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] . .
Fourth (and Final?) COVID Relief Measure Clears House and Senate
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.
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Unpleasant Surprise May Await Employers That Deferred Employee Social Security Tax
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.) …
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IRS Provides Guidance on Preparation of Forms W-2 for Employees with Deferred Social Security Tax Withholding
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.
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IRS Issues Notice 2020-65 Providing Guidance on Employee Social Security Tax Deferral
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).
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Mnuchin Confirms Trump Payroll Tax Deferral is not Mandatory
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…
Trump Executive Action to Defer Employee Share of Social Security Taxes Raises Significant Legal Questions for Employers
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.
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