Documents featuring COBRA definition.

COBRA Provisions Play Critical Role in COVID-19 Relief Law

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many employees and their families have lost group health plan coverage because of layoffs or reduced hours. If your business has had to take such steps, and it’s required to offer continuing health care coverage under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), the recently passed American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) includes some critical provisions that you should be aware of.

100% subsidy

Under the ARPA, assistance-eligible individuals (AEIs) may receive a 100% subsidy for COBRA premiums during the period beginning April 1, 2021, and ending on September 30, 2021.

An AEI is a COBRA qualified beneficiary — in other words, an employee, former employee, covered spouse or covered dependent — who’s eligible for and elects COBRA coverage because of a qualifying event of involuntary termination of employment or reduction of hours. For purposes of the law, the subsidy is available for AEIs for the period beginning April 1, 2021, and ending September 30, 2021.

Extended election period

Individuals without a COBRA election in effect on April 1, 2021, but who would be an AEI if they did, are eligible for the subsidy. Those who elected but discontinued COBRA coverage before April 1, 2021, are also eligible if they’d otherwise be an AEI and are still within their maximum period of coverage.

Individuals meeting these criteria may make a COBRA election during the period beginning on April 1, 2021, and ending 60 days after they’re provided required notification of the extended election period. Coverage elected during the extended period will commence with the first period of coverage beginning on or after April 1, 2021, and may not extend beyond the AEI’s original maximum period of coverage.

Duration of coverage

As explained, the subsidy is available for any period of coverage in effect between April 1, 2021, and September 30, 2021. However, eligibility may end earlier if the qualified beneficiary’s maximum period of coverage ends before September 30, 2021. Eligibility may also end if the qualified beneficiary becomes eligible for coverage under Medicare or another group health plan other than coverage consisting of only excepted benefits or coverage under a Health Flexible Spending Arrangement or Qualified Small Employer Health Reimbursement Arrangement.

Other provisions

The ARPA’s COBRA provisions go beyond the subsidy. For example, they stipulate that group health plan sponsors may voluntarily allow AEIs to elect to enroll in different coverage under certain circumstances. In addition, group health plans must issue notices to AEIs regarding the:

  • Availability of the subsidy and option to enroll in different coverage (if offered),
  • Extended election period, and
  • Expiration of the subsidy.

The U.S. Department of Labor is expected to issue model notices addressing all three points.

Further explanation

The COVID-19 crisis has emphasized the importance of health care coverage. Our firm can further explain the ARPA’s COBRA provisions and help you manage the financial risks of offering health care benefits to your employees. For more information, contact David Mills CPA, LLC.

Hands above a collection of wooden people figures

COVID-19 Relief Law Extends Employee Retention Credit

Many businesses have retained employees during the COVID-19 pandemic and enjoyed tax relief with the help of the employee retention credit (ERC). The recent signing of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) brings good news: the ERC has been extended yet again.

The original credit

As originally introduced under last year’s CARES Act, the employee retention credit was a refundable tax credit against certain employment taxes equal to 50% of qualified wages, up to $10,000, that an eligible employer paid to employees after March 12, 2020, and before January 1, 2021. An employer could qualify for the ERC if, in 2020, there was a:

  • Full or partial suspension of operations during any calendar quarter because of governmental orders limiting commerce, travel or group meetings because of COVID-19, or
  • Significant decline in gross receipts (less than 50% for the same calendar quarter in 2019).

The definition of “qualified wages” depends on staff size. If an employer averaged more than 100 full-time employees during 2019, qualified wages are generally those paid to employees who aren’t providing services because operations were suspended or due to the decline in gross receipts. Qualified wages may include certain health care costs and are capped at $10,000 per employee. These employers could count wages only up to the amount that the employee would’ve been paid for working an equivalent duration during the 30 days immediately preceding the period of economic hardship.

If an employer averaged 100 or fewer full-time employees during 2019, qualified wages are those wages, also including health care costs and capped at $10,000 per employee, paid to any employee during the period operations were suspended or the period of the decline in gross receipts — regardless of whether employees are providing services.

