As a business owner, you should be aware that you can save family income and payroll taxes by putting your child on the payroll.
Here are some considerations.
Shifting business earnings
You can turn some of your high-taxed income into tax-free or low-taxed income by shifting some business earnings to a child as wages for services performed. In order for your business to deduct the wages as a business expense, the work done by the child must be legitimate and the child’s salary must be reasonable.
For example, suppose you’re a sole proprietor in the 37% tax bracket. You hire your 16-year-old son to help with office work full-time in the summer and part-time in the fall. He earns $10,000 during the year (and doesn’t have other earnings). You can save $3,700 (37% of $10,000) in income taxes at no tax cost to your son, who can use his $12,550 standard deduction for 2021 to shelter his earnings.
Family taxes are cut even if your son’s earnings exceed his standard deduction. That’s because the unsheltered earnings will be taxed to him beginning at a 10% rate, instead of being taxed at your higher rate.
Income tax withholding
Your business likely will have to withhold federal income taxes on your child’s wages. Usually, an employee can claim exempt status if he or she had no federal income tax liability for last year and expects to have none this year.
However, exemption from withholding can’t be claimed if: 1) the employee’s income exceeds $1,100 for 2021 (and includes more than $350 of unearned income), and 2) the employee can be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s return.
Keep in mind that your child probably will get a refund for part or all of the withheld tax when filing a return for the year.
Social Security tax savings
If your business isn’t incorporated, you can also save some Social Security tax by shifting some of your earnings to your child. That’s because services performed by a child under age 18 while employed by a parent isn’t considered employment for FICA tax purposes.
A similar but more liberal exemption applies for FUTA (unemployment) tax, which exempts earnings paid to a child under age 21 employed by a parent. The FICA and FUTA exemptions also apply if a child is employed by a partnership consisting only of his or her parents.
Note: There’s no FICA or FUTA exemption for employing a child if your business is incorporated or is a partnership that includes non-parent partners. However, there’s no extra cost to your business if you’re paying a child for work you’d pay someone else to do.
Your business also may be able to provide your child with retirement savings, depending on your plan and how it defines qualifying employees. For example, if you have a SEP plan, a contribution can be made for the child up to 25% of his or her earnings (not to exceed $58,000 for 2021).
Contact us if you have any questions about these rules in your situation. Keep in mind that some of the rules about employing children may change from year to year and may require your income-shifting strategies to change too.
Are you thinking about launching a business with some partners and wondering what type of entity to form? An S corporation may be the most suitable form of business for your new venture. Here’s an explanation of the reasons why.
The biggest advantage of an S corporation over a partnership is that as S corporation shareholders, you won’t be personally liable for corporate debts. In order to receive this protection, it’s important that the corporation be adequately financed, that the existence of the corporation as a separate entity be maintained and that various formalities required by your state be observed (for example, filing articles of incorporation, adopting by-laws, electing a board of directors and holding organizational meetings).
If you expect that the business will incur losses in its early years, an S corporation is preferable to a C corporation from a tax standpoint. Shareholders in a C corporation generally get no tax benefit from such losses. In contrast, as S corporation shareholders, each of you can deduct your percentage share of these losses on your personal tax returns to the extent of your basis in the stock and in any loans you make to the entity. Losses that can’t be deducted because they exceed your basis are carried forward and can be deducted by you when there’s sufficient basis.
Once the S corporation begins to earn profits, the income will be taxed directly to you whether or not it’s distributed. It will be reported on your individual tax return and be aggregated with income from other sources. To the extent the income is passed through to you as qualified business income, you’ll be eligible to take the 20% pass-through deduction, subject to various limitations. Your share of the S corporation’s income won’t be subject to self-employment tax, but your wages will be subject to Social Security taxes.
Are you planning to provide fringe benefits such as health and life insurance? If so, you should be aware that the costs of providing such benefits to a more than 2% shareholder are deductible by the entity but are taxable to the recipient.
