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From FFCRA to ARPA: The Latest on Paid COVID-Related Leave

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) was among the first major laws enacted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It allows employees paid sick time and paid family leave time to care for themselves or loved ones during the ongoing public health crisis. In turn, eligible employers can claim tax credits to offset the costs of providing the leave. FFCRA paid leave has been subject to various guidance over the past year, and the rules have changed yet again under the recently signed American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Changes under the ARPA apply to amounts paid during calendar quarters beginning after March 31, 2021. Here are some highlights: The FFCRA paid sick time and paid family leave credits have been extended from March 31, 2021, through September 30, 2021. Paid sick and paid family leave credits may each be increased by the employer’s share of Social Security tax (6.2%) and employer’s share of Medicare tax (1.45%) on qualified leave wages. Credits for paid sick and fam
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The Biden Administration Proposes Far-Reaching Tax Overhaul

President Biden recently announced his $1.8 trillion American Families Plan (AFP), the third step in his Build Back Better policy initiative. The announcement followed the previous releases of the proposed $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan and the Made in America Tax Plan. These plans propose major investments in various domestic initiatives, such as expanded tax credits for families, offset with tax increases on high-income individual taxpayers and corporations. Proposed tax changes for the wealthy The AFP would reverse many of the provisions in 2017’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and other parts of the tax code that benefit higher-income taxpayers. These taxpayers could be hit by changes to the following: Individual tax rates. The plan proposes to return the tax rate for the top income bracket to Obama administration levels, going from the current 37% to 39.6%. It’s not clear whether the income tax brackets will be adjusted. For 2021, the top tax rate begins at $523,601 for single taxpayers

Cafeteria-Plan DCAPs Get Temporary Boost from COVID-19 Relief Act

Many employers use cafeteria plans to offer employees a menu of benefits from which to choose. Under Section 125 of the Internal Revenue Code, participants in a cafeteria plan must be permitted to opt for at least one taxable benefit (such as cash) and one qualified benefit. Chosen benefits are then provided on a pretax basis. Among the most popular benefits is enrollment in a dependent care assistance program (DCAP). Such a program allows participants to use those pretax dollars to pay for eligible child day care or elder day care expenses. The recently signed American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) includes a substantial, albeit temporary, boost to a critical dollar amount associated with DCAPs. Program as FSA As mentioned, an eligible employee’s gross income generally doesn’t include amounts paid or incurred by an employer for dependent care assistance provided under a qualified DCAP. Many employers maintain their DCAPs under a cafeteria plan as a DCAP Flexible Spending Arrangement (FSA). F

President Biden Details His Tax Proposals for Individuals

President Biden’s proposals for individual taxpayers were outlined in an April 28 address to Congress and in an 18-page fact sheet released by the White House. The “American Families Plan” contains tax breaks for low- and middle-income taxpayers and tax increases on those “making over $400,000 per year.” Here’s a summary of some of the proposals. Extended tax breaks Extend the Child Tax Credit (CTC) increases in the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) through 2025 and make the credit permanently fully refundable. The ARPA made several changes to the CTC for 2021. For example, it expanded the credit for eligible taxpayers from $2,000 to $3,000 per child ages six and above, and $3,600 per child under age six. It also made 17-year-olds eligible to be qualifying children for the first time and made the credit fully refundable. It also provides for monthly advance payments of the credit that will be paid from July through December 2021. The American Families Plan would make permanent th

New Law Tax Break May Make Child Care Less Expensive

The new American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) provides eligible families with an enhanced child and dependent care credit for 2021. This is the credit available for expenses a taxpayer pays for the care of qualifying children under the age of 13 so that the taxpayer can be gainfully employed. Note that a credit reduces your tax bill dollar for dollar. Who qualifies? For care to qualify for the credit, the expenses must be “employment-related.” In other words, they must enable you and your spouse to work. In addition, they must be for the care of your child, stepchild, foster child, brother, sister or step-sibling (or a descendant of any of these), who’s under 13, lives in your home for over half the year, and doesn’t provide over half of his or her own support for the year. The expenses can also be for the care of your spouse or dependent who’s handicapped and lives with you for over half the year. The typical expenses that qualify for the credit are payments to a day care center, nanny or n

Is an S Corporation the Best Choice of Entity for Your Business?

