Without notice or fanfare, the New York Department of Taxation updated guidance on its website to address the application of its “convenience of the employer” rule to COVID-19 telecommuters.  The question of whether New York would consider employees who are working remotely due to the pandemic as doing so for “convenience” or “necessity,” has been vexing employers and employees since April.  New York’s latest update, which is disappointing but not surprising, has come down on the side of convenience.  As a result, an employee whose principal office is in New York State but who is working outside of the state during the pandemic will generally remain subject to New York State income tax, and the employer should generally continue to withhold New York State tax from the employee’s compensation.
Continue Reading Bad News for New York Nonresident Telecommuters: New York Issues COVID-19 Telecommuting Guidance

On Monday, October 19, the State of New Hampshire filed a bill of complaint in the Supreme Court of the United States asserting that its southern neighbor, Massachusetts, is violating its state sovereignty.  The suit attacks Massachusetts’s emergency regulations governing the taxation of income during the COVID-19 state of emergency. Massachusetts enacted a rule pursuant to which income earned by a nonresident of Massachusetts who worked in Massachusetts prior to the pandemic but who is working from home outside of the state remains Massachusetts-source income subject to Massachusetts income tax.  Accordingly, employers would be required to continue to withhold Massachusetts income tax on wages paid to those individuals even though the individuals are no longer working in Massachusetts.  Although the Massachusetts guidance is among the most sophisticated and detailed withholding guidance issued by the states during the pandemic, it is not alone in taking this approach.  Rhode Island issued regulations substantially similar to Massachusetts, and the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue has issued similar guidance in the form of FAQs posted on its website.  Other states have hinted at taking a similar approach, but the guidance is often vague and left open to interpretation.
Continue Reading New Hampshire Brings COVID-19 Tax Dispute to Supreme Court; Case Highlights Challenges Facing Employers and Employees

On October 13, the Social Security Administration announced that the Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (“OASDI”) wage base will increase to $142,800 for 2021.  The 3.7% increase follows a 3.6% increase in the wage base for 2020 and a 3.5% increase for 2019.  Wages in excess of the wage base paid by an employer

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

Late Friday, the IRS released Notice 2020-65 providing guidance to employers regarding the implementation of President Trump’s presidential memorandum issued on August 8, 2020.  The memorandum directed the Secretary of the Treasury to defer the withholding, deposit, and payment of employee Social Security taxes for the period from September 1 to December 31, 2020 (see earlier coverage of the presidential memorandum).  Shortly after the memorandum was released, Secretary Mnuchin confirmed that the deferral is voluntary and that employers may continue to withhold and deposit employee Social Security taxes in accordance with their normal schedule (see earlier coverage of Sec. Mnuchin’s confirmation that deferral is voluntary).
Continue Reading IRS Issues Notice 2020-65 Providing Guidance on Employee Social Security Tax Deferral

The IRS recently announced that it erroneously sent failure-to-deposit (“FTD”) penalty notices to certain employers that reduced their employment tax deposits on Form 941 (Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return) in anticipation of claiming sick and family leave credits under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) or the employee retention credit (“ERC”) under the Coronavirus, Aid, Relief and Economic Securities (“CARES”) Act.
Continue Reading IRS Warns Employers Claiming New Tax Credits of Erroneous Penalty Notices

On August 19, 2020, the IRS urged employers to exercise caution in selecting their payroll service providers (“PSPs”) following ongoing concerns that some disreputable PSPs may fail to deposit employment taxes, leaving businesses vulnerable to unpaid payroll taxes as well as penalties.
Continue Reading IRS Warns Employers to Choose Carefully When Selecting a Payroll Service Provider

On July 30, 2020, the IRS released guidance in the form of new frequently asked questions (“FAQs”)  addressing the deferral of the employer portion of Social Security taxes under section 2302 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act.  These FAQs are broad in nature, providing guidance on various considerations relevant to section 2302 of the CARES Act, including application of these rules to first calendar quarter deposits, coordination with the next-day deposit rule, and considerations for employers that use third parties to report and deposit employment taxes with the Treasury.  Covington continues to review this guidance, and has summarized in this blog post some of the provisions we consider most relevant to employers.

When reviewing this latest guidance from the IRS, employers should be mindful that although they represent the current thinking of the IRS regarding section 2302, these FAQs are  non-binding; the IRS is under no obligation to comply with these FAQs and could therefore take a different approach at any time.  As we have noted previously, the IRS has changed course with respect to FAQs issued in connection with other provisions in the CARES Act, such as the employee retention credit.
Continue Reading IRS Releases Additional FAQs on Deferral of Employment Tax Deposits Under Section 2302 of the CARES Act

Secretary Mnuchin acknowledged in an interview today that the employee Social Security tax deferral envisioned in President Trump’s Presidential Memorandum will not be mandatory.  The memorandum instructs the Treasury Department to issue guidance under Section 7508A permitting employers to suspend the withholding, depositing, and payment of the employee’s share of social security taxes (and the

On Saturday, August 8, President Trump signed a Presidential Memorandum directing the Secretary of the Treasury to “use his authority pursuant to [Code section] 7508A to defer the withholding, deposit, and payment of the tax imposed by [Code section] 3101(a) . . . on wages . . . paid during the period of September 1, 2020, through December 31, 2020,” subject to certain conditions.  (The memo as originally posted on the White House website would have applied retroactively to wages paid August 1, 2020, but was subsequently updated.)  Two conditions are enumerated in the memorandum.  First, the deferral applies only with respect to any employee the amount of whose wages payable “during any bi-weekly pay period generally is less than $4,000, calculated on a pre-tax basis, or the equivalent amount with respect to other pay periods.”  Second, the amounts deferred shall be deferred without any penalties, interest, additional amount, or addition to the tax.
Continue Reading Trump Executive Action to Defer Employee Share of Social Security Taxes Raises Significant Legal Questions for Employers