IRS to Stop Sending Past Due Notices Due to Backlog of Unopened Mail

The Internal Revenue Service is one of many agencies still feeling the effects of office closures due to COVID-19. Like many businesses, the IRS shut its doors this Spring due to the pandemic. As a result of the closure, a large backlog of unopened mail for the agency has accumulated. Even though many IRS employees have now returned to the office, more mail continues to arrive each day, making the backlog of correspondence difficult to dwindle down. At one time during the summer, it was estimated that approximately 12 million pieces of unopened mail sat in trailers outside IRS facilities.

Although the agency was struggling to process its incoming correspondence, balance due and late payment notices were still being sent to taxpayers, resulting in complaints and confusion from those who received notices but had already sent in payment. The IRS is urging taxpayers not to cancel their checks and allow them more time to process the payments, stating that any payment would be posted as the date received and not the date the agency began to process the payment. In short, as long as the check does not bounce and is not cancelled, interest and penalties will still be avoided if the payment was paid on time.

The IRS is dealing with higher than normal call volumes and longer wait times. All of these issues culminated in Representative Richard Neal (D-Massachusetts), chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, asking the IRS to stop mailing balance due notices to taxpayers. He also urged the agency to ensure penalties and interest would not be charged to those affected by the mail backlog.

On Friday, August 21st, the IRS responded by releasing this statement, announcing it would temporarily stop sending three balance due notices (CP-501, CP-503, and CP-504) while it sorts through the backlog of mail, which is estimated to still be in the millions. These are follow-up notices that are automatically mailed to taxpayers that did not respond to the first notice, CP-14. Although this policy change was announced late last week, the IRS warned that some previously scheduled notices may still hit mailboxes over the next few weeks.

The IRS has advised taxpayers to avoid calling their support lines at this time, as they are still experiencing high call volumes and long wait times. They suggested taxpayers visit the IRS website linked here for options to make payments other than by mail in the future. Payments may still be made by mail as well.

If you have questions regarding this information, please contact our team. We are always here to help.

Madison County CARES Act Relief Provides Funds for Local Businesses

Madison County will open an application process on Monday, August 17,  2020 to grant $1.75 million in CARES Act relief funds to businesses and public service agencies located in the County that were impacted by COVID-19. Funds will be distributed through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) as a result of the CARES Act, with an allocation of $1.5 million for businesses and $250,000 for public service agencies. Grants will be awarded on a first come, first served basis for all submissions with complete and qualifying applications. Funds for accepted applicants are expected to be available in late October 2020.

This program provides a maximum $15,000, 0% deferred payment loan to help offset/recover from the significant, temporary loss of revenue to these qualified businesses during this pandemic, and to assist businesses in retaining and paying employees. The amounts disbursed will be broken down by the following Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) Employee counts:

 

FTE Employees Loan Amount
1-5 Maximum $5,000
6-10 Maximum $10,000
11-25 Maximum $15,000

 

Program Overview

  • $15,000 maximum (see above) for qualifying small businesses with a physical location in Madison County (1-25 full-time employees, or equivalent part-time employees, including the owner).
  • Food Service Establishments, short-term lodging, and other non-essential businesses impacted by the local or state safer-at-home orders are eligible.
  • Larger businesses over 25 FTE employees, non-profits, and home-based businesses are not eligible.
  • Funds can only be used to reimburse the cost of business interruption due to orders to close or limit operations, provided those costs are not paid by insurance or by another federal program. Such costs may include employee wages, vendors, rent, or other business expenses.

 

Eligible Businesses & Applications

Qualifying businesses include small businesses hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, such as food service establishments, short-term lodging establishments, and non-essential businesses.

More detailed information on the funding, eligibility and application requirements of the program can be found on the Madison County website by clicking here. Applications can be submitted beginning August 17, 2020 and will be accepted through August 24, 2020 at 4:30 PM.

Alton and Granite City manage their own CDBG funding and will be responsible for taking applications within those communities. Please follow the link above for more details. We have included links below for the Application and Guidelines for applying.

Madison County CARES Act Economic Development Application Guidelines

Madison County Small Business Loan Application

 

How We Can Help

Our team is closely monitoring the relief programs available to local businesses and we are ready to provide assistance in applying for these funds. Please contact our team with questions on your eligibility or help with your application.

Trump Signs Executive Order Deferring Payroll Taxes

On August 8th, President Trump signed a total of four Executive Orders to provide further Coronavirus relief. The orders provided enhanced unemployment payments, student loan payment relief, eviction suspensions, and, most notably, a deferral of payroll taxes.