Expansion and extensions

Under the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA), signed into law at the end of 2020, the ERC was extended through June 30, 2021. The CAA also expanded the ERC rate of credit from 50% to 70% of qualified wages. The law further expanded eligibility by:

  • Reducing the required year-over-year gross receipts decline from 50% to 20%,
  • Providing a safe harbor that allows employers to use previous quarter gross receipts to determine eligibility,
  • Increasing the limit on creditable wages from $10,000 in total to $10,000 per calendar quarter (that is, $10,000 for first quarter 2021 and $10,000 for second quarter 2021), and
  • Raising the 100-employee delineation for determining the relevant qualified wage base to employers with 500 or fewer employees (meaning wages qualify for the credit even if the employee is working).

Most recently, the ARPA further extended the ERC from June 30, 2021, until December 31, 2021. The 70% of qualified wages is also extended for this period, as is the allowance for up to $10,000 in qualified wages for any calendar quarter. This means an employer could potentially have up to $40,000 in qualified wages per employee through 2021.

Valuable break

We can help you determine whether your business qualifies for the ERC and, if so, how much the credit may reduce your tax bill. Contact David Mills, CPA, LLC today.

Face mask laying on calendar

COVID-Related Deadline Extensions for Health Care Benefits

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently issued EBSA Disaster Relief Notice 2021-01, which is of interest to employers. It clarifies the duration of certain COVID-19-related deadline extensions that apply to health care benefits plans.

Extensions to continue

The DOL and IRS issued guidance last year specifying that the COVID-19 outbreak period — defined as beginning March 1, 2020, and ending 60 days after the announced end of the COVID-19 national emergency — should be disregarded when calculating various deadlines under COBRA, ERISA and HIPAA’s special enrollment provisions.

The original emergency declaration would have expired on March 1, 2021, but it was recently extended. Although the agencies defined the outbreak period solely by reference to the COVID-19 national emergency, they relied on statutes allowing them to specify disregarded periods for a maximum of one year. Therefore, questions arose as to whether the outbreak period was required to end on February 28, 2021, one year after it began.

Notice 2021-01answers those questions by providing that the extensions have continued past February 28 and will be measured on a case-by-case basis. Specifically, applicable deadlines for individuals and plans that fall within the outbreak period will be extended (that is, the disregarded period will last) until the earlier of:

  • One year from the date the plan or individual was first eligible for outbreak period relief, or
  • The end of the outbreak period.

Once the disregarded period has ended, the timeframes that were previously disregarded will resume. Thus, the outbreak period will continue until 60 days after the end of the COVID-19 national emergency, but the maximum disregarded period for calculating relevant deadlines for any individual or plan cannot exceed one year.

Communication is necessary

The DOL advises plan sponsors to consider sending notices to participants regarding the end of the relief period, which may include reissuing or amending previous disclosures that are no longer accurate. Sponsors are also advised to notify participants who are losing coverage of other coverage options, such as through the recently announced COVID-19 special enrollment period in Health Insurance Marketplaces (commonly known as “Exchanges”).

Notice 2021-01 acknowledges that the COVID-19 pandemic and other circumstances may disrupt normal plan operations. The DOL reassures fiduciaries acting in good faith and with reasonable diligence that enforcement will emphasize compliance assistance and other relief. The notice further states that the IRS and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services concur with the guidance and its application to laws under their jurisdiction.

Challenges ahead

Plan sponsors and administrators will likely welcome this clarification but may be disappointed in its timing and in how it interprets the one-year limitation. Determinations of the disregarded period that depend on individual circumstances could create significant administrative challenges.

In addition to making case-by-case determinations, plan sponsors and administrators must quickly develop a strategy for communicating these complex rules to participants. Contact David Mills CPA, LLC for further information and updates.

Paycheck Protection Program Loan written on paper

PPP Adjusted To Prioritize Very Small Businesses

When the Small Business Administration (SBA) launched the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) last year, the program’s stated objective was “to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll.”

