CARES ACT SUMMARY

On March 27, 2020, President Trump signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which provides relief to taxpayers affected by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The CARES Act is the third round of federal government aid related to COVID-19.  Crosslin has summarized the top provisions in the new legislation below, with more detailed e-mails on individual provisions to follow. Click here for a link to the full text of the bill.

2020 Recovery Refund Checks for Individuals

The CARES Act provides eligible individuals with a refund check equal to $1,200 ($2,400 for joint filers) plus $500 per qualifying child. The refund begins to phase out if the individual’s adjusted gross income (AGI) exceeds $75,000 ($150,000 for joint filers and $112,500 for head of household filers). The credit is completely phased out for individuals with no qualifying children if their AGI exceeds $99,000 ($198,000 for joint filers and $136,500 for head of household filers).

Eligible individuals do not include nonresident aliens, individuals who may be claimed as a dependent on another person’s return, estates, or trusts. Eligible individuals and qualifying children must all have a valid social security number. For married taxpayers who filed jointly with their most recent tax filings (2018 or 2019) but will file separately in 2020, each spouse will be deemed to have received one half of the credit.

A qualifying child (i) is a child, stepchild, eligible foster child, brother, sister, stepbrother, or stepsister, or a descendent of any of them, (ii) under age 17, (iii) who has not provided more than half of their own support, (iv) who has lived with the taxpayer for more than half of the year, and (v) who has not filed a joint return (other than only for a claim for refund) with the individual’s spouse for the taxable year beginning in the calendar year in which the taxable year of the taxpayer begins.

The refund is determined based on the taxpayer’s 2020 income tax return but is advanced to taxpayers based on their 2018 or 2019 tax return, as appropriate. If an eligible individual’s 2020 income is higher than the 2018 or 2019 income used to determine the rebate payment, the eligible individual will not be required to pay back any excess rebate. However, if the eligible individual’s 2020 income is lower than the 2018 or 2019 income used to determine the rebate payment such that the individual should have received a larger rebate, the eligible individual will be able to claim an additional credit generally equal to the difference of what was refunded and any additional eligible amount when they file their 2020 income tax return.

Individuals who have not filed a tax return in 2018 or 2019 may still receive an automatic advance based on their social security benefit statements (Form SSA-1099) or social security equivalent benefit statement (Form RRB-1099). Other individuals may be required to file a return to receive any benefits.

The CARES Act provides that the IRS will make automatic payments to individuals who have previously filed their income tax returns electronically, using direct deposit banking information provided on a return any time after January 1, 2018.


Charitable Contributions

Above-the-line deductions: Under the CARES Act, an eligible individual may take a qualified charitable contribution deduction of up to $300 against their AGI in 2020. An eligible individual is any individual taxpayer who does not elect to itemize his or her deductions. A qualified charitable contribution is a charitable contribution (i) made in cash, (ii) for which a charitable contribution deduction is otherwise allowed, and (iii) that is made to certain publicly supported charities.

This above-the-line charitable deduction may not be used to make contributions to a non-operating private foundation or to a donor advised fund.

Modification of limitations on cash contributions: Currently, individuals who make cash contributions to publicly supported charities are permitted a charitable contribution deduction of up to 60% of their AGI. Any such contributions in excess of the 60% AGI limitation may be carried forward as a charitable contribution in each of the five succeeding years.

The CARES Act temporarily suspends the AGI limitation for qualifying cash contributions, instead permitting individual taxpayers to take a charitable contribution deduction for qualifying cash contributions made in 2020 to the extent such contributions do not exceed the excess of the individual’s contribution base over the amount of all other charitable contributions allowed as a deduction for the contribution year. Any excess is carried forward as a charitable contribution in each of the succeeding five years. Taxpayers wishing to take advantage of this provision must make an affirmative election on their 2020 income tax return.

This provision is useful to taxpayers who elect to itemize their deductions in 2020 and make cash contributions to certain public charities. As with the aforementioned above-the-line deduction, contributions to non-operating private foundations or donor advised funds are not eligible.

For corporations, the CARES Act temporarily increases the limitation on the deductibility of cash charitable contributions during 2020 from 10% to 25% of the taxpayer’s taxable income. The CARES Act also increases the limitation on deductions for contributions of food inventory from 15% to 25%.
 

