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Heckler & O’Keefe’s Response to COVID-19

During this uncertain time, nothing is more critical to Heckler & O’Keefe, CPAs, PC than the health and safety of our clients and employees.  While most of our staff are home working remotely, we are considered an essential service under the Executive Order, Tom and Joe are in the office during normal business hours and are available to answer your questions. We will continue to update this information to keep you informed as the situation unfolds. Please let us know if there is anything we can do to help. Tax Relief Provided by the CARES Act covers many of the more significant provision, but it is not all inclusive.  Our hearts go out to all families and individuals impacted by this crisis. Please stay safe and healthy.

Tax Relief Provided by the CARES Act

Individual Provisions

Rebate checks
Recovery rebates for individuals. To help individuals stay afloat during this time of economic uncertainty, the government will send up to $1,200 payments to eligible taxpayers and $2,400 for married couples filing joints returns. An additional $500 additional payment will be sent to taxpayers for each qualifying child dependent under age 17 (using the qualification rules under the Child Tax Credit). 

Rebates are gradually phased out, at a rate of 5% of the individual’s adjusted gross income over $75,000 (singles or marrieds filing separately), $122,500 (head of household), and $150,000 (joint). There is no income floor or ‘‘phase-in’’—all recipients who are under the phaseout threshold will receive the same amounts. Tax filers must have provided, on the relevant tax returns or other documents (see below), Social Security Numbers (SSNs) for each family member for whom a rebate is claimed. The rebates are not available to nonresident aliens, to estates and trusts, or to individuals who themselves could be claimed as dependents. 

The rebates will be paid out in the form of checks or direct deposits. Most individuals won’t have to take any action to receive a rebate. IRS will compute the rebate based on a taxpayer’s tax year 2019 return (or tax year 2018, if no 2019 return has yet been filed). If no 2018 return has been filed, IRS will use information for 2019 provided in Form SSA-1099, Social Security Benefit Statement, or Form RRB-1099, Social Security Equivalent Benefit Statement. 

Rebates are payable whether or not tax is owed. Thus, individuals who had little or no income, such as those who filed returns simply to claim the refundable earned income credit or child tax credit, qualify for a rebate. 

Pension distributions
Waiver of 10% early distribution penalty. The additional 10% tax on early distributions from IRAs and defined contribution plans (such as 401(k) plans) is waived for distributions made between January 1 and December 31, 2020 by a person who (or whose family) is infected with the Coronavirus or who is economically harmed by the Coronavirus (a qualified individual). Penalty-free distributions are limited to $100,000, and may, subject to guidelines, be re-contributed to the plan or IRA. Income arising from the distributions is spread out over three years unless the employee elects to turn down the spread out.

Required minimum distributions (“RMD”)
Waiver of required distribution rules. Required minimum distributions that otherwise would have to be made in 2020 from defined contribution plans (such as 401(k) plans) and IRAs are waived. This includes distributions that would have been required by April 1, 2020, due to the account owner’s having turned age 70 1/2 in 2019. 

Charitable contributions
Charitable deduction liberalizations. The CARES Act makes several significant liberalizations to the rules governing charitable deductions: 

Individuals will be able to claim a $300 above-the-line deduction for cash contributions made, generally, to public charities in 2020. This rule effectively allows a limited charitable deduction to taxpayers claiming the standard deduction. 

The limitation on charitable deductions for individuals that is generally 60% of modified adjusted gross income (the contribution base) doesn’t apply to cash contributions made, generally, to public charities in 2020 (qualifying contributions). Instead, an individual’s qualifying contributions, reduced by other contributions, can be as much as 100% of the contribution base. No connection between the contributions and COVID-19 activities is required. 

Student loan payments
Exclusion for employer payments of student loans. An employee currently may exclude $5,250 from income for benefits from an employer-sponsored educational assistance program. The CARES Act expands the definition of expenses qualifying for the exclusion to include employer payments of student loan debt made before January 1, 2021. 

HSA disbursments
Break for remote care services provided by high deductible health plans. For plan years beginning before 2021, the CARES Act allows high deductible health plans to pay for expenses for tele-health and other remote services without regard to the deductible amount for the plan. 

Break for nonprescription medical products. For amounts paid after December 31, 2019, the CARES Act allows amounts paid from Health Savings Accounts and Archer Medical Savings Accounts to be treated as paid for medical care even if they aren’t paid under a prescription. And, amounts paid for menstrual care products are treated as amounts paid for medical care. For reimbursements after December 31, 2019, the same rules apply to Flexible Spending Arrangements and Health Reimbursement Arrangements. 

