On August 28, the IRS issued guidance that provides some explanation of how employers can defer withholding and remitting an employee’s share of Social Security tax when wages are below a certain amount. The guidance in Notice 2020-65 was issued to implement President Trump’s executive action signed in early August.
The guidance is brief, and private employers still have questions about whether, and how, to implement the deferral. The President’s action only defers Social Security taxes; it doesn’t forgive them, meaning employees will have to pay the taxes later unless Congress passes a law to eliminate the liability.
Tax deferral background
On August 8, President Trump signed a Presidential Memorandum that permits the deferral of the employee portion of Social Security taxes for certain employees due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The memorandum directed Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to defer withholding, deposit and payment of an eligible employee’s share of Social Security taxes (or the employee’s share of Railroad Retirement taxes) on wages or compensation paid from September 1, 2020, through December 31, 2020. It applies to employees whose wages or compensation, payable during any biweekly pay period, generally are less than $4,000, or the equivalent amount with respect to other pay periods. Amounts can be deferred without penalties, interest or additions to the tax.
Note: Under the CARES Act, employers can already defer paying their portion of Social Security taxes through December 31, 2020. All 2020 deferred amounts are due in two equal installments — one at the end of 2021 and the other at the end of 2022.
Issued on August 28, the three-page guidance postpones the withholding and remittance of the employee share of Social Security tax until the period beginning on January 1, 2021, and ending on April 30, 2021. Penalties, interest and additions to tax will begin to accrue on May 1, 2021, for any unpaid taxes.
The guidance states that “if necessary,” the employer “may make arrangements to collect the total applicable taxes” from an employee. This appears to answer one question that employers have about what happens if an employee leaves a job later this year or before the deferred taxes are due. However, no additional details are given on how an employer should make arrangements to collect unpaid tax.
Pushback from business groups
Before the guidance was issued, several business and payroll groups stated that their members would not implement the deferral. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and more than 30 trade associations sent a letter to members of Congress and the U.S. Department of the Treasury calling the deferral unworkable.
“If this were a suspension of the payroll tax so that employees were not forced to pay it back later, implementation would be less challenging,” the letter states. “But under a simple deferral, employees would be stuck with a large tax bill in 2021. Many of our members consider it unfair to employees to make a decision that would force a big tax bill on them next year… Therefore, many of our members will likely decline to implement deferral, choosing instead to continue to withhold and remit to the government the payroll taxes required by law.”
The National Payroll Reporting Consortium, a payroll services industry association, stated there are “substantial” computer programming changes that are needed to implement the deferral.
“Payroll systems are designed to apply a single Social Security tax rate for the full year, and to all employees equally,” the consortium explained. “Applying a different tax rate for part of the year, beginning in the middle of a quarter, and applying such a change to some employers but not others, and to some employees but not others, is quite complex. Not all employers and payroll systems will be able to make these complex changes by September 1.”
There are still unanswered questions about the payroll tax deferral. If you need assistance or have questions about how to proceed at your business, contact us. We can help you decide whether to participate and how to go forward.
The IRS recently released the 2021 inflation-adjusted amounts for Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). For calendar year 2021, the annual contribution limitation for an individual with self-only coverage under a HDHP is $3,600. For an individual with family coverage, the amount is $7,200. This is up from $3,550 and $7,100, respectively, for 2020. For calendar year 2021, an HDHP is a health plan with an annual deductible that isn’t less than $1,400 for self-only coverage or $2,800 for family coverage. In addition, annual out-of-pocket expenses (deductibles, co-payments, and other amounts, but not premiums) can’t exceed $7,000 for self-only coverage or $14,000 for family coverage.
The IRS has issued guidance clarifying that certain deductions aren’t allowed if a business has received a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan. Specifically, an expense isn’t deductible if both: 1) the payment of the expense results in forgiveness of a loan made under the PPP, and 2) the income associated with the forgiveness is excluded from gross income under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. IRS Notice 2020-32 states that “this treatment prevents a double tax benefit.” However, two members of Congress say they’re opposed to the IRS stand on this issue. They say they’ll seek legislation to make certain expenses deductible. Stay tuned.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) has extended the repayment deadline for Payroll Protection Program (PPP) borrowers that wish to take advantage of the “good faith” self-certification of eligibility option. The deadline is now automatically extended from May 7, 2020, to May 14, 2020.
Taxpayers don’t need to file any additional forms to qualify for the automatic federal tax filing and payment relief to July 15. However, individual taxpayers who need additional time to file beyond the July 15 deadline, can request a filing extension by filing Form 4868. Businesses who need additional time must file Form 7004. Contact us if you need assistance filing these forms. If you expect a refund Of course, not everybody will owe the IRS when they file their 2019 tax returns. If you’re due a refund, you should file as soon as possible. The IRS has stated that despite the COVID-19 outbreak, most tax refunds are still being issued within 21 days.
New law passes, another on the way On March 18, 2020, President Trump signed the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act,” which provides a wide variety of relief related to COVID-19. It includes free testing, waivers and modifications of Federal nutrition programs, employment-related protections and benefits, health programs and insurance coverage requirements, and related employer tax credits and tax exemptions. If you’re an employee, you may be eligible for paid sick leave for COVID-19 related reasons. Here are the specifics, according to the IRS: 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 whose child care provider is unavailable, 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.
As of this writing, Congress was working on passing another bill that would provide additional relief, including checks that would be sent to Americans under certain income thresholds. We will keep you updated about any developments. In the meantime, please contact us with any questions or concerns about your tax or financial situation. © 2020
The IRS is opening the 2019 individual income tax return filing season on Jan. 27. Even if you usually don’t file until closer to the April 15 deadline (or you file an extension), consider being an early-bird filer this year. It can potentially protect you from tax identity theft. In these scams, a thief uses another person’s personal information to file a fraudulent return early in the filing sea son and claim a bogus refund. Then, when the legitimate taxpayer files, the IRS rejects the return because one with the same information has already been filed for the year. If you file first, any would-be fraudulent returns will be rejected by the IRS, rather than yours.
If you’re adopting a child, or you adopted one this year, there may be significant tax benefits available to offset the expenses. For 2019, adoptive parents may be able to claim a nonrefundable credit against their federal tax for up to $14,080 of “qualified adoption expenses” for each adopted child. (This amount is increasing to $14,300 for 2020.) The credit allowable for 2019 is phased out for taxpayers with adjusted gross income (AGI) of $211,160 ($214,520 for 2020). It is eliminated when AGI reaches $251,160 for 2019 ($254,520 for 2020). We can help ensure that you meet all the requirements to get the full benefit of the tax savings available to adoptive parents.