During the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government enacted three major pieces of legislation to provide financial relief to individuals and families. The American Recovery Plan Act (“ARPA”), the most recent legislation, provides the third round of Economic Impact Payments (“EIPs”), also referred to as stimulus payments (and “recovery rebates” in the acts), to millions of Americans.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021
In a bipartisan effort, H.R. 133-116th Congress: Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (the "Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021") overwhelmingly passed both the House and the Senate on December 21, 2020. It is now on President Trump's desk awaiting his signature.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, which spans almost 6,000 pages, once signed into law, will bring holiday cheer to many. The new law includes a huge variety of provisions aimed at assisting individuals and businesses during this time of need. One provision in particular is aimed at curing a wrong created by the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS") in Notice 2020-32.
When 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.
More than six months into the coronavirus pandemic, and approximately four months since the IRS issued Notice 2020-32, it is looking increasingly likely that taxpayers will not be permitted to deduct business expenses funded with Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) loan proceeds that are ultimately forgiven. It is terribly late in the game not to have finality on the issue, especially with the third quarter 2020 estimated tax payments due on September 15 (next week).
As we previously discussed, PPP loans authorized by the CARES Act may be forgivable, in whole or in part, if taxpayers use the proceeds for qualifying expenses (namely, payroll, benefits, mortgage interest, rent, and utilities). Unlike other debt that is forgiven, PPP loan amounts forgiven pursuant to the CARES Act do not constitute cancellation of debt income.
During the first special session of 2020, the Oregon legislature passed House Bill 4212 (“HB 4212”). Governor Kate Brown (the “Governor”) signed HB 4212 into law on June 30, 2020.
HB 4212 extends the time periods that apply to court proceedings, including those in the Oregon Tax Court (“Tax Court”), to provide relief to litigants who may be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
On July 21, 2020, the Chief Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court (the “Chief Justice”) issued Order No. 20-027 (the “Order”) to facilitate the implementation of HB 4212. In this post, we address the impact that HB 4212 and the Order may have on Tax Court cases.
Taxpayers with cases pending in either the magistrate or regular division of the Tax Court may be able to utilize these extended time periods. Additionally, taxpayers may still have the ability to initiate or continue Tax Court proceedings if they missed the time period for doing so originally, including appealing adverse determinations to the magistrate division, regular division, or even the Oregon Supreme Court.
As most people are aware, the 2019 income tax filing and payment deadlines for all taxpayers who file and pay their federal income taxes on April 15, 2020, were automatically extended until July 15, 2020. This relief is automatic and generally applies to all individual, trust and corporation tax returns. Additionally, this relief extends to estimated tax payments for tax year 2020 that were due on April 15, 2020.
People First Initiative
Additionally, the People First Initiative offered taxpayers who owed taxes some further relief. IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig stated relative to the People First Initiative:
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act waives the requirement that taxpayers take required minimum distributions (“RMDs”) for 2020 from IRAs, 401(k) plans and other defined contribution plans. Taxpayers who already took 2020 RMDs may be able to return them to their retirement plans or IRAs and avoid paying income tax on the distributions. The timing, however, is critical.
Notice 2020-51, issued by the IRS last week, provides needed clarity about this provision of the CARES Act.
The Small Business Administration (“SBA”) continues its quest to provide guidance relative to the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) enacted as part of the CARES Act and the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020 (“PPPFA”) enacted by Congress to provide clarification and remove some of the rigidity surrounding the PPP.
The PPP legislation and much of the guidance PPP borrowers have received to date is fraught with complexity and inconsistency. The SBA is doing its best, as Paul McCartney and John Lennon expressed in their hit song We Can Work It Out, to help PPP borrowers get through these trying times:
Try to see it my way
Only time will tell if I am right or I am wrong
While you see it your way
There’s a chance that we might fall apart before too long
We can work it out
We can work it out
In that vein, the SBA recently issued interim final rules (“IFRs”) focused on PPP loan forgiveness. Additionally, last week the SBA published a revised PPP loan forgiveness application (“Form 3508”), and a new short-form forgiveness application (“Form 3508EZ”).
Up until this past Wednesday, the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) loan forgiveness application issued by the Small Business Administration (“SBA”) had not been updated since May. New guidance was issued in the interim (and anyone who has been following this area knows that guidance is constantly evolving). Most taxpayers have some breathing room before they must file their forgiveness applications; so, it may behoove them to wait to file their applications until they digest the most recent guidance.
In a new temporary rule, the Oregon Department of Revenue (“DOR”) formalized its prior informal guidance relative to the assessment of penalties for failing to make sufficient estimated payments under Oregon’s Corporate Activity Tax (“CAT”). The temporary rule provides some relief to CAT taxpayers whose businesses are adversely affected by COVID-19.
Pursuant to ORS 317A.137(2), a taxpayer must make estimated quarterly CAT payments. As discussed previously, ORS 317A.161(2) imposes a penalty on taxpayers who fail to make estimated payments equal to at least 80 percent of their CAT liability for any quarter during 2020.
The DOR announced in April that it would not assess penalties against a taxpayer for failure to make estimated CAT payments during 2020 if the taxpayer did not have the financial ability to make the estimated payments. The DOR further stated that it would honor a taxpayer’s good faith compliance efforts if the taxpayer documents those efforts.
Unfortunately, the DOR pronouncement about penalty abatement was contained in an email blast. Consequently, many taxpayers and tax practitioners were concerned about whether such an informal announcement could be relied upon, what actually constitutes “good faith compliance efforts” and how to document the efforts.
Larry J. Brant
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.