Making Sense of All the Employer Tax Credits for 2020

The IRS is attempting to provide as much information on the various tax credits available to employers during the COVID-19 pandemic.  In its latest bid to streamline the information, the IRS has issued Publication 5419, New Employer Tax Credits.  The flowchart style publication can be found on the IRS website.  The chart breaks the tax credits into two sections.  The first section is on the Employee Retention Credit portion.  It explains the purpose of the credit…to encourage employers to keep employees on their payroll…the amount of the credit…50%…and who is eligible for the credit…all employers regardless of size, but not governments or businesses who received a PPP loan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Page 2 of the chart outlines the leave credits for paid sick leave and paid family leave.  This applies to employers with 500 or less employees.

For more info or details on these credits see the IRS website.

Opining on Regular Rate of Pay

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has issued three new opinion letters that address compliance issues related to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  As a reminder to my readers, an opinion letter is an official, written opinion by the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) on how a particular law applies in specific circumstances presented by the employer that requested the letter.  The current group of letters issued include:

 

FLSA2020-3: Addresses excludability of longevity payments from the regular rate of pay. This opinion rules that longevity payments made to employees that clearly “must or shall” be paid cannot be excluded and must be used to calculate the regular rate of pay.  However, if the longevity payment is worded as that it may or may not be awarded, up to the discretion of the employer, then it would not need to be included in the calculation for regular rate of pay.

FLSA2020-4: Addresses excludability of referral bonuses from the regular rate of pay. The employer is offering a referral bonus to employees not involved in recruiting or human resources and would be issued in two parts, one immediately and one if the employee is still employed after a year and so is the employee who was referred.  The opinion states that the first portion of the bonus would not be included in the regular rate of pay calculations as it is not remuneration for employment as it is a voluntary program.  However, the second installment of the bonus would be included as it would be considered the same as a longevity bonus. If the employee received the bonus whether they were still employed or not, it would not be includable.

FLSA2020-5: Addresses excludability of an employer’s contributions to a group-term life insurance policy from the regular rate of pay.  In essence, the opinion states that just because a wage paid is subject to federal taxes under the Internal Revenue Code, does not make the same payment includable in the regular rate of pay.

For more information on opinion letters, see the WHD website.

Last Chance to Register for Form 941:COVID-19 Edition Webinar

Today is the last day to register for our upcoming webinar, Form 941: CCOVID-19 Edition being held tomorrow. The passage of the Families First and Cares Acts have caused massive changes to IRS Form 941 that affect the final three quarters in 2020! 16 new lines now appear on this form along with changes to two others! Are you ready to meet these changes and handle them correctly? Join me tomorrow,  Thurs., May 28th at 10 am Pacific as I examine the Form 941–COVID-19 edition in depth. Use coupon code cjyfrqa6 at checkout for a 10% discount.

The webinar will cover:

  • What’s New for Q2-Q4 2020
  • Families First Act: Credits for Paid Sick Leave and Paid Family Leave
  • CARES Act: including deferring Employer’s Social Security
  • IRS Form 7200: Purpose for the form and how it applies to you
  • Line by line review of the massive changes of the New Revised Form 941

Submitted to the APA for approval for 1.5 RCHs

Child Support Payments & EFT

The Office of Child Support Enforcement published a guide for employers to begin sending child support payments electronically. According to the guide:

All states and territories accept child support payments at their State Disbursement Unit (SDU) by Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT)/Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), the primary method of sending payments electronically. The EDI portion of the transmission includes identifying information so the payment can be properly credited to the payor’s case(s). SDUs centralize the collection and disbursement of all child support payments withheld by employers as well as other types of payments. Using EFT/EDI is well worth the initial effort. Employers that switch from sending paper checks to electronic payments will enjoy lower costs, fewer errors, and faster processing.

