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Monday, June 10, 2024

UPDATE: Remember the Small Business Instant Depreciation Tax Break


UPDATE:  

News Alert: The 2024 Section 179 Deduction Limit for Businesses is $1,220,000

Jan 2, 2024 –The Section 179 deduction for 2024 is $1,220,000, which is an increase of $60,000 from 2023’s limit. This means U.S. companies can deduct the full purchase price of ALL qualified equipment purchases, up to the limit of $1,220,000. In addition, the “total equipment purchase” limit has been raised to $3,050,000 (up from $2.89 million in 2023).

The deduction can include both new and used equipment acquired and put into service between 1/1/2024 and 12/31/2024. In addition to these limits, businesses can also take advantage of a 60% bonus depreciation on both new and used equipment for the entirety of 2024.


"New York Times"

“Nearly all small businesses, even the very tiniest, should consider taking advantage of the deduction.

The deduction is essentially limited to small and midsize companies. It begins phasing out when a company spends more than $2 million a year on qualifying purchases, and is eliminated entirely for those that spend more than $2.5 million.

The deduction works like this: If a company has a $90,000 profit and decides to spend $50,000 of it on new computers, the company would normally write off the cost of the equipment gradually, deducting a portion of it each year over the span of the computers’ useful life. But Section 179 allows the business to deduct the entire $50,000 cost at once in the year the equipment is purchased, reducing the company’s taxable profit to $40,000. (The deduction cannot exceed a business’s total net income.)

Section 179 was once a fairly limited tax break, with an annual cap of $25,000 or less. But in 2003, Congress temporarily raised the limit to $100,000, and in 2008, as the recession set in, it raised the cap again to $250,000. In 2010, hoping to stimulate more spending, Congress increased the limit to $500,000, allowing businesses to use the deduction toward expensive items like factory machinery and trucks.

But each increase was a temporary measure requiring annual reauthorization to prevent the cap from returning to $25,000 — and Congress developed a habit of waiting until the very last days of the year to make a decision. In 2012, it missed the calendar deadline completely and passed legislation on Jan 1, 2013, retroactively raising the deduction limit for equipment business owners had purchased the previous year.

“The uncertainty drives my clients up a tree,” said Paul Neiffer, an accountant with CliftonLarsonAllen in Yakima, Wash., who specializes in the agricultural industry. “Not knowing each year if it will be extended prevents a lot of our farmers from pulling the trigger on buying equipment.”

From now on, they will know. The 233-page tax deal includes in its myriad tax breaks one that permanently sets the Section 179 cap at $500,000, subject to inflation adjustments.

“You can’t plan to spend that kind of money with just two weeks left in the year,” she said. “We might see some activity this year, but the real benefit for us will come next year, when customers can plan ahead for it.”

Some companies do try to jam in qualifying purchases before the calendar year ends. Last year, Congress raised the Section 179 limit for the year on Dec. 16. The next day, the prices farm machinery sold for at auctions increased compared with just a few days earlier, according to Greg Peterson, the owner of Machinery Pete, a site that tracks equipment auction prices.

“The response is nearly Pavlovian at this point,” he said. “The farm audience had grown so used to this annual silly dance of wait-and-see on our friends in Washington.”

Making Section 179’s higher limit permanent will cost taxpayers $77 billion in foregone revenue over the next 10 years, according to a government estimate. The tax break’s aim is to stimulate spending — but does it work?

An analysis by the Congressional Research Service found that expensing allowances like Section 179 appear to “have a minor effect at best” on how much businesses spend on capital goods. Expectations for future sales growth, not tax considerations, motivates most of the investment in the kinds of assets eligible for expensing.

The main advantage of expensing allowances, the report suggests, comes from simplifying the tax accounting business owners face on their capital purchases.

Still, owners like Mr. Kortesmaki see the tax break as a crucial one for helping their small business grow a bit bigger.

