Almost a year after the employee retention credit was adopted as part of the Coronavirus, Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”), and nearly a month after the final Form 941, Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return, claiming the credit for 2020 was due, the IRS issued Notice 2021-20 (the “Notice”).  This is the first of three articles looking at the evolution of IRS guidance on the employee retention credit.  This article focuses on Congress’s intention in enacting the employee retention credit and the guidance the IRS provided in the frequently asked questions (“FAQs”) it issued in April 2020.  The second article focuses on the first signs of trouble for employers that appeared when the IRS updated the FAQs in June 2020.  The final article focuses on how Notice 2021-20 builds on those FAQs to narrow the scope of the credit and limit its availability.
Continue Reading A Look at IRS Guidance on the Employee Retention Credit: Part I—Broad and Pragmatic Interpretations in the Pandemic’s Early Days

Recently released IRS Notice 2021-11, implements the extension of the period for collecting from employees and depositing employee Social Security tax that was deferred in the last four months of 2020.  IRS Notice 2020-65 (see earlier coverage) had specified that the employer “must withhold and pay the total [deferred 2020 taxes] . .

On January 4, 2021, the Internal Revenue Service issued Notice 2021-7 pertaining to the valuation of the personal use of employer-provided vehicles.  The Notice permits employers who rely on the special valuation rule of Treasury Regulation § 1.61-21(d), known as the Automobile Lease Valuation (ALV) method, to retroactively apply the vehicle cents-per-mile method of Treasury Regulation § 1.61-21(e) for purposes of valuing an employee’s personal use of a company vehicle in 2020.  Due to decreased business use of employer-provided vehicles during the COVID-19 pandemic, the IRS agreed with employers that the application of the ALV method may have resulted in higher income imputation than usual for many employees and that the use of the vehicle cents-per-mile method may provide a “more accurate reflection of the employee’s income . . [,]” particularly in 2020.  The ability to switch from the ALV method to the vehicle cents-per-mile method for 2020 applies only to a vehicle with a fair market value not exceeding $50,400 in 2020 and with respect to which the employer would reasonably have expected its regular use in the employer’s trade or business, were it not for the pandemic.

In addition, Notice 2021-7 provides employers, who switch from the ALV method to the vehicle cents-per-mile method for purposes of calculating personal use of the vehicle in 2020, with the option of continuing to apply the vehicle cents-per-mile method in 2021.  If the employer decides to continue using the vehicle cents-per-mile method in 2021, that method must be used by the employer and employee for all subsequent years, except to the extent the commuting valuation rule applies.  This decision will require employers to carefully evaluate whether the vehicle will continue to meet all of the requirements of Treasury Regulation § 1.61-21(e), other than the consistency requirement, and whether the value of the employee’s personal use of the vehicle will actually be calculated more favorably under the vehicle cents-per-mile method as compared to the ALV method, once the pandemic recedes in 2021 and vehicle use increases.
Continue Reading Notice 2021-7 Provides Employers Relief and Potential Opportunities on Valuation of Employer-Provided Vehicles in Light of COVID-19 Pandemic

After months of gridlock, the House and Senate, on December 21, both passed another round of COVID relief legislation (H.R. 133).  The 5,593-page bill, which gained momentum following the introduction of bipartisan compromise legislation, provides an enhanced employee retention credit (“ERC”), which is easier for employers to qualify during the first six months of 2021, as compared to the ERC enacted as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act.

The bill also includes extensions to a number of workforce-related tax credits, including the work opportunity tax credit (“WOTC”), the paid family and medical leave tax credit included in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act as a two-year pilot program, and the paid leave credits enacted as part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”).  The bill would also extend the period during which employers may make student loan payments or reimbursements under an Internal Revenue Code Section 127 educational assistance plan, permit employers to provide additional flexibility under flexible spending accounts, and provide employers with a longer period in which to collect employee Social Security tax which was deferred during 2020 under IRS Notice 2020-65.