Sending child support payments electronically will save an employer time and money

  • Eliminates the cost of printing paper checks and supporting documents
  • Eliminates the cost of postage and delays due to lost or misdirected mail
  • Reduces check handling and processing costs
  • Reduces data entry errors
  • Gets child support payments to custodial parents faster

Getting Started with EFT/EDI

There are several ways to send a child support payment electronically:

  • By using your own payroll software to send Automated Clearing House (ACH) credit payments (similar to direct deposit) through the Federal Reserve’s banking system with EFT/EDI, using the standard child support addendum segment
  • Through a state’s web-based payment service—contact the state child support agency where you send payments for details
  • By using a payroll service provider that is already sending child support payments electronically
  • By using your bank’s online bill-paying serviceThree Steps to Implement

Step 1: Determine whether your payroll/accounting system supports electronic payments for child support.  If it does not, you may want to explore these options:

  • In-house information technology staff may be able to make programming changes so that you can produce electronic payments for child support, including the EDI DED (Deduction) child support addendum record that child support agencies need to identify the payments.
  • Your payroll/accounting software developer may have an enhancement that supports electronic payments for child support. Contact your user’s group or software representative.
  • Your bank may have a software package that will enable you to produce the file formats necessary for electronic payments. Contact your bank and ask for someone in Cash Management, Treasury Management, or Treasury Services.

Step 2: Contact the appropriate child support agency’s SDU.

  • This is not always the child support agency or SDU where you are located. It is the agency or SDU in the state that issued the underlying child support order or where you currently send funds.
  • Find out the EFT/EDI start-up procedures for the child support agency where you send funds. Do not attempt to transmit child support payments electronically without this information.

Step 3: Conduct the EFT/EDI start-up procedures for each of the child support agencies you contacted in Step 2.  These procedures will typically include:

  • An exchange of basic banking information (routing codes, account numbers), Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN), and locator code information with the child support agency.
  • A reconciliation between child support agency records and employer records of names, Social Security numbers, and case identification numbers so that each employee’s withholdings are properly credited.
  • A transmission of an initial test file, or pre-note, to ensure that the ACH records are formatted and transmitted properly.

Where to go for more information

There are standard record specifications for child support payments.  NACHA (National Automated Clearing House Association) publishes the User Guide for Electronic Child Support Payments (PDF)visit disclaimer page to provide SDUs, employers, and their financial institutions with current formats, definitions, and implementation recommendations to remit child support payments and payment information electronically through the ACH network using current conventions and standards.

 

Avoiding Common Errors When Filing Form 7200

In news for tax professionals and small businesses, the IRS has advised those who are beginning to deal with Form 7200, Advance Payment of Employer Credits Due to COVID-19 to do so carefully to avoid making error when completing the new form.  Mistakes in completing the form can lead to processing delays, which in turn delays the IRS approving the credits.

Background: The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security or CARES Act both provide refundable tax credits for the employer.  FFCRA requires employers (of a certain size) to provide paid sick leave or paid family leave.  To offset the cost of this leave, the employer is permitted to take refundable tax credits against employment taxes.  The CARES Act permits the employer to take a “employee retention credit” equal to 50% of “qualified wages”.  This is also offset against employment taxes. However, it is possible for these credits to exceed the employer’s actual tax deposits.  In this case, the employer is permitted to receive the excess paid leave credits or the employee retention credit in advance by using Form 7200.

 

However, the IRS has noted some common errors or mistakes in filling out the form, slowing the process.  The errors to avoid include:

  • Missing or inaccurate Employer Identification Number (EIN). Each EIN on a tax return should be exact.
  • Checking more than one box for applicable calendar quarter. Only one box should be checked for the correct quarter.
  • Check more than one box for Part 1, Line A. Likewise, only one box should be checked in Part 1, Line A.
  • Skipping Part 1, Line B. Complete Part 1, Line B. In Part 1, Line B check either “Yes” or “No”.
  • Not fully completing Part II. Complete all the lines in Part II. This identifies which credits are being claimed.
  • Not completing Part II, Lines 1-8. Part II should be completed using dollar amounts, not the number of eligible employees. All lines in Part II should be completed with an actual dollar amount.
  • Inputting the number of eligible employees on lines in Part 2, instead of dollar amounts.
  • Not checking the math on lines 4, 7 and 8 (i.e., subtracting instead of adding or vice versa)
  • Not signing the form (automatic rejection)
  • Wrong individual signing the form
    • Sole proprietorship—The individual who owns the business.
    • Corporation (including a limited liability company (LLC) treated as a corporation)—The president, vice president, or other principal officer duly authorized to sign.
    • Partnership (including an LLC treated as a partnership) or unincorporated organization—A responsible and duly authorized partner, member, or officer having knowledge of its affairs.
    • Single-member LLC treated as a disregarded entity for federal income tax purposes—The owner of the LLC or a principal officer duly authorized to sign.
    • Trust or estate—The fiduciary.