Are you thinking about launching a business with some partners and wondering what type of entity to form? An S corporation may be the most suitable form of business for your new venture. Here’s an explanation of the reasons why. The biggest advantage of an S corporation over a partnership is that as S corporation shareholders, you won’t be personally liable for corporate debts. In order to receive this protection, it’s important that the corporation be adequately financed, that the existence of the corporation as a separate entity be maintained and that various formalities required by your state be observed (for example, filing articles of incorporation, adopting by-laws, electing a board of directors and holding organizational meetings). Anticipating losses If you expect that the business will incur losses in its early years, an S corporation is preferable to a C corporation from a tax standpoint. Shareholders in a C corporation generally get no tax benefit from such losses. In contra

If You Run a Business from Home, You Could Qualify for Home Office Deductions

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are working from home. If you’re self-employed and run your business from your home or perform certain functions there, you might be able to claim deductions for home office expenses against your business income. There are two methods for claiming this tax break: the actual expenses method and the simplified method. Who qualifies? In general, you qualify for home office deductions if part of your home is used “regularly and exclusively” as your principal place of business. If your home isn’t your principal place of business, you may still be able to deduct home office expenses if 1) you physically meet with patients, clients or customers on your premises, or 2) you use a storage area in your home (or a separate free-standing structure, such as a garage) exclusively and regularly for business. What can you deduct? Many eligible taxpayers deduct actual expenses when they claim home office deductions. Deductible home office expenses may i

Retiring Soon? Recent Law Changes May Have an Impact on Your Retirement Savings

If you’re approaching retirement, you probably want to ensure the money you’ve saved in retirement plans lasts as long as possible. If so, be aware that a law was recently enacted that makes significant changes to retirement accounts. The SECURE Act, which was signed into law in late 2019, made a number of changes of interest to those nearing retirement. You can keep making traditional IRA contributions if you’re still working Before 2020, traditional IRA contributions weren’t allowed once you reached age 70½. But now, an individual of any age can make contributions to a traditional IRA, as long as he or she has compensation, which generally means earned income from wages or self-employment. So if you work part time after retiring, or do some work as an independent contractor, you may be able to continue saving in your IRA if you’re otherwise eligible. The required minimum distribution (RMD) age was raised from 70½ to 72 Before 2020, retirement plan participants and IRA owners were

Estimated Tax Payments: The Deadline for the First 2021 Installment Is Coming

April 15 is the deadline for the first quarterly estimated tax payment for 2021, if you’re required to make one. You may have to make estimated tax payments if you receive interest, dividends, alimony, self-employment income, capital gains, prize money or other income. If you don’t pay enough tax during the year through withholding and estimated payments, you may be liable for a tax penalty on top of the tax that’s ultimately due. Four due dates Individuals must pay 25% of their “required annual payment” by April 15, June 15, September 15, and January 15 of the following year, to avoid an underpayment penalty. If one of those dates falls on a weekend or holiday, the payment is due on the next business day. The required annual payment for most individuals is the lower of 90% of the tax shown on the current year’s return or 100% of the tax shown on the return for the previous year. However, if the adjusted gross income on your previous year’s return was more than $150,000 (more than

Business Highlights in the New American Rescue Plan Act

President Biden signed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) on March 11. While the new law is best known for the provisions providing relief to individuals, there are also several tax breaks and financial benefits for businesses. Here are some of the tax highlights of the ARPA. The Employee Retention Credit (ERC). This valuable tax credit is extended from June 30 until December 31, 2021. The ARPA continues the ERC rate of credit at 70% for this extended period of time. It also continues to allow for up to $10,000 in qualified wages for any calendar quarter. Taking into account the Consolidated Appropriations Act extension and the ARPA extension, this means an employer can potentially have up to $40,000 in qualified wages per employee through 2021. Employer-Provided Dependent Care Assistance . In general, an eligible employee’s gross income doesn’t include amounts paid or incurred by an employer for dependent care assistance provided to the employee under a qualified depe

