Saturday, July 6, 2024

How to Buy a Cash-Heavy Business with Unreported Income

 Today’s question comes from Jolson, who is negotiating to buy a cash-heavy business like a laundromat or dry cleaner where the seller doesn’t report all the income. Jolson wants to know how to make an adequate presentation to the bank to get a loan for this business, given the incomplete financial records.

The Unreported Income Dilemma

First off, Jolson, you’re facing a common issue in cash-heavy businesses. Owners sometimes pocket part of the revenue without declaring it, aiming to reduce their tax liabilities. This practice, while not recommended, does happen. The challenge for buyers like you is that the financial statements don't accurately reflect the business’s true income, making it difficult to secure traditional bank financing.

Why the Bank Won’t Help

You’re correct in assuming that banks rely heavily on accurate financial statements to assess the viability of a loan. When the reported income is incomplete, the business appears less profitable and riskier, making it "unbankable." In this scenario, presenting these financials to the bank is not an option because the bank will likely reject the loan application.

Vendor Financing: The Solution

While traditional financing may be off the table, you can still make a deal to buy the business. The key is vendor financing. Here’s how it works:

  1. Negotiation: Explain to the seller that their practice of underreporting income makes it impossible for you to secure a bank loan. This is a critical realization for the seller to understand that all potential buyers will face the same hurdle.

  2. Vendor Take-Back (VTB) Financing: Propose a deal where the seller finances a significant portion of the purchase price. This means the seller loans you the money to buy the business, and you pay them back over time.

  3. Sales Warranties and Protections: To protect yourself, structure the deal with sales warranties. This ensures that if the seller’s claims about the unreported income are false, you have recourse. For example, you could adjust the purchase price if the actual income doesn’t match the seller’s assertions.

Practical Example

I’ve helped clients in similar situations. For instance, a client purchased a pizzeria where the owner was pocketing cash receipts. We used vendor take-back financing combined with sales warranties to protect the buyer. This approach provided confidence in the transaction and safeguarded the buyer’s interests without needing to rely on court actions.

Running the Business Legally

Once you own the business, I highly recommend operating it transparently and legally. Declaring all income not only ensures compliance with tax laws but also provides accurate financial records that can be invaluable if you decide to sell the business in the future.

Final Thoughts

Jolson, buying a cash-heavy business with unreported income is challenging but not impossible. Vendor financing offers a viable solution, allowing you to negotiate a fair deal while protecting your investment. For a deeper dive into buying businesses and structuring deals, consider taking my online course, Business Buyer Advantage. It’s a comprehensive guide that has helped hundreds of people and offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.

If you have further questions or need personalized advice, feel free to book a session with me. 

Many clients have found it extremely helpful, and you can read their reviews on the site.

Thanks for your question, Jolson, and good luck with your business purchase! Don’t forget to subscribe to my email list at 


No comments:

Post a Comment