Be careful with S status
Also be aware that the S corporation could inadvertently lose its S status if you or your partners transfers stock to an ineligible shareholder such as another corporation, a partnership or a nonresident alien. If the S election were terminated, the corporation would become a taxable entity. You would not be able to deduct any losses and earnings could be subject to double taxation — once at the corporate level and again when distributed to you. In order to protect you against this risk, it’s a good idea for each of you to sign an agreement promising not to make any transfers that would jeopardize the S election.
Consult with us before finalizing your choice of entity. We can answer any questions you have and assist in launching your new venture.
President Biden signed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) on March 11. While the new law is best known for the provisions providing relief to individuals, there are also several tax breaks and financial benefits for businesses.
Here are some of the tax highlights of the ARPA.
The Employee Retention Credit (ERC). This valuable tax credit is extended from June 30 until December 31, 2021. The ARPA continues the ERC rate of credit at 70% for this extended period of time. It also continues to allow for up to $10,000 in qualified wages for any calendar quarter. Taking into account the Consolidated Appropriations Act extension and the ARPA extension, this means an employer can potentially have up to $40,000 in qualified wages per employee through 2021.
Employer-Provided Dependent Care Assistance. In general, an eligible employee’s gross income doesn’t include amounts paid or incurred by an employer for dependent care assistance provided to the employee under a qualified dependent care assistance program (DCAP).
Previously, the amount that could be excluded from an employee’s gross income under a DCAP during a tax year wasn’t more than $5,000 ($2,500 for married individuals filing separately), subject to certain limitations. However, any contribution made by an employer to a DCAP can’t exceed the employee’s earned income or, if married, the lesser of employee’s or spouse’s earned income.
Under the ARPA, for 2021 only, the exclusion for employer-provided dependent care assistance is increased from $5,000 to $10,500 (from $2,500 to $5,250 for married individuals filing separately).
This provision is effective for tax years beginning after December 31, 2020.
Paid Sick and Family Leave Credits. Changes under the ARPA apply to amounts paid with respect to calendar quarters beginning after March 31, 2021. Among other changes, the law extends the paid sick time and paid family leave credits under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act from March 31, 2021, through September 30, 2021. It also provides that paid sick and paid family leave credits may each be increased by the employer’s share of Social Security tax (6.2%) and employer’s share of Medicare tax (1.45%) on qualified leave wages.
Grants to restaurants. Under the ARPA, eligible restaurants, food trucks, and similar businesses that provide food and drinks may receive restaurant revitalization grants from the Small Business Administration. For tax purposes, amounts received as restaurant revitalization grants aren’t included in the gross income of the person who receives the money.
These are only some of the provisions in the ARPA. There are many others that may be beneficial to your business. Contact us for more information about your situation.
The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) has been signed into law by President Biden and makes significant updates to several tax provisions to alleviate some of the pandemic’s financial burdens for individual taxpayers and businesses. Updates include expansions and extensions of various tax credits such as the employee retention credit (ERC), COBRA continuation coverage, Affordable Care Act (ACA) subsidies, and more. The bill also includes $1.46 billion for the IRS to manage the additional responsibilities on top of the annual tax filing season. Here are the critical tax updates.
Individual tax provisions in ARPA
Significant updates were made for individual taxpayers to deal with the financial ramifications of the pandemic.
COBRA continuation coverage credit expanded – Health care premiums will be subsidized at 100% for those who are eligible for COBRA from the date of enactment to Sep. 21, 2021.
- Employers can receive a refundable credit for COBRA continuation coverage premium assistance and is taken against Medicare tax. Advance payments are available and apply to wages paid after Apr. 1, 2021.
- Taxpayers who receive this credit are not eligible for the health coverage tax credit (Sec. 35). This coverage premium assistance is not includable in gross income.
ACA marketplace subsidies expanded – Health insurance premium cost savings for all marketplace exchange users are included in the bill.