“I’d rather invest that money in my business than pay taxes on it,” he said. “Having this become permanent makes my business planning for the next few years a whole lot easier.”

Small Business Gets Tax Break


Thursday, June 6, 2024

Five Winning Strategies For Small Business Federal Government Contractors

    Illustrations by istock

Acquisition officials are speeding up the acquisition process, issuing necessary requests for proposals to companies and executing contract awards quicker.  Marketing must be focused and fine-tuned. 

The sooner the government can receive the feedback from the draft RFP, the more likely it is that the service acquisition teams can adapt the programs to industry and economic realities.

Consider these strategic planning tips for the small enterprise in planning for the future.

STRATEGIES

1. Operation and Maintenance (O&M) Funds Are a Solid Bet for Service Contractors

Operation and Maintenance (O&M) appropriations are used to finance expenses not related to military personnel or Research, Development Test and Engineering (RDT&E). Types of expenses funded by O&M appropriations include: DoD civilian salaries, supplies and materials, maintenance of equipment, certain equipment items, real property maintenance, rental of equipment and facilities, food, clothing, and fuel. 

O&M funds are more easily justified in appropriations for "Keeping the Lights On" functions and often do not expire at the end of the government fiscal year.  If you are a service contractor target programs with (O&M) funding.  Look for service contracts being considered as set asides for small business on an O&M basis, sharpen your pencil and your best value marketing approach and chase them as a prime contractor or with a highly competitive industry team that needs your contribution to succeed.

2. Sharpen your Marketing Activities in Targeted Agencies and with Industry Teams to Get In Early on Agency Requirements.

Pre-solicitations are alerts to industry, attempts to gauge industry interest or a way of "Kicking the Can Down the Road" until funding becomes available.  These notices are an indirect way of saying, "Come Visit Me and tell me about your company", or “Send Me your capabilities statement (CAPE)”. The full formal notification will come out at a time to be determined by when the agency gets the funding and how much interest there is in the contractor community. A schedule for when the formal bid notice will occur is rarely posted.

Please read the following article carefully for further guidance:


3.  If Your Firm has Small Business Designations, Focus Agency Personnel on Making Their Programs Set asides for Your Designation (Small, Veteran-Owned, Woman-Owned, Minority Owned, Etc.)

Pay particular attention to System for Award Management (SAM) Contract Opportunities "Sources Sought" or “Requests for draft RFP Comment” on programs that have yet to be formally solicited. Obtain an appointment to present your capabilities to the decision makers (not the gate keepers). 

Be courteous to contracting officers but understand they are not the individuals who make source selections. Understand that once the requirement is formally published on SAM the gate closes on informal visits to the customer and the competition begins in the form of proposals by competitors.  It is too late at that point to set the program aside for a sole source or a small business designation if it has not occurred by the publication stage.

4.  Fine Tune Your Marketing Sensitivities to WHAT Agencies are Buying and HOW they are Buying Supplies and Services

You must determine what those needs are through market research, trade magazines, research on what they are buying on SAM as well as postings on their web site that are future-program oriented.

Subscribe to periodicals like "Washington Technology" and other trade magazines.  Observe agency trends and analysis that impact your market segment.  There have been set aside programs marketed by small companies through acquainting agency management and technical personnel with capabilities they were not aware existed in the small business community or fulfillment of needs they in fact did not know they had.

5. Teaming Is Critical 

Federal agencies will continue their natural penchant to bundle requirements to get the most out of their management dollar.  However, the bundles will become fewer and more competitive. Position your company with the best possible industry partners in view of the changing budget scene.

Synergism is paramount in teaming with any size company, whether in a lead or subcontracting role. There should be technical, management and market segment similarities between you and any company with whom you are considering teaming. Your prospective team member ideally will not be a direct competitor; rather a business in a related field with whom you share a mutual need for each other's contributions in pursuing large-scale projects.

