Recently released IRS Notice 2021-20 (the “Notice”) provides guidance on the interaction between the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) and the employee retention credit.  Unfortunately, the Notice may limit the ability of many PPP borrowers to claim an employee retention credit that employers may have believed they would be entitled to claim.
Continue Reading Notice 2021-20 Limits Employee Retention Credit For Many PPP Borrowers

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

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

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

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 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

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