David W. Klasing employs are all Kovel Accountants that receive extensive on the job training and supervision in effectively fulfilling that role to provide you the highest levels of protection.

What Sorts of Issues Does the IRS Look for During a Construction Industry Tax Audit?

In auditing income tax returns, the IRS can turn to many sources of data provided voluntarily or under compulsion. These sources include the contractor’s own returns for past years, returns filed by related persons, customers, and suppliers, and information returns filed by partnerships of which the contractor is a partner and by payors of various types of income subject to information reporting. More sporadic sources include newspaper articles describing large purchases, complaints by disgruntled former employees and spouses, and leads supplied by informers seeking a reward.

The IRS leaves no stone unturned when scrutinizing business books and tax returns. During an audit of your construction company, issues the IRS may focus on include:

You must accept the fact that the IRS knows all the tricks of the trade. It is aware that contractors may improperly be including estimates that are overstated, nondeductible costs, or allowances for contingencies in the total estimated costs figure, which will cause the percentage of completion to be understated. It knows that if the percentage completed is understated, income will also be understated.

Taking another example, the Revenue Agent may be on the lookout for a contractor offsetting gross receipts with expenses other than returns and allowances, causing the net amount reported as gross receipts on the tax return to be understated. The Agent knows that this netting may improperly reflect average annual gross receipts below thresholds for small business taxpayers.

You should understand that both federal and California taxing authorities, including the IRS, FTB, California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA), or EDD operate on the “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” concept— the fire being the fraud, and the concept being that the auditors are trained to look for the “smoke.”

The IRS knows that, depending on the method of accounting, the contractor may improperly delay billings or the recording of receivables in order to defer the reporting of gross receipts. The Agent will likely select a sample of jobs and inspect the job folders to review the contract billing terms, progress billing applications sent to the owner, and owner payment documents retained by the contractor to test income.

How New IRS Rules Affect Construction Accounting Methods

New IRS rules directly affect construction contractors’ choice of which accounting method to employ for purposes of tax reporting and financial statement preparation. The changes include Financial Accounting Standards Board Accounting Standards Codification (FASB ASC) 606, Revenue from Contracts with Customers, FASB ASC 842, The New Lease Accounting Standard, and changes in the IRC.

On April 19, 2021, The IRS issued an updated Construction Industry Audit Technique Guide. This is a good reminder that you should review your accounting procedures, controls, and record-keeping and retrieval systems to stay ahead of any problems related to an IRS audit. We can help you develop a good understanding of the content of the examination and the specific techniques to be used by IRS auditors so that you are aware of what areas should receive particular focus.

One of the significant highlights of the Audit Guide is the confirmation by the IRS of the many different tax accounting methods available to a contractor to report income for tax purposes. The Audit Guide notes ten different tax methods of accounting dependent upon the various types of contracts as well as underlying facts and circumstances specific to that contractor. Additionally, the Audit Guide alerts the IRS agents to expected differences in accounting for construction contracts for financial statements compared with methods utilized for income tax purposes.

FASB ASC 606, Revenue from Contracts with Customers

By now, every company should have adopted FASB ASC 606, Revenue from Contracts with Customers. While there are many nuances to FASB ASC 606 as compared to the old FASB ASC 605, Revenue Recognition, the impacts on financial statements have varied outside of various enhanced disclosure requirements. FASB ASC 606 requires the recognition of revenue to coincide with the transfer of goods and services to customers, which for construction contractors will continue to follow the recognition of revenue over time. This is consistent with the cost-to-cost percentage of completion. However, there are some important distinctions to note, such as capitalized costs to fulfill a contract (e.g., mobilization and bond costs). These costs are typically incurred up-front but do not necessarily transfer value. They must now be taken off the job, capitalized to the balance sheet, and amortized back into the job on a percentage of completion basis.

While it is true that the adjustment to the financial statements of construction companies is not always material, there must be an analysis performed by the management of construction companies to support this conclusion. In addition, one should analyze whether the book treatment under U.S. GAAP matches the IRS treatment for tax purposes.

FASB ASC 842, The New Lease Accounting Standard

The new accounting standard on accounting for leases, FASB ASC 842, is bringing changes in the way operating leases are recorded. In the past, operating leases only appeared as an expense in financial statements, with future obligations for operating leases not appearing on the company’s balance sheet. FASB ASC 842 requires these off-balance liabilities to be recorded, presenting an asset related to the right-of-use asset leased item and a liability for the value and obligations created by the full terms of the leases. Under current standards, only leases categorized as capital leases require recognition on the balance sheet.

While the impact of FASB ASC 842 will result in a net-zero change to the reported gross profit and net income of the contractor, recording the right-of-use asset and liability on leases will have an impact on the contractor’s debt covenants. Additionally, contractors will be managing the effects of FASB ASC 842 by potentially restructuring the leasing of equipment for projects. FASB ASC 842 will be effective for all private entities for the years beginning after December 15, 2021.