Relationships must be developed with primes and other small businesses that can help you, team with you and keep you in mind as they search for success. That takes time, patience and open-minded, out of the box thinking. It also takes more than a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA), a teaming agreement (TA) and a proposal to succeed. It takes dynamic marketing and communication with strong partners and hard, innovative work. Nice buzz words you say - but it is the truth and you have to find what that truth means to you.


SUMMARY:

Success in the current small business government contracting environment will come through careful market research, focus on funding types that are sustainable appropriations, zeroing in on decision makers early with set-aside marketing techniques and teaming with strong industry partners. 





Monday, June 3, 2024

Small Business Teaming in Government Contracting


                                                     

While developing a government marketing plan, teaming with other companies is a productive venue for the small business. This article will convey general guidance pertinent to teaming and explore the types of teaming used successfully by small business federal government contractors.

GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS

Synergism is paramount in teaming with any size company, whether in a lead or subcontracting role. There should be technical, management and market segment similarities between you and any company with whom you are considering teaming. Your prospective team member ideally will not be a direct competitor; rather a business in a related field with whom you share a mutual need for each other's contributions in pursuing large-scale projects.

Relationships must be developed with primes and other small businesses that can help you, team with you and keep you in mind as they search for success. That takes time, patience and open-minded, out of the box thinking. It also takes more than a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA), a teaming agreement (TA) and a proposal to succeed. It takes dynamic marketing and communication with strong partners and hard, innovative work. Nice buzz words you say - but it is the truth and you have to find what that truth means to you.

Successful teaming for a specific program occurs early. Very few astute teams in government contracting are formed after a solicitation is formally published. Checking the "Interested Parties" block of a solicitation there and attempting to form or join a team is generally too late to effectively achieve a cohesive relationship, agreement and a win strategy by the time the proposal is due.

A size factor need not be a deterrent if you use contingent hire agreements, aspire to take over incumbent work forces in existing government operations or keep yourself open as a partner to a multiple number of primes and synergistic small businesses who are not direct competitors but with whom teaming will permit chasing larger procurements than any one small business could pursue. You can also grow into security clearances, as individuals and as a company with government agency sponsorship through already cleared companies.

In making contacts with larger firms you may have to go through the "Gate Keepers", such as the small business liaison officer, the registration boxes at web sites, a purchasing agent or a contracts person to get to the program people with the real decision making authority. Give the gate keepers their due, since you may end up working with them later.

Nothing makes a prospective small business or a large business teaming partner perk up like a real hot lead on a program. If you can offer a "Carrot on a Stick" such as an opportunity that they cannot access other than through you, it will get their attention. A non-disclosure agreement (NDA) should be signed before the discrete information on the job is disclosed. Please see the following article on NDA's and Teaming Agreements as documents and protecting your associated intellectual property:

Protecting Intellectual Property


SUBCONTRACTING TO ANOTHER COMPANY

In teaming as a subcontractor with other companies your goal is to sign a teaming agreement with a prime contractor for a prospective program. You prepare your proposal and submit it to the prime contractor who incorporates it into his submission to the government. Your submission contains flow down terms and conditions from the prime's proposal as well as a technical description of the effort you intend to perform. Your cost proposal to the prime contains fully loaded rates for the labor categories and material as well as the travel you will perform on the subcontract. The government awards the prime contract to your team member. You then undertake negotiations with the prime to convert your teaming agreement to a subcontract. 

The subcontract will replace the teaming agreement between you and your prime and contract performance can then commence.

Be especially careful in negotiating the attachment to a teaming agreement which identifies the scope of work which you will perform. Insure it has sufficient detail in terms of labor categories, % of the program (both hours and dollars) a discrete description of your effort, and any additional assurances you need to feel comfortable with the deal.

