Paid Leave for Rehired Employees
The CARES Act amends the expanded paid leave requirements for employers in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to include employees who are laid off and then rehired by an employer.
Specifically, an employee who was laid off by their employer on March 1, 2020 or later, had worked for the employer for at least 30 of the previous 60 days before being laid off, and was then rehired by the employer will be eligible for the paid family and sick leave benefits.
Small Business Loans
The SBA is providing low-interest working capital loans of up to $2 million to small businesses and nonprofits affected by the coronavirus. These loans carry an interest rate of 3.75% for small businesses and 2.75% for nonprofits. Loan repayment terms vary by applicant, up to a maximum of 30 years.
As of March 23, businesses in every state plus American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands can apply. the loan can be used to cover accounts payable, debts, payroll and other bills.
These loans can be forgiven. Loan recipients can calculate the amount to be forgiven by calculating the sum total of the following “costs incurred, and payments made” during the 8-week period beginning on the date of the covered loan origination:
- Payroll costs (defined later)
- Interest on mortgage obligation (which shall not include any prepayment of or payment of principal)
- Utility payments
The total amount for forgiveness must not exceed the original principal amount. The amount of loan forgiveness can be reduced if the recipient reduces the number of employees or reduces salaries during the 8 weeks following the origination date.
Payroll costs are defined as the sum of all payments for:
- Salaries, wages, commissions, or similar compensation (up to $100,000 annual compensation as prorated for the covered period)
- Payment of cash tip or equivalent
- Vacation, parental, family medical, or sick leave
- Severance payment
- Health care benefits, including insurance premiums
- Retirement benefits
- State or local tax assessed on said compensation
- Payments of wages, commission, or similar compensation to any independent contractors that is $100,000 or less per year (as prorated for the covered period)
Payroll costs would not include:
- Federal income tax and payroll tax contributions
- Compensation of any employee whose principal residence is outside the US
- Qualified sick and family leave wages covered by tax credits under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act
Eligible small business owners can apply online and select “Economic Injury” as the reason for seeking assistance. Call the SBA Disaster Assistance Customer Service Center at 800.659.2955 for assistance.
Temporary Suspension of Contribution Limitations
For corporations, the 10% limitation is increased to 25% of taxable income. This provision also increases the limitation on deductions for contributions of food inventory from 15% percent to 25%.
Exclusion for Certain Employer Payments of Student Loans
Excludable education assistance under §127 includes payments made by an employer, for the benefit of an employee, whether paid to the employee or to a lender, of principal or interest on any qualified education loan (as defined in §221(d)(1)) incurred by the employee for education of the employee.
Employee Retention Credit
Employers are provided a refundable payroll tax credit for 50% of wages paid to employees during the COVID-19 crisis. The credit is available to employers whose:
- Operations were fully or partially suspended due to a COVID-19-related shutdown order, or
- Gross receipts declined by more than 50% when compared to the same quarter in the prior year.
The credit is based on qualified wages paid to the employee. For employers with greater than 100 full-time employees, qualified wages are wages paid to employees when they are not providing services due to the COVID-19-related circumstances described above. For eligible employers with 100 or fewer full-time employees, all employee wages qualify for the credit, whether the employer is open for business or subject to a shut-down order.
The credit is provided for the first $10,000 of compensation, including health benefits, paid to an eligible employee. The credit is provided for wages paid or incurred from March 13, 2020 through Dec. 31, 2020.
Delay of Payment of Employer Payroll Taxes
Employers and self-employed individuals can defer payment of the employer share of the Social Security tax they otherwise are responsible for paying to the federal government with respect to their employees. Employers generally are responsible for paying a 6.2% Social Security tax on employee wages.
The provision requires that the deferred employment tax be paid over the following two years, with half of the amount required to be paid by Dec. 31, 2021 and the other half by Dec. 31, 2022. The Social Security Trust Funds will be held harmless under this provision.
Modifications for Net Operating Losses (NOLs)
Temporary changes to the NOL carryback rules allow business to carryback certain losses. Under the TCJA, NOLs are subject to a taxable-income limitation, and they cannot be carried back to reduce income in a prior tax year. The relaxed rules provide that an NOL arising in a tax year beginning in 2018, 2019, or 2020 can be carried back five years. The provision also temporarily removes the 80% taxable income limitation to allow an NOL to fully offset income. These changes will allow companies to utilize losses and amend prior year returns.
Modifications to Excess Business Loss Rules
Pass-through businesses and sole proprietorships can deduct excess business losses arising in 2018, 2019, and 2020. Previously, the deduction of excess business losses by noncorporate taxpayers for tax years beginning after Dec. 31, 2017 and ending before Jan. 1, 2026 were disallowed.