- The income cap for premium subsidies in the health insurance marketplace is eliminated for 2021 and 2022 coverage for individuals at 150% of the federal poverty line (FPL) or less.
- Premium costs for households at 400% of FPL would be capped at 8.5% of their household income for benchmark plans (second-lowest-cost Silver plans), which may mean significant health insurance premium savings for many households. Currently, households in this category can spend as much as 50% of their income on health insurance, according to healthinsurance.org.
- Subsidies will phase out as income increases, and subsidies are not available for benchmark plans that cost less than 8.5% of household income.
- Subsidies will increase for those who already qualify for subsidies as the plan reduces the percentage of income expected for benchmark plans.
- Taxpayers receiving unemployment compensation in 2021 whose income is between 100% and 400% of the FPL qualify for reduced cost-sharing on silver plans.
Applicable extra subsidies can be claimed immediately or on the 2021 tax return. A special enrollment period is available until May 15, 2021, for most states.
Child tax credit increased – The child tax credit can now be claimed in advance of filing your return and increases to $3,000 per child (now including 17-year-olds) and $3,600 for children under six years of age. It phases out for married-filing-joint taxpayers with incomes over $150,000, $112,500 for heads of household, and $75,000 for all others. The credit will be paid monthly in cash up to $300 per month by the IRS from July through December.
Earned income credit expanded – The bill introduces rules for individual taxpayers with no children for 2021:
- The maximum credit is now $1,502, up from $543.
- The minimum age is now 19, except for students (24) and former foster youth (18). The maximum age is eliminated.
- The phase-out amount is increased to 15.3%.
- Certain separated spouses are now eligible.
- The threshold for disqualifying income rises to $10,000 from $2,200.
- Taxpayers may temporarily use 2019 income instead of 2021 for calculation.
Student loan forgiveness – Any student loan forgiveness passed between Dec. 31, 2020, and Jan. 1, 2026, would be tax-free rather than the forgiven debt treated as taxable income.
Business tax provisions in ARPA
Business tax provisions were also extended and expanded to help businesses with the financial challenges of the pandemic.
ERC extended – The ERC is extended through Dec. 31, 2021, and expands the eligibility to new startups established after Feb. 15, 2020 (capped at $50,000 per calendar quarter), and companies with a 90% revenue decline compared to the same calendar quarter of the previous year.
Child and dependent care credit expanded – The credit is refundable for 2021. It increases the employer-provided dependent care assistance exclusion to $10,500. The maximum allowable expenses increase to $8,000 (from $3,000) for one dependent and $16,000 (from $6,000) for two or more and allow the credit to cover 50% of expenses.
Family and sick leave credit extended – The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) credits are extended to Sept. 30, 2021, and include:
- Limit increase to $12,000.
- The number of days for calculation increase from 50 to 60 and resets after Mar. 31, 2021.
- Eligibility extended for leave due to COVID-19 vaccination.
- Eligibility extended to 501(c)(1) government organizations.
Executive compensation deduction expanded – The executive compensation deduction for publicly traded employers expands to include the 8 highest compensated employees other than the CEO and CFO by 2027. Currently, a deduction is available on the first $1 million paid to the CEO, CFO, and next three highest compensated officers.
For questions and assistance with any of the programs related to ARPA, contact us.
The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021 passed Congress and President Biden signed the bill into law on March 12, 2021. The ARPA approves $1.9 trillion in spending for individuals, businesses, governments, and certain industries impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The third Act in a year, the ARPA approves additional economic impact payments for individuals; the extension of federal unemployment benefits; additional funds for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loans, and Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) for hard-hit small businesses; and grants for food and beverage establishments. Here are the key individual and business provisions in the bill.
Individual provisions in ARPA
The bill extends and slightly alters two key benefits many individuals have been relying upon through the pandemic.
Unemployment – Federal benefits of $300 per week (in addition to state benefits) are extended through Sep. 6, 2021. The first $10,200 in federal unemployment benefits is tax-free for households making less than $150,000 per year in 2020. Taxpayers who received unemployment income may need to update 2020 tax returns if already filed.
