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Employers can now defer payroll tax withholding on employee compensation for the last four months of 2020 and then withhold the deferred amounts in the first four months of 2021, confirms a recent update from the IRS. President Trump’memorandum on Aug. 8 gave employers the ability to defer payroll taxes for employees affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in an effort to provide financial relief  

The guidance directs that employers can defer the withholding, deposit, and payment of the employee portion of the old-age, survivors, and disability insurance (OASDI) tax under Sec. 3102(a) and Railroad Retirement Act Tier 1 under Sec. 3201 from employee wages from Sept. 1 to Dec. 31, 2020.  

Employers must then withhold and pay the deferred taxes from wages and compensation during the period from Jan. 1, 2021, and April 30, 2021, with interest, penalties, and additions to tax to begin accruing starting May 1, 2021. Included in the notice is a line that indicates, if necessary, employers can “make arrangements to otherwise collect the total Applicable Taxes from the employee,” such as if an employee leaves the company before the end of April 2021, but does not provide details on what that entails.  

Employees with pretax wages or compensation during any biweekly pay period totally less than $4,000 qualify for the deferral. Amounts normally excluded from wages or compensation under Secs. 3121(a) or 3231(e) are not included in calculating the applicable wages. The determination of applicable wages should be made on a period-by-period basis.  

Companies may choose whether or not to enact the payroll tax deferral. We are closely monitoring updates related this and other presidential executive orders and will communicate if more information becomes available. For questions or assistance with this payroll tax deferral, contact us.  

On Aug. 24, the Small Business Administration (SBA) and Treasury issued the latest interim final rule update to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) that seeks to clarify guidance related to owner-employee compensation and non-payroll costs. This guidance has been long-awaited and clears up several questions borrowers have had about forgiveness. Here are the main points: 

1. Owner-employees of C or S corporations are exempt from the PPP owner-employee compensation rule for loan forgiveness if they have a less than 5% stake in the business. The intent is to provide forgiveness for compensation of owner-employees who do not have a considerable or meaningful ability to influence decisions over loan allocations. This clarifies earlier guidance that capped the owner-employee compensation regardless of what stake they have in the business.  

2. Loan forgiveness for non-payroll costs may not include amounts attributable to the business operation of a tenant or subtenant of the PPP borrower. The SBA provides a few examples of what this means: 

3. To achieve loan forgiveness on rent or lease payments to a related thirdparty, borrowers must ensure that (1) the amount of loan forgiveness requested does not exceed the amount of mortgage interest owed on the property attributable to the business’s rented space during the covered period, and (2) the lease and mortgage meet the Feb. 15, 2020, requirement for establishment. Earlier guidance had not addressed related third-party leases. 

It’s important to note that mortgage interest payments to a related party are not eligible for forgiveness as PPP loans are not intended to cover payments to a business’s owner because of how the business is structured – they are intended to help businesses cover non-payroll costs owed to third parties. 

For questions on any of these rules or assistance with your PPP loan forgiveness application, contact us today. 

In an effort to help businesses cope with the impact of COVID-19, the CARES Act passed by Congress in March of this year eliminated some of the restrictions on the business interest deduction set in place in 2017 by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). Now, the IRS has released much-needed guidance and final regulations for business interest expense deductions.

Limiting the business interest deduction was originally a way of helping pay for the TCJA and began with tax years starting after Dec. 31, 2017. The deduction was limited to the sum of:

The final regulations state that the deduction does not apply to:

Taxpayers must use Form 8990 to calculate and report their deduction and the carry-forward amount of disallowed business interest expense.

Additional regulations released by the IRS cleared up some of the remaining questions including issues related to the CARES Act. These additional regulations can be used with limitations until the final regulations are published in the Federal Register.

Additionally, a safe harbor was created in Notice 2020-59 that allows taxpayers engaged in a trade or a business managing or operating qualified residential living facilities to treat that as a real property trade or businesses in order to qualify as an electing real property trade or business.

Reach out for assistance with understanding and reporting your business interest expense.

 

On August 8, 2020, President Trump signed an executive order extending certain aspects of COVID-19 relief in the absence of a new bill from Congress. The executive order includes several measures to protect individuals as provisions of the CARES Act expire or have expired.

Here’s what was in the order:

Payroll tax delay – The order authorizes the Treasury to consider methods to defer the employee share of Social Security taxes (IRC section 3101(a) and Railroad Retirement Act taxes under section 3201(a)) for employees earning up to $104,000 per year ($4,000 biweekly) for a period beginning Sept. 1, 2020, through Dec. 31, 2020. No interest, penalty, or additional assessment would be charged on the deferred amount. At this point, this is not effective. It means the Treasury can exercise authority and explore ways to achieve forgiveness on the deferred amounts, such as legislation. While nothing will be done until the Treasury issues guidance, employers will need to be mindful of this as the liability of this payment could fall on them depending on the final rule.

