Employee Retention Credits (ERC)
Implemented as a refundable credit under the CARES Act, the employee retention credit is extended through June 30, 2021. The following also applies for calendar quarters beginning after December 31, 2020:
- The credit rate is increased from 50 to 70 percent of qualified wages.
- The limit on per-employee creditable wages is increased from $10,000 for the year to $10,000 for each quarter.
- The required reduction in a year-over-year decline in gross receipts on a quarterly basis is reduced from 50 to 20 percent.
- When determining the relevant wage base, the definition of a “large employer” that can only claim the credit for employees that are not working because of the COVID pandemic increases from more than 100 to more than 500 employees.
- Certain government employers are now allowed to claim the ERC.
- Safe harbor allowing employers to use prior-quarter gross receipts to figure eligibility.
- New employers in 2020 (i.e., those not in existence in 2019) can claim the credit.
Furthermore and retroactive to the date of the CARES Act (March 13, 2020), the ERC is expanded to allow employers who receive PPP loans to qualify for the credit with respect to wages that are not paid with forgiven PPP proceeds. This can be claimed on the fourth quarter payroll report (Form 941) . It also clarifies that group health plan expenses can be considered qualified wages even if no other wages are paid to an employee.
Payroll Tax Credits
Refundable payroll tax credits for paid sick and family (Families First Coronavirus Response Act) leave are extended through March 2021. Employers are not required to provide paid leave after December 31, 2020; however, employers may still claim the credit if the employee would have qualified for paid leave if the mandate had been extended beyond December 31, 2020, and the employer provides paid leave.
Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)
Retroactive to the effective date of the CARES Act, PPP loans that are forgiven will be treated as tax-exempt income. Gross income does not include loan forgiveness for Economic Injury Recovery Loans (EIDLs) and certain other loans or loan repayment assistance. Under the CARES Act, taxpayers receiving an EIDL were required to reduce any PPP loan forgiveness by the amount of the EIDL.
In addition, businesses with 300 or fewer employees with a gross revenue loss of 25 percent in any quarter of 2020 compared to the same quarter in 2019 are eligible for a second round of PPP loans.
Deductible Expenses. Deductions are also allowed for deductible expenses (that would otherwise be deductible) paid for with the proceeds of a forgiven PPP loan. This reverses earlier IRS guidance that stated no deduction would be allowed. This tax provision applies to the second round of PPP loans as well.
Employee Portion of Payroll Tax
The repayment period for deferral of payroll tax is extended through December 31, 2021.
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