Economic impact (stimulus) payments (EIPs) – The IRS will issue another round of EIPs at $1,400 per individual, $2,800 per married filing joint (MFJ), plus $1,400 per dependent. Income phase-out limits reduce from previous EIPs to $80,000 for individuals and $150,000 for MFJ. Full-time students under the age of 24 are now eligible for economic impact payments (EIP), unlike previous rounds. Your 2019 or 2020 adjusted gross income (AGI) is the basis for EIPs, so taxpayers will want to consider when to file their 2020 tax return to ensure a maximum EIP benefit.
Small business funding provisions in ARPA
The bill includes additional funding for small business relief programs, including the PPP, EIDLs, and industry-specific relief.
PPP – The Act allocates an additional 7.25 billion in additional funds, and the eligibility expands to include:
- Nonprofits listed under Sec. 5019(c) that are not (c)(3), (4), (6), or (19)s with 300 or fewer employees can now apply. To be eligible, you must not receive more than 15% of receipts from lobbying, and lobbying cannot comprise more than 15% of activities. The cost of lobbying cannot exceed $1 million.
- Larger 501(c)(3)s and veterans’ organizations with up to 500 employees.
- Larger 501(c)(6)s, domestic marketing organizations, and additional covered nonprofits with up to 300 employees per physical location.
- Internet-only news and periodical publishers with more than one location and no more than 500 employees per location as eligible as long as the organization supports locally-focused or emergency information.
The deadline is still Mar. 31, 2021, to apply, so don’t delay.
EIDL advance payments – The Act allocates $15 billion for EIDL advance payments, and eligibility requirements state:
- Businesses must be in low-income communities with no more than 300 employees.
- The economic loss of more than 30% must be shown through gross receipts decline in an 8-week period between Mar. 2, 2020, and Dec. 31, 2021, compared to a comparable 8-week period immediately preceding Mar. 2, 2020.
- The timeline for issuing advances is as follows:
- First 28 days – Reserved for those who applied for Targeted EIDL Advances under the EAA and did not receive one due to lack of funds.
- Next 14 days – Reserved for severely impacted small businesses to receive grants of up to $5,000. Eligible entities must have a loss of more than 50% and ten or fewer employees.
- Next 14 days – Reserved for substantially impacted businesses to receive grants of up to $5,000 if they had a loss between 30-50% and 10 or fewer employees.
- Funds from Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) and targeted EIDL advances are not included in gross income. No tax deductions will be denied, no tax attributes reduced, and no basis increase denied due to this exclusion from gross income.
Restaurants, bars, and other eligible food and beverage providers – The Act allocates $28.6 billion for grants, and $5 billion is set aside for applicants with 2019 gross receipts of $500,000 or less.
- Eligibility expands to food stands, food trucks, food carts, caterers, saloons, inns, taverns, lounges, brewpubs, tasting rooms, taprooms, and any licensed facility of a beverage alcohol producer that provides tasting, sampling, or purchasing.
- Grants are equal to the pandemic-related revenue loss of up to $10 million per entity or $5 million per physical location, limited to 20 locations.
- The grant revenue loss is calculated by subtracting 2020 revenue from 2019 revenue.
- Grant funds may cover payroll, principal and interest on mortgage, rent payments (not prepayments), utilities, maintenance for outdoor seating, PPE supplies, food and beverage expenses within the scope of normal business, covered supplier costs, operational expenses, and paid sick leave.
- Good-faith certification is required.
- Applicants cannot also apply for or receive a Shuttered Venue Operator grant.
- There is a 21-day preference period for minority-owned and operated businesses, including women, veterans, and the socially and economically disadvantaged.
- The SBA must distribute grants in an “equitable manner to eligible entities of different sizes and annual receipts.”
Shuttered venue operators – The program is extended from the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA) with $1.25 billion allocated.