Cost to complete

Contractor financial statements rely heavily on estimates. One thing that is critical to the contractor is the estimated cost to complete on contracts in progress (ECCCP). Without accurately determining the ECCCP, a contractor’s financials can fluctuate wildly from one month to the next. Changing these estimates can have a significant impact on the financial statements, so contractors should take this task very seriously. In addition, contracts should ensure that all costs, including indirect costs, are accounted for within the ECCCP.

What if I Disagree with the Results of My Audit?

You may challenge, or “appeal,” the results of a federal or state tax audit with which you disagree – subject to certain conditions. These conditions include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • You must file the necessary documents by the date provided on your notice.
  • Your argument must be legal, mathematical, or otherwise rooted in fact. You may not dispute an audit finding based on constitutional, religious, moral, or similar bases.

It may be possible to resolve the issue through Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), such as IRS mediation, which is less formal and rigorous than other forms of dispute resolution. Conversely, your case may call for a more aggressive strategy, such as engaging in tax litigation by filing a lawsuit against the IRS.

See our IRS Appeals Q and A Library

See our Tax Litigation Q and A Library

California Tax Lawyers + Accountants for Construction Companies + Contractors

At the Tax Law Office of David W. Klasing, we represent commercial contractors, construction lenders, construction managers, heavy construction contractors, highway contractors, materials suppliers, residential construction developers, subcontractors, surety companies, and other parties that build, design, or fund construction projects in California. Whether you have unfiled back taxes, are unsure about how to classify your workers, are concerned about an upcoming audit, need help comparing the percentage of completion accounting method with the completed contract method, or have other tax and accounting questions, we are here to provide answers while shielding your business from damaging fines and penalties.

With tax offices located throughout Northern and Southern California, we are conveniently positioned to serve builders, suppliers, and developers statewide. To arrange a reduced-rate consultation regarding a civil, criminal, state, or federal tax matter, contact our tax firm online, or call the Tax Law Office of David W. Klasing 24 hours, seven days a week, at (800) 681-1295.

Tax FAQs for Construction Companies + Contractors

The following tax FAQs may be of interest to construction workers or business owners in the construction industry:

Note: If you have concerns about the privacy of our initial or subsequent communication and are unable to easily travel to our Irvine / Orange County Main Office, consider scheduling a GoToMeeting to safely and securely establish an initial or maintain an existing attorney client relationship.  With end-to-end encryption, strong passwords and top-rated reliability, no one is messing with your meeting. To schedule a reduced rate initial consultation via GoToMeeting follow this link.   Call our office and request a GoToMeeting if you are an existing client. We are generally happy to travel to any of our appointment only satellite offices for a subsequent meeting in appropriate circumstances once a relationship is established via a signed engagement letter and the payment of an initial retainer or where enough retainer is available where a current client to cover the reasonable travel time and time required for the meeting.

Will it cost me more to hire the Tax Law Offices of David W. Klasing, who’s main office and the vast majority of the firm’s staff is located in Irvine California, but an appointment only Satellite office is close to my location, as opposed to a local company?  Absolutely not!  See our policies that address this issue here:

See our Entity Selection Q and A Library

See our Business Purchases and Sales Q and A Library

See our Online Business Q and A Library

See our Business Succession Q and A Library

See our International Tax Q and A Library

Note:  As long as a taxpayer that has willfully committed tax crimes (potentially including non-filed foreign information returns coupled with affirmative evasion of U.S. income tax on offshore income) self-reports the tax fraud (including a pattern of non-filed returns) through a domestic or offshore voluntary disclosure before the IRS has started an audit or criminal tax investigation / prosecution, the taxpayer can ordinarily be successfully brought back into tax compliance and receive a nearly guaranteed pass on criminal tax prosecution and simultaneously often receive a break on the civil penalties that would otherwise apply.

It is imperative that you hire an experienced and reputable criminal tax defense attorney to take you through the voluntary disclosure process.  Only an Attorney has the Attorney Client Privilege and Work Product Privileges that will prevent the very professional that you hire from being potentially being forced to become a witness against you, especially where they prepared the returns that need to be amended, in a subsequent criminal tax audit, investigation or prosecution.

Moreover, only an Attorney can enter you into a voluntary disclosure without engaging in the unauthorized practice of law (a crime in itself). Only an Attorney trained in Criminal Tax Defense fully understands the risks and rewards involved in voluntary disclosures and how to protect you if you do not qualify for a voluntary disclosure.

As uniquely qualified and extensively experienced Criminal Tax Defense Tax Attorneys, Kovel CPAs and EAs, our firm provides a one stop shop to efficiently achieve the optimal and predictable results that simultaneously protect your liberty and your net worth.   See our Testimonials to see what our clients have to say about us!

If you have failed to file a tax return for one or more years or have taken a position on a tax return that could not be supported upon an IRS or state tax authority audit, eggshell audit, reverse eggshell audit, or criminal tax investigation, it is in your best interest to contact an experienced tax defense attorney to determine your best route back into federal or state tax compliance without facing criminal prosecution.

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