Legislative Tax Relief for Employers and Their Employees Affected by the Coronavirus Pandemic

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March 22, 2020
Robert Jackson and Meredith Murphy
SmithAmundsen Tax Alert
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On March 18, the president signed into law H.R. 6201. Division G of the law provides tax credits for businesses that compensate their employees for time off due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The purpose of the law is to help employees.

A tax credit is more valuable than a tax deduction. For example, a $10 credit reduces tax by $10. But the value of a $10 deduction depends on the taxpayer’s tax rate. If that is 36%, the value of the deduction is $3.60.

ADMINISTRATIVE EXPLANATION OF THE NEW LAW 

On March 20, 2020, the Treasury Department, IRS and Department of Labor issued Release 2020-57 which provides guidance on how small and midsize employers can begin taking advantage of two new refundable payroll tax credits, designed to immediately and fully reimburse them, dollar-for-dollar, for the cost of providing Coronavirus-related leave to their employees, under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (Act).

The Release highlights that under the Act businesses with fewer than 500 employees can obtain necessary funds to provide employees with paid leave, either for the employee’s own health needs or to care for family members. The Act will enable employers to keep their workers on their payrolls, while at the same time ensuring that workers are not forced to choose between their paychecks and the public health measures needed to combat the virus.

Key Takeaways from Release 2020-57

Immediate advantage of paid leave credits

Businesses can retain and access funds that they would otherwise pay to the IRS in payroll taxes. If those amounts are not sufficient to cover the cost of paid leave, employers can seek an expedited advance from the IRS by submitting a streamlined claim form that will be released next week.

Examples

The Release gives the following two examples for employers:

State taxes

These changes have been made only on the federal level. Although states are working to make changes to their own laws, most states have not adopted comprehensive changes.