Senate Passes CARES Act

Posted By Pedro Gonzalez, CPA on Mar 26, 2020 |


Yesterday evening, the Senate passed an updated version of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. This bill is intended to be a third round of federal government support in the wake of the coronavirus public health crisis and associated economic fallout (the $8.3 billion in public health support passed two weeks ago and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act).

The CARES Act builds on the two previous legislations by providing more robust support to both individuals and businesses, including changes to tax policy. This  bill includes:

  • Expanded unemployment insurance (UI) for workers, including a $600 per week increase in benefits for up to four months and federal funding of UI benefits provided to those not usually eligible for UI, such as the self-employed, independent contractors, and those with limited work history. Additionally, the federal government will fund an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits through December 31, 2020 after workers have run out of state unemployment benefits.
  • $350 billion allocated for the Paycheck Protection Program, which is meant to help small businesses (fewer than 500 employees) impacted by the pandemic and economic downturn to make payroll and cover other expenses from February 15 to June 30.
  • Forgivable loans, small businesses may take out loans up to $10 million—limited to a formula tied to payroll costs—and can cover employees making up to $100,000 per year. Loans may be forgiven if a firm uses the loan for payroll, interest payments on mortgages, rent, and utilities and would be reduced proportionally by any reduction in employees retained compared to the prior year and a 25 percent or greater reduction in employee compensation.
  • Recovery Rebate for individual taxpayers. The bill would provide a $1,200 refundable tax credit for individuals ($2,400 for joint taxpayers). Additionally, taxpayers with children will receive a flat $500 for each child. The rebates would not be counted as taxable income for recipients, as the rebate is a credit against tax liability and is refundable for taxpayers with no tax liability to offset. The rebate phases out at $75,000 for singles, $112,500 for heads of household, and $150,000 for joint taxpayers at 5 percent per dollar of qualified income, or $50 per $1,000 earned. It phases out entirely at $99,000 for single taxpayers with no children and $198,000 for joint taxpayers with no children.
  • Waives the 10 percent early withdrawal penalty on retirement account distributions for taxpayers facing virus-related challenges. Withdrawn amounts are taxable over three years, but taxpayers can recontribute the withdrawn funds into their retirement accounts for three years without affecting retirement account caps. The bill also waives required minimum distribution rules for certain retirement plans in calendar year 2020.
  • Certain employer payments of student loans on behalf of employees are excluded from taxable income. Employers may contribute up to $5,250 annually toward student loans, and the payments would be excluded from an employee’s income.
  • Business tax provisions:
    • Employers are eligible for a 50 percent refundable payroll tax credit on wages paid up to $10,000 during the crisis. It would be available to employers whose businesses were disrupted due to virus-related shutdowns and firms experiencing a decrease in gross receipts of 50 percent or more when compared to the same quarter last year. The credit is available for employees retained but not currently working due to the crisis for firms with more than 100 employees, and for all employee wages for firms with 100 or fewer employees.
    • Employer-side Social Security payroll tax payments may be delayed until January 1, 2021, with 50 percent owed on December 31, 2021 and the other half owed on December 31, 2022. The Social Security Trust Fund will be backfilled by general revenue in the interim period.
    • Firms may take net operating losses (NOLs) earned in 2018, 2019, or 2020 and carry back those losses five years. The NOL limit of 80 percent of taxable income is also suspended, so firms may use NOLs they have to fully offset their taxable income.
    • The net interest deduction limitation, which currently limits businesses’ ability to deduct interest paid on their tax returns to 30 percent of earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA), has been expanded to 50 percent of EBITDA for 2019 and 2020. This will help businesses increase liquidity if they have debt or must take on more debt during the crisis.
  • Health provisions to address the coronavirus crisis, including provisions addressing supply shortages, coverage of diagnostic testing for the virus, support for health-care providers, improving telehealth service access and flexibility, encouragement for the creation of drugs to treat the virus, strengthening related Medicare and Medicaid provisions, and providing support for educational institutions.
  • $150 billion in a Coronavirus Relief Fund for state and city government expenditures incurred due to dealing with the coronavirus public health emergency. The fund would be allocated by population proportions, with a minimum of $1.25 billion for each state.

As new information is released on the CARES Act, we will update our blog. Stay tuned!