From the Families First Act: Expanded family and medical leave.
The Act provided paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave for COVID-19 related reasons and created the refundable paid sick leave credit and the paid child care leave credit for eligible employers. Eligible employers are businesses and tax-exempt organizations with fewer than 500 employees that are required to provide emergency paid sick leave and emergency paid family and medical leave under the Act. Eligible employers will be able to claim these credits based on qualifying leave they provide between the effective date and December 31, 2020. Equivalent credits are available to self-employed individuals based on similar circumstances.
The Act provides that employees of eligible employers can receive two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at 100% of the employee’s pay where the employee is unable to work because the employee is quarantined, and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, and seeking a medical diagnosis. An employee who is unable to work because of a need to care for an individual subject to quarantine, to care for a child whose school is closed or child care provider is unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19, and/or the employee is experiencing substantially similar conditions as specified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services can receive two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at 2/3 the employee’s pay. An employee who is unable to work due to a need to care for a child whose school is closed, or child care provider is unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19, may in some instances receive up to an additional ten weeks of expanded paid family and medical leave at 2/3 the employee’s pay.
Paid Sick Leave Credit
For an employee who is unable to work because of Coronavirus quarantine or self-quarantine or has Coronavirus symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis, eligible employers may receive a refundable sick leave credit for sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay, up to $511 per day and $5,110 in the aggregate, for a total of 10 days.
For an employee who is caring for someone with Coronavirus, or is caring for a child because the child’s school or child care facility is closed, or the child care provider is unavailable due to the Coronavirus, eligible employers may claim a credit for two-thirds of the employee’s regular rate of pay, up to $200 per day and $2,000 in the aggregate, for up to 10 days. Eligible employers are entitled to an additional tax credit determined based on costs to maintain health insurance coverage for the eligible employee during the leave period.
Child Care Leave Credit
In addition to the sick leave credit, for an employee who is unable to work because of a need to care for a child whose school or child care facility is closed or whose child care provider is unavailable due to the Coronavirus, eligible employers may receive a refundable child care leave credit. This credit is equal to two-thirds of the employee’s regular pay, capped at $200 per day or $10,000 in the aggregate. Up to 10 weeks of qualifying leave can be counted towards the child care leave credit. Eligible employers are entitled to an additional tax credit determined based on costs to maintain health insurance coverage for the eligible employee during the leave period.
Prompt Payment for the Cost of Providing Leave
When employers pay their employees, they are required to withhold from their employees’ paychecks federal income taxes and the employees’ share of Social Security and Medicare taxes. The employers then are required to deposit these federal taxes, along with their share of Social Security and Medicare taxes, with the IRS and file quarterly payroll tax returns (Form 941 series) with the IRS.
Under guidance that will be released next week, eligible employers who pay qualifying sick or child care leave will be able to retain an amount of the payroll taxes equal to the amount of qualifying sick and child care leave that they paid, rather than deposit them with the IRS.
The payroll taxes that are available for retention include withheld federal income taxes, the employee share of Social Security and Medicare taxes, and the employer share of Social Security and Medicare taxes with respect to all employees.
If there are not sufficient payroll taxes to cover the cost of qualified sick and child care leave paid, employers will be able file a request for an accelerated payment from the IRS. The IRS expects to process these requests in two weeks or less. The details of this new, expedited procedure will be announced next week.
If an eligible employer paid $5,000 in sick leave and is otherwise required to deposit $8,000 in payroll taxes, including taxes withheld from all its employees, the employer could use up to $5,000 of the $8,000 of taxes it was going to deposit for making qualified leave payments. The employer would only be required under the law to deposit the remaining $3,000 on its next regular deposit date.
If an eligible employer paid $10,000 in sick leave and was required to deposit $8,000 in taxes, the employer could use the entire $8,000 of taxes in order to make qualified leave payments and file a request for an accelerated credit for the remaining $2,000.
Equivalent childcare leave and sick leave credit amounts are available to self-employed individuals under similar circumstances. These credits will be claimed on their income tax return and will reduce estimated tax payments.
Small Business Exemption
Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees will be eligible for an exemption from the leave requirements relating to school closings or childcare unavailability where the requirements would jeopardize the ability of the business to continue. The exemption will be available on the basis of simple and clear criteria that make it available in circumstances involving jeopardy to the viability of an employer’s business as a going concern. Labor will provide emergency guidance and rulemaking to clearly articulate this standard.
Labor will be issuing a temporary non-enforcement policy that provides a period of time for employers to come into compliance with the Act. Under this policy, Labor will not bring an enforcement action against any employer for violations of the Act so long as the employer has acted reasonably and in good faith to comply with the Act. Labor will instead focus on compliance assistance during the 30-day period.