Compensation, Benefits, and Payroll Relief

The law temporarily increases the amount of and expands eligibility for unemployment benefits, and it provides relief for workers who are self-employed. Additionally, several provisions assist certain employers who keep employees on payroll even though the employees are not able or needed to work. The cornerstone of the payroll protection aid is a streamlined application process for SBA loans that can be forgiven if an eligible employer maintains its workforce at certain levels. Additionally, certain employers affected by the pandemic who retain their employees will receive a credit against payroll taxes for 50% of eligible employee wages paid or incurred from March 13 to December 31, 2020. This employee retention credit would be provided for as much as $10,000 of qualifying wages, including health benefits. Eligible employers may defer remitting employer payroll tax payments that remain due for 2020 (after the credits are deducted), with half being due by December 31, 2021, and the balance due by December 31, 2022. Employers with fewer than 500 employees are also allowed to give terminated employees access to the mandated paid federal sick and child care leave benefits for which the employer is 100% reimbursed by the government through payroll tax credits if the employer rehires the qualifying employees.

Any benefit that is driven off the definition of “employee” raises the issue of partner versus employee. The profits interest member that is receiving a W-2 may not be eligible for inclusion in the various benefit computations.

Eligible individuals can withdraw vested amounts up to $100,000 from tax-qualified retirement plans during 2020 without a 10% early distribution penalty, and income inclusion can be spread over three years. Repayment of distributions during the next three years will be treated as tax-free rollovers of the distribution. The bill also makes it easier to borrow money from 401(k) accounts, raising the limit to $100,000 from $50,000 for the first 180 days after enactment, and the payment dates for any loans due the rest of 2020 would be extended for a year.

Individuals do not have to take their 2020 required minimum distributions from their retirement funds. This avoids lost earnings power on the taxes due on distributions and maximizes the potential gain as the market recovers.

Two long-awaited provisions allow employers to assist employees with college loan debt through tax free payments up to $5,250 and restores over-the-counter medical supplies as permissible expenses that can be reimbursed through health care flexible spending accounts and health care savings accounts.
 

Deferral of Net Business Losses for Three Years

Section 461(l) limits non-corporate taxpayers in their use of net business losses to offset other sources of income. As enacted in 2017, this limitation was effective for taxable years beginning after 2017 and before 2026, and applied after the basis, at-risk, and passive activity loss limitations. The amount of deductible net business losses is limited to $500,000 for married taxpayers filing a joint return and $250,000 for all other taxpayers. These amounts are indexed for inflation after 2018 (to $518,000 and $259,000, respectively, in 2020). Excess business losses are carried forward to the next succeeding taxable year and treated as a net operating loss in that year.

The CARES Act defers the effective date of Section 461(l) for three years, but also makes important technical corrections that will become effective when the limitation on excess business losses once again becomes applicable. Accordingly, net business losses from 2018, 2019, or 2020 may offset other sources of income, provided they are not otherwise limited by other provisions that remain in the Code. Beginning in 2021, the application of this limitation is clarified with respect to the treatment of wages and related deductions from employment, coordination with deductions under Section 172 (for net operating losses) or Section 199A (relating to qualified business income), and the treatment of business capital gains and losses.
 

Section 163(j) Amended for Taxable Years Beginning in 2019 and 2020

The CARES Act amends Section 163(j) solely for taxable years beginning in 2019 and 2020. With the exception of partnerships, and solely for taxable years beginning in 2019 and 2020, taxpayers may deduct business interest expense up to 50% of their adjusted taxable income (ATI), an increase from 30% of ATI under the TCJA, unless an election is made to use the lower limitation for any taxable year. Additionally, for any taxable year beginning in 2020, the taxpayer may elect to use its 2019 ATI for purposes of computing its 2020 Section 163(j) limitation. This will benefit taxpayers who may be facing reduced 2020 earnings as a result of the business implications of COVID-19. As such, taxpayers should be mindful of elections on their 2019 return that could impact their 2019 and 2020 business interest expense deduction. With respect to partnerships, the increased Section 163(j) limit from 30% to 50% of ATI only applies to taxable years beginning in 2020. However, in the case of any excess business interest expense allocated from a partnership for any taxable year beginning in 2019, 50% of such excess business interest expense is treated as not subject to the Section 163(j) limitation and is fully deductible by the partner in 2020. The remaining 50% of such excess business interest expense shall be subject to the limitations in the same manner as any other excess business interest expense so allocated. Each partner has the ability, under regulations to be prescribed by Treasury, to elect to have this special rule not applied. No rules are provided for application of this rule in the context of tiered partnership structures.
 