The bill would also add an employer income tax credit for qualified wages paid to employees in qualified disaster areas in 2020 for disasters other than COVID-19.  Finally, the bill addresses the deductibility of expenses paid with forgiven PPP loans.
Continue Reading Fourth (and Final?) COVID Relief Measure Clears House and Senate

For employers who decided to defer the employee share of Social Security taxes on wages paid from September 1 to December 31, 2020, pursuant to President Trump’s August 8 presidential memorandum, the employer’s obligation to collect those deferred amounts from employees’ paychecks is fast approaching.  Included among our previous posts discussing the deferral, which was voluntary, is a discussion of IRS Notice 2020-65.  The notice specifies that the employer “must withhold and pay the total [deferred 2020 taxes] . . . ratably from wages . . . paid between January 1, 2021, and April 30, 2021” and further warns that “if necessary, the [employer] may make arrangements to otherwise collect the total [deferred taxes] from the employee.”  (See earlier coverage.)
Continue Reading Unpleasant Surprise May Await Employers That Deferred Employee Social Security Tax

As previewed by the recent final Form W-4 regulations published in October (see earlier coverage), the IRS released a draft of Publication 15-T (Federal Income Tax Withholding Methods) on November 17.  The publication provides a new computational method for employers who must continue to rely on pre-2020 Forms W-4 to determine the amount of

On November 16, the IRS added two new FAQs to its website that address an issue that has been concerning employers since the CARES Act was adopted.  For purposes of the employee retention credit (“ERC”), Section 2301(d) of the CARES Act includes an aggregation rule that treats all employers required to be aggregated under section 52 of the Code or certain provisions of section 414 of the Code to be treated as a single employer.  (See earlier coverage of the aggregation rule.)  Because the CARES Act also prohibits any employer who receives a Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) loan (regardless of whether the loan is forgiven) from claiming the ERC.

Based on the statutory language, practitioners have been concerned that if an employer acquires another employer that previously received a PPP loan, the acquirer’s entire aggregated group may no longer be eligible to claim the ERC.  More troubling, Section 2301(l)(3) of the CARES Act instructs the Treasury to promulgate regulations for the recapture of the ERC claimed by an employer that subsequently obtains a PPP loan.  This caused concerned that the acquirer could not only lose the ability to claim the ERC prospectively after the acquisition, but could be required to repay any amount or ERC previously claimed.  Although the new FAQs are not binding on the IRS, they prove welcome news.
Continue Reading IRS FAQs Provide Welcome Guidance on Employee Retention Credit and PPP Loans in M&A Transactions

On October 6, the IRS published final 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 based on the employee’s Form W-4 (Employee’s Withholding Certificate).  These final regulations were issued only 8 months after the proposed regulations were published (see earlier coverage), which is considered warp-speed in IRS time. The Preamble to the final regulations provide a new method for employers who must continue to rely on pre-2020 Forms W-4 to determine the amount of federal income tax to withhold from employee’s wages.
Continue Reading Preamble to Final Regulations on the Mechanics of Income Tax Withholding Provide Transition Method for Pre-2020 Forms W-4

On Friday, October 30, the IRS provided guidance regarding the proper reporting on Form W-2 for employers who deferred the withholding of the employee share of Social Security tax under Notice 2020-65. (See earlier coverage.)  Based on the IRS guidance, employers should report FICA wages up to the OASDI (Social Security) wage base in Box 3 of the 2020 Form W-2.  Only the amount of Social Security tax actually withheld during 2020 should be reported in Box 4 of the form.

In 2021, if the employer withholds the 2020 deferred Social Security taxes, the employer must file a Form W-2c for 2020 reporting the additional withholding in Box 4.  Although the IRS guidance does not address this, if the employer pays in 2021 the employee’s share of Social Security taxes that were deferred in 2020, the employer must still file a Form W-2c reporting the amount as withheld Social Security taxes in Box 4.  Moreover, the employer would also be required to include the amount of taxes paid by the employer on the employee’s behalf as additional wages in Boxes 1, 3 (up to the OASDI wage base), and 5 on the employee’s 2021 Form W-2.  Because the employer’s payment of the employee’s deferred tax constitutes additional wages to the employee in 2021, these amounts will need to be grossed up to account for employment taxes on the amount of the employee’s tax paid by the employer if those taxes are not withheld from the employee’s other 2021 wages.
Continue Reading IRS Provides Guidance on Preparation of Forms W-2 for Employees with Deferred Social Security Tax Withholding

The IRS recently published new guidance on the tax withholding and reporting consequences associated with qualified retirement plan distributions to state unclaimed property funds.  In Revenue Ruling 2020-24, the IRS clarified that distributions from qualified retirement plans to state unclaimed property funds are subject to both federal income tax withholding and 1099-R reporting requirements.  In a companion revenue procedure, Rev. Proc. 2020-46, the IRS permitted taxpayers to self-certify for a waiver of the 60-day deadline for rolling over funds between qualified plans when the funds had been distributed to a state unclaimed property fund.

Continue Reading IRS Updates Guidance on Qualified Plan Distributions to State Unclaimed Property Funds