Community navigator pilot programs – $175 million is allocated for programs that increase awareness of and participation in COVID-19 relief programs for socially and economically disadvantaged business owners.
Other provisions of ARPA
- State, local, and Tribal support – An allocation of $350 billion for costs incurred by the end of 2024. You cannot use funds to offset tax cuts or create a pension fund. Small states should receive at least the same amount of funding as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
- $750 million is allocated to communities with revenue hits due to declining tourism, travel, and outdoor recreation.
- K-12 schools – $130 billion.
- Colleges and universities – $40 billion.
- COVID-19 testing, vaccine support, hospital funding, public health emergencies, biomedical research – $92 billion.
- Airline industry and airports – $23 billion.
- Emergency rental and housing assistance – $30 billion.
For assistance with any of these provisions, please contact us.
The IRS has released additional guidance in Notice 2021-20 on the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERC) with clarifications on the retroactive changes for expanded eligibility applicable to 2020. Employers who received a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan have been waiting on guidance on claiming the credit in combination with forgiveness of their loan. The provisions outlined here apply to retroactive claims for 2020 as well as providing a plan for those yet to seek forgiveness.
Summary of ERC
As a reminder, eligibility to claim the 2020 ERC requires a business to have experienced a significant decline in revenues during 2020. Specifically, gross receipts for a calendar quarter during 2020 must have declined by 50% or more when compared to the same calendar quarter in 2019. Additionally, a company is eligible during any period where operations were suspended due to a government order.
- Employers with more than 100 FTEs can only claim the ERC on employees that are being paid qualified wages and not providing services.
- For 2020, the credit is available on 50% of qualified wages up to $10,000. The maximum credit amount per employee is $5,000.
- Health care costs are included when determining qualified wages.
- Wages paid as a result of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) do not qualify.
Clarification on how to apply ERC with a PPP loan
The notice clarifies when and how PPP borrowers can claim the ERC on 2020 wages.
- Wages elected to be covered by the PPP forgiveness application but not granted.
- Wages in excess of the amount of their PPP loan – Example: An employer receives a $200,000 loan for wages but pays $230,000 in wages. Apply the $30,000 wages to ERC.
- The difference in wages and nonpayroll costs that are in excess of their PPP loan – Example: If a PPP loan equals $200,000 and the employer has $200,000 in forgivable wages and $70,000 in forgivable nonpayroll costs, reserve $70,000 in wages for ERC.
- Those that have already applied for forgiveness cannot amend their application to claim nonpayroll costs.
- For those yet to apply for forgiveness and eligible for the ERC, you will want to accumulate and submit nonpayroll costs to maximize eligible wages for the ERC.
The ERC requires specific documentation and support of facts and circumstances in order to qualify and receive the credit. For assistance with claiming the ERC, contact us.
Form 1040, Schedule C taxpayers received an updated interim final rule (IFR) on the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) from the Small Business Association (SBA). The IFR clarifies guidance released on Feb. 22 that made changes to how self-employed and sole proprietors could calculate their maximum loan amount to help expand the program for these groups. Approximately 2.6 million sole proprietors have applied for PPP loans, and it is estimated there are about 25 million sole proprietors across the country.
The biggest adjustment made by the IFR is that these borrowers may calculate their maximum loan amount using their gross income. Previously, the calculation was done by using payroll costs plus net profits. This excluded many sole proprietors who had little or negative net profit.
Determining how much you can borrow
For sole proprietors with no employees the calculation is as follows:
- Use either line 31 net profit or line 7 gross income (up to $100,000)
- Divide by 12 and then multiply that amount by 2.5
First-draw and second-draw owner compensation is capped at $20,833; however, for accommodations and food services, second-draw owner compensation is capped at $29,167
For sole proprietors with employees, the calculation is as follows: Use either line 31 net profit or calculate the following using gross receipts:
- Line 7 gross income minus employee payroll costs (lines 14, 19, 26)
- Divide by 12 to get monthly total (cannot exceed $100,00 annually or $8,333 monthly)
- Add average monthly payroll costs
- Multiply by 2.5 months
The same owner compensation limits apply as for those with no employees.
