The CARES Act, effective March 27, 2020, provides significant benefits for qualifying businesses suffering financial difficulties due to the economic impact of the current health crisis.
Paycheck Protection Program Loans – These loans are available through the Small Business Administration (SBA) to small businesses, nonprofit businesses and those who are self-employed. The funds obtained through this loan program can only be used for certain business expenses including payroll costs, rent, utilities and mortgage payments. If the loan funds are actually used for any of these specific purposes within the 8-week period after the money is received, then the loan amount can be forgiven. Any amounts not used for the specific purposes must be repaid over a 2 year period at a 0.5% interest rate. There is no requirement for a personal guarantee of the business owner, or to provide a certain amount of collateral, in order to obtain a Paycheck Protection Program loan. The amount of the loan forgiven is determined by the number of employees who are retained by the business during the loan period. The business will not incur any cancellation of indebtedness income from the forgiven loan amount.
Employee Retention Tax Credits – These credits consist of refundable payroll tax credits in the amount of 50% of qualified wages paid between March 13, 2020 and December 31, 2020. To qualify for the tax credits an employer must (1) have had their operations suspended either fully or partially due to the current public health crisis, or (2) the gross receipts of the employer must have declined by 50% or more from the same period during 2019. This tax credit is not available if the employer has received a Paycheck Protection Program Loan. The amount of the credit is limited to $10,000 per employee including health insurance plan costs for the employee.
Net Operating Loss Carrybacks. Net operating losses of a business incurred during the years 2018, 2019 and 2020 may now be carried back 5 years. This may allow businesses with net operating losses to amend previous tax returns and generate immediate tax refunds. Net operating losses may now offset 100% of taxable income rather than only a portion of taxable income.
Employer Payroll Tax Payments. Between March 27, 2020 and December 31, 2020, payment of the employer’s portion of the Social Security taxes for employees can be deferred for a period of two years. 50% of the deferred payment amount is due on December 31, 2021 and the other 50% is due on December 31, 2022. This payroll tax credit is also available for self-employed individuals.
Property Improvement Deductions. Amounts spent by a business to improve qualified property may be deducted immediately instead of depreciating the amount over the life of the property.
Excess Loss Limitations. Limits on the amount of excess losses that can be deducted by pass-through tax entities and the self-employed that were enacted as part of the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act do not apply for tax years ending on or before December 31, 2020. This change provides a business with the ability to amend previously filed income tax returns and possibly generate immediate cash refunds. Tax returns for 2019 can also be prepared without accounting for excess loss limitations.