Payroll tax, or more frequently known as employment tax, is comprised of 6.2% Social Security tax and 1.45% Medicare tax. The order’s deferral will be applied toward the employee’s portion of Social Security tax withheld and for an employee’s pretax wages or compensation covering any biweekly pay period of less than $4,000. This deferral will be held without penalties, interest, or any additional tax imposed on the employer or employee.

While this does provide some assistance to taxpayers since Congress has come to a standstill on relief bill negotiations, a deferral is just a postponement of taxes owed. In short, the deferred taxes will still have to be paid if no further action is taken to eliminate them altogether. The deferral is for the withholding, deposit, and payment of these taxes from September 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020.

The Treasury is expected to issue guidance on implementation of the order as there are many outstanding questions surrounding it. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AICPA are just two major organizations calling for further clarification on the order and its provisions for payroll tax deferral. Some of these issues include:

  • Eligibility to elect this deferral
  • Who is responsible for repayment of the deferred taxes
  • Payment deadlines for the taxes due
  • How payment will be collected
  • How fluctuating salaries and bonuses are accounted for with the order
  • Short-term and seasonal worker payroll
  • How to handle the deferred taxes when employees change jobs during the defined period

We are closely monitoring this situation as more guidance is released. Please contact your Scheffel Boyle team member with questions. We are always here to help.

SBA Will Start Accepting PPP Forgiveness Applications From Lenders on August 10, 2020

The Small Business Administration (SBA) has set a date of August 10th for lenders to begin submitting forgiveness applications for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. On July 23rd, the SBA issued a procedural notice (linked here) to lenders outlining the process of applying for forgiveness for their borrowers. The SBA has created a forgiveness platform for lenders use only for the process.

A borrower may submit a Loan Forgiveness Application before the end of the 8-week or 24-week Covered Period, provided that the borrower has used all of the loan proceeds for which the borrower is requesting forgiveness and the borrower’s loan forgiveness application accounts for any salary reductions in excess of 25% for the full covered period.

In the notice, the SBA once again stressed that “providing an accurate calculation of the loan forgiveness amount is the responsibility of the borrower, and Lenders may rely on borrower representations. Lenders are expected to perform a good-faith review, in a reasonable time, of the borrower’s calculations and supporting documents concerning amounts eligible for forgiveness.” It went on to say that the Lender must review the application and submit its decision on forgiveness, with supporting documents, to the SBA no later than 60 days after its receipt from the borrower. Furthermore, the SBA will have the opportunity to review all PPP loans at any time, if needed.

 

PPP loan recipients applying for forgiveness should expect the following:

  • Borrower is to submit SBA Form 3508 or 3508EZ (or Lender’s equivalent Loan Forgiveness Application) to the lender servicing their loan
  • Lender is to confirm receipt of the application and required supporting documentation (payroll and nonpayroll costs)
  • Lender is to confirm the borrower’s calculations on Form 3508 or 3508EZ (or Lender’s equivalent Loan Forgiveness Application)
  • Lender is to review eligible expenses and supporting documentation provided by the borrower
  • If the lender finds errors in the borrower’s calculations or does not feel the documentation provided is substantial for forgiveness, the Lender is expected to work with the borrower to resolve the outstanding issues.

 

The lender must indicate their decision as:

  • Approval in Full
  • Approval in Part
  • Denied
  • Denied without Prejudice

 

What should borrowers do to prepare? Talk to your lenders!

Regardless of the Covered Period a borrower chooses, it is critical to begin conversations about loan forgiveness procedures with lenders as soon as possible, particularly since lenders will be making the initial review before it goes to the Small Business Administration (SBA) for final approval.

Borrowers should get clarity from their lender on the forgiveness process, including:

  • Will applications be accepted on the SBA’s paper forms or will an online submission be required?
  • Is the lender requiring borrowers to submit documentation via email, an online portal, or in some other way?
  • What formats are acceptable when submitting supporting documentation?

 

How We Can Help

Our team is able to assist you during the process of applying for PPP loan forgiveness. We anticipate there may be modifications to the terms of the Paycheck Protection Program in the coming weeks and our team is closely monitoring the situation.  We will update you as any such changes or new laws are released.  Please contact your trusted Scheffel Boyle team member with questions. We are always here to help.

Watch Out for Illinois Department of Employment Security Scams

A warning has been issued to Illinois residents regarding unemployment fraud and identity theft in response to several complaints to the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES). Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul recently issued an alert stating that if you received an IDES debit card but did not apply for unemployment, you may be a victim of the scam.

