NOVEL CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) UPDATES

Masks are required as the campus is at red status.

How To Approach the Tax Extension

Ashley Phillips, Ph.D.

In response to COVID-19, the Internal Revenue Service has extended the due date for filing 2019 federal income tax returns and remitting federal income tax payments until July 15.

This relief applies to federal income tax payments — including the payment self-employment income tax — and federal income tax returns due on April 15. The July extension is automatic. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson extended the deadline for filing state income tax returns to July 15, as well. However, the deadline for Arkansas’ estimated tax payments has not been extended.

To understand how Arkansans should approach the federal and state tax deadline extension, we spoke with Ashley Phillips, Ph.D., assistant professor of accounting, who was a tax attorney with the IRS for five years before joining the UCA College of Business in 2016.

When should a return be filed?

“Everyone should file their federal and state income tax returns as soon as possible rather than waiting until July 15. One important reason for filing your return as early as possible is to reduce the risk of tax identity theft. Filing tax returns prevents an identity thief from later electronically filing a return using your personal information to claim a fraudulent refund. The IRS is encouraging taxpayers who expect a refund to file their return as soon as possible. For those expecting a refund, filing a tax return electronically with direct deposit is the quickest way to receive the refund.

If a tax payment is due, the return may still be filed now and the tax due may be remitted closer to July 15. If you are concerned that you will not have the ability to pay the tax due, then a payment plan with the IRS should be considered. The IRS has short-term (120 days or less) payment plans and long-term (more than 120 days) installment plans. More information on these payment plans can be found on the IRS website. It is important to remember interest, penalties and additions to tax for postponed federal income tax filings and payments will begin to accrue on July 16 for returns not filed or tax payments not remitted by July 15.

If an extension of time beyond the July deadline is needed, then an application for extension should be filed on Form 4868 by July 15.”

What is the impact of the extension on estimated payments?

“All first-quarter estimated income tax payments for the 2020 tax year due on April 15 are now due July 15. The extension of time does not apply to the second-quarter estimated income tax payments due on June 15.”

What is the deadline for 2019 IRA contributions?

“The deadline for making IRA contributions for 2019 has also been extended until July 15.”

Furnishing a Nation: Supply Chain During COVID-19

Doug Voss, Ph.D.

The country’s response to COVID-19, known as the coronavirus, has seen busy times for grocery stores as Americans stockpile canned goods, non-perishable food and household supplies to prepare for more time at home.

Doug Voss, Ph.D., director of the Center for Logistics, Education, Advancement & Research and Scott E. Bennett Arkansas Highway Commission Chair, said inventory in the channel to grocery stores is plenty as most stores receive multiple loads of product a week, and some multiple shipments a day.

“Thank a truck driver next time you see one,” he said.

Voss took part in a Q&A with us to explain how the supply chain and logistics industry responds to a crisis like COVID-19.

How does the supply chain industry respond to situations like this? Does it compare to the everyday hustle with just a few more shipments, or are there certain trips in the system that brings about a change?

“Demand is the primary driver for supply chains. As demand for certain items increases, production and transportation of that item will frequently increase as well. Demand fluctuations are an everyday occurrence. The current spike in demand for some items is pretty extraordinary but manageable thanks to the hard work of our truck drivers, warehouse workers and supply chain managers.”

Many news reports show empty shelves in several stores in the past couple of weeks. Are stores running out of products too quickly? How often are stores in our area receiving shipments?

“A simplified supply chain consists of a network of suppliers, manufacturers, storage facilities, transportation service providers and retail outlets. Inventory is held by each member of this network to some degree. The bare shelves at your local retailer are caused by demand that exceeded inventory availability in a short amount of time.

However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of product. There is plenty of inventory in the supply chain for almost every product. It’s just a matter of moving that inventory from the supplier or warehouse to the supermarket where we buy our goods.

The retailer monitors real-time sales and inventory levels. The replenishment process begins when inventory gets low. The supply chain is specifically designed to quickly replenish goods. Your local supermarket may be replenished by several trucks each day with each truck delivering a specific assortment of goods for that store.

Store shelves are constantly replenished, but now that the initial COVID-19 demand spike is complete, the supply chain will be able to catch up. That’s what the system is designed to do and it does it very well. Other than hand sanitizer, there would be plenty of product to go around if we all showed a little more restraint at the store.”

What are the problems or issues that could cause issues in the supply chain?

“The ‘kinks’ that would cause this system to break down include labor shortages or other calamitous events that stop the manufacture or flow of goods. We haven’t seen anything that would shut down the supply chain yet. Things will generally go well as long as we can keep manufacturing and moving product.”

The federal government has taken steps to remove regulations in response to the crisis. Why was that seen to be necessary to deal with COVID-19?

“The federal government has suspended many regulations on trucking companies engaged in the movement of goods critical to support our medical community and societal needs. Trucks are the only mode of transportation that can deliver goods to the front door of most locations. Without trucks, everything shuts down including the ability to decontaminate drinking water.