Also, Form 7200 may be signed by a duly authorized agent of the Eligible Employer if a valid Form 2848 (Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative) has been filed.

For more information about Form 7200 and its use can be found on IRS.gov: About Form 7200, Advance Payment of Employer Credits Due to COVID-19.

WHD Issues Final Rule on Qualifying as a “Retail or Service” Establishment

On May 18, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) announced a final rule to provide one analysis for all employers when determining whether they qualify as “retail or service” establishments for purposes of an exemption from overtime pay applicable to commission-based employees.

Section 7(i) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) provides an exemption from the FLSA’s overtime pay requirement for certain employees of retail or service establishments paid primarily on a commission basis. Today’s rule withdraws two provisions from WHD’s regulations. The first withdrawn provision listed industries that WHD viewed as having “no retail concept” and thus were categorically ineligible to claim the section 7(i) exemption. The second withdrawn provision listed industries that, in WHD’s view, “may be recognized as retail” and thus were potentially eligible for the exemption. As the rule explains, some courts have questioned whether these lists lack any rational basis.

As a result of the withdrawal of these two lists, establishments in industries that had been on the non-retail list may now assert that they have a retail concept, and if they meet the existing definition of retail and other criteria, may qualify to use the exemption. These other criteria include paying a regular rate at least one and a half times the minimum wage and providing commissions that comprise more than half the employee’s compensation for a representative period. Some establishments on the withdrawn non-retail list may have been deterred from availing themselves of the exemption and its compensation flexibilities. If establishments on the withdrawn non-retail list now qualify for the exemption, they have added flexibility regarding commission-based pay arrangements with their workers. For these employers and workers, they could consider whether, for instance, more commission-based pay is sensible.

Establishments in industries that had been on the “may be” retail list may continue to assert that they have a retail concept. Moving forward, WHD will apply the same analysis to all establishments to determine whether they have a retail concept and qualify as retail or service establishments, promoting greater clarity for employers and workers alike.

WHD is issuing this rule without notice and comment, and it will take effect immediately. Notice and comment and delaying the effective date are not required because both lists being withdrawn were part of WHD’s interpretive regulations and were originally issued in 1961 without notice and comment or a delay.

 

 

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FAQs Keeping Pace With COVID-19 Questions

As questions pour into the Department of Labor and the Internal Revenue Service from employers on the Families First Act and the CARES Act, both agencies are updating their respective FAQs.  Here are the latest updates:

 

Department of Labor:

DOL has added four FAQs, #90-#93, concerning paid family leave or paid leave. These are:

  • FAQ #90 explains whether paid leave requirements under FFCRA apply to temporary workers. A temporary service with over 500 employees is not required to provide leave to its employees. However, the business with fewer than 500 employees where the temporary worker is placed may be required to if it is a joint employer.
  • FAQ #91 addresses whether an employee who has been teleworking is entitled to paid sick or family leave for a school closure when schools have been closed for the past four weeks during the teleworking period. The DOL explains the fact the teleworking employee did not request paid leave during the teleworking period does not exclude the employee from taking such leave.
  • FAQ #92 describes what kind of documentation an employer is permitted to require from an employee who is seeking a medical diagnosis related to COVID-19 symptoms. The DOL explains an employer may require the employee to identify their symptoms and provide a date for a test or doctor’s appointment. However, no further documentation or certification is required. FMLA related leave requests are subject to FMLA documentation requirements.
  • FAQ #93 clarifies that workers who have taken paid sick and paid family leave due to a school closure may not continue to take paid family leave when the school year ends for summer vacation. However, the employee can take paid family leave on the basis that the child’s childcare provider or summer camp is closed or unavailable during the summer due to COVID-19.