However, according to federal officials, the recently issued second round of funding has distributed only a small percentage of the $15 billion set aside for small businesses and low- to moderate-income “first-draw” borrowers.

In late February, the SBA, in cooperation with the Biden Administration, announced adjustments to the PPP aimed at “increasing access and much-needed aid to Main Street businesses that anchor our neighborhoods and help families build wealth,” according to SBA Senior Advisor Michael Roth.

5 primary objectives

The adjustments address five primary objectives:

1. Move the smallest businesses to the front of the line.

The SBA has established a two-week exclusive application period for businesses and nonprofits with fewer than 20 employees. It began on February 24. The agency has reassured larger eligible companies that they’ll still have time to apply for and receive support before the program is set to expire on March 31.

2. Change the math.

The loan calculation formula has been revised to focus on gross profits rather than net profits. The previous formula inadvertently excluded many sole proprietors, independent contractors and self-employed individuals.

3. Eliminate the non-fraud felony exclusion.

Under the original PPP rules, a business was disqualified from funding if it was at least 20% owned by someone with either 1) an arrest or conviction for a felony related to financial assistance fraud in the previous five years, or 2) any other felony in the previous year. The new rules eliminate the one-year lookback for any kind of felony unless the applicant or owner is incarcerated at the time of application.

4. Eventually remove the student loan exclusion.

Current rules prohibit PPP loans to any business that’s at least 20% owned by an individual who’s delinquent or has defaulted on a federal debt, which includes federal student loans, within the previous seven years. The SBA intends to collaborate with the U.S. Departments of Treasury and Education to remove the student loan delinquency restriction to broaden PPP access.

5. Clarify loan eligibility for noncitizen small business.

The CARES Act stipulates that any lawful U.S. resident can apply for a PPP loan. However, holders of Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs), such as Green Card holders and those in the United States on a visa, have been unable to consistently access the program. The SBA has committed to issuing new guidance to address this issue, which, in part, will state that otherwise eligible applicants can’t be denied PPP loans solely because they use ITINs when paying their taxes.

What’s ahead

The PPP could evolve further as the year goes along, potentially as an indirect result of the COVID-19 relief bill currently making its way through Congress. The experts at David Mills CPA, LLC can keep you updated on all aspects of the program, including the tax impact of loan proceeds.

wooden blocks spelling ppp and 2021

Need Another PPP Loan? Here Are The New Rules

Congress recently passed, and President Trump signed, a new law providing additional relief for businesses and individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

One item of interest for small business owners in the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA) is the opportunity to take out a second loan under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

The Basics

The CAA permits certain smaller businesses who received a PPP loan to take out a “PPP Second Draw Loan” of up to $2 million. To qualify, you must:

  • Employ no more than 300 employees per physical location,
  • Have used or will use the full amount of your first PPP loan, and
  • Demonstrate at least a 25% reduction in gross receipts in the first, second or third quarter of 2020 relative to the same 2019 quarter. Applications submitted on or after Jan. 1, 2021, are eligible to use gross receipts from the fourth quarter of 2020.

Eligible entities include for-profit businesses (including those owned by sole proprietors), certain nonprofit organizations, housing cooperatives, veterans’ organizations, tribal businesses, self-employed individuals, independent contractors and small agricultural co-operatives.

Additional Points

Loan terms. Borrowers may receive a PPP Second Draw Loan of up to 2.5 times the average monthly payroll costs in the year preceding the loan or the calendar year.

However, borrowers in the hospitality or food services industries may receive PPP Second Draw Loans of up to 3.5 times average monthly payroll costs. Only a single PPP Second Draw Loan is permitted to an eligible entity.

Gross receipts and simplified certification of revenue test. PPP Second Draw Loans of no more than $150,000 may submit a certification, on or before the date the loan forgiveness application is submitted, attesting that the eligible entity meets the applicable revenue loss requirement.

Nonprofits and veterans’ organizations may use gross receipts to calculate their revenue loss standard.

Loan forgiveness. Like the first PPP loan, a PPP Second Draw Loan may be forgiven for payroll costs of up to 60% (with some exceptions) and nonpayroll costs such as rent, mortgage interest and utilities of 40%. Forgiveness of the loans isn’t included in income as cancellation of indebtedness income.