Keep on mind that a teaming agreement is an agreement to agree. It is not a contract and rarely enforceable in a court of law. That means you must negotiate your contract upon award and in many cases the prime may pressure you to lower your rates, decrease your share of the program or otherwise depart from the teaming agreement when your subcontract is finalized. Your business acumen will come into play during that transition. For tips please see the following link:

Contract Negotiation

BECOMING A PRIME CONTRACTOR

As a prime contractor you sign a teaming agreement with a subcontractor during the RFP stage of a solicitation. Your subcontractor prepares a proposal and submits it to you. You incorporate it into the prime contract proposal to the government. You negotiate flow down versions of terms and conditions from your federal contract to the subcontractor as well as a technical description of the effort the subcontractor will perform. The subcontractor's cost proposal contains fully loaded rates for the labor categories and material as well as the travel he intends to perform on the subcontract. The government awards the prime contract to you. You undertake negotiations with the subcontractor to convert the teaming agreement to a subcontract. The subcontract will replace the teaming agreement between you and your subcontractor.

Your role as a prime may be the result of your status a small business, a woman-owned, minority-owned or veteran-owned business under a program set-aside to one of those designations. It is usually best to subcontract no more than a 40% share of the total business to firms with whom you are teaming to avoid the appearance of a front. The statutory requirement is 51% to the prime in these types of programs but you need to convey strength as a prime in terms of resources to be deemed a winner by the government source selection board.

If the program you are bidding is a negotiable procurement it is preferable to negotiate subcontracts with team members before you negotiate your final contract with the government. Going into negotiations with the government having definitized your subcontracts reduces your risk in terms of unknowns contractually at the supplier level. It also eliminates the subcontractor wanting to know the result of your prime contract negotiations so that he can use it as a frame of reference for his negotiation position with you. The baseline when you go to the table with your subcontractor is your teaming agreement specifying his statement of work and your collective proposal to the government containing the prospective cost and price for his effort as part of the total proposal.

SUMMARY

There are many subsidiary forms of the above basic teaming approaches. You can join multi-company teams under a major prime on IDIQ umbrella contracts of long duration. You can bid a team effort using your GSA Schedule.

Although the Federal Mentor-Protégé Program is a fine vehicle, keep other options open at the same time you pursue a long term teaming partner in that venue.

Joint ventures are difficult for small and start-up companies. They are made up of resources from both companies, yet a JV exists as separate legal entity and is complex to administer. A joint venture agreement is a special form of teaming agreement subject to approval by the government agency with whom the JV is contracting. JV's are usually managed by a JV Board and include administrative costs and billing nuances associated with a "3rd Entity" that many firms find difficult to manage.

If you are in a prime contractor role you have an additional management challenge in being accountable for the performance of your subcontractors and flowing down the terms, conditions and performance requirements under which you are being contracted by the government. Your customer expects effective subcontractor management. 

Proposal preparation imposes a substantial burden on the prime contractor because the prime must integrate, assemble, package and deliver the final submission after receipt of data from the subcontractor(s).

Keep in mind that you may be exclusively teaming with a company on certain procurements and competing against them on others. Protect your intellectual property, only exchange fully loaded rate information and keep the relationship professional at all times.

Your reputation as a team member in the small business federal government contracting community is important. Be selective and high performing in this area. Agencies, past performance data bases and other companies will be observing you, recording your performance and passing the word along to others directly and indirectly.

Monday, May 27, 2024

Seizing the Moment in Small Business Federal Government Contracting





THE MOMENT

Trends on the horizon point to a bright future for small business in federal government contracting.

Federal government agencies have set a record in exceeding the legal requirement for small business contracting goals. 

FY 2023 Goal Attainment

Small business is uniquely qualified for work in the current economy, particularly in the services sector, due to lower overhead and G&A rates, as well as agility in work force development.


New industries in Robotics, 3D Printing, Energy, Environmental Protection, Security and Geo-spatial IT are creating fields for small enterprises to compete against bigger firms or lead teams involving larger businesses on large scale projects. 


Government small business set-aside procurement is on the rise and becoming recognized by many agencies as a way to remove stodgy, entrenched companies when long term contracts come up for renewal.  These agencies look to smaller firms for cost effective, vibrant management, while inheriting an existing, trained, incumbent work force available to the winner. The process can dramatically grow smaller firms. 