Unemployment benefits – The $600 per week unemployment benefit authorized by the CARES Act expired on July 31. The executive order retroactively authorizes $400 per week from Aug. 1; however, states must contribute $100 and the remaining $300 would come from the federal government. The funding for the federal portion would come from the FEMA Disaster Relief Funds and would continue until the earlier of Dec. 6, 2020, or a drop in the Fund balance to below $25 billion. The state portion is to come from federal funds already distributed to the states. Questions of whether the FEMA funds can be used for this purpose are still outstanding.

Evictions – The evictions portion of the executive order asks the secretary of HHS and director of CDC to consider whether halting residential evictions is reasonably necessary to help prevent further spread of COVID-19 and also authorizes the Treasury Secretary and HUD Secretary to consider potential financial assistance for renters. The CARES Act banned evictions through July 25 for properties with federal mortgage programs or HUD funds.

Student loans – The student loan interest deferral enacted by the CARES Act is set to expire Sept. 30, 2020. The executive order would waive student loan interest until Dec. 31, 2020, for loans held by the Department of Education only.

Final guidance is required from the respective agencies before some of these measures can be enacted. Contact us with questions.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) and Treasury released an updated Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) FAQ on Aug. 4 in an effort to address PPP loan forgiveness issues that have arisen as borrowers begin to complete their applications. The 23 FAQs address various aspects of PPP forgiveness including general loan forgiveness, payroll costs, non-payroll costs, and loan forgiveness reductions. Here is a brief overview of some of the most notable clarified guidance. 

General loan forgiveness 

Payroll costs forgiveness 

Non-payroll costs forgiveness 

Forgiveness reductions 

The FAQ document also includes several examples for making calculations related to the above questions. Contact us for questions and assistance with your PPP loan forgiveness application.  

Economic downturns are an almost inevitable reality for nearly every business owner. Decisions made far away from your community, catastrophic and unpredictable weather events, and even global pandemics as we’ve seen this year can disrupt the health and viability of a business. During these challenging times, business owners have to make difficult decisions about the future of their business that not only affect them but also their employees, vendors, clients, and communities. It’s an enormous responsibility to bear, but you don’t have to go it alone.

Your CPA advisor is your best resource for tackling the challenges of an economic downturn. As an outside party, they can help you make smart business decisions that protect your vision and mission while remaining financially responsible. Your CPA can help you:

Optimize your books

Never underestimate the power of good bookkeeping. By keeping your books in order, your CPA can help you plan and project for the future at each stage of an economic downturn. This includes planning for temporary closures and tiered re-openings (and potentially a back-and-forth of both depending on the state of the country and market). When your books are clean and up to date, you can better project how events and decisions will impact your finances on a weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis. Your CPA can help you flex the numbers on fixed and variable expenses to account for increases in costs, decreases in income, and potential changes to payroll. Knowing your numbers intimately can help you make better-informed decisions.

Minimize your tax burden

During times of economic crisis, staying abreast of new and changing tax legislation will be essential to projecting tax burden and uncovering tax savings opportunities. Your CPA is the best person to handle this because they know your business and your industry inside and out and can help you uncover tax savings opportunities that are unique to your circumstances. They do all the research, and you reap the rewards. With a CPA’s assistance, you achieve deductions and credits you may not have realized were available and develop a plan to defer costs where allowed depending on your business, industry, and location. Taxes are not an area you should or need to face alone during an economic downturn. Your CPA has done the homework, so you don’t have to.

Rationalize your decision making

When markets are in flux and your business is facing unprecedented challenges, the decisions you make can make or break your business. But you don’t have to go it alone. Your accountant can help you make data-informed decisions whether that be how to pay vendors, when and how to apply lines of credit, and the best ways to use your capital. Negotiating contracts with vendors that meet your needs and theirs during a downturn will not only achieve cost savings but also preserve relationships – your CPA can help develop a plan that makes sense. Knowing when to engage lines of credit can help you make better moves that you can either afford to pay back later, or maybe prevent you from taking on credit you can’t handle – your CPA can guide you in this process. Knowing where to allocate capital will be key to maintaining operations, and you may need guidance on what expenses to cut and what to keep such as marketing and payroll – your CPA can help you project the ramifications. With your CPA by your side, you don’t have to operate in a silo of decision-making.  

Maximize your sense of relief

Most of all, your CPA can provide perspective, alleviate business back-end burden, and help advise you on financially feasible and sound decisions when much of the world feels like it’s in chaos. You have a lot to focus on during a downturn including how to handle your customers and employees in a changing marketplace. Having someone who can help you stay fiscally viable as you work through tough times, and develop a plan for future success, provides a welcome peace of mind.

You don’t have to go through any economic downturn alone. Your CPA can help you shoulder the challenges and weather the storms so you can continue doing what you do best – running your business.

The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have both unanimously agreed to extend the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) by five weeks in an effort to continue providing relief for small businesses hit hard by the pandemic. Applications officially closed for the program on June 30 when the Senate voted for a last-minute extension. President Trump is expected to sign the bill.