Application of exemption based on employee availability. The CAA extends current safe harbors on restoring full-time employees and salaries and wages. Specifically, it applies the rule of reducing loan forgiveness for a borrower reducing the number of employees retained and reducing employees’ salaries in excess of 25%.

Deductibility of expenses paid by PPP loans. The CARES Act didn’t address whether expenses paid with the proceeds of PPP loans could be deducted. The IRS eventually took the position that these expenses were nondeductible. The CAA, however, provides that expenses paid both from the proceeds of loans under the original PPP and PPP Second Draw Loans are deductible.

Further questions

Contact David Mills, CPA, LLC with any questions you might have about PPP loans, including applying for a Second Draw Loan or availing yourself of forgiveness.

$100 bill pulled apart as a puzzle piece

How Does the Consolidated Appropriations Act Affect You?

The Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021 is expected to be signed by President Trump today. There are key provisions for both individuals and businesses.

This is a 5,600-page document so it will take some time to provide all the details but the following is what has been released so far:

For Individuals: The full credit is $600 per individual, $1,200 per couple, and $600 for children. Children 17 and older are not eligible for the credit. There are income limits as in the first round of payments.

Payments are expected to start early next week. If you have not received the first payment or it was incorrect, you will be able to receive this on your 2020 tax return filing.

If you do not receive the second payment or it is an incorrect amount, you can claim this on your 2020 tax filing. For example, if a family has a child born in 2020 the additional $600 will not be included in the next round of payments. This amount will be claimed as a credit when filing the 2020 tax return.

Unemployment assistance is extended by 16 weeks. Supplemental federal unemployment benefits will continue to April 2021 instead of ending in December. The current CDC eviction moratorium will be extended until January 31, 2021.

For Businesses: Business expenses paid for with PPP proceeds are tax-deductible and the funds are not income. This will be the same rule for the second round of PPP funds.

There will be a second round of PPP funding (PPP2) to both first-time borrowers and those who have received a previous loan.

Previous PPP recipients may apply if:

  • You have 300 or fewer employees
  • Have used or will use the full amount of their first PPP loan
  • Can show a 25% gross revenue decline in 2020 quarter compared to the same quarter in 2019

PPP2 first time borrowers include:

  • Businesses with 500 or less employees
  • Sole proprietors, independent contractors, and eligible self-employed individuals
  • Not for profits, including churches

Borrowers that returned all or part of a previous PPP loan can reapply for the maximum amount available to them.  As with the first round of PPP, you will apply through your bank for funds.

More details will follow as they’re available. If you have any questions, contact us at David Mills, CPA, LLC.

Tax documents, calculator, pen and post-it tab markers

CARES Act Gives Some Businesses Chance to File Amended Tax Returns

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act made changes to excess business losses. This includes some changes that are retroactive and there may be opportunities for some businesses to file amended tax returns.

If you hold an interest in a business, or may do so in the future, here is more information about the changes.

Deferral of the excess business loss limits The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) provided that net tax losses from active businesses in excess of an inflation-adjusted $500,000 for joint filers, or an inflation-adjusted $250,000 for other covered taxpayers, are to be treated as net operating loss (NOL) carryforwards in the following tax year.

The covered taxpayers are individuals, estates and trusts that own businesses directly or as partners in a partnership or shareholders in an S corporation. The $500,000 and $250,000 limits, which are adjusted for inflation for tax years beginning after calendar year 2018, were scheduled under the TCJA to apply to tax years beginning in calendar years 2018 through 2025.

But the CARES Act has retroactively postponed the limits so that they now apply to tax years beginning in calendar years 2021 through 2025. The postponement means that you may be able to amend: Any filed 2018 tax returns that reflected a disallowed excess business loss (to allow the loss in 2018) and Any filed 2019 tax returns that reflect a disallowed 2019 loss and/or a carryover of a disallowed 2018 loss (to allow the 2019 loss and/or eliminate the carryover).