Managing Incumbent Work Forces


PREPARATION


A small business anticipating participation in the federal contracting market must make pursuing it part of a long term strategy.  Success in government contracting does not happen overnight. 


Like any other market venue, a niche must be located, market research must confirm the need for products and/or services and the competition; the customer and the potential sales must assessed.  Unlike many other fields, success relies on early requirements identification and strong marketing.


Marketing to Achieve a Small Business Set-aside Contract


5 Factors in Forming a Small Business Contracting Company

The government contracting market allows a small business to pass on the costs of operations at a project level as well as write off company-wide expenses if allocated in a defined manner to single government cost objectives (contracts).  


Small business can also operate in a lower risk environment with contract types suited to the challenges involved.  The trade-offs to these features are requirements for audits and job cost accounting that require verified consistency from cost estimating to billing and contract closeout. This does not occur without preparation. 


Small Business Sytems Development


Entering the market requires carefully sculpting commercial past performance into prospective government contract performance and accumulating strong customer satisfaction ratings.  The feds talk to each other. 

Meeting the Past Performance Challenge


Business Ethics and Past Performance


EXECUTION


With the right combination of planning, preparation and opportunity, a small enterprise can seize the moment with:


Identification of specific opportunities that fit company capabilities


SAM Contract Opportunities Replaces FEDBIZOPPS

Astute bid/no bid decisions


Making an Astute Bid/No Bid Decision


A solid team of resources both internal and external


Vital Tips for Project Management


Managing Industry Teaming Relationships

A Winning proposal, effective project start-up/execution and quality products and services


Government Contract Proposal Preparation


SUMMARY


The small business segment of the huge federal government contacting market is poised to grow exponentially due to advances in technology and the need for flexibility, mobility, agility and economic performance. 


Rule changes are being considered to enhance entrance of commercial enterprises into the government contacting venue. Congress and the federal agencies are looking hard at constructive changes to make the challenges we have discussed here easier to meet for the small enterprise.  

Seize the small business contracting moment by being diligent in learning about the market and pursuing it. Make your company well equipped to succeed:
  • Define your niche
  • Learn the rules
  • Plan 
  • Prepare 
  • Execute 


Thursday, May 23, 2024

Your Entry Points Into Small Business Federal Government Contracting

Image:  Ocean5strategies.com

The Federal Government has a continuing need for products and services of every type to support ongoing operations and continued progress in the technical and IT fields.

Small business has lower overhead and G and A rates. The smaller enterprise has an opportunity to perform vital functions at lower cost burdens than the larger corporations.

This article will discuss product and service venues you may wish to consider and how to conduct market research to assess your potential entry point into small business federal government contracting.  

POINTS OF ENTRY

The best place to start in determining a government contracting entrance point is with successful commercial performance of services or product development. Very few, if any, commercial firms make the transition without that bridge.

From maintaining buildings to keeping the lights on, from grounds maintenance to flight maintenance, look for niches that can be pursued based on successful past performance, transitioning via industry teaming via subcontracts, partner roles with larger companies or in small business set aside orders for minor items and simpler services provided directly to the government.

The service venue is the most common entry point and services are at times the vehicles to achieve product development tailored to agency needs. Please see the following synopsis of  concepts in this area and associated links for more details on each:

Multiple Front Marketing


The prudent small business will target agencies and teaming partners that best fit its products and services, positioning itself to acquire developing information on requirements and displaying capabilities by conveying early solutions to customer decision makers. This article will suggest techniques, approaches and tools to conduct a multi-front, targeted, requirements-driven, marketing campaign for small business federal government contracting.


Multiple-Front Marketing

Small Business Set aside Designations 


There are 7 major, small business set-aside designations in federal government contracting. Below is a listing of these designations, divided into two groups, Self-Certifying at the Central Contractor Registration (CCR) and those where government certification is required.