Business only provisions

Payroll tax credits
Employee retention credit for employers. Eligible employers can qualify for a refundable credit against, generally, the employer’s 6.2% portion of the Social Security (OASDI) payroll tax (or against the Railroad Retirement tax) for 50% of certain wages (below) paid to employees during the COVID-19 crisis. 

The credit is available to employers carrying on business during 2020, including non-profits, whose operations for a calendar quarter have been fully or partially suspended as a result of a government order limiting commerce, travel or group meetings. The credit is also available to employers who have experienced a more than 50% reduction in quarterly receipts, measured on a year-over-year. 

For employers with more than 100 employees in 2019, the eligible wages are wages of employees who aren’t providing services because of the business suspension or reduction in gross receipts described above. 

For employers with 100 or fewer full-time employees in 2019, all employee wages are eligible, even if employees haven’t been prevented from providing services. The credit is provided for wages and compensation, including health benefits, and is provided for the first $10,000 in eligible wages and compensation paid by the employer to an employee. Thus, the credit is a maximum $5,000 per employee. 

Certain wages may be excluded from the credit calculation. 

The IRS has authority to advance payments to eligible employers and to waive penalties for employers who do not deposit applicable payroll taxes in reasonable anticipation of receiving the credit. The credit is not available to employers receiving Small Business Interruption Loans. The credit is provided for wages paid after March 12, 2020 through December 31, 2020. 

Delayed payroll tax payments
Delayed payment of employer payroll taxes. Taxpayers (including self-employed individuals) will be able to defer paying the employer portion of certain payroll taxes through the end of 2020, with all 2020 deferred amounts due in two equal installments, one at the end of 2021, the other at the end of 2022. Taxes that can be are deferred are the employer portion of the payroll taxes. The relief isn’t available if the taxpayer has had debt forgiveness under the CARES Act for certain loans under the Small Business Act as modified by the CARES Act (see below). For self-employed individuals, the deferral applies to 50% of the Self-Employment Contributions Act tax liability (including any related estimated tax liability). 

Accelerated depreciation
Technical correction to restore faster write-offs for interior building improvements. The CARES Act makes a technical correction to the 2017 Tax Law that retroactively treats certain building improvements to qualify for 100% bonus depreciation.

Pension funding
Pension funding delay. The CARES Act gives single employer pension plan companies more time to meet their funding obligations by delaying the due date for any contribution otherwise due during 2020 until January 1, 2021. At that time, contributions due earlier will be due with interest. Also, a plan can treat its status for benefit restrictions as of December 31, 2019 as applying throughout 2020. 

SBA grants and loan forgiveness
Certain SBA loan debt forgiveness isn’t taxable. Amounts of Small Business Administration Section 7(a)(36) guaranteed loans that are forgiven under the CARES Act aren’t taxable as discharge of indebtedness income if the forgiven amounts are used for one of several permitted purposes. The loans have to be made during the period beginning on February 15, 2020 and ending on June 30, 2020. 

Qualified Opportunity Zone Investment Regulations Finalized

Proposed qualified opportunity zone regulations issued on October 29, 2018 ( REG-115420-18) and May 1, 2019 ( REG-120186-18) under Code Sec. 1400Z-2 have been finalized with modifications. The regulations. which were issued in a 550 page document, are comprehensive.

The regulations address issued related to all aspects of the gain deferral rules and also various requirements that must be met for an entity to qualify as a qualified opportunity fund (QOF) or as a qualified opportunity zone business. Duplicative rules regarding QOFs and qualified opportunity zone businesses have been combined and definitions of key terms added. The regulations detail which taxpayers are eligible to make the election, the types of capital gains eligible for deferral, and the method of making deferral elections. Revisions are made to the rules applying the statutory 180-period and other requirements with regard to the making of a qualifying investment in a QOF.

The IRS will reflect these regulations in updated forms, instructions, and other guidance in January 2020.

Benefits of QOF Investments
Taxpayers may elect to temporarily defer capital gain in income if the gain is invested within 180 days in a QOF. The gain is recognized on Dec. 31, 2026, or if earlier, upon the occurrence of an inclusion event such as the sale of the QOF investment. However, 10 percent of the deferred gain is not recognized if the investment is held five years and 15 percent is not recognized after seven years. In addition, taxpayers may exclude recognition of gain on appreciation in the investment if the investment in the qualified opportunity fund is held for at least 10 years.

Section 1231 gains
The final regulations provide that eligible gains include the gross amount of eligible section 1231 gains unreduced by section 1231 losses regardless of character. The proposed regulations took a “netting” approach. The 180-day period for an eligible taxpayer to invest an amount with respect to an eligible section 1231 gain begins on the date of the sale of the section 1231 asset rather than at the end of the tax year.

