Relief programs of potential benefit to individuals under the CARES Act and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act include the following. Additional information is available at the IRS Coronavirus Tax Relief page.
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), $112,500 (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.
The rebates will be paid out in the form of checks or direct deposits. The 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.
Includes an additional $600 on top of the current weekly benefit amount.
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. Employers may amend defined contribution plans to provide for these distributions. Additionally, defined contribution plans are permitted additional flexibility in the amount and repayment terms of loans to employees who are qualified individuals.
Charitable deduction liberalizations
The CARES Act makes changes to the rules governing charitable deductions:
(1) 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.
(2) 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.
(3) Similarly, the limitation on charitable deductions for corporations that is generally 10% of (modified) taxable income doesn’t apply to qualifying contributions made in 2020. Instead, a corporation’s qualifying contributions, reduced by other contributions, can be as much as 25% of (modified) taxable income. No connection between the contributions and COVID-19 activities is required.
RMD requirement waived for 2020
In general, Code Sec. 401(a)(9) requires a retirement plan or IRA owner to take required minimum distributions (RMDs) annually once the owner reaches age 72.
The CARES Act provides that the RMD requirements do not apply for calendar year 2020 to: (I) a defined contribution plan described in Code Sec. 403(a) or Code Sec. 403(b) ; (II) a defined contribution plan which is an eligible deferred compensation plan described in Code Sec. 457(b) but only if such plan is maintained by an employer described in Code Sec. 457(e)(1)(A) ; or (III) an individual retirement plan.
The RMD requirements also do not apply to any distribution which is required to be made in calendar year 2020 by reason of: (I) a required beginning date occurring in calendar year 2020, and (II) such distribution not having been made before January 1, 2020.
Two Weeks of Emergency Paid Sick Leave
The law requires employers with fewer than 500 employees (including nonprofits) and government employers to provide their employees two weeks of paid sick leave, paid at the employee’s regular rate, to quarantine or seek a diagnosis or preventive care for the coronavirus. It also requires payment at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate to care for a family member for those purposes or to care for a child whose school has closed or child care provider is unavailable due to the coronavirus. These provisions expire at the end of December 2020.
Twelve Weeks of Emergency Family and Medical Leave
The law expands the number of workers who can take up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act for coronavirus-related reasons. After the two weeks of emergency paid leave (above), employees of employers with fewer than 500 employees will be eligible to receive at least two-thirds of each employee’s usual pay. Employees must have been employed for at least 30 days to qualify and meet a “qualifying need related to a public health emergency.” The qualifying reasons for the emergency paid leave are caring for a child if the child’s school or childcare center is closed due to coronavirus. The provisions would also expire at the end of 2020.
See additional information at:
Guidance for Stay-at-Home Order, Sacramento County (Wagner Kirkman Blaine Klomparens & Youmans LLP)