Note that the excess business loss limits also don’t apply to tax years that begin in 2020. Thus, such a 2020 year can be a window to start a business with large up-front-deductible items (for example capital items that can be 100% deducted under bonus depreciation or other provisions) and be able to offset the resulting net losses from the business against investment income or income from employment (see below).

Changes to the excess business loss limits The CARES Act made several retroactive corrections to the excess business loss rules as they were originally stated in the 2017 TCJA.

Most importantly, the CARES Act clarified that deductions, gross income or gain attributable to employment aren’t taken into account in calculating an excess business loss.

This means that excess business losses can’t shelter either net taxable investment income or net taxable employment income. Be aware of that if you’re planning a start-up that will begin to generate, or will still be generating, excess business losses in 2021.

Another change provides that an excess business loss is taken into account in determining any NOL carryover but isn’t automatically carried forward to the next year.

And a generally beneficial change states that excess business losses don’t include any deduction under the tax code provisions involving the NOL deduction or the qualified business income deduction that effectively reduces income taxes on many businesses.

Because capital losses of non-corporations can’t offset ordinary income under the NOL rules: Capital loss deductions aren’t taken into account in computing the excess business loss and the amount of capital gain taken into account in computing the loss can’t exceed the lesser of capital gain net income from a trade or business or capital gain net income.

Contact David Mills, CPA, LLC with any questions you have about this or other tax matters. 

woman wearing a mask at a computer doing small business bookkeeping

Getting Through COVID | Outsourcing Your Bookkeeping Can Help

COVID-19 has affected small businesses in ways they never could have imagined. It’s more important than ever to have an up-to-date and accurate understanding of your business financials. Outsourcing your bookkeeping to the experts at David Mills, CPA, LLC is the answer.

When the clock struck midnight on Jan. 1, few people could have envisioned the year that 2020 would become. The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has upended businesses and forced companies large and small to re-evaluate. 

COVID-19 Changed How Small Businesses Operate

Some businesses have struggled during COVID-19 with lost business, redacted productivity, disrupted supply chains and more. Others have found their niche during the pandemic and have experienced business growth.

Businesses on both ends of the spectrum have realized now, more than ever, accurate financial data is key.

With offices in Morton and East Peoria, we’re Central Illinois small business bookkeeping experts. We understand most business owners don’t have the time to learn the skills necessary to accurately keep their set of books. That’s especially true in 2020 when business owners are faced with hundreds of additional decisions and challenges. Outsourcing your bookkeeping is the solution.

Our bookkeepers are current and up-to-date on all bookkeeping and payroll laws, so there’s no need to train your staff. This is especially vital in 2020 where cuts to payroll taxes, PPP loans and other COVID-related government programs have made the year unlike any other.

Up-To-Date & Accurate Financial Information is Vital

When you use David Mills, CPA, LLC to provide your small business bookkeeping services, you know you’ll receive timely financial information, allowing you to make sound decisions. 

Will you need to take out a small business loan? Should you refinance existing loans? The business climate in 2020 means many are re-evaluating their finances. Up-to-date information gives you the knowledge you need to make the best decisions for your business.

The pandemic has forced Americans to change their habits and spending. Perhaps your business has been one that’s benefitted from COVID-19. Trying to manage your bookkeeping while also staying on top of business demands can be a daunting task.

Running your business and catering to your customers’ needs is what you do best. Leave the bookkeeping to us. 

Every month, we will:

  • Record revenue and expenses
  • Reconcile your bank accounts
  • Generate income statements and balance sheets
  • Record any special journal entires
  • Provide an optional cash flow statement
  • Electronically file and pay your state sales tax
  • Generate current vs previous period profit-to-loss statements

All of the information is entered into a QuickBooks file, which can be easily retrieved whenever information is needed.

COVID-19 has made 2020 much more challenging, however, your business bookkeeping doesn’t have to be part of that challenge. Contact David Mills, CPA, LLC today.

Learn more about the small business bookkeeping services we offer.

