President Trump recently signed a second stimulus package—called the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (Act)—into law. The legislation includes over $300 billion in aid for small businesses. Below is a breakdown of some of the business tax changes and extenders in the new COVID-19 relief bill.
Payroll Tax Credit for Paid Sick and Family Leave
The refundable payroll tax credit for paid and sick family leave, established in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, is extended until March 31, 2021. The tax credits are modified so that they now apply to practically any payments made to workers for these purposes.
Payroll Tax Repayment
The time frame for employees to repay deferred employment taxes under the President’s executive order, which was issued in August 2020, has been extended from April 2021 to December 31, 2021.
Employee Retention Credit
The Employee Retention Credit (ERC) under the CARES Act has extended to July 1, 2021. Further, the refundable tax credit has increased from 50% to 70%, the per-employee wages limitation has increased from $10,000 per year to $10,000 per quarter, and the determination of a large employer for purposes of the ERC has increased from 100 to 500 employees.
30-Year Depreciation of Certain Residential Rental Property
The new law determines that the recovery period relevant to residential rental property placed in service before Jan. 1, 2018, and held by an electing real property trade or business, is 30 years.
Business Meal Deduction
Rather than the current 50% business expense deduction for meals, the bill temporarily allows a 100% expense deduction for meals provided by restaurants in 2021 and 2022.
Deduction for Energy Efficient Commercial Buildings
The deduction for energy-efficient improvements to commercial buildings, such as lighting, heating, cooling, ventilation, and hot water systems was made permanent. The amount will be inflation-adjusted after 2020.
Changes to the Work Opportunity Tax Credit
If employers hire workers who are members of one of more of ten targeted groups under the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) program, they are permitted to use an elective general business tax credit. Previously applicable to hires before 1/1/2021, the TCDTR extends the credit through 2025.
Employer Payments of Student Loans
Section 127, which permits employers to provide certain educational assistance to employees on a tax-free basis, was modified under the CARES Act to authorize the payment by an employer of principal or interest on specific employee qualified education loans through December 31, 2020. The Consolidated Appropriations Act expands this through December 30, 2025. As the pandemic subsides, employers may want to consider this valuable tax-free benefit.
Health and Dependent Care Flexible Spending Arrangements
The bill allows taxpayers to roll over unused funds in their health and dependent care flexible spending accounts from 2020 to 2021 and from 2021 to 2022. This arrangement also permits employers to grant employees a 2021 midyear prospective adjustment in contribution amounts.