The debit card is usually accompanied by a letter approving you for unemployment benefits. If you receive this but never applied for benefits through IDES, you should contact the IDES at 1-800-814-0513, visit the IDES website to report it online, or reach out to the Attorney General’s Identity Theft Hotline at 1-866-999-5630.

It is important that you do not activate the card.

Please contact our team with questions. We are always here to help.

IRS Updates FAQs on CARES Act Employee Retention Credits and Payroll Tax Deferrals

The IRS recently updated its frequently asked questions (FAQs) on the Employee Retention Credit (ERC) and payroll tax deferrals under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (P.L. 116-136). These provisions encourage businesses to keep employees on their payroll during the COVID-19 global pandemic. Although the FAQs cannot be relied upon as legal authority, they indicate the IRS’s thinking.


Borrowers With Forgiven PPP Loans Can Defer Payroll Tax Deposits

Section 2302 of the CARES Act provides that, through December 31, 2020, employers may defer the deposit and payment of the employer’s portion of Social Security taxes and certain railroad retirement taxes. Half of the deferred amount is due on December 31, 2021, and the other half is due on December 31, 2022.

On June 26, the IRS updated FAQ #4 on CARES Act payroll tax deferrals, confirming that an employer who has a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan forgiven under the CARES Act is entitled to defer payment and deposit of the employer’s share of Social Security tax. The update to FAQ #4 follows the enactment of the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act (P.L. 116-142), which eliminated the CARES Act provision that had prevented an employer from deferring the deposit and payment of its share of Social Security taxes after its PPP loan was forgiven.

 

Insights:

An employer that receives a PPP loan can defer payment and deposit of the employer’s share of Social Security tax not only while the PPP loan is outstanding, but also after the loan is forgiven.

The CARES Act payroll tax deferral provision essentially gives employers a two-year, interest-free loan from the federal government of approximately 6.2% of an employer’s payroll (up to $137,700 per employee, which is the 2020 Social Security wage base cap). Employers are not required to apply for or take any other steps to qualify for this “loan.” This payroll tax deposit loan is available regardless of whether the employer applied for a PPP loan or Main Street Lending Program loan.


Employee Retention Credit Updates

On June 26, the IRS updated several ERC FAQs. The ERC is a refundable tax credit equal to 50% of up to $10,000 in wages paid by an eligible employer whose business has been financially impacted by COVID-19. Each payroll period, employers may subtract the ERC from the employer’s portion of payroll tax deposits and retain (rather than remit) that amount. But if the employer does not have sufficient payroll taxes to fund the ERC, the employer can apply for a rapid refund of the ERC using IRS Form 7200.

 

Insights:

Although the credit is determined quarterly, only $10,000 of wages per employee can be counted for all calendar quarters (i.e., the credit is currently capped at $5,000 per employee).

Several proposals are pending in Congress that would expand the amount, scope and duration of the ERC. Further action on those proposals is expected between July 20 and early August.

We understand that the IRS generally sends employers a paper check within 13 days after processing the Form 7200. But due to the number of refund requests being processed by the IRS, it may take approximately 30 days from the date the Form 7200 was submitted to receive the refund check. The IRS has set up a special unit to solely handle processing these advance refund requests.

Below is a summary of the changes made by the updated ERC FAQs:

