A Great Tax Shelter-Soon to Disappear

Many dentists are taking advantage of a tax strategy of converting the regular dividends from their corporations into a capital gain generating huge savings.

To illustrate, the capital gains tax on $200,000 of income from the corporation is about $22,500, compared to a tax of $54,400 on dividend income. A tax saving of nearly $32,000! If you double the income to $400,000, the dividend tax is $152,200 while the capital gains tax is $65,100. A saving of over $87,000! As you can see in the table below, the more you take, the more you save.

 

The capital gains method of removing funds allows you to reduce your personal taxes on funds you need for living expenses, make a lump sum payment on your mortgage, or finance the children’s education.

Our fees to set up the capital gains strategy start at $2,500.

It is smart to plan your personal taxes for 2021 now. It is anticipated that an upcoming Federal Budget could either bring about legislative changes or increased capital gains inclusion rates that may end the advantage of the capital gains strategy going forward. Therefore, take advantage before it disappears. Tax saving opportunities that good will not be around for long!

Am I ready to retire from dentistry?

A practice transition is a long-term proposition that will change your life and upend your daily routine. Be specific about your transition goals. Determine whether you want to retire partially or fully and map out a timeline. Decide if you are looking at a five or ten-year window. Depending on which you choose, the financial implications will be vastly different. Once you run the numbers associated with each transition scenario, you will be positioned to make the right choice.

Many transitions fail because the dentist about to sell is unprepared for the journey. Stephen Covey has it right when he says in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “Begin with the end in mind.”

Imagine where you would like to be five or ten years from now, and what kind of life you want to live. Calculate the money required to finance your desired lifestyle. Once that navel-gazing exercise is complete, your transition journey will become clear. A careful practice transition plan will help crystalize your thoughts about what you really want from retirement and help you achieve your dreams.

To keep focussed on your goal, avoid spur-of-the-moment actions. Resist the urge to accept unsolicited offers, unless you are sure they meet your requirements.

Even if you are eager to leave your practice and have an overflowing bucket list of things to do and places to visit during retirement, we suggest you hit the pause button for a moment of self-reflection. Imagine what your life would be like if you left your practice and dentistry altogether. Your identity is probably more wrapped up with your profession than you might think. Recognize that habits are hard to change. Think about how long you have reigned over your practice. For years, you have risen early five days a week, looking forward to the morning huddle. You have long-time staff members who respect you both as a leader and friend.  You have loyal patients who look forward to their appointments; they too have become your friends. Staying on top of your game has been your religion and you have spent countless hours honing your skills through professional development courses. Your philosophy, “Do what’s best for the patient and the money will follow” has helped you build a practice that has succeeded beyond your expectations. And because work has meant so much, you have not taken time to develop many outside hobbies.

Ready to sell? Maybe not…

One of the first steps in properly planning the sale of your practice is to secure the benefit of receiving the sales proceeds tax-free.

You want to make sure that the sale of the shares qualifies for the Lifetime Capital Gains Exemption (LCGE).

The LCGE for 2020 is $883,384 for each shareholder. If you sell your shares for$1.8 million, the approximate income tax on the sales proceeds would be about $450,000. However, you can shelter the tax liability by allocating the LCGE to your spouse or to your children if they own shares directly or the shares are held by a family trust.

Advance planning is mandatory to make sure that all of the anticipated sales proceeds are sheltered by the LCGE.

Specifically, in order to claim the LCGE, your Dental Corporation has to meet the following three conditions:

  1. At the time of sale, 90% of the fair market value of the corporate assets must be used in an active business.
  2. During the 24 months prior to the sale, 50% of the fair market value of the corporate assets must have been used in the active business.
  3. You must have owned the shares 24 months prior to the sale.

In order to meet the above tests you may have to go through a purification process to make sure that your corporation meets the active business requirement.

