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WildfiresWhen we thought times were bad enough with the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread social unrest in our country, the West Coast, including the Pacific Northwest, was struck with unprecedented wildfires and massive windstorms, taking lives, destroying property and rendering the air quality throughout the region unhealthy.  On September 16 and 17, the Internal Revenue Service announced good news for many taxpayers residing in Oregon. 

In News Release OR-2020-23 and News Release IR-2020-215, the IRS announced that, due to the wildfires and windstorms striking Oregon, the deadline for certain Oregonians to file returns and make tax payments will be extended to January 15, 2021.

Swimming poolOn August 8, 2020, President Trump issued an executive order, directing the U.S. Treasury to grant employers the ability to defer the withholding, deposit and payment of certain payroll taxes as further COVID-19 tax relief.  The deferral applies only to the employee portion of Social Security taxes and Railroad Retirement taxes (i.e., 6.2 percent of wages) required to be withheld and paid under Internal Revenue Code (“Code”) Sections 3101(a) and 3201(a) from September 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020. 

PRACTICE ALERT:  The deferral does not apply to required employee Medicare tax withholdings under Code Section 3101(b) (either the standard 1.45 percent on all wages or the additional 0.9 percent tax on wages in excess of $200,000).  Further, the deferral is not available for the employer’s share of Social Security (6.2 percent) or Medicare (1.45 percent) taxes.

IRS NOTICE 2020-65

On August 28, 2020, the IRS issued Notice 2020-65, providing guidance relative to the president’s executive order.  It provides answers to several important questions.

Notice 2020-65 defines employers required to withhold and pay Social Security and Railroad Retirement taxes as “Affected Taxpayers.”  It goes on to provide that the due date for withholding and payment of the employee portion of Social Security taxes and Railroad Retirement taxes for the period September 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020 is postponed until the period commencing January 1, 2021 through April 30, 2021. 

Digital technologyIn News Release 2020-107, issued Thursday, May 28, 2020, the IRS announced that taxpayers will soon be able to electronically file Form 1040-X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.  This is welcome news for taxpayers and tax practitioners!

Background

According to the IRS, more than 90 percent of individual taxpayers electronically file their U.S. Federal Income Tax Returns (Form 1040) each year.  Likewise, approximately three million amended U.S. Federal Income Tax Returns (Form 1040-X) are filed each year.

Currently, a large number of tax forms may be filed electronically, including U.S. Federal Income Tax Forms 1040, 1065, 1120 and 1120S.  Additionally, taxpayers may electronically amend U.S. Federal Income Tax Forms 1065, 1120 and 1120S.  They may not, however, amend U.S. Federal Income Tax Form 1040 (Form 1040-X) electronically.  

Despite repeated pleas by tax practitioners for the ability to file Form 1040-X electronically, the IRS has not been able to accommodate practitioners.  That is about to change! 

BasketballDuring these trying times, especially with stay-at-home orders still in effect in most states, it is difficult not to over-focus on the uncertainty that lies ahead.  Hopefully, we can find healthy distractions to refocus our attention. 

In normal times, one of the many healthy distractions in our lives was viewing live sporting events such as basketball, football, baseball and soccer.  Unfortunately, COVID-19 shut down these activities.  The television networks quickly responded, without letting their stations go dormant, rebroadcasting historic sporting events. 

MoneyAs discussed in recent blog posts, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the “CARES Act”), signed into law on March 27, 2020, created the Payroll Protection Plan (“PPP”) under which the U.S. Small Business Administration (“SBA”) was authorized to make up to $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses to enable them to meet payroll costs, benefits, rent and utility payments.  On April 24, 2020, Congress increased the amount of available funds under the PPP to $659 billion when the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act was signed into law.

The PPP legislation and the administrative rules promulgated thereunder are plagued with numerous unanticipated defects.  One of the defects in the PPP, as rolled out by the federal government, may be the death of small businesses, including restaurants.

Silver bulletLast week, we reported that the IRS issued Notice 2020-32, wherein (relying primarily on Code Section 265) it emphatically pronounced that taxpayers receiving Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) loans do not get to have their cake and eat it too!  As a result of the notice, if a taxpayer’s PPP loan is forgiven and, in accordance with the CARES Act, has no cancellation of debt income as he/she/it would otherwise have under Code Section 61(a)(11), the taxpayer cannot deduct the business expenses for which it used the forgiven loan proceeds. 

As we explained last week, the government’s conclusion, from a purely academic perspective, makes some sense.  In normal times, taxpayers should not get a double tax benefit from a forgiven debt (i.e., a deduction with respect to expenses paid from the loan proceeds and an exemption from tax on the forgiven loan).  However, we are not living in normal times.

