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The nation’s smallest businesses are getting revamped Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) rules and a special filing period announced in recent changes from the Biden-Harris administration. Small businesses with fewer than 20 employees make up 98% of the small businesses in the U.S. but have not received much assistance from the PPP so far and have accounted for a significant portion of business closures during the pandemic. These new rules seek to remedy that. Here’s what you should know.

Dedicated filing period – Small businesses with fewer than 20 employees will get a dedicated filing period starting Wednesday, Feb. 24 and running through Tuesday, March 9 to allow lenders to focus on loans for these businesses. This includes individuals who receive 1099s or are considered self-employed who file a Schedule C.

New calculations for ‘no-payroll’ business owners – Specifics have not yet been released, but self-employed, independent contractors, and sole proprietors can expect a new calculation method to account for the missing payroll component of their PPP loans. Additionally, $1 billion is being set aside for this group for those located in low and moderate-income areas.

More opportunities for underserved communities – Former felons (with nonfraud convictions) and non-citizen small business owners with Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs), green card holders, and those with visas will be eligible to apply for relief. Further guidance is expected.

Greater access for business owners with delinquent student loan debt – Business owners with delinquent or defaulted federal debt over the last seven years will now be able to apply for a PPP loan.

Address PPP processing delays – Anti-fraud violation checks have been a significant hold up for PPP processing, and the White House expects to continue to work with the Small Business Administration (SBA) to address this issue while maintaining program integrity.

Further guidance is expected in many of these areas, and we will continue to update you as it becomes available. Contact us for assistance with your PPP loan application or forgiveness application.

Last spring, the CARES Act created the ERC for businesses that were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the CARES Act disallowed the credit for businesses that received a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan. Fast forward to December 2020, when Congress declared that businesses that had obtained PPP loans could also qualify for the ERC. In addition, Congress extended the availability of the ERC into the first two quarters of 2021, with a few new favorable provisions. The credit is refundable, which means that qualified businesses are able to get cash to the extent that the credit exceeds the payroll tax liabilities. The chart below outlines the terms of the ERC for both the original and extended filing periods:

How does PPP loan forgiveness impact the ERC?

In a statement from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), “[t]he eligible employer can claim the ERC on any qualified wages that are not counted as payroll costs in obtaining PPP loan forgiveness. Any wages that could count toward eligibility for the ERC or PPP loan forgiveness can be applied to either of these two programs, but not both.” The release of the new loan forgiveness applications on January 19, 2021, includes a provision to incorporate this change in guidance on a forward-looking basis. The revised loan forgiveness applications (Form 3508SForm 3508EZ and Form 3508) note that a borrower should “not include qualified wages taken into account in determining the Employee Retention Credit.”

My PPP loan was already forgiven, what now?

As I previously noted, a business cannot “double dip,” or utilize the same wages to obtain PPP loan forgiveness while still benefiting from the ERC. However, the ERC was not available to PPP recipients prior to December 27, 2020. Accordingly, those businesses that applied for loan forgiveness would have included all eligible payroll costs paid or incurred during the covered period pursuant to the instructions in the loan forgiveness applications. Certainly, those businesses shouldn’t be penalized for already receiving forgiveness prior to this change in the law; however, this wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen something like that with the evolution of the PPP.

On January 15, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) sought clarification on this matter. In a letter to the IRS, the AICPA “recommends that the IRS and Treasury provide guidance stating that the filing of a PPP loan forgiveness application does not constitute an election to forgo the ERC with respect to the amount of wages reported on the application exceeding the amount of wages necessary for loan forgiveness.” It is clear — additional guidance is imminent.

What’s next?

As we await clarification from the IRS, businesses who have already received forgiveness on their PPP loans should first evaluate their eligibility for the ERC. After concluding their eligibility, businesses should begin gathering payroll reports, government shutdown orders and financial statements to calculate and claim their credits.

Borrowers of PPP loans who have yet to apply for loan forgiveness have an alternative path; those businesses looking to leverage the ERC now have an additional element to consider in their evolving journey to loan forgiveness. This change in guidance further emphasizes the importance of an intentional strategy to maximize the benefits of both programs, but also leaves questions unanswered for borrowers who have already received forgiveness on their PPP loans.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced many businesses and entire industries to move their operations remotely in the interest of employee and customer safety, and this has caused these businesses to change the way they think about their operations. During this time, businesses have had to quickly adapt and implement new technology and processes in order to meet customer and employee demands that did not exist previously. These disruptions can be a source of headache or opportunity for businesses who choose to embrace the virtual business model.   

One process that is in the limelight more than ever is virtual outsourced accounting. Virtual outsourced accounting simply means working with an accounting firm that provides services virtually through cloud-based platforms. While many businesses have already made the move the cloud-based accounting platforms, some have resisted or have kept operations in-house due to the lack of incentive to change. However, the pandemic has created an incentive and highlights many of the reasons why a business would want to consider a virtual outsourced accounting option.  

