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Byrnes & Bloink’s Covid-19 TaxFacts Special Edition of April 20, 2020

Posted by William Byrnes on April 20, 2020

           Prof. William H. Byrnes
        Robert Bloink, J.D., LL.M.
Over the past few weeks Tax Facts has seen a tremendous number of updates that cover the new COVID-19 legislation and related administrative developments. Undoubtedly we will continue to see more of these updates in the weeks and months to come, but we thought now was good time to help our readers catch their breath a little bit by providing a summary of the changes that have been made. This special Tax Facts newsletter is intended to help you navigate through the entirety of the changes that have been made so that you can understand the full breadth of the new tax landscape.

These updates cover (1) the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, (2) the CARES Act, (3) IRS Notices related to the new legislation, and (4) newly released IRS and DOL FAQs that help taxpayers understand how the new rules will be implemented.
Take a look, and as always, check in with Tax Facts the absolute latest in the tax issues affecting insurance, investments, and employee benefits.

Families First Coronavirus Response Act: Paid Sick Leave Benefits for Small Business Employees

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act applies to private employers with fewer than 500 employees (and government employers), and makes several key changes to paid time off laws. The bill: (1) provides eighty hours’ additional paid sick leave for employees (pro-rated for part-time workers) and (2) expands FMLA protections. The additional paid sick leave is capped at $511 per day (total of $5,110) for employees who cannot go to work or telecommute because they (1) are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a diagnosis, or (2) are subject to government-mandated quarantine or a recommendation to self-quarantine. The additional paid sick leave is capped at 2/3 of the employee’s pay rate, subject to a maximum of $200 per day or $2,000 total if the employee (1) is caring for or assisting someone subject to quarantine, (2) caring for a child whose school or care provider is unavailable or (3) experiencing “substantially similar conditions” specified by HHS. For more information on the family and medical leave tax credit available for business owners, visit Tax Facts Online. Read More

Families First Coronavirus Response Act: Tax Relief for Small Business Owners

The law contains a tax credit to help small business owners subject to the new paid sick leave and expanded FMLA requirements. The tax credit is computed each quarter, and allows as a credit (1) the amount of qualified paid sick leave wages paid in weeks 1-2, and (2) qualified FMLA wages paid (in the remaining ten weeks) during the quarter. The credit is taken against the employer portion of the Social Security tax. Amounts in excess of the employer Social Security taxes due will be refunded as a credit (in the same manner as though the employer had overpaid Social Security taxes during the quarter). The Act also provides a tax credit for qualified health plan expenses that are allocable to periods when the paid sick leave or family leave wages are paid. For more information on refundable tax credits, visit Tax Facts Online. Read More

CARES Act: RMDs Suspended for 2020, Penalty Waived for Coronavirus Distributions

The CARES Act suspended the required minimum distribution (RMD) rules for 2020–a suspension that applies to all 401(k), 403(b), and certain 457(b) deferred compensation plans maintained by the government, as well as IRAs. The law also contains a provision waiving the 10 percent early distribution penalty that applies to retirement account withdrawals. The relief generally mirrors the relief commonly granted in more localized natural disaster situations. The Act allows employees to take up to $100,000 in distributions from an employer-sponsored retirement plan (401(k), 403(b) or defined benefit plan) or an IRA without becoming subject to the penalty. Unless the participant elects otherwise, inclusion of the distribution in income is spread over three years, beginning with the tax year of distribution. The Act also provides a repayment option, where the participant has the option of repaying the distribution over the three-taxable year period beginning with the tax year of distribution. In this case, the distribution will be treated as an eligible rollover made in a trustee-to-trustee transfer within the sixty-day window. For more information on expanded access to retirement funds, visit Tax Facts Online. Read More

CARES Act: NOL Relief for Struggling Businesses

The CARES Act allows corporations to carry back net operating losses (NOLs) incurred in 2018, 2019, and 2020 for five years (excluding offset to untaxed foreign earnings transition tax). Post-tax reform, these NOLs could only be carried forward. For tax years beginning prior to January 1, 2021, businesses can offset 100% of taxable income with NOL carryovers and carrybacks (the 80 percent taxable income limitation was lifted). With respect to partnerships and pass-through entities, the CARES Act amended the effective date for the new excess business loss rules created by the 2017 tax reform legislation. The new rules will only apply beginning in 2021 (rather than 2018). Pass-through taxpayers who have filed a return reflecting excess business losses will presumably be entitled to refund by filing an amended return, absent guidance to the contrary. For more information, visit Tax Facts Online. Read More

CARES Act: Penalty-Free Payroll Tax Deferral for Employers

The CARES Act allows both employers and independent contractors to defer payment of employer payroll taxes without penalty. Importantly, employers with fewer than 500 employees are entitled to withhold payroll taxes as an advance repayment of the tax credit for paid sick leave and expanded FMLA leave under the FFCRA. Under the CARES Act payroll tax deferral, employers are permitted to defer the employer portion of the payroll tax on wages paid through December 31, 2020 for up to two years. Payroll taxes are generally due in two installments under CARES: 50 percent by December 31, 2021 and the remaining 50 percent by December 31, 2022. Economic hardship is presumed, meaning the employer does not have to produce documentation establishing that COVID-19 impacted the business. Payroll tax deferral options apparently apply to all employers, regardless of size. However, employers who have loans forgiven under the CARES Act Payroll Protection Loan program are not eligible for the deferral. For more information, visit Tax Facts Online. Read More