Internal Revenue Service:

  • The Internal Revenue Service updated FAQs #64 and #65 regarding the COVID-19 Employee Retention Credit for how eligible employers treat health care expenses.
  • Notice 2020-29 provides for increased flexibility with respect to mid-year elections made under a § 125 cafeteria plan during calendar year 2020 related to employer-sponsored health coverage, health Flexible Spending Arrangements (health FSAs), and dependent care assistance programs. The notice also provides increased flexibility with respect to grace periods to apply unused amounts in health FSAs to medical care expenses incurred through December 31, 2020, and unused amounts in dependent care assistance programs to dependent care expenses incurred through December 31, 2020.
  • Notice 2020-33 increases the $500 limit for unused amounts remaining in a health flexible spending arrangement (health FSA) that may be carried over into the following year by making the carryover amount 20 percent of the maximum salary reduction amount under § 125(i), which is indexed for inflation. This calculation had been the basis for the $500 limit under Notice 2013-71, but the $500 limit did not incorporate the indexing. Thus, for 2020, under this new notice the carryover amount will increase to $550.  The notice cross references Notice 2020-29 for guidance on how a § 125 cafeteria plan may be amended to allow prospective health FSA election changes for the 2020 calendar year. Notice 2020-29 provides relief in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that, among other things, permits employers to amend § 125 cafeteria plans to provide participants flexibility to change health FSA contribution elections at such times as the employer permits through the end of 2020, provided that any changes are applied only prospectively.

 

Corona Virus Update

Here are the updates to report since my last COVID-19 blog. First up, the Department of Labor is now, officially, enforcing the paid sick leave and paid family leave requirements of the Families First Act. There was a grace period for compliance and that has now passed.

 

The states are starting to get active with information on withholding taxes and especially on garnishments.  These include:

Withholding Tax:

  • Colorado:  nonresident emergency workers are not subject to withholding for state income tax.
  • Maryland: new guidance notes that the pandemic does not affect the withholding requirements for teleworkers.
  • Massachusetts:  compensation to a nonresident is still sourced to the state if the worker was performing those services within the state immediately before the pandemic and is now performing those services outside the state.

Garnishments: Pennsylvania and Washington are suspending or reducing wage garnishments or tax liens.

Most of the states have COVID-19 sections on their websites for either departments of labor or departments of revenue to assist employers with questions and compliance issues.

To keep up to date with the latest info on the COVID-19 payroll related news items, subscribe to our payroll e-news service, Payroll 24/7 for only $149 per year.

COVID-19 Update

The IRS (including the Social Security Administration) holds a monthly payroll profession phone meeting.  Usually on the first Thursday of the month, it was delayed this month due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  It was held yesterday.  As expected, the call centered around the latest updates for the pandemic on the new legislation. Here’s the recap for you:

1. There was a brief discussion on the updates the IRS has released, which include:

  • Notice 2020-21: discusses tax credits
  • Notice 2020-62: retention credits and FAQs
  • Notice 2020-54: HSA adjustments for the pandemic

2. It also discussed the latest forms to be released.  This includes the Form 7200 and its instructions.  This form is used to request tax credits in advance for the Families First Act and the CARES Act.

3. The Form 941 was discussed.  It is in the drafting stage and this draft version should be released by the end of next week.  This will be the form to use for the second quarter and beyond. It is being redesigned to allow for lines to report the various COVID-19 tax credits.  The form will go from two pages to three.  It is still unclear whether or not the Schedule B will be revamped as well.

4. Social Security Administration reminded the attendees that they are also on limited staffing so the employer 800# is not being staffed as it is not able to be accessed remotely by employees.  Employers are urged, instead, to use the email employers@ssa.gov  for any questions they may have.  This can be staffed from home by SSA staff members.  If you have questions on using the Business Services Online (BSO) you should email bso.support@ssa.gov.

The meeting for May will be on schedule and I will have any news from it posted by Friday of the same week.

Corona Virus Update

States are working fast and furious to get out their response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Since my last update blog, Connecticut, Hawaii and Indiana are among the states that have either released or updated the FAQs on their websites with new information on the latest COVID-19 measures.

Some states are offering tax relief in terms of delaying either unemployment insurance payments or withholding tax deposits.  These include: Iowa, Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota and Texas.  However, Arkansas and Colorado, at this time, are not offering extensions for payments or deposits of withholding taxes.

When it comes to unemployment claims, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Vermont are not charging an employer’s account for SUI benefits claims related to the COVID-19 emergency.

Need more info on the latest for the Corona Virus pandemic and payroll related items?  Today is the last day to register for my webinar tomorrow on all things payroll related to COVID-19 including the Families First Act, the CARES Act (and tax credits), state updates on filing and tax relief and garnishment updates including IRS tax levies and student loans.  Use coupon code BBTK7FCJ at checkout to receive a 10% discount off the $149 registration price.