Techniques for Product Development 

This article will suggest approaches in developing a product to the point where it can be marketed in the small business federal government contracting venue. Individuals usually succeed at such an endeavor by forming a company, separating it from their personal assets and then developing the company and its product(s); even if it is only a one-person operation at the start. 


Teaming

While developing a government marketing plan, teaming with other companies is a productive venue for the small business. This article will convey general guidance pertinent to teaming and explore the types of teaming used successfully by small business federal government contractors.


Synergism is paramount in teaming with any size company, whether in a lead or subcontracting role. There should be technical, management and market segment similarities between you and any company with whom you are considering teaming. Your prospective team member ideally will not be a direct competitor; rather a business in a related field with whom you share a mutual need for each other's contributions in pursuing large-scale projects.


SUMMARY:

Small business federal government contracting is not rocket science - to succeed you must take what you do well in the commercial market place or what your experience leads you to believe you can plan successfully as a commercial enterprise and then apply it in a slightly different manner from a business perspective to accommodate federal government contracting requirements. Very few companies enter federal government contracting without some commercial experience and success. Very few start-ups entertain contracting exclusively to the federal government without commercial work to sustain operations while the more lengthy government procurement process is being pursued.

Federal government contracting is controlled by the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR). Bid and proposal types are driven by the nature of the supply or service being procured. No one reads the FAR cover to cover - It is a source book for when you need it. The FAR and associated regulations are taught in only a few colleges, such as the Defense Systems Acquisition University at Ft. Belvoir and the George Washington School of Government Contracting. Very few CPA's are familiar with the US Government FAR Cost Accounting Standards (CAS) and I am not aware of any questions regarding CAS on current CPA exams. In general one must grow to understand these requirements and that usually happens by doing business under them. 



A Framework For Small Government Service Contractor Business Systems

                                                                                    

PLEASE CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE

INTRODUCTION 


Waiting for a contract award to achieve a government contracting business process is not advisable. A win may not happen at all without addressing the structure and process requirements in your proposal to convince the customer you understand his business environment.

If you are not prepared in advance and you are fortunate enough to win, then in a very short time frame you will have to evolve your business system to perform on your contract and submit a billing.

This article will discuss a framework for a small enterprise to develop a business system in service contracting, which is the most frequent venue utilized to enter the government market.

The above diagram depicts the major elements of a suggested integrated template.


If you are a small startup organization, your process and automation may be quite rudimentary and simple in addressing the above structure and functions. If your company is in a high growth mode with many transactions, projects and details your processes and computerization will be more complex.


The point to remember is the need to overlay the above on your existing company for the unique products and services you provide, and then address how to fit, supplement, or accommodate the necessary adjustments to support contracting to the government.


Please read the following articles on the highlighted topics for details that may assist in evolving your unique business processes to support government contracting:


Long Range Planning


Should You Consider Small Business Federal :Government Contracting?


Provisional Indirect Rates


Teaming in Government Contracting


Protecting Intellectual Property and Proprietary Data


Human Resource Planning


Generic Contingent Hire Agreement


Contracts and Pricing


Proposal Preparation


Pricing


Project Planning


Earned Value Management Systems


Contract Baseline Management


Cost Centers, General and Administrative , Operations, Job Cost Records


The "Past Performance" Challenge


Establishing FAR and CAS Compliant Small Business Systems


DCAA Audits and Small Business Job Cost Accounting Systems


Customer Relations


Customer Relations and Government Personnel Roles


What Small Business Should Know About the FEDBIZOPPS Web Site


Multiple Front Marketing In Small Business Federal Government Contracting


Small Business Set-Aside Designations


SUMMARY


You may wish to download the free book and related documents at the "Box Net" cube in the right margin of this site for further information and live examples.


Remember, small business federal government contracting is not rocket science - it is taking what you do well in the commercial environment and applying it in a slightly different manner from a business perspective to accommodate the way the federal government does business.