New Law: Parents and Other Eligible Americans to Receive Direct Payments

The American Rescue Plan Act, signed into law on March 11, provides a variety of tax and financial relief to help mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the many initiatives are direct payments that will be made to eligible individuals. And parents under certain income thresholds will also receive additional payments in the coming months through a greatly revised Child Tax Credit. Here are some answers to questions about these payments. What are the two types of payments? Under the new law, eligible individuals will receive advance direct payments of a tax credit. The law calls these payments “recovery rebates.” The law also includes advance Child Tax Credit payments to eligible parents later this year. How much are the recovery rebates? An eligible individual is allowed a 2021 income tax credit, which will generally be paid in advance through direct bank deposit or a paper check. The full amount is $1,400 ($2,800 for eligible married joint filers) plus $1,400 for e

Work Opportunity Tax Credit Extended Through 2025

Are you a business owner thinking about hiring? Be aware that a recent law extended a credit for hiring individuals from one or more targeted groups. Employers can qualify for a tax credit known as the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) that’s worth as much as $2,400 for each eligible employee ($4,800, $5,600 and $9,600 for certain veterans and $9,000 for “long-term family assistance recipients”). The credit is generally limited to eligible employees who began work for the employer before January 1, 2026. Generally, an employer is eligible for the credit only for qualified wages paid to members of a targeted group. These groups are: Qualified members of families receiving assistance under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, Qualified veterans, Qualified ex-felons, Designated community residents, Vocational rehabilitation referrals, Qualified summer youth employees, Qualified members of families in the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), Quali

Didn’t Contribute to an IRA Last Year? There Still May Be Time

If you’re getting ready to file your 2020 tax return, and your tax bill is higher than you’d like, there might still be an opportunity to lower it. If you qualify, you can make a deductible contribution to a traditional IRA right up until the April 15, 2021 filing date and benefit from the tax savings on your 2020 return. Who is eligible? You can make a deductible contribution to a traditional IRA if: You (and your spouse) aren’t an active participant in an employer-sponsored retirement plan, or You (or your spouse) are an active participant in an employer plan, but your modified adjusted gross income (AGI) doesn’t exceed certain levels that vary from year-to-year by filing status. For 2020, if you’re a joint tax return filer and you are covered by an employer plan, your deductible IRA contribution phases out over $104,000 to $124,000 of modified AGI. If you’re single or a head of household, the phaseout range is $65,000 to $75,000 for 2020. For married filing separately, the phas

2021 Adjusted Penalties for Health Benefits and Other Employer Plans

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently announced the 2021 annual adjustments to civil monetary penalties for a wide range of benefits-related violations. Legislation enacted in 2015 requires annual adjustments to certain penalty amounts by January 15 of each year. The 2021 adjustments are effective for penalties assessed after January 15, 2021, with respect to violations occurring after November 2, 2015. Here are some highlights: Form 5500 . Employers must file this form annually for most ERISA plans to provide the IRS and DOL with information about the plan’s operation and compliance with government regulations. The maximum penalty for failing to file Form 5500 has increased from $2,233 per day to $2,259 per day that the filing is late. Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC). The maximum penalty for failing to provide an SBC has increased from $1,176 to $1,190 per failure. Other group health plan penalties. Violations of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) may

2021 Individual Taxes: Q&A for Tax Amounts That May Have Changed

Many people are more concerned about their 2020 tax bills right now than they are about their 2021 tax situations. That’s understandable because your 2020 individual tax return is due to be filed in less than three months (unless you file an extension). However, it’s a good idea to acquaint yourself with tax amounts that may have changed for 2021. Below are some Q&As about tax amounts for this year. Be aware that not all tax figures are adjusted annually for inflation and even if they are, they may be unchanged or change only slightly due to low inflation. In addition, some amounts only change with new legislation. How much can I contribute to an IRA for 2021? If you’re eligible, you can contribute $6,000 a year to a traditional or Roth IRA, up to 100% of your earned income. If you’re 50 or older, you can make another $1,000 “catch up” contribution. (These amounts were the same for 2020.) I have a 401(k) plan through my job. How much can I contribute to it? For 2021, you c