The benefits of virtual outsourced accounting 

Safety  First and foremost is the safety of yourself and your employees. Virtual outsourced accounting allows you to conduct these financial operations remotely keeping you and your employees safe. When we return to our workplaces and safety is less of an issue, you continue to receive the other benefits of virtual accounting.  

Security – Virtual accounting allows for heavy encryption of your sensitive and confidential data and frequent backups of information across multiple locations, keeping your records safe in the event of any number of physical or digital threats. Physical filing cabinets or local servers are at increased risk of physical or digital hacking because they often do not have the heavy encryption necessary for protection, nor the multiple back-ups in case of a data breach or natural disaster  

Consistency – Businesses are likely in this for the long-haul with many industries not anticipating a return to workplaces for several more months. When you outsource your accounting to a firm with virtual capabilities, you never have to worry about lost time due to illness or employee turnover. Accounting firms have adapted their workplaces to virtual as well, providing as uninterrupted service as possible. 

Knowledge – Outsourcing your accounting provides you with greater access to a deeper bench of highly-skilled and knowledgeable accounting teams to help you bust through roadblocks or troubleshoot issues you are likely facing during the pandemic. When you’re encountering especially difficult and unforeseen challenges, a knowledgeable third-party adviser can help you stay on top of regulatory changes, financing opportunities, and provide guidance on forecasting and budgeting during unpredictable times. 

Flexibility – As the pandemic increasingly throws new challenges at businesses, having access to virtual outsourced accountants allows you the flexibility to bring in help where and when you need it. Outsourced accounting teams can serve as a fill-in for your in-house accounting staff where needed due to illness, long-term leave, furloughs/layoffs, or employee turnover. 

Remote Access – Working with a virtual accounting team that operates in the cloud allows you greater flexibility to perform tasks and access your numbers. Because data is updated in real time between you and your accountant, you can get a more accurate picture of your business’s financials – crucial during a turbulent time like the pandemic. 

Cost Savings – Outsourcing your accounting to a firm that conducts operations virtually provides you with significant cost savings including salary/compensation, employee benefits, and overhead that you would experience by hiring and in-house employee. Furthermore, you never have to worry about turnover costs such as recruiting, hiring, and training a new staff member.   

If you haven’t considered virtual accounting, now is the time. You do not have to face these pandemic challenges alone, and your financial processes shouldn’t be stifled due to inadequate operations that fail to consider the virtual world to which we’ve been forced to adapt. Contact us for more information on virtual accounting.   

The employee retention tax credit (ERTC) is intended to provide liquidity to employers during the pandemic and was greatly expanded in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 thanks to Sections 206 and 207 of the Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Relief Act portion, opening the doors to more businesses to be able to qualify for and receive this credit who are facing significant hardship as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Many changes from the original credit were enacted including an expansion in the amount of credit and business eligibility, and how it plays with the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).   

Here’s what you need to know about this credit, how it works, and how to apply. Note that when a provision is designated as effective Jan. 1, 2021, it does not apply to any retroactive credit claims.   

Who is eligible for the ERTC? 

The following businesses and organizations engaged in a trade or business are eligible to qualify for the ERTC: 

How does my business qualify for the ERTC? 

An eligible organization can qualify for the ERTC if: 

The gross receipts test is Effective Jan. 1, 2021, this is an increase from the previous law and expands the threshold for eligible businesses. 

Effective Jan. 1, 2021, businesses with 500 employees or less are eligible to claim the credit even if an employee is working during the first two quarters of 2021 (an increase in the threshold from 100 employees in the original law). For affiliated companies sharing more than 50% common ownership, the 500 count is aggregated.   

What is the time period for the credit, and when can I start collecting? 

The passage of the bill at the end of December extended the availability of the ERTC through the first two quarters of 2021, allowing for more relief as the pandemic continues on. Qualified wages paid after March 12, 2020, and before July 1, 2021, are eligible for the credit.  

Additionally, the new law will allow for an advanced credit for companies with 500 or fewer employees, allowing these companies to monetize the credit before wages are paid. The amount is based on 70% of the average quarterly payroll for the same quarter in 2019, and if there is excess advance payment, companies will need to repay the credit to the government. 

How much credit can I receive? 

Effective Jan. 2021, 70% of qualified wages are eligible for the ERTC including the cost to continue providing health benefits (such as if an employee is on furlough). This is an increase from the 50% provided in the previous stimulus bill.  The qualified wage limit was increased to $10,000 per quarter per employee for the first 2 quarters of 2020.  Previously was $10,000 per employee for the entirety of 2020.  

Also, effective Jan. 1, 2021, the credit maxes out at an aggregate $14,000 per employee, or $7,000 for the first two quarters of 2021, and is available even if the employer received the maximum credit for wages paid to the same employee in 2020. This is an increase from the $5,000 max in the previous bill. 