CakeIn Notice 2020-32, issued yesterday, the IRS emphatically pronounced that taxpayers receiving Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) loans do not get to have their cake and eat it too!

As we discussed in a recent blog post, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the “CARES Act”), signed into law on March 27, 2020, created the PPP under which the Small Business Administration is authorized to make up to $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses to enable them to meet payroll costs, benefits, rent and utility payments.  On April 24, 2020, Congress increased the amount of available funds under the PPP to $659 billion when the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act was signed into law.

The CARES Act expressly excludes from gross income any amount forgiven under the PPP.  The question left unanswered by the CARES Act is whether the amounts forgiven that were spent by borrowers on otherwise allowable business expenses (i.e., payroll costs, rent, utilities, transportation and interest) are deductible under Code Section 162.

Notice 2020-32 quickly points out to taxpayers and tax advisers – not so fast – there are no free lunches.  In essence, if the loan is forgiven and, as a result of the CARES Act, a taxpayer has no cancellation of debt income as he/she/it would otherwise have under Code Section 61(a)(11), the taxpayer certainly does not get to deduct the business expenses for which it used the forgiven loan proceeds.

NOTICE 2020-23

Working lateOn April 9, 2020, the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury issued Notice 2020-23.  It greatly expands the tax compliance relief previously granted to taxpayers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Background

On March 13, 2020, President Trump issued an emergency declaration, instructing the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury to relieve taxpayers from certain tax compliance deadlines during these horrific times. 

Code Section 7508A grants Treasury authority to postpone the time to perform certain acts required under the Code for taxpayers affected by a federally declared disaster (as defined in Code Section 165(i)(5)(A)). 

Piggy bankOn March 13, 2020, President Trump issued an emergency declaration that, in part, instructed the U.S. Department of the Treasury (“Treasury”) to provide taxpayers with “relief from tax deadlines” due to the impact of the Coronavirus. 

Code Section 7508A gives Treasury authority to postpone the time to perform certain acts required under the Code for taxpayers affected by a federally declared disaster (as defined in Code Section 165(i)(5)(A)). 

The Secretary of the Treasury determined that any person with a federal income tax return and income tax payment due on April 15, 2020 is affected by the COVID-19 emergency.  Accordingly, as previously reported in our blog posts covering Notice 2020-17 and Notice 2020-18, Treasury postponed the due date for the filing of federal income tax returns and the payment of federal income taxes due on April 15, 2020 to July 15, 2020. 

Treasury has expanded taxpayer relief with the announcement of Notice 2020-20.

U.S. FlagToday, in the wake of the recent decision by the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) to extend the income tax filing and payment deadlines to July 15, 2020, it announced a new taxpayer-friendly program called the “People First Initiative” (the “PFI”).  The PFI is designed to provide taxpayers with additional relief from the havoc wreaked by COVID-19.

IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig stated that the PFI is part of the Service’s “extraordinary steps to help the people of our country.”  It is a temporary initiative.  Unless extended, the PFI will be available to taxpayers from April 1, 2020 to July 15, 2020 (“Program Period”). 

The temporary relief offered by the PFI includes postponing Installment Agreement and Offer in Compromise payments, and halting many collection and enforcement actions.  During the Program Period, the IRS will provide needed guidance.

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Larry J. Brant
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Larry J. Brant is a Shareholder in Foster Garvey, a law firm based out of the Pacific Northwest, with offices in Seattle, Washington; Portland, Oregon; Washington, D.C.; New York, New York, Spokane, Washington; and Beijing, China. Mr. Brant practices in the Portland office. His practice focuses on tax, tax controversy and transactions. Mr. Brant is a past Chair of the Oregon State Bar Taxation Section. He was the long-term Chair of the Oregon Tax Institute, and is currently a member of the Board of Directors of the Portland Tax Forum. Mr. Brant has served as an adjunct professor, teaching corporate taxation, at Northwestern School of Law, Lewis and Clark College. He is an Expert Contributor to Thomson Reuters Checkpoint Catalyst. Mr. Brant is a Fellow in the American College of Tax Counsel. He publishes articles on numerous income tax issues, including Taxation of S Corporations, Reasonable Compensation, Circular 230, Worker Classification, IRC § 1031 Exchanges, Choice of Entity, Entity Tax Classification, and State and Local Taxation. Mr. Brant is a frequent lecturer at local, regional and national tax and business conferences for CPAs and attorneys. He was the 2015 Recipient of the Oregon State Bar Tax Section Award of Merit.

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