  • FAQ #28 – Clarifies that a local health department order mandating a workplace closure for cleaning would qualify as “an order from an appropriate governmental authority” when determining if an employer qualifies for the ERC. FAQ #28 also now acknowledges that whether an employer’s business is “essential” may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
  • FAQ #30 – Clarifies that the ERC would be available to an employer who operates both an essential and non-essential business and experiences a partial suspension of more than a nominal part of their non-essential operations due to a governmental shut-down order. FAQ #30 also says that an essential business may be eligible for the ERC if it has a partial suspension due to a governmental order that requires the employer to close for a period of time during normal working hours.
  • FAQ #33 – Adds two new examples of ERC eligibility when an employer’s workplace is closed by a governmental order, but the employer can continue partial operations through teleworking. One of the new examples involves a physical therapy practice (which is partially shut down due to inability to access essential equipment), and the other involves scientific researchers (the workplace is shut down for those who do lab work, but not shut down for those who can work from home).
  • FAQ #34 – Provides six examples of ERC eligibility for partial suspensions of operations where an employer’s workplace is closed by a governmental order for certain purposes but may remain open for other purposes or where the employer is able to continue certain operations remotely or with accommodations that do not significantly disrupt the employer’s business. FAQ #34 now includes examples of ERC eligibility for workplaces subject to social distancing guidelines, such as restaurants, retail stores (which are considered partially suspended if their physical location is closed, but they continue to do business on line), grocery stores and hospitals (which are considered to have a partial suspension of operations due to a governmental order that prevents them from performing elective and non-urgent medical procedures). But FAQ #34 states that if the impact of the governmental restriction on the employer’s business is only nominal, then the ERC would not be available. This is a facts-and-circumstances test. For example, FAQ #34 says that a grocery store’s operations would not be partially suspended because a governmental order requires closure of its salad bar and other self-serve offerings, since that change does not have more than a nominal effect on the grocery store’s business operations. Similarly, a large retailer would not have a partial suspension merely because customers must wait a short time to enter the store due to compliance with social distancing guidelines.
  • FAQ #35 – Clarifies that an employer would be eligible for the ERC by reducing its work hours to comply with a governmental order requiring sanitation at certain intervals to reduce the risk of COVID-19. A new example concludes that a food processing plant would be eligible for the ERC if it normally operates 24 hours a day but has to close for five hours a day to conduct mandated deep cleaning.
  • FAQ #46 – Establishes (for the first time) a “gross receipts” test for tax-exempt organizations to qualify for the ERC. The new test includes gross receipts from all operations, including all sales and amounts received for services, investment income, contributions, gifts, grants and membership fees or dues. To determine if a tax-exempt organization has had a significant decline in gross receipts for any quarter in 2020, it must compare the quarterly gross receipts from the 2020 calendar year to the same calendar quarter in 2019.
  • FAQ #58 – Adds three new examples clarifying that employers cannot claim the ERC for amounts that are not “wages” for Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) tax withholding purposes (even though employers can claim the ERC for qualified health plan expenses allocable to such wages). FAQ #58 now includes examples showing that an employer matching contribution to a 401(k) plan and employee pre-tax contributions toward dependent care assistance and qualified transportation fringe benefit cannot be the basis for ERCs.
  • FAQ #79 – Confirms that employers who received PPP loans but repaid them by May 18 (under a special safe harbor rule) are eligible for the ERC.
  • FAQ #88 – Confirms that payroll reporting agents may sign and submit Form 7200 to the IRS on behalf of a client.
  • FAQ #90 – Clarifies that an employer and its third-party payer will each be liable for employment taxes that are due as a result of any improper ERC claim filed by the third-party payer.
  • FAQ #92 – Clarifies that employers (not third-party payers) are responsible for avoiding a “double benefit” with respect to the ERC and the paid family medical leave tax credit under Internal Revenue Code Section 45S.

PPP Loan Application Deadline Extended 5 Weeks

With roughly $129 billion in PPP loans still available, an extension has been passed to allow businesses an additional 5 weeks to apply for the funds. The Senate and House both unanimously approved the extension just before the original deadline of June 30th and President Trump officially signed it into law on the July 4th holiday. Businesses who experienced difficulty due to the COVID-19 pandemic will now have until August 8th to apply for a PPP Loan.

The forgivable loans were first introduced in April by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) in partnership with the U.S. Treasury to provide aid to businesses affected by the Coronavirus. A message on the SBA website states they have “resumed accepting applications July 6, 2020, at 9:00 AM EDT in response to the Paycheck Protection Program Extension Act”.

For more information on PPP loans and how to apply, click here.

Please contact your trusted Scheffel Boyle team member with questions. We are always here to help.

Keep Your Stimulus Payment Notice for Your 2020 Taxes

In mid-April, Economic Impact Payments, also known as Stimulus Payments, began hitting bank accounts of taxpayers across the U.S. If you were an eligible recipient of a stimulus check and received your payment, you should have also received Notice 1444 following the disbursement of your payment.

Notice 1444 detailed the amount of the payment, how the payment was made (where it was deposited or mailed), and how to report a payment that was not received by its intended recipient. The Notice was mailed to the last known mailing address of the taxpayer within 15 days of the payment being released. It may be important to keep Notice 1444 with all other records for 2020 tax filings when claiming additional tax credits. We have included an image below of Notice 1444 for your reference.

If you have any questions regarding your stimulus payment, please contact our team.

 

Notice 1444

PPP Loan Forgiveness Application Updated for the Flexibility Act

On June 16th, the SBA and Treasury released the revised PPP Loan Forgiveness Application. The new application is just five pages long, is said to be “borrower-friendly”, and reflects the changes implemented by the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020.