Net Operating Losses Carryback Allowed for Taxable Years Beginning in 2018 and Before 2021

The CARES Act provides for an elective five-year carryback of net operating losses (NOLs) generated in taxable years beginning after December 31, 2017, and before January 1, 2021. Taxpayers may elect to relinquish the entire five-year carryback period with respect to a particular year’s NOL, with the election being irrevocable once made. In addition, the 80% limitation on NOL deductions arising in taxable years beginning after December 31, 2017, has temporarily been pushed to taxable years beginning after December 31, 2020. Several ambiguities in the application of Section 172 arising as a result of drafting errors in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act have also been corrected. As certain benefits (i.e., charitable contributions, Section 250 “GILTI” deductions, etc.) may be impacted by an adjustment to taxable income, and therefore reduce the effective value of any NOL deduction, taxpayers will have to determine whether to elect to forego the carryback. Moreover, the bill provides for two special rules for NOL carrybacks to years in which the taxpayer included income from its foreign subsidiaries under Section 965. Please consider the impact of this interaction with your international tax advisors. However, given the potential offset to income taxed under a 35% federal rate, and the uncertainty regarding the long-term impact of the COVID-19 crisis on future earnings, it seems likely that most companies will take advantage of the revisions. This is a technical point, but while the highest average federal rate was 35% before 2018, the highest marginal tax rate was 38.333% for taxable amounts between $15 million and $18.33 million. This was put in place as part of our progressive tax system to eliminate earlier benefits of the 34% tax rate. Companies may wish to revisit their tax accounting methodologies to defer income and accelerate deductions in order to maximize their current year losses to increase their NOL carrybacks to earlier years.


Alternative Minimum Tax Credit Refunds

The CARES Act allows the refundable alternative minimum tax credit to be completely refunded for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2018, or by election, taxable years beginning after December 31, 2017. Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the credit was refundable over a series of years with the remainder recoverable in 2021.
 

Technical Correction to Qualified Improvement Property

The CARES Act contains a technical correction to a drafting error in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that required qualified improvement property (QIP) to be depreciated over 39 years, rendering such property ineligible for bonus depreciation. With the technical correction applying retroactively to 2018, QIP is now 15-year property and eligible for 100% bonus depreciation. This will provide immediate current cash flow benefits and relief to taxpayers, especially those in the retail, restaurant, and hospitality industries. Taxpayers that placed QIP into service in 2019 can claim 100% bonus depreciation prospectively on their 2019 return and should consider whether they can file Form 4466 to quickly recover overpayments of 2019 estimated taxes. Taxpayers that placed QIP in service in 2018 and that filed their 2018 federal income tax return treating the assets as bonus-ineligible 39-year property should consider amending that return to treat such assets as bonus-eligible. For C corporations, in particular, claiming the bonus depreciation on an amended return can potentially generate NOLs that can be carried back five years under the new NOL provisions of the CARES Act to taxable years before 2018 when the tax rates were 35%, even though the carryback losses were generated in years when the tax rate was 21%. With the taxable income limit under Section 172(a) being removed, an NOL can fully offset income to generate the maximum cash refund for taxpayers that need immediate cash. Alternatively, in lieu of amending the 2018 return, taxpayers may file an automatic Form 3115, Application for Change in Accounting Method, with the 2019 return to take advantage of the new favorable treatment and claim the missed depreciation as a favorable Section 481(a) adjustment.
 

