Articles

Business Interruption & Comm’l Damages

In Accounting & Finances, Business, Insurance & Liability, Taxes on November 8, 2017 by Sufen Wang

How to Assess Business Interruption, Commercial Damages

Unfortunately, with all the flooding and fires raging across the country these past few months, there are business losses that need to be assessed, argued and settled. But how?

Let’s take a closer look at a little something called business interruption insurance. Investopedia defines this as “a form of insurance coverage that replaces business income lost as a result of an event that interrupts the operations of the business, such as fire or a natural disaster. Business interruption insurance is not sold as a separate policy, but is either added to a property/casualty policy or included in a comprehensive package policy.

That second part is important. Since it’s not a standalone policy that business owners have to beat around the bush to buy, businesses affected by the fires and floods likely already have this handy dandy coverage. While standard business insurance has things covered in terms of physical losses and damage – e.g. computers and office furniture destroyed in a fire – business interruption insurance is a safeguard against the losses that arise when a business can’t run due to this destruction.

The insurance covers lots of things that crop up when manmade or natural disasters interrupt an enterprise, including lost revenue, rent and other fixed expenses, and temporary location operating expenses. Nevertheless, there’s always some kind of fine print, so here are a few key things to keep in mind when it comes to business interruption claims:

  • The insurance contract ultimately has the last word, so any loss estimate needs to fall under the contract’s umbrella. For example, the policy may specify that losses will only be covered for a specific period, and so anything outside that time-frame is a no-go.
  • That being said, the time element wording in most policies is intentionally unclear, with the loss period often being defined as starting from the occurrence of the loss and continuing until the damaged property is replaced.
  • Don’t put the cart before the horse; that is, before the business interruption claim can be filed, the business property damage claim needs to be filed. Remember, the interruption of business is a consequence of damage to the physical property, so if there’s no claim of damage, a claim of the business being interrupted holds no weight.
  • That being said, some business interruption policies have an add-on provision that lets the business claim an interruption in operations if damage to their supplier causes a hiccup in product delivery.

Business interruption coverage claims usually take into account three categories of loss, which are then added together for a nice neat sum of the loss:

  • Actual losses (projected revenue for the loss period less saved expenses)
  • Continuing and non-continuing expenses (e.g. the business wants to continue to pay employees even while closed so that there’s staff available when the doors finally open again).
  • Expedited and extra expenses (i.e. the business wants to get back on its feet as soon as possible, but this expedited opening will likely incur extra costs, such as ordering supplies by air rather than the usual truck delivery.)

In some cases, a business may decide to hire a financial expert to calculate the losses relating to an interruption event in conjunction with the claim filed with the insurance company. This expert will take a long, hard look at things like the business’ income for the past several years, loss statements, and checking statements to carefully estimate losses due to the hitch in the operations. In addition to these more concrete numbers, they’ll also consider factors like the economic climate in the damaged business’ market during the loss period.

While juggling all of these figures, the expert will be taking pains to avoid double counting, just like in any other loss analysis. Double counting is a miscalculation where a business’ inventory gets “sold” twice. Since the business’ property/content coverage will most likely pay for the value of the lost inventory, any lost profits calculated from a business interruption should take into consideration this assumed payment for lost inventory.

As mentioned above, the expert will be looking at three categories of losses – actual lost profits, ongoing non-saved expenses, and extra & expedited expenses incurred from reopening – which they’ll total to get a nice neat sum of the loss. As such, a business interruption loss estimate conducted by a financial expert allows all of the business’ losses to be carefully considered. This is important because at the end of the day, the businesses damaged by these disasters are just looking to get back on the road to success.

Oh…one last word…insurance companies will send a year-end 1099-MISC Income on all non-property damages related reimbursement as income to the businesses.  So, beware of all labor-cost reimbursement from your Business Interruptions Claim, they are taxable as income to the business.

 

 

Sufen Wang, M.S.Accountancy
Wang Solutions, Long Beach, CA (562) 856-0793
Editor: Hannah Huff, M.F.A. Creative Writing: Poetry, (626) 806-5805

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