Additionally, the credit is now available for certain pay raises including hazardous duty pay increases (previously not allowed and is retroactive).  

How does my PPP loan factor in? 

First and foremost, companies with PPP loans can now also claim the ERTC, and the change is retroactive to the effective date of the original law (March 12, 2020). Key to note is that the ERTC cannot be applied toward wages covered by the PPP.  

If, for example, your business received a PPP loan in 2020 and paid qualified wages in excess of the PPP loan amount, you could qualify and apply for the ERTC through an amended employment tax return (Forms 941X). This also applies to affiliate companies related to a PPP borrower. Furthermore, if your PPP payroll costs are not forgiven, those same payroll costs can be applied toward ERTC qualified wages. Your accountant can help you calculate and designate these costs.  

Claiming the ERTC, with or without a PPP loan, requires careful calculation and documentation. Contact us for assistance with this credit.  

On November 18, 2020, the Internal Revenue Service issued Revenue Ruling 2020-27 which provides needed clarity on a taxpayers’ ability to deduct eligible expenses for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan forgiveness.

The Ruling notes that a taxpayer that received a covered loan guaranteed under the PPP and paid or incurred certain otherwise deductible expenses listed in section 1106(b) of the CARES Act may not deduct those expenses in the taxable year in which the expenses were paid or incurred if, at the end of such taxable year, the taxpayer reasonably expects to receive forgiveness of the covered loan on the basis of the expenses it paid or accrued during the covered period, even if the taxpayer has not submitted an application for forgiveness of the covered loan by the end of such taxable year.

What if forgiveness is denied, in whole or part, or not requested?

In conjunction with the Ruling, the IRS issued Revenue Procedure 2020-51 to outline the steps for when:

1.) The eligible expenses are paid or incurred during the taxpayer’s 2020 taxable year,

2.) The taxpayer receives a covered loan guaranteed under the PPP, which at the end of the taxpayer’s 2020 taxable year the taxpayer expects to be forgiven in a subsequent taxable year, and

3.) In a subsequent taxable year, the taxpayer’s request for forgiveness of the covered loan is denied, in whole or in part, or the taxpayer decides never to request forgiveness of the covered loan.

The Rev Procedure provides for two safe harbors for taxpayers in the event forgiveness is denied, in whole or in part, or otherwise not requested that would allow for the deduction of expenses in either the 2020 or a subsequent tax year. 

Questions we still have

While the Ruling provides information on the deductibility of expenses and the tactical approach for borrowers whose forgiveness is denied or not requested, additional clarification is still needed. This guidance does not address the order in which the eligible expenses (payroll, rent, utilities and mortgage interest) lose the ability to be deducted.

Further, the guidance does not address other matters that could have significant tax implications including, but not limited to, the impact on the following:

Need Assistance in Choosing the Right PPP Loan Forgiveness Application?

We have put together a flowchart that can help: How to Select the Right Loan Forgiveness Application

The Small Business Administration (SBA) and Treasury announced on October 8 that a simplified application (Form 3508S) for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan forgiveness is now available for borrowers whose loans fall in the $50,000 or less threshold. As more and more businesses begin filing for PPP loan forgiveness, this change outlined in a new interim final rule greatly simplifies the process for borrowers with smaller loans. However, it is important to note that this simplified form is not equal to automatic forgiveness.   

Among the simplified provisions for borrowers with $50,000 or less in PPP loans is the exemption from a reduction in forgiveness based on reductions in full-time-equivalent (FTE) employees as well as reductions in employee salaries or wages. While certifications and documentation of payroll and non-payroll costs will still be required, this move streamlines the process significantly for borrowers with smaller loans who will not be responsible for potentially complicated calculations for FTE and salary reductions.  

Borrowers with loans of $50,000 or less who are also included in affiliate loans totaling $2 million or more are not eligible for the new application. The SBA estimates that approximately 3.57 million loans were issued for $50,000 or less or $63 billion of the PPP funds, and that about 1.71 million of the loans were for businesses with one or zero employees.   

Below are additional considerations to keep in mind: 

Updates for lenders 

Lenders should note the further guidance on their responsibilities released with the notice which includes review of borrower documentation for eligible costs for forgiveness for all forgiveness applications. Lenders are required to confirm receipt of the borrower certifications the borrower’s documentation of payroll and nonpayroll costs. Borrowers are responsible for their calculations and accuracy of the information provided, and lenders are permitted to rely on what the borrower has submitted.  

It’s important to note that the amount of forgiveness cannot exceed the principal amount of the loan even if a borrower submits documentation for eligible costs exceeding the amount of their PPP loan. 

Regardless of what form is submitted for forgiveness, lenders must: 

Many questions remain about the tax treatment of some expenses that fall under the PPP. Contact your CPA for assistance with your forgiveness application and to have a thorough discussion about the impact your PPP loan has on your tax strategy and when is the best time to apply for forgiveness. 

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.