Effects of the CARES Act at the State and Local Levels

As with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the tax implications of the CARES Act at the state level first depends on whether a state is a “rolling” Internal Revenue Code (IRC) conformity state or follows “fixed-date” conformity. For example, with respect to the modifications to Section 163(j), rolling states will automatically conform, unless they specifically decouple (but separate state ATI calculations will still be necessary). However, fixed-date conformity states will have to update their conformity dates to conform to the Section 163(j) modifications. Several states have already updated during their current legislative sessions (e.g., Idaho, Indiana, Maine, Virginia, and West Virginia). Nonetheless, even if a state has updated, the effective date of the update may not apply to changes to the IRC enacted after January 1, 2020 (e.g., Arizona). Several other states have either expressly decoupled from Section 163(j) or conform to an earlier version and will not follow the CARES Act changes (e.g., California, Connecticut, Georgia, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee (starting in 2020), Wisconsin). Similar considerations will apply to the NOL modifications for states that adopted the 80% limitation, and most states do not allow carrybacks. Likewise, in fixed-dated conformity states that do not update, the Section 461(l) limitation will still apply resulting in a separate state NOL for those states. These conformity questions add another layer of complexity to applying the tax provisions of the CARES Act at the state level. Further, once the COVID-19 crisis is past, rolling IRC conformity states must be monitored, as these states could decouple from these CARES Act provisions for purposes of state revenue.

If you have any questions about the CARES Act and how it impacts you or your business, please give the Crosslin tax team a call at 615.320.5500.  We are here to help.  As always, we appreciate your business. 

Attached is a PDF if you’d like to print the summary.

IRS OUTLINES PROCEDURES FOR PAYROLL TAX CREDITS AND RAPID REFUNDS FOR EMPLOYERS MAKING FEDERALLY-MANDATED COVID-19 LEAVE PAYMENTS

The federal government is trying to get much-needed cash into the hands of employers and employees affected by COVID-19 as quickly as possible. To do so, it is utilizing employers’ existing payroll systems to minimize the employers’ cash flow hardship that might otherwise have occurred from having to pay new, mandatory federal paid sick and child care leave to certain employees. Specifically, the IRS has just clarified that employers can subtract the cost of the new mandated paid leave (plus the cost of keeping affected employees’ health care coverage in place during that leave) from any payroll taxes that are otherwise due to the IRS.

IRS Information Release (IR) 2020-57 (March 20, 2020) outlines the system that will promptly reimburse employers for the benefits required under the Act. IR 2020-57 also states that eligible employers are entitled to an additional tax credit based on costs to maintain health insurance coverage for the eligible employee during the mandated federal paid sick and child care leave period.

Background
Businesses and tax-exempt organizations with fewer than 500 employees that are required to provide emergency paid sick and child care leave through December 31, 2020, under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (Act) (H.R. 6201), can claim a refundable federal tax credit to recover 100% of those payments. Equivalent credits are available to self-employed individuals based on similar circumstances.

Mechanics of Tax Credit Refunds

Generally, employers are required to withhold federal income, Social Security and Medicare taxes from their employees’ paychecks. Normally, employers must timely remit to the IRS the withheld taxes, along with the employer’s share of Social Security and Medicare taxes. But the IRS will release guidance the week of March 23 allowing employers who pay mandated federal paid sick or child care leave to decrease their federal payroll tax deposit by the cost incurred. The IRS also said that the cost of providing such leave can include the cost of continuing health care coverage during the federally mandated sick and child care leave period.

Source of Tax Credit Refunds
Employers can deduct the cost of providing such leave from their total federal tax deposit amount from all employees (not just from those who take the federally mandated leave). Specifically, employers can deduct the cost of providing such leave from: (1) federal income taxes withheld from all employees’ pay; (2) the employees’ share of Social Security and Medicare taxes; and (3) the employer’s share of Social Security and Medicare taxes.

Self-Employed
Equivalent tax credits are available to self-employed individuals for federally mandated paid sick and child care leave. But self-employed individuals will deduct their tax credits from their estimated tax payments or can claim a refund on their federal income tax return (i.e., their 2020 Form 1040).

As a result, employers (including self-employed individuals) will have more cash in-hand (by not remitting taxes that are otherwise due) to cover the cost of providing the federal paid sick and child care leave.

Rapid Refunds
IR 2020-57 also said that if the payroll tax off-set is not sufficient to cover 100% of those costs, employers can request a refund of their tax credit for any remaining amount. The IRS expects to process such refunds within two weeks.