The revised PPP Loan Forgiveness Application and instructions contain a number of updates, including:

  • Loan recipients whose funds were disbursed prior to June 5 can now have an option for a new 24-week Covered Period or keep their original 8-week Covered Period. Loans disbursed after June 5 will only have the new 24-week Covered Period.
  • Safe harbors for salary and hourly wage reductions and reductions in Full-Time Equivalents (FTE) are extended to the date the forgiveness application is submitted or December 31, rather than the original deadline of June 30, unless the 8-week Covered Period is selected.
  • Retirement costs for S Corporation owners are eligible for forgiveness, but health insurance costs for S Corporation owners cannot be included in the payroll calculation.

In addition to the revised application, the SBA also introduced the EZ PPP Loan Forgiveness Application, which requires fewer calculations and less documentation for eligible borrowers. The EZ application applies to loan recipients who meet any one of these criteria:

  • are self-employed with no employees,
  • did not reduce the salaries or hourly wages of their employees by more than 25% during the Covered Period compared to 1/1/20 and 3/31/20 and did not reduce the number of employees or the average hours paid between 1/1/20 and the end of the Covered Period,
  • did not reduce the salaries or hourly wages of their employees by more than 25% during the Covered Period compared to 1/1/20 and 3/31/20 and experienced reduced business activity due to COVID-19.

Instructions clarify that employee compensation is limited to 24/52 of $100,000 during the 24-week Covered Period (8/52 of $100,000 if the 8-week Covered Period is used). This means that up to $46,152 can qualify as forgivable employee compensation during the 24-week Covered Period.

For owner-employees, self-employed individuals and general partners using the 24-week Covered Period, compensation is limited to the 2.5-month equivalent of 2019 compensation, capped at $100,000.  In this case, such an individual will have a maximum forgivable compensation of $20,833 ($100,000 divided by 12 times 2.5).  It may be less if the individual had 2019 compensation below $100,000.  If the 8-week Covered Period is selected, the formula is 8/52 of 2019 compensation, capped at $100,000.

 

Additional Items

A few of the other major changes to forgiveness requirements from the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020 include:

  • Lowers the portion of PPP loan funds that must be used for payroll from 75% to 60%, allowing 40% to be used toward other non-payroll, eligible costs such as rent and utilities.
  • Extends the loan term of any funds not forgiven to 5 years from 2 years. Please note that for existing loans prior to the passing of this bill, both lender and borrower must agree to the change in loan terms through a refinance of the loan. The interest rate remains 1%.
  • Allows businesses who qualify for loan forgiveness to also defer the employer portion of payroll tax, which would be paid in two installments (50% by 12-31-2021 and 50% by 12/31/2022)
  • Changes the loan repayment deferral period to the date forgiveness is decided rather than 6 months from disbursement

The SBA and the Treasury Department are hopeful that the revised application and new EZ application will make the forgiveness process more efficient for borrowers, while making it easier for businesses to be eligible for full forgiveness of their loans.

Our team is closely monitoring this situation as updates are released. Please reach out to your trusted Scheffel Boyle team member with questions. We are always here to help.

Main Street Lending Program Expansion

On June 8, the Federal Reserve released revised term sheets for its Main Street Lending Program (MSLP), ahead of the program becoming officially operationalized. The MSLP aims to increase the flow of credit to small and medium-sized businesses that were in good financial standing prior to the COVID-19 crisis.

Over the past few weeks, the Federal Reserve held several teleconference sessions to explain the MSLP and to seek feedback on previously released program details from lenders and borrowers. With input from these sessions and other sources, the Federal Reserve has further adjusted the financial terms and conditions of the various lending facilities to attract and meet the needs of a broader range of borrowers and lenders.

Notable changes to the MSLP include the following:

  • Lowering the minimum loan amount for certain facilities from $500,000 to $250,000;
  • Increasing the maximum loan size for all facilities;
  • Increasing the loan terms from four to five years;
  • Extending the repayment period for all loans by delaying principal payments for two years, rather than one; and
  • Raising the Federal Reserve’s participation to 95% for all loans.

 

Key Eligibility Criteria and Loan Details

Detailed descriptions of all changes and modifications to each MSLP program are available via term sheets by the Federal Reserve:

How to Apply for a Main Street Loan

A Main Street loan application can be requested at a federally insured lending institution, which will apply its own underwriting criteria. In addition, the Federal Reserve also released several application forms and agreements that must be completed in conjunction with the primary loan application. The documents include borrower certifications and covenants.

The Federal Reserve cautions that “eligible borrowers should contact an eligible lender for more information on whether the eligible lender plans to participate in the program and to request more information on the application process.” The Federal Reserve expects the MSLP to open for lender registration soon, after which participating banks will begin offering loans.

Please refer to the Federal Reserve’s Main Street website for the latest program information.

If you have questions over this program, please contact our team. We are always here to help.