As an example of a suspended regulation, the federal government has temporarily removed hours of service regulations for companies hauling critical freight. This effectively expands the amount of trucking capacity by allowing drivers to work more hours each day while also speeding time to market for the critical goods they carry. We are all better off if medical supplies and food are replenished faster.”

What are the issues to watch for in the next few days or weeks?

“There was a big increase in demand for trucking services following the initial surge in grocery demand. However, many other shippers — the “Big 3” auto manufacturers — have idled production and the initial consumable demand has subsided to a degree. This means that some trucking companies will have idle capacity but, perhaps more importantly, many shippers may not be able to pay their bills. Cash flow is always important but especially at this critical juncture. Companies need to avail themselves of assistance resources available from the state and federal governments.”

For more information on programs available to small businesses, click here.

How do Small Businesses Respond to COVID-19?

If you’re a small business owner, the last couple of weeks have been filled with long days, more stress and anxiety, and questions about the future as the country responds to the COVID-19 pandemic.

School closings, mass event cancellations and postponements, and social distancing have challenged small business models across the country, including in Arkansas. How can small businesses respond to obstacles created by COVID-19?

Remain Calm

Jeff Standridge, Ed.D., adjunct instructor of Finance and managing director of the Conductor, said small business clients, customers and employees are looking to the owner for guidance.

“Your attitude and demeanor can make them feel comfortable or worried,” said Standridge. “Your thoughts impact your feelings, your feelings impact your actions, and your actions impact your results.”

Put Yourself in Your Customer’s Shoes: Reach Out!

Business owners should figure out ways to make customers more comfortable in doing business with them in the middle of self-isolation and reduced trips outside the home, said Standridge.

“Before you decide to close for two weeks, look for ways to reduce human contact points within your business,” he said. “If you can serve your customers remotely, you should do it.”

It is important for customers to see care, concern and empathy from businesses, said Standridge.

“It builds trust and loyalty,” he said. “Reduce risks, increase convenience, go above and beyond to meet their physical and emotional needs.”

Reaching out to top customers or clients, asking how they can be helped and informing them of changes your business is making can be helpful.

“Everyone is facing this crisis together, so be transparent about what your business is going through,” said Standridge. “Customers can empathize with brands facing a crisis, as long as you communicate with them properly.”

Doing the Right Thing Now Will Benefit You in the Long Run

The potential for negative press, ill will or loss of business from the general public is possible for the firms and businesses that do nothing or are slow to respond to the crisis, said Parker Woodroof, Ph.D., assistant professor of Marketing.

Whether it is transitioning to online services, reimbursing clients for missed or canceled services or offering gratuities, “being the first small business in the competitive environment gives you a competitive edge and advantage,” said Woodroof.

Go Online

When many stores shuttered in China and workers stayed home in response to COVID-19, Standridge said the savvy business owners shifted their sales strategy to social media, email and phone calls to avoid heavy losses.

“If you’re closing your store, find ways to keep your employees earning a paycheck by reaching out to your clients, selling on social media, putting your email list to good use or using a video tool to reach new leads,” he said.

Keep Your Routine

Things may not seem the same at the moment, but it’s important to keep some semblance of a routine.

Always have coffee with a mentor? Lunch with a fellow small business owner? Keep those appointments, said Vance Lewis, Ph.D., assistant professor of Management, just adapt.

“You can still have those morning coffee chats, greetings, lunches and comradery over the phone or internet just as easily as in-person.”

Plan for Cash Flow Implications & Get Help

Develop and plan for scenarios likely to result in an increase or decrease in demand for your products and services during the outbreak, said Standridge.

“Determine any potential impact on business financials using multiple possible scenarios that affect different product lines or store locations,” he said.

Other strategies that can be implemented include:

  • Reduce or eliminate all non-business-critical tasks and expenses.
  • Identify essential, revenue-critical employees and make sure they are focused on business-critical tasks.
  • If you reduce staffing levels, consider developing rotating work schedules to continue serving clients. Maintain some level of income to as many employees as possible.
  • Talk to your bank and suppliers about alternate payment arrangements. Talk to suppliers about extending payables. Talk to your bank about temporary interest-only payment arrangements.
  • Eliminate excess inventory to generate cash.
  • If the situation calls for it, reach out to your bank about the SBA Economic Injury Disaster Recovery Loan program.

Cynthia Burleson, director of the Center for Insurance & Risk Management, said it could be beneficial for small business owners to consider business income coverage.

“This is nuanced and often misunderstood,” said Burleson. “Owners need to understand their policy to see if they may have the potential for partial help due to loss of income.”

For more information regarding the policy, click here.

Doug Voss, director for the Center for Logistics, Education, Advancement & Research and Scott E. Bennett Arkansas Highway Commission Chair, encouraged small businesses to negotiate payment terms with financial institutions.

“Protect your employees’ health and financial well-being to every extent possible, and avail yourself of state and federal assistance programs,” said Voss.

For more information on programs available to small businesses, click here.

The Conductor provides free, one-on-one virtual consultation for small businesses.

“We work every day to help business owners in Arkansas to get their game plan together if they need guidance or assistance,” said Standridge.

Go to arconductor.org to set up a session.