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

Is an individual service provider an employee or an independent contractor?  As our employee benefits colleagues have noted previously in Covington’s Inside Compensation blog, the IRS test is complicated and just one of many for determining worker status under federal and state laws.  The American Workers, Families, and Employers Assistance Act (the “Bill”), one of a series of COVID-19 relief bills released by Senate Republicans, would address one aspect of worker classification during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Specifically, Section 214 of the Bill would provide that certain COVID-19 related benefits provided to an individual would not be taken into account in determining worker classification under the Code.  Section 214 further provides that such benefits (other than cash payments) would generally be considered qualified disaster relief payments under Code Section 139.
Continue Reading Senate Bill Would Ignore COVID-19 Assistance in Determining Worker Classification; Treat Certain Benefits as Qualified Disaster Relief Payments

On July 27, Senate Republicans released a series of COVID-19 relief bills, including the “American Workers, Families, and Employers Assistance Act” (the “Bill”).  The Bill is a successor to several provisions in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act, passed in March of this year, which attempted to blunt the early effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Section 213 of the Bill would create a new “safe and healthy workplace tax credit,” which would provide a refundable payroll tax credit equal to 50% of an employer’s “qualified employee protection expenses,” such as COVID-19 tests, protective personal equipment, and cleaning supplies.  The new tax credit would also cover “qualified workplace reconfiguration expenses,” including workspace modifications to protect employees and customers from the spread of COVID-19, and “qualified workplace technology expenses,” including technologies designed to reduce contact between employees and customers that were acquired by the employer on or after March 13, 2020, and were not acquired pursuant to a plan in existence before that date.


Continue Reading Senate Republican Proposal Includes Payroll Tax Credit to Defray Employer Expenses for COVID-19 Prevention

As we noted in an earlier post, on July 27, Senate Republicans introduced new legislation in response to the continued COVID-19 pandemic.  One of the introduced bills, titled the American Workers, Families, and Employers Assistance Act (the “Bill”), would enhance the existing employee retention credit.
Continue Reading Senate Republican Proposal Would Enhance Employee Retention Credit

On July 27, 2020, the IRS published Information Release 2020-169 announcing the issuance of new temporary and proposed regulations to implement procedures to assess, reconcile, and recapture any portion of the credits under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”) erroneously credited, paid, or refunded in excess of the actual amount allowed.
Continue Reading Recapture of Excess COVID-19 Payroll Tax Credits Addressed in New Regs

On July 27, Senate Republicans introduced a series of bills intended as their opening salvo in what appears likely to be contentious negotiations among Senate Republicans, the White House, and House and Senate Democrats over the next legislative response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Along with another round of direct stimulus payments to individual taxpayers, extended

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) mandates employers of fewer than 500 employees provide two types of paid leave and includes two employer social security tax credits equal to the amount of paid leave that the employer is required to provide to employees related to the COVID-19 pandemic.  (See earlier coverage.)   Yesterday, in Notice 2020-54, the IRS announced that employers will have to report wages paid for leave mandated under the FFCRA either on Forms W-2 or on a separate statement.  The rules are intended to enable employees who also have self-employment income to properly determine the amount of any Self-Employment Contributions Act (“SECA”) tax credits to which they are entitled under the FFCRA.

Continue Reading Notice 2020-54 Requires Reporting of Qualified Sick Leave Wages and Qualified Family Leave Wages Under FFCRA

The IRS recently released Notice 2020-46, providing favorable tax relief for “leave-based donation programs” designed to aid victims of COVID-19 pandemic.  Under these programs, employees may elect to forgo vacation, sick, or personal leave in exchange for payments that the employer makes to charitable organizations described under section 170(c).  Under this notice, payments employees elect to forgo do not constitute income or wages of the employees for federal income and employment tax purposes if the employer makes the payments, before January 1, 2021, to charitable organizations for the relief of victims of the pandemic.  The IRS will not assert that an opportunity to make this election results in employees’ constructive receipt of the payments.  Accordingly, an employer would not need to include the payments in Box 1, 3 (if applicable), or 5 of the Forms W-2 for employees electing to forgo their vacation, sick, or personal leave.


Continue Reading IRS Provides Guidance on Leave Donation Programs in Response to COVID-19 Pandemic

On Friday, June 19, the IRS updated several FAQs on its website related to the Employee Retention Credit adopted as part of the Coronavirus Relief, Aid, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act.  The updated FAQs provide additional insight into the IRS’s current thinking regarding employer eligibility for and determination of the credit.  Unfortunately, the updated FAQs still leave significant uncertainty regarding the eligibility of some employers, many of whom will be making a determination of their eligibility before filing their Forms 941, Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return, for the second quarter in July.
Continue Reading IRS Updates FAQs on Employee Retention Credit Enacted as Part of CARES Act

Late Wednesday, the IRS released extensive new guidance in the form of frequently asked questions (“FAQs”) on the IRS website addressing various aspects of the employee retention credit.  This is the fourth in a series of articles that will address various aspects of the FAQs.  This article addresses income and deduction issues related to the payment of qualified wages and the employee retention credit.  In our first article, we discussed the IRS’s interpretation of the aggregation rules under section 2301(d) of the CARES Act and the determination of employer eligibility based on a full or partial suspension of operations due to a government order.  Our second article addressed employer eligibility for the credit based on a significant decline in gross receipts, and our third article addressed the calculation of qualified wages and allocable qualified health plan expenses.  Our final article will address issues related to the use of third-party payers.  Before the release of the IRS FAQs, we addressed how employers can claim the employee retention credit and its interaction with the deferral of employer social security tax deposits (see earlier article).

Employers should carefully consider the FAQs, but remain mindful that although they represent the current thinking of the IRS, the FAQs are not binding guidance.


Continue Reading IRS FAQs Address Income and Deduction Issues around Employee Retention Credit