Photo of Sarah Friedman

Sarah Friedman helps clients navigate the complex regulatory requirements of ERISA, the Internal Revenue Code, and other applicable federal and state or local laws. Her practice covers all aspects of tax-qualified retirement plans, health and welfare plans, and executive compensation.

On March 10, 2021, the House passed the fifth major COVID-relief legislation, the American Rescue Plan Act (the “Act”), which it originally passed last week before its amendment and passage by the Senate on March 6.  President Biden is expected to sign the Act on Friday, March 12, 2021.

The Act adopts a new payroll tax credit that is similar to the employee retention credit, which was originally enacted as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the “CARES Act”) and amended by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (the “CAA”).  The new credit will be in effect from July 1, 2021, through December 31, 2021.  In addition, the Act significantly increases the exclusion for employer-provided dependent care assistance for 2021, and makes prospective changes to extend the availability of paid leave credits similar to those originally adopted as part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (the “FFCRA”) and that are set to expire on March 31.  Finally, the Act will extend the deduction limitation under section 162(m) to additional employees.
Continue Reading American Rescue Plan Act Goes to Biden for Signature: Includes Changes to Employee Retention Tax Credit, Employer-Provided Dependent Care, Paid Leave Credits, and Deduction Limitations for Executive Compensation

Soon, many District of Columbia employers will be subject to a new “parking cash-out” law designed to promote environmentally friendly commuting options, i.e., other than individual commutes by automobile.  At a high-level, parking cash-out laws generally require employers that provide free or subsidized parking to offer to pay employees cash in lieu of the subsidized parking if the employee uses another commuting method. Failure to satisfy the act’s requirements may result in the imposition of civil fines and penalties.

The Transportation Benefits Equity Amendment Act of 2020 (the “Act”) became effective June 24, 2020, but originally contained a funding provision that delayed its operational effect.  Similar legislation has been in place in some areas for over 20 years.  The D.C. Council has since repealed the funding provision, and we expect the Act’s requirements to take effect in mid-November 2020.  The timing of the Act’s adoption has raised some eyebrows, as many employers and employees are seeking ways for employees to commute that avoids crowded public transportation in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

As this post discusses, the Act’s requirements pose difficult compliance questions for employers.  Guidance would be welcome in helping employers implement the Act, and will hopefully be forthcoming soon.  Employers are encouraged to consult with tax and benefits counsel as they evaluate their fringe benefit programs for compliance with the Act.
Continue Reading New D.C. Transportation Benefits Law Creates Potentially Bumpy Road for Employer Compliance

The Treasury and IRS have published final regulations governing federal income tax withholding from periodic payments of deferred income made after December 31, 2020. The new regulations follow changes made by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA) to the default withholding rate rules. Payors and plan administrators who hoped that the IRS would set out predictable and uniform standards will be disappointed: while the regulations remove the pre-TCJA default withholding rate, they do not replace it with a new default rate. Instead, the Commissioner of the IRS will be responsible for providing sub-regulatory guidance to determine the default rate. At least for calendar year 2021 distributions, however, there appears to be no need for payors and plan administrators to worry about the transition to a new default-rate-determination method.
Continue Reading IRS Final Regulations on Default Withholding Rates for Periodic Deferred Income Distributions: No Changes for 2021, but Future Rates Not Clarified

UPDATE: We have provided an updated analysis of the issues surrounding the availability of Section 139.  Our original post is below.

On March 13, 2020, the President declared the COVID-19 pandemic to be an emergency under Section 501(b) of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (the “Stafford Act”).  The decision to declare an emergency is addressed in a letter from the President to Administration officials in which he explained that his decision to issue an emergency declaration was “based on the fact that our entire country is now facing a significant public health emergency.”
Continue Reading COVID-19 Emergency Declaration: Code Section 139 Uncertain; Leave-Sharing Policies Permitted

Today, the IRS published proposed regulations addressing changes made by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (the “TCJA”) to how an employee instructs an employer to withhold income taxes on his or her Form W-4 (Employee’s Withholding Certificate). The Form W-4 was redesigned for 2020 to reflect the TCJA changes to how income tax withholding from wages must be calculated.

The proposed regulations update existing regulations under section 3402 to reflect TCJA’s shift from relying on “withholding exemptions” to determine an employee’s income tax withholdings to the more complicated “withholding allowance” methodology that is putatively designed to neutralize the impact of other changes, such as the elimination of certain Schedule A adjustments to gross income for employees. Before settling on a final Form W-4 implementing these changes, the IRS received feedback on multiple draft form revisions that criticized the form as being complex and confusing. In addition, concerns were raised about the amount of personal information regarding an employee’s other jobs and earnings required to complete early drafts of the form. The 2020 Form W-4 addressed some of these criticisms, but still remains more complicated than the earlier form. Time will tell whether employees are able to easily adapt to the new form, or if errors in completing the form could result in employee underwithholding.

Select portions of the proposed regulations are discussed below. We will continue to update our readers on significant developments as the regulations are finalized. We discuss other effects of the TCJA elsewhere on our blog.
Continue Reading IRS Releases Proposed Regulations on the Mechanics of Income Tax Withholding

The IRS recently released Notice 2020-3, which provides interim guidance on default federal income tax withholding rates applicable to certain periodic payments of deferred income.  The Notice also provides clarity as to how the IRS will accommodate a change that affects the form used to elect federal income tax withholding from wages, but not the form used to make those elections for deferred income distributions.
Continue Reading IRS Issues Interim Guidance on Income Tax Withholding from Deferred Income Distributions