Limited liability companies with only one member do qualify for these updated calculations, but single member S-corporations do not.
The calculation is only for loans submitted after the rule’s effective date of Mar. 3, 2021, meaning loans submitted between Jan. 1 and Mar. 2, 2021, would not be eligible for this new calculation. You can access the new forms here:
Additionally, the IFR states that first-draw PPP loans with $150,000 or less in gross income on a Schedule C will be eligible for the economic necessity safe harbor, but loans above will not and could receive additional SBA review.
The current PPP application period expires Mar. 31, 2021, and lenders are experiencing delays in implementing these new calculations. It is anticipated they will begin accepting applications the week of Mar. 8. We are continuously monitoring the situation for additional clarifications and updates.
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.
Merger and acquisition activity in many industries slowed during 2020 due to COVID-19. But analysts expect it to improve in 2021 as the country comes out of the pandemic. If you are considering buying or selling another business, it’s important to understand the tax implications.
Two ways to arrange a deal
Under current tax law, a transaction can basically be structured in two ways:
1. Stock (or ownership interest). A buyer can directly purchase a seller’s ownership interest if the target business is operated as a C or S corporation, a partnership, or a limited liability company (LLC) that’s treated as a partnership for tax purposes.
The current 21% corporate federal income tax rate makes buying the stock of a C corporation somewhat more attractive. Reasons: The corporation will pay less tax and generate more after-tax income. Plus, any built-in gains from appreciated corporate assets will be taxed at a lower rate when they’re eventually sold.
The current law’s reduced individual federal tax rates have also made ownership interests in S corporations, partnerships and LLCs more attractive. Reason: The passed-through income from these entities also is taxed at lower rates on a buyer’s personal tax return. However, current individual rate cuts are scheduled to expire at the end of 2025, and, depending on actions taken in Washington, they could be eliminated earlier.
Keep in mind that President Biden has proposed increasing the tax rate on corporations to 28%. He has also proposed increasing the top individual income tax rate from 37% to 39.6%. With Democrats in control of the White House and Congress, business and individual tax changes are likely in the next year or two.
2. Assets. A buyer can also purchase the assets of a business. This may happen if a buyer only wants specific assets or product lines. And it’s the only option if the target business is a sole proprietorship or a single-member LLC that’s treated as a sole proprietorship for tax purposes.
Preferences of buyers
For several reasons, buyers usually prefer to buy assets rather than ownership interests. In general, a buyer’s primary goal is to generate enough cash flow from an acquired business to pay any acquisition debt and provide an acceptable return on the investment. Therefore, buyers are concerned about limiting exposure to undisclosed and unknown liabilities and minimizing taxes after a transaction closes.
A buyer can step up (increase) the tax basis of purchased assets to reflect the purchase price. Stepped-up basis lowers taxable gains when certain assets, such as receivables and inventory, are sold or converted into cash. It also increases depreciation and amortization deductions for qualifying assets.
Preferences of sellers
In general, sellers prefer stock sales for tax and nontax reasons. One of their objectives is to minimize the tax bill from a sale. That can usually be achieved by selling their ownership interests in a business (corporate stock or partnership or LLC interests) as opposed to selling assets
With a sale of stock or other ownership interest, liabilities generally transfer to the buyer and any gain on sale is generally treated as lower-taxed long-term capital gain (assuming the ownership interest has been held for more than one year).
Obtain professional advice
Be aware that other issues, such as employee benefits, can also cause tax issues in M&A transactions. Buying or selling a business may be the largest transaction you’ll ever make, so it’s important to seek professional assistance. After a transaction is complete, it may be too late to get the best tax results. Contact us about how to proceed.
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 3508S
, Form 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.
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.