Purification is a term used by us accountants to clean up the balance sheet of a dental corporation, so that you can sell the shares of the practice without paying any taxes. Basically, you can only have dental assets, including patient charts, leaseholds, equipment, and clinic real estate in the corporation. Non-practice assets, including portfolio investments and rental properties owned by the dental corporation must be removed.

What purification does is transfer any non-practice assets such as excess cash, rental properties investment portfolios etc. to a holding company. With the right tax plan, you can move these assets out without paying any taxes.

You cannot wait to implement the purification until just before the sale of your practice. Consider the holding period test that requires more than 50% of the fair value of the Dental Corporation’s assets to be used principally in an active business during all of the 24 months prior to the sale date. It means that the purification must be done more than two years before the practice sale.

When you are planning to sell your practice in the future, make sure your corporation qualifies for the exemption. We have “purified“  many dental corporations, and our clients  have appreciated our painless and cost-effective way to implement it.

Slaying the overhead monster

Creeping practice overhead is one of the biggest problems facing the practice owner today. Before you look at strategies to reduce the overhead, you need to know first of how to calculate it. And most dentists are not sure what the true overhead of the practice is. This lack of knowledge is not the dentist’s fault. The accountant prepares the income statement purely for tax purposes and not as a management tool for the dentist. In addition, knowledge about controlling overheads in practice management courses is generally not part of the dental student education curriculum.

How do you calculate the true overhead of your practice?

Firstly, calculate the collectible practice revenues, after making all the fee adjustments.
Secondly, tally the expenses that are directly related to the operation of your practice, including lab fees, dental supplies, staff salaries, facility costs, office expenses, marketing costs, clinic insurance, bank charges, and accounting fees. Remember to exclude financial costs, such as bank loan interest and lease payments. Discretionary expenses (i.e., continuing education, salaries to “non-working” family members, auto expenses, and travel) are likewise not part of the overhead calculation. Also, exclude the non- cash items of depreciation and amortization, all of which are purely an accounting calculation. By dividing the overhead costs into the revenue figure, you now have the true overhead percentage of your practice.

How do you reduce the overhead percentage?

Assuming you are not overstaffed, it is difficult to trim expenses. Even if you manage to cut your dental supply costs by 30% from 10% of gross to 7%, the overhead is only reduced by 3%.
For a drastic drop in overhead, you need to increase revenues rather than making cuts. If you increase your volume from $800,000 to $1 million, your 70% overhead will drop down to 60%. By doing so, you will increase your income by 60% from $240,000 to $400,000. In this illustration, I assumed that all costs remain the same except for the variable expenses of dental supplies and lab at 20% of gross revenues.

Want to be a successful practice owner? Start with a mission statement

Your financial success of owning your practice is not determined by how much you work in your practice i.e. performing the actual dentistry but how well you work on your practice; that is building relationships with patients, managing staff, handling negotiations with landlords, bankers, and dental suppliers.

When Christopher Columbus set sail for what became known as America, he did not know where he was going, nor did he know where he was once he got there. Many dental practitioners suffer from the Columbus syndrome. Their practices lack a clear direction and sense of purpose. Remember, if you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.

The first building block for a successful practice ownership is the mission statement.

Many dentists believe preparing a mission statement for the practice is a waste of time. That is unfortunate! Having a mission statement gives you and your staff a sense of purpose and stirs the passion for success. A mission statement collecting dust in your desk drawer is of course worthless. Don’t make it your best kept secret in the office. Every member of your staff should take ownership of the practice’s mission statement, and everybody in the office should know it by heart.

Here is an example: “To give all patients an exceptional experience, to provide an inspiring work climate for all team members, and to maximize opportunity and value for all the stakeholders.”

With an increasing number of dentists surrendering to the temptation of over-treating and over-charging patients, I recommend you include the equivalent of the Doctors’ Hippocratic Oath in your mission statement. It basically states that you will conduct business and specifically treat your patients with the absolute highest ethical standards. Integrity is the foundation of your practice. It must be part of the office culture and one that every member of your staff adheres to.