Examples. Here are two examples from IR 2020-57:

         Example 1: If an eligible employer paid $5,000 in federally mandated paid sick or child care leave and is otherwise required to deposit $8,000 in payroll taxes, including taxes withheld from all its employees, the employer could use up to $5,000 of the $8,000 of taxes that it was otherwise going to deposit to make the qualified leave payments. The employer would only be required under the law to deposit the remaining $3,000 on its next regular deposit date.

         Example 2: If an eligible employer paid $10,000 in federally mandated paid sick or child care leave and was required to deposit $8,000 in taxes, the employer could use the entire $8,000 of taxes that it was otherwise going to deposit to make qualified leave payments and could file a request for an accelerated refund for the remaining $2,000.

New Small Business Exemption

According to IR 2020-57, small businesses with fewer than 50 employees will be eligible for an exemption from the federally mandated child care leave if complying with those requirements would jeopardize the ability of the business to continue as a going concern. The exemption will be available on the basis of simple and clear criteria, which the U.S. Department of Labor will provide in emergency guidance.

Non-Enforcement Period

IR 2020-57 says that the U.S. Department of Labor will issue a temporary non-enforcement policy that provides a period of time for employers to come into compliance with the Act. For at least the initial 30 days (i.e., through April 20), the Labor Department will not bring any enforcement action against any employer for violating the Act, so long as the employer acted reasonably and in good faith to comply with the Act.

Contact the Crosslin team at (615) 320.5500 with any questions. 

SBA DISASTER ASSISTANCE IN RESPONSE TO THE CORONAVIRUS – LOW-INTEREST LOANS

In response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic affecting the small business community across the country, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is offering low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to small businesses suffering substantial economic injury. Substantial economic injury means the business is unable to meet its obligations and to pay its ordinary and necessary operating expenses. $50 billion in funding has been set aside for the program.

SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans offer up to $2 million in assistance per small business and can provide vital economic support to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing.  The loans can be used to fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact.

Loans will be underwritten by the federal SBA program. The interest rate is 3.75% for small businesses without credit available elsewhere, and 2.75% for non-profit organizations.  Businesses with credit available elsewhere are not eligible. The loans offer long-term repayment terms in order to keep payments affordable, up to 30 years, and will be determined on a case-by-case basis based upon each borrower’s ability to repay.

While the loans are offered through a federal program, they are administered through the application by governors of states and territories to be included and considered a designated state or territory. Once a declaration is made by SBA for designated areas within a state, the information on the application process for Economic Injury Disaster Loan assistance will be made available to the affected communities and updated online at SBA.gov/disaster.

Most states and territories are still in the process of applying to be a designated area for Economic Injury Disaster Loan assistance. As part of this process, many states are asking businesses to fill out and submit surveys on the state of their business to better understand the need in their area. The list of designated areas will continue to be updated as states and territories apply and are approved.  You can check this list at sba.gov/disaster-assistance/coronavirus-covid-19

The Crosslin team is continuously monitoring the program as it expands and details on how businesses can apply within each state are released.  Please call us at 615.320.5500 with any questions. 

Retirement Savings for the Self-Employed

Many tax-favored options are available to self-employed individuals to provide for their retirement. Tax planning for retirement can include deductible contributions to a traditional or Roth IRA, SEP plan, SIMPLE plan or a one-person 401(k) plan. You may wish to consider implementing one of these plans for yourself and/or your employees to benefit from a current tax year deduction and accumulate tax-deferred retirement savings.

Each of these plans has advantages and disadvantages, and some may not be applicable to your situation. For example, a sole-owner 401(k) retirement plan allows a contribution for you as both an employer and as an employee. Therefore, a sole-owner 401(k) plan may provide for the largest deductible contribution. However, a sole-owner 401(k) is not available to the self-employed with employees other than a spouse or relative. As an alternative, a SEP or SIMPLE plan may have less administrative costs. Ultimately, the choice of savings vehicle will depend on factors related to your business and your retirement needs. Regardless of which plan you qualify for or what your retirement needs are, it is important to begin planning now for your retirement.

Call the Crosslin tax team at 615.320.5500 to discuss your situation.  We are here to help!