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COVID-19 - “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act” (CARES Act)



Rödl & Partner Tax Matters Vol 2020 – 3, published March, 27, 2020


President Trump has signed the new Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) into law. Major highlights of the Act are discussed below. Details regarding the specifics of each provision are forthcoming. If you have questions, please contact your Rödl & Partner representative.  


Business Provisions

Refundable payroll tax credit


The provision provides a refundable payroll tax credit for 50 percent of wages paid by employers to employees during the COVID-19 crisis. The credit is available to employers whose (1) operations were fully or partially suspended due to a COVID-19-related shut-down order or (2) gross receipts declined by more than 50 percent when compared to the same quarter in the prior year. There are limits to the credit. (expired 12/31/2021).


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. 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 December 31, 2021 and the other half by December 31, 2022 (not applicable after 12/31/2022). 


Modifications for net operating losses


Net operating losses 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 in tax years beginning before January 1, 2021. 


Modification of loss limitation for taxpayers other than corporations


The loss limitation applicable to pass-through businesses and sole proprietors has been modified so that they can utilize excess business losses (expired 12/31/2020).


Modification of credit for prior year minimum tax liability of corporations


Companies can claim a refund now of their remaining AMT credits.


Modification of limitation on business interest


The amount of interest expense businesses are allowed to deduct on their tax returns is increased from 30 percent to 50 percent of taxable income (with adjustments) for 2019 and 2020 (not applicable after 12/31/2020). 


Technical amendment regarding qualified improvement property


Certain businesses can immediately write off costs associated with improving facilities instead of having to depreciate those improvements over the 39-year life of the building. The provision corrects an error in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.


Temporary exception from excise tax for alcohol used to produce hand sanitizer


The federal excise tax on any distilled spirits used for or contained in hand sanitizer that is produced and distributed in a manner consistent with guidance issued by the Food and Drug Administration has been waived for calendar year 2020 (not applicable after 12/31/2020).


Tax Provisions For Individuals

2020 recovery rebates for individuals


All U.S. residents with adjusted gross income up to $75,000 ($150,000 married), who are not a dependent of another taxpayer and who have a work eligible Social Security number, are eligible for the full $1,200 ($2,400 married) rebate. In addition, such individuals are eligible for an additional $500 rebate per child. This is true even for those who have no income, as well as those whose income comes entirely from non-taxable means-tested benefit programs, such as SSI benefits. Generally, no action is required to receive the rebate check. The rebate is completely phased-out for single filers with incomes exceeding $99,000, $146,500 for head of household filers with one child, and $198,000 for joint filers with no children. (Not applicable after 2021).


Special rules for use of retirement funds


This provision waives the 10 percent early withdrawal penalty for distributions up to $100,000 from qualified retirement accounts for coronavirus-related purposes made on or after January 1, 2020. In addition, income attributable to such distributions would be subject to tax over three years, and the taxpayer may recontribute the funds to an eligible retirement plan within three years without regard to that year's cap on contributions. The provision also provides flexibility for loans from certain retirement plans for coronavirus-related relief.


A coronavirus-related distribution is one made to an individual: (1) who is diagnosed with COVID-19, (2) whose spouse or dependent is diagnosed with COVID-19, or (3) who experiences adverse financial consequences as a result of being quarantined, furloughed, laid off, having work hours reduced, being unable to work due to lack of child care due to COVID-19, closing or reducing hours of a business owned or operated by the individual due to COVID-19, or other factors as determined by the Treasury Secretary. (Not applicable after 12/31/2020).


Temporary waiver of required minimum distribution rules for certain retirement plans and accounts


The provision waives the required minimum distribution rules for certain defined contribution plans and IRAs for calendar year 2020. This provision provides relief to individuals who would otherwise be required to withdraw funds from such retirement accounts during the economic slowdown due to COVID-19. (Not applicable after 12/31/2020).


Allowance of partial above the line deduction for charitable contributions


Individuals can deduct up to $300 of cash charitable contributions whether they itemize their deductions or not (expired 12/31/2021).


