The massive Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act includes numerous tax-related provisions. But before the CARES Act was signed into law March 27, the federal government provided other valuable tax relief in response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Here is a closer look.
Families First Coronavirus Response Act
On March 18, President Trump signed into law the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. In certain situations, it mandates paid leave benefits for small business employees affected by COVID-19. The paid leave provisions generally apply to employers with fewer than 500 employees, though employers with fewer than 50 employees may be eligible for an exception. Here are the benefits:
Paid Sick Leave
The law requires covered employers to provide 80 hours of paid sick leave for full-time employees in certain situations. (Part-time employees are entitled to this paid sick leave for the average number of hours worked over a two-week period.)
Generally, paid sick leave is required when an employee is subject to a COVID-19-related quarantine or isolation order, has been advised to self-quarantine or is seeking a medical diagnosis for COVID-19 symptoms. It’s also generally required when an employee is caring for someone subject to a COVID-19-related quarantine or isolation order or is caring for a child whose school or place of care has been closed, or whose childcare provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 precautions.
When leave is taken for an employee’s own COVID-19 illness or quarantine, the leave must be paid at the employee’s regular rate, up to $511 per day (up to $5,110 in total). When the leave is related to caring for someone else, the leave must be paid at a minimum of two-thirds of the employee’s usual pay, up to $200 per day (up to $2,000 in total).
Paid Family Leave
The law gives an employee the right to take up to 12 weeks of job-protected family leave if the employee’s child’s school or childcare location is closed due to COVID-19. The first two weeks are unpaid (though they might qualify for sick pay). For the remaining 10 weeks, the employer must pay at least two-thirds of the employee’s usual pay, up to a maximum of $200 per day, subject to an overall maximum of $10,000 in total family leave payments.
Tax Credit for Employers
To help employers cover this paid leave, the law allows a refundable tax credit equal to 100% of qualified sick leave wages and family and medical leave wages paid by the employer.
The credit applies only to eligible leave payments made during the period beginning on the effective date of April 1, 2020, and ending on December 31, 2020.
Tax credits may also be available to certain self-employed individuals.
Federal tax deadline deferrals
On March 18, the IRS released guidance that outlined the details of a postponed deadline for paying federal income taxes. Notice 2020-17 clarified that individual taxpayers and corporations can defer until July 15 federal income tax payments that would otherwise be due on April 15.
Notice 2020-18 subsequently provided additional clarifications, including a postponement of the federal income tax filing deadline to July 15 as well.
Some specifics under these relief measures are as follows:
Individual taxpayers can defer federal income tax payments (including any self-employment tax) owed for the 2019 tax year from the normal April 15 deadline until July 15. They can also defer initial quarterly estimated federal income tax payments for the 2020 tax year (including any self-employment tax) from the normal April 15 deadline until July 15.
Corporations that use the calendar year for tax purposes can defer until July 15 federal income tax payments that would otherwise be due on April 15. This relief covers the amount owed for the 2019 tax year and the amount due for the first quarterly estimated tax payment for the 2020 tax year. Both of those amounts would otherwise be due on April 15.
For Trusts & Estates:
Trusts and estates pay federal income taxes, too. Normally, federal income tax payments for the 2019 tax year of trusts and estates that use the calendar year for tax purposes would be due on April 15. The initial quarterly estimated federal income tax payments for the 2020 tax year of trusts and estates that use the calendar year for tax purposes would also normally be due on April 15. These deadlines have also been postponed to July 15.
Notice 2020-20 postponed the filing and payment deadlines for 2019 federal gift and generation-skipping transfer taxes from April 15 to July 15.
We’ve covered only some of the COVID-19-related tax law changes that have already been finalized. There are also other types of federal relief under the CARES Act and through federal agencies. And many states have announced their own COVID-19 relief. More federal measures and additional guidance are expected, some of which could affect the relief discussed here. Contact Maggart to discuss which relief measures may apply in your specific situation.