COVID Charitable CARES Contributions graphic

Business Charitable Contribution Rules Have Changed Under CARES Act

In light of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many businesses are interested in donating to charity. In order to incentivize charitable giving, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act made some liberalizations to the rules governing charitable deductions.

The Limit on Charitable Deductions for Corporations has Increased 

Before the CARES Act, the total charitable deduction that a corporation could generally claim for the year couldn’t exceed 10% of corporate taxable income (as determined with several modifications for these purposes).

Contributions in excess of the 10% limit are carried forward and may be used during the next five years (subject to the 10%-of-taxable-income limitation each year).

What changed? Under the CARES Act, the limitation on charitable deductions for corporations (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 taxable income (modified). No connection between the contributions and COVID-19 activities is required.

The Deduction Limit on Food Inventory has Increased

At a time when many people are unemployed, your business may want to contribute food inventory to qualified charities.

In general, a business is entitled to a charitable tax deduction for making a qualified contribution of “apparently wholesome food” to an organization that uses it for the care of the ill, the needy, or infants.

“Apparently wholesome food” is defined as food intended for human consumption that meets all quality and labeling standards imposed by federal, state, and local laws and regulations, even though it may not be readily marketable due to appearance, age, freshness, grade, size, surplus, or other conditions.

Before the CARES Act, the aggregate amount of such food contributions that could be taken into account for the tax year generally couldn’t exceed 15% of the taxpayer’s aggregate net income for that tax year from all trades or businesses from which the contributions were made. This was computed without regard to the charitable deduction for food inventory contributions.

What changed? Under the CARES Act, for contributions of food inventory made in 2020, the deduction limitation increases from 15% to 25% of taxable income for C corporations.

For other business taxpayers, it increases from 15% to 25% of the net aggregate income from all businesses from which the contributions were made.

CARES Act Questions

Be aware that in addition to these changes affecting businesses, the CARES Act also made changes to the charitable deduction rules for individuals.

Contact David Mills, CPA, LLC if you have questions about making charitable donations and securing a tax break for them. We can explain the rules and compute the maximum deduction for your generosity. 

PPP Loan written in letter blocks

Received a PPP Loan? Forgiven Expenses Aren’t Deductible

The IRS has issued guidance clarifying that certain deductions aren’t allowed if a business has received a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan.

Specifically, an expense isn’t deductible if both:

PPP Basics

The CARES Act allows a recipient of a PPP loan to use the proceeds to pay payroll costs, certain employee healthcare benefits, mortgage interest, rent, utilities, and interest on other existing debt obligations.

A recipient of a covered loan can receive forgiveness of the loan in an amount equal to the sum of payments made for the following expenses during the 8-week “covered period” beginning on the loan’s origination date:

  1. Payroll costs,
  2. Interest on any covered mortgage obligation,
  3. Payment on any covered rent, and
  4. Covered utility payments.

The law provides that any forgiven loan amount “shall be excluded from gross income.”

Deductible Expenses

So the question arises: If you pay for the above expenses with PPP funds, can you then deduct the expenses on your tax return?

The tax code generally provides for a deduction for all ordinary and necessary expenses paid or incurred during the taxable year in carrying on a trade or business.

Covered rent obligations, covered utility payments, and payroll costs consisting of wages and benefits paid to employees comprise typical trade or business expenses for which a deduction generally is appropriate.

The tax code also provides a deduction for certain interest paid or accrued during the taxable year on indebtedness, including interest paid or incurred on a mortgage obligation of a trade or business.

No Double Tax Benefit

In IRS Notice 2020-32, the IRS clarifies that no deduction is allowed for an expense that is otherwise deductible if payment of the expense results in forgiveness of a covered loan pursuant to the CARES Act and the income associated with the forgiveness is excluded from gross income under the law.

The Notice states that “this treatment prevents a double tax benefit.” Two members of Congress say they’re opposed to the IRS stand on this issue. Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and his counterpart in the House, Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard E. Neal (D-MA), oppose the tax treatment.

Neal said it doesn’t follow congressional intent and that he’ll seek legislation to make certain expenses deductible.

For more tax advice or information, contact the experts at David Mills CPA, LLC.