Modification of charitable contribution limitations during 2020


The provision increases the limitations on deductions for charitable contributions by individuals who itemize, as well as corporations. For individuals, the 50 percent of adjusted gross income limitation is suspended for 2020. For corporations, the 10 percent limitation is increased to 25 percent of taxable income. This provision also increases the limitation on deductions for contributions of food inventory from 15 percent to 25 percent (expired 12/31/2021).


Exclusion for certain employer payments of student loans


Employers can provide a student loan repayment benefit to employees on a tax-free basis. Under the provision, an employer may contribute up to $5,250 annually toward an employee's student loans, and such payment would be excluded from the employee's income. The $5,250 cap applies to both the new student loan repayment benefit as well as other educational assistance (e.g., tuition, fees, books) provided by the employer under current law. The provision applies to any student loan payments made by an employer on behalf of an employee after the date of enactment and before January 1, 2021. (Extended until 12/31/2025).


Unemployment Provisions

Pandemic unemployment assistance


A temporary Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program is created through December 31, 2020 to provide payments to those not traditionally eligible for unemployment benefits (self-employed, independent contractors, those with limited work history, and others) who are unable to work as a direct result of the coronavirus public health emergency. (Not applicable after 9/6/2021).

Emergency increase in unemployment compensation benefits

Provides an additional $600 per week payment to each recipient of unemployment insurance or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance for up to four months. (Not applicable after 9/6/2021).

Temporary full federal funding of the first week of compensable regular unemployment for states with no waiting week

Provides funding to pay the cost of the first week of unemployment benefits through December 31, 2020 for states that choose to pay recipients as soon as they become unemployed instead of waiting one week before the individual is eligible to receive benefits. (Not applicable after 3/14/2021).

Pandemic emergency unemployment compensation

Provides an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits through December 31, 2020 to help those who remain unemployed after weeks of state unemployment benefits are no longer available. (Not applicable after 3/14/2021).

Temporary financing of short-time compensation payments

Provides funding to support "short-time compensation" programs where employers reduce employee hours instead of laying off workers and the employees with reduced hours receive a pro-rated unemployment benefit. This provision would pay 100 percent of the costs the employers incur in providing this short-time compensation through December 31, 2020. It pays 50 percent of the costs that a state incurs in providing short-time compensation through December 31, 2020. (Not applicable after 12/31/2020).


Paycheck Protection Program

The Act provides a Paycheck Protection Loan program for businesses, nonprofit organizations, veteran organizations or Tribal businesses, with 500 or fewer employers. The maximum amount of the loan is the lesser of (1) 2.5 times the company's average total monthly payroll costs incurred during the one-year period prior to the date on which the loan is made, or (2) $10 million.  These funds can only be used for:  payroll costs; costs for the continuation of group health care benefits during periods of paid sick, medical, or family leave; employee salaries, commissions, or similar compensations; interest on mortgage obligations; rent; utilities; and interest on any other debt obligations that were incurred before the covered period.  Repayment of these loans may be deferred for up to one year.


Eligible borrowers may qualify for full or partial forgiveness.  The amount eligible for forgiveness is an amount equal to the costs incurred for payroll, mortgage interest, rent, and utilities during the eight week period following the origination of the loan. The forgiven amount may be reduced by the amount of any reduction in total salary or wages of any employee compared to a pre-COVID-19 period.


The amount of debt forgiven will not be included in a taxpayer's gross income. (Not applicable after 5/31/2021).


There are many other provisions in the CARES Act related to employment and labor laws, educational institutions, health care providers, life sciences and biotech companies, and Native American tribes. Please continue to check our website for updates or contact your Rödl & Partner representative for more information. 



IRS Information on Employee Retention Credit



IRS FAQs on Employee Retention Credit



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Any tax and/or accounting advice contained herein is based on our understanding of the facts, assumptions we have been asked to make, and on the tax laws and/or accounting principles in effect as of the date of this advice. No assurance is given that the conclusions would be the same if the facts or assumptions change, or are not as we understand them, or that the tax laws and/or accounting principles will not change subsequent to the issuance of these conclusions. In addition, we do not undertake any continuing obligation to advise on future changes in the tax laws and/or accounting principles, or of the impact on the conclusions herein.

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Copyright © March 2020 Rödl Langford de Kock LP
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