This extension would give small businesses until Aug. 8 to apply for a share of the approximately $129 billion in remaining PPP funding through the Small Business Administration (SBA). Thanks to the PPP Flexibility Act passed on June 5, recipients have 24 weeks to use loan funds for payroll and other essential expenses like rent/mortgage and utilities. The Flexibility Act also lowered the threshold for payroll expenses to 60% to achieve full forgiveness with a few safe harbor considerations. Over 4.9 million loans have been approved by the SBA so far, worth more than $520 billion.

Contact us for assistance in compiling information for your PPP forgiveness application to present to your lender.

In the midst of the uncertainty and instability that the COVID-19 pandemic has created for businesses and individuals, some relief is available for taxpayers in the form of deductible losses thanks to the preexisting Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 165(i). While the CARES Act and FFCRA have received much of the attention, taxpayers may also find relief thanks to Section 165(i) which allows for losses sustained as a result of the pandemic in 2020 to be claimed on the taxpayer’s 2019 tax return.

This deduction is triggered by a federally declared disaster, like the pandemic which was declared a national emergency on March 13, 2020. In the case of this deduction, losses attributed to federally declared disasters can be deducted on the previous year’s return. While not often used, this deduction comes at the right time for businesses struggling during the pandemic.

In order to claim the Section 165(i) deduction, losses must:

While some taxpayers will fit into this deduction, the rules and procedures are complex.

Examples of deductible losses as a result of COVID-19 vary from costs related to running your business during a pandemic like investments in personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies and services, to the closure of stores and facilities and disposal of unsaleable inventory. Other eligible costs include certain termination payments, losses from property sales or exchanges, abandonment of leasehold improvements, and nonrefundable event payments, to name a few.

To make the Section 165(i) election, taxpayers must include Form 4684, “Casualties and Thefts,” with their return within six months from the due date for filing the taxpayer’s federal income tax return for the disaster year.

We can assist you with identifying your deductible expenses and following the complex rules and procedures for making this election. Reach out for assistance.

On June 22, 2020, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) released the: Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Revisions to Loan Forgiveness Interim Final Rule

This guidance details two noteworthy changes impacting PPP loan borrowers, including:

The updated regulations also make minor updates to existing guidance addressing the extension of the covered period derived from the June 5, 2020 enactment of the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act (H. R. 7010).

Read our blog summary of changes from H.R. 7010 here.

When Can a Borrower Apply for Loan Forgiveness?
A borrower can apply for forgiveness at any time on or before the loan maturity date. However, if the borrower applies for forgiveness before the end of the covered period and has reduced any employee’s salaries or wages by more than 25 percent, the borrower must account for the excess salary reduction for the full 8-week or 24-week covered period.

Expanded Limitations on Owner Compensation
The release of Revisions to the Third and Sixth Interim Final Rules on June 17, 2020, increased the maximum compensation for all employees and owners, which was summarized in our blog here. The new interim rules added that the employer portion of retirement plan funding for owner-employees of S-Corporations and C-Corporations is now capped at 2.5 months’ worth of the 2019 contribution amount. Furthermore, healthcare costs paid on behalf of owner-employees of S-Corporations are not eligible for forgiveness.

HT2 has established a dedicated PPP loan forgiveness team that is constantly monitoring new guidance from the SBA, as well as the Treasury, Congress, and the IRS, to ensure we have the latest information when advising our clients.

The  CARES Act includes provisions that allow individuals to take early retirement plan distributions within certain rules.  These changes include provisions for people with COVID-19 or who have family members with the illness. It also includes those who experience adverse financial consequences as a result of being quarantined,  laid off, furloughed or having work hours reduced because of the illness.

The recently passed CARES Act includes provisions that allow individuals to take early retirement plan distributions of up to $100,000 from their retirement accounts without being subjected to the 10% penalty and gives them three years to pay the taxes on the distribution or return the funds to their account. 

Also included, is the provision allowing individuals required to take Required Minimum Distributions (RMD’s) to elect to return the funds they have taken during 2020 or to not take their RMD for the year. In order to take these early distributions, or to return RMD’s taken prior to January 31, 2020, an individual must be able to designate them as a Coronavirus-Related Distribution. To establish these items as Coronavirus-Related Distributions the individual must fall into one of the following categories:

It is important to note that these items only apply to early distributions and to RMD’s taken prior to January 31, 2020 for the current year that would therefore not fall in the normal 60-day window an individual would have to return distributions without repercussions.

If you have taken an RMD after January 31, 2020 you can simply write a check within 60 days of receiving the distribution and return those funds to your account without having to meet any of these requirements.

If you have not yet taken any RMD and do not wish to take the funds for the current year, there is nothing you will need to do to defer that payment. For any individuals that deferred their 2019 payment because they reached 70 ½ in 2019 and would have been required to take two distributions in 2020, this requirement is also eliminated.

Additionally, for those who typically use a portion of their RMD to support charitable organizations, these funds can still be withdrawn for those purposes allowing individuals to use pre-tax dollars to support the organizations that mean the most to them.