Among the many business provisions of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, are those meant to aid individual taxpayers. Below are a few of the key individual tax-related provisions.
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. 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. Adoption taxpayer identification numbers will be accepted for adopted children. SSNs are not required for spouses of active military members. 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, but some seniors and others who typically do not file returns will need to submit a simple tax return to receive the stimulus payment. Social Security recipients will automatically receive the stimulus payment without having to file a simple tax return. People who typically don’t file a tax return will need to file a simple tax return to receive the payment. Low-income taxpayers, senior citizens, Social Security recipients, some veterans and individuals with disabilities who are otherwise not required to file a tax return will not owe tax.
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.
IRS urges anyone with a tax filing obligation who has not yet filed a tax return for 2018 or 2019 to file as soon as they can to receive an economic impact payment. To speed receipt of payment, taxpayers are advised to include direct deposit banking information on the return.
In the coming weeks, Treasury plans to develop a web-based portal for individuals to provide their banking information to the IRS online, so that individuals can receive payments immediately as opposed to checks in the mail. IRS will post all key information on https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus as soon as it becomes available.
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.
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.
Waiver of Required Minimum 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 Deduction Liberalizations
The CARES Act makes four significant liberalizations 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.
4. For contributions of food inventory made in 2020, the deduction limitation increases from 15% to 25% of taxable income for C corporations and, for other taxpayers, from 15% to 25% of the net aggregate income from all businesses from which the contributions were made.
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.
Information on the business provisions of the CARES Act is also available on our blog and in the webinar listed below.
Check out our webinar page for upcoming and on-demand webinars.
As always, Lanigan Ryan will continue to monitor this evolving situation and add updates to our new COVID-19 resource center as they become available. As an “essential” business in the state of Maryland, we will continue to work for clients to meet upcoming deadlines, while emphasizing the safety of both our clients and our team. Please know that your Lanigan Ryan team members are always available for questions.