The 180-day period for RIC or REIT capital gain dividends generally begins at the close of the shareholder’s tax year in which the capital gain dividend would otherwise be recognized by the shareholder. To ensure that RIC and REIT shareholders do not have to wait until the close of their tax year to invest capital gain dividends received during the tax year, the final regulations also provide that shareholders may elect to begin the 180-day period on the day each capital gain dividend is paid. The 180-day period for undistributed capital gain dividends, however, begins on either the last day of the shareholder’s tax year in which the dividend would otherwise be recognized or the last day of the RIC or REIT’s tax year, at the shareholder’s election.

The aggregate amount of a shareholder’s eligible gain with respect to capital gain dividends received from a RIC or a REIT cannot exceed the aggregate amount of capital gain dividends that the shareholder receives as reported or designated by that RIC or that REIT for the shareholder’s tax year.

Installment Sales
The final regulations allow an eligible taxpayer to elect to choose the 180- day period to begin on either (i) the date a payment under an installment sale is received for that tax year, or (ii) the last day of the tax year the eligible gain under the installment method would be recognized. Therefore, if the taxpayer defers gain from multiple payments under an installment sale, there might be multiple 180-day periods, or a single 180-day period at the end of the taxpayer’s tax year, depending upon taxpayer’s election.

Partners, S Corporation Shareholders, and Trust Beneficiaries
The final regulations provide partners, S shareholders, and beneficiaries of decedents’ estates and non-grantor trusts with the option to treat the 180-day period as commencing upon the due date of the related entity’s tax return, not including any extensions. This rule does not apply to grantor trusts.

Gain from Disposal of Partial Interest in QOF Investment
Gain arising from an inclusion event is eligible for deferral even though the taxpayer retains a portion of its qualifying investment after the inclusion event. If an inclusion event relates only to a portion of a taxpayer’s qualifying investment in the QOF, (i) the deferred gain that otherwise would be required to be included in income (inclusion gain amount) may be invested in a different QOF, and (ii) the taxpayer may make a deferral election with respect to the inclusion gain amount, so long as the taxpayer satisfies all requirements for a deferral election on the inclusion gain amount.

Post-December 31, 2026 Gain Ineligible
Gain arising after December 31, 2026 (including gain mandatorily recognized on that date) is not eligible for deferral.

Death Related Transfers of QOF Investments
A qualifying investment received by a beneficiary in a transfer by reason of death remains a qualifying investment in the hands of the beneficiary.

Acquisition of Eligible Interest from Person Other than a QOF
A taxpayer may make a deferral election for an eligible interest acquired from a person other than a QOF. The final regulations do not require the transferor to have made a prior deferral election for the acquirer of an eligible interest to make the election.

Further, for interests in entities that existed before the enactment of the deferral provision, if such entities become QOFs, then the interests in those entities, even though not qualifying investments in the hands of a transferor, are eligible interests that may (i) be acquired by an investor and (ii) result in a qualifying investment of the acquirer if the acquirer has eligible gain and the acquisition was during the 180-day period with respect to that gain.

Built in Gains
Built-in gain of a REIT, a RIC, or an S corporation potentially subject to corporate-level tax is eligible for deferral. If the deferral election is made, the amount of gain is not included in the calculation of the entity’s net recognized built-in gain.

Identification of Disposed Interests in a QOF
The final regulations permit taxpayers to specifically identify QOF stock that is sold or otherwise disposed. If a taxpayer fails to adequately identify which QOF shares are disposed of, then the FIFO identification method applies. If, after application of the FIFO method, a taxpayer is treated as having disposed of less than all of its investment interests that the taxpayer acquired on one day and the investments vary in its characteristics, then a pro-rata method applies to the remainder.

The specific identification method does not apply to the disposition of interests in a QOF partnership.

Deferred Gain Retains Tax Attributes
The final regulations make it clear that if a taxpayer is required to include in income some or all of a previously deferred gain, the gain so included has the same attributes that the gain would have had if the recognition of gain had not been deferred. If a deferred gain cannot be clearly associated with an investment in a particular QOF, an ordering rule applies to make this determination.

Effective Date
The final regulations are generally applicable to tax years beginning after 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

With respect to the portion of a taxpayer’s first tax year ending after December 21, 2017, that began on December 22, 2017, and for tax years beginning after December 21, 2017, and on or before 60 days after publication in the Federal Register taxpayers may rely on either the proposed regulations or the final regulations but not both.