Many Tax Amounts Affecting Businesses Have Increased for 2021

A number of tax-related limits that affect businesses are annually indexed for inflation, and many have increased for 2021. Some stayed the same due to low inflation. And the deduction for business meals has doubled for this year after a new law was enacted at the end of 2020. Here’s a rundown of those that may be important to you and your business. Social Security tax The amount of employees’ earnings that are subject to Social Security tax is capped for 2021 at $142,800 (up from $137,700 for 2020). Deductions Section 179 expensing: Limit: $1.05 million (up from $1.04 million for 2020) Phaseout: $2.62 million (up from $2.59 million) Income-based phase-out for certain limits on the Sec. 199A qualified business income deduction begins at: Married filing jointly: $329,800 (up from $326,600) Married filing separately: $164,925 (up from $163,300) Other filers: $164,900 (up from $163,300) Business meals Deduction for eligible business-related food and beverage expenses provided by a

Did You Make Donations in 2020? There’s Still Time to Get Substantiation

If you’re like many Americans, letters from your favorite charities may be appearing in your mailbox acknowledging your 2020 donations. But what happens if you haven’t received such a letter — can you still claim a deduction for the gift on your 2020 income tax return? It depends. What is required To support a charitable deduction, you need to comply with IRS substantiation requirements. This generally includes obtaining a contemporaneous  written acknowledgment from the charity stating the amount of the donation, whether you received any goods or services in consideration for the donation, and the value of any such goods or services. “Contemporaneous” means the earlier of: The date you file your tax return, or The extended due date of your return. So if you made a donation in 2020 but haven’t yet received substantiation from the charity, it’s not too late — as long as you haven’t filed your 2020 return. Contact the charity and request a written acknowledgment. Keep in mind th

Don’t Forget to Take Required Minimum Distributions this Year

If you have a traditional IRA or tax-deferred retirement plan account, you probably know that you must take required minimum distributions (RMDs) when you reach a certain age — or you’ll be penalized. The CARES Act, which passed last March, allowed people to skip taking these withdrawals in 2020 but now that we’re in 2021, RMDs must be taken again. The basics Once you attain age 72 (or age 70½ before 2020), you must begin taking RMDs from your traditional IRAs and certain retirement accounts, including 401(k) plans. In general, RMDs are calculated using life expectancy tables published by the IRS. If you don’t withdraw the minimum amount each year, you may have to pay a 50% penalty tax on what you  should  have taken out — but didn’t. (Roth IRAs don’t require withdrawals until after the death of the owner.) You can always take out more than the required amount. In planning for distributions, your income needs must be weighed against the desirable goal of keeping the tax shelter of the

IRS Issues Final Regs on ICHRAs

In mid-January, the IRS issued final regulations that clarify the application of the employer shared responsibility provisions under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), as well as nondiscrimination rules, to Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs). The regs also address Individual Coverage Health Reimbursement Arrangements (ICHRAs). These accounts allow employers to make tax-deductible contributions to reimburse employees for part or all of the expenses those employees incur in securing individual health care coverage (including Medicare). More specifically, the regs allow ICHRAs certain safe harbors from the pertinent ACA provisions and Internal Revenue Code rules. Safe harbors The final regs provide that, to determine whether an offer of an ICHRA to a full-time employee is “affordable” under the ACA, an employer may use the lowest-cost silver plan for self-only coverage offered through a Health Insurance Marketplace (or “exchange”) where the employee’s primary site of employment is loca

How the New COVID-19 Relief Law Affects Retirement Benefits

The Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA) includes a wide variety of provisions that address the ongoing economic hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. There are so many provisions, in fact, that you may find it challenging to keep track of everything pertinent to your organization. One example is retirement benefits. Although the CAA doesn’t make sweeping changes to defined benefit plans, such as pensions, or defined contribution plans, such as 401(k)s, the law does affect both. Here’s a brief overview of the provisions in question. Future transfers The tax code allows “qualified future transfers” of up to 10 years of retiree health and life costs from a company’s pension plan to a retiree’s health benefits or life insurance account within the plan. These transfers must meet certain requirements, such as the plan being 120% funded, which have become too difficult to meet in some cases due to pandemic-related market volatility. In response, the CAA allows an employer to make a