CARES Act: Employee Retention Tax Credit

The CARES Act creates a new refundable tax credit designed to help employers who retain employees during the COVID-19 health crisis. The credit is taken against employment taxes and is equal to 50 percent of the first $10,000 of qualified wages paid to the employee. The credit is available for calendar quarters where either (1) operations were either fully or partially suspended because of a government-issued order relating to COVID-19 or (2) the business’ gross receipts declined by more than 50 percent when compared to the same calendar quarter in 2019. For more information, visit Tax Facts Online. Read More

IRS Notice 2020-15: HDHPs Can Pay Coronavirus Costs

The IRS announced that high deductible health plans are permitted to cover the costs associated with the coronavirus. HDHPs can cover coronavirus-related testing and equipment needed to treat the virus. Generally, HDHPs are prohibited from covering certain non-specified expenses before the covered individual’s deductible has been met. Certain preventative care expenses are excepted from this rule. HDHPs will not jeopardize their status if they pay coronavirus-related expenses before the insured has met the deductible, and the insured will remain HSA-eligible. The guidance applies only to HSA-eligible HDHPs. For more information on the rules governing HDHPs, visit Tax Facts Online. Read More

IRS Notice 2020-18: 90-Day Extension of the Federal Tax Payment Deadline

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the IRS has announced that it will extend the tax payment deadline from April 15, 2020 to July 15, 2020. Interest and penalties during this period will also be waived. The April 15 filing deadline was also extended to July 15, although in separate guidance. Individuals and pass-through business entities owing up to $1 million in federal tax are eligible for the relief, as are corporations owing up to $10 million in federal tax. Individuals who do not anticipate being able to file by July 15 should be aware of their option for requesting a six-month filing extension to October 15. The extension is available by filing Form 4868. For more information on federal tax filing requirements, visit Tax Facts Online. Read More

IRS Notice 2020-23: IRS Expands COVID-19 Extensions

Notice 2020-23 provides expanded relief for taxpayers with a filing or payment obligation arising after April 1, 2020 and before July 15, 2020. Specifically, deadlines are extended to July 15, 2020 for actions required with respect to (1) estate and trust income tax payments and return filings, (2) estate and generation-skipping transfer tax payments and return filings on Form 706 and related forms, (3) gift and generation-skipping transfer tax payments and return filings on Form 709 and related forms, (4) estate tax payments of principal or interest due as a result of an election made under IRC sections 6166, 6161, or 6163 and annual recertification requirements under section 6166. Similarly, taxpayers who faced deadlines with respect to Tax Court actions between April 1 and July 15 have their deadlines postponed until July 15. For more information, visit Tax Facts Online. Read More

IRS FAQ: COVID-19 Filing, Payment Extensions

The IRS FAQ clarifies that the filing and payment extensions (from April 15 to July 15) apply regardless of whether the taxpayer is actually sick or quarantined because of COVID-19. For fiscal year taxpayers with 2019 returns due April 15, the deadline is extended to July 15 regardless of whether April 15 is an original or extended filing deadline. Taxpayers facing filing or payment deadlines that are not April 15 must note that their deadlines have not generally been extended. The relief also does not apply to payroll or excise tax payments (deposit dates remain unchanged, but employers may be eligible for the new paid sick leave tax credit, see Tax Facts Q8550). Taxpayers do not have to do anything to take advantage of the extension—they simply file their returns and make required payments by the new July 15 deadline. Taxpayers who filed and schedule a payment for April 15 must, however, take action to reschedule their payment for July 15 if they wish (by contacting the credit or debit card company if the payment was scheduled directly with the card issuer). For more information, visit Tax Facts Online. Read More

DOL FAQ: Counting Employees for COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave & FMLA Expansion Purposes

A new DOL FAQ provides that an employer is subject to the expanded paid sick leave and FMLA rules if the employer has fewer than 500 full-time and part-time employees. Employees on leave and temporary employees should be included, while independent contractors are not included in the count. Each corporation is usually a single employer. When a corporation has an ownership interest in another corporation, the two are separate employers unless they are joint employers for Fair Labor Standards Act purposes. Joint employer status is based on a facts and circumstances analysis, and is generally the case when (1) one employer employs the employee, but another benefits from the work or (2) one employer employs an employee for one set of hours in a workweek, and another employer employs the same employee for a separate set of hours in the same workweek. For more information on the details provided by current DOL guidance, visit Tax Facts Online. Read More

DOL FAQ: Calculating Sick Pay for Part-Time and Variable Hour Workers Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act

With respect to the FMLA extension, the rate of pay for part-time employees is based upon the number of hours they would normally be scheduled to work. For employees with variable schedules, pay is based upon a number equal to the average number of hours that the employee was scheduled per day over the 6-month period ending on the date on which the employee takes such leave, including hours for which the employee took leave of any type or (2) if the employee did not work over such period, the reasonable expectation of the employee at the time of hiring of the average number of hours per day that the employee would normally be scheduled to work. As of now, the law provides that leave may not be carried over into 2021. For more information on the law’s requirements, visit Tax Facts Online. Read More

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