Employee Benefits Law Report

Process matters: IRS issues guidance on recognition of income and FICA taxes for stock-settled awards

On May 22, 2020, the IRS released an Office of Chief Counsel Memorandum that addresses (i) the date that fair market value is determined and when gross income and federal income tax withholding liability arises for stock-settled awards and (ii) the timing for remitting FICA taxes for such awards. This question comes up frequently and has not always had a clear answer, and so the memo provides important guidance for employers who sponsor equity award plans.

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Aug. 31 deadline to rollover 2020 RMDs is quickly approaching

Once a taxpayer reaches age 72 (or age 70 ½ if the taxpayer reached age 70 ½ prior to 2020), the Internal Revenue Code requires owners of most retirement accounts to withdraw minimum distributions (RMDs) from those accounts. To provide relief from the increased tax burden often associated with RMDs, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act waived RMDs for 2020. The CARES Act, however, was not made law until March 27, 2020 and any taxpayers had already taken their RMDs for this year.

My colleagues John Costello and Elizabeth Arentz explain the issue and how the IRS is responding in this Porter Wright Law Alert.

ESOPs from the seller’s perspective

An Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) can be a great option for small business owners looking for a tax-advantaged way to sell their business. My colleague, Greg Daugherty, recently appeared on an episode of the podcast, “The ESOP Guy: The Journey to an ESOP.” Greg spoke with host Phil Hayes about the seller’s perspective and key management in evaluating the benefits and options of an ESOP. Listen to the podcast here.

Wage withholding in a remote working environment

Employers generally must withhold income taxes on behalf of employees based on where the employee works. Typically this determination is simplified by the location of the employer’s offices. The COVID-19 pandemic and corresponding stay-at-home orders have altered the working situations for most Americans. Only time will tell what things will look like moving forward. Employers must now consider the impact of employees working remotely and confirm that income tax withholding is properly executed given these unprecedented circumstances.

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CARES Act provides temporary fringe benefit for employer repayments of employee student loans

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act has provided a wide range of programs that affect employee benefit plans, employers and employees. One benefit that has flown under the radar is a new, temporary tax-qualified student loan repayment plan. Section 2206 of the CARES Act allows employers to claim a tax deduction for repayments of employee student loans, and allows employees to exclude these payments from taxable income, in amounts up to $5,250 a year. In essence, the CARES Act treats student loan payments as an education assistance fringe benefit. Normally, such benefits may be paid only for (i) books and equipment, (ii) tuition and fees, and (iii) necessary school supplies. The CARES Act adds employer student loan repayments made on or after the effective date of the CARES Act (March 27, 2020) through Dec. 31, 2021.

Practically speaking, we have seen little interest from employers to adopt such a plan. That is probably because employers, like everyone else, are currently doing what they can to conserve cash, including suspending matching and profit sharing contributions to qualified retirement plans. Continue Reading

Stop and review COVID-19 distribution and loan forms carefully

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, authorizes employers to make changes to their qualified retirement plans to increase loan limits, delay loan repayments, and make distributions to plan participants experiencing certain COVID-19 related circumstances. Due to a lack of guidance from the IRS, there’s confusion among third-party administrators (TPAs) about how to administer these changes, resulting in potential issues with forms used by TPAs to approve these CARES Act loan and distribution changes.

We have reviewed several third-party administrator forms and client communications, and wanted to provide some clarity with regard to the following CARES Act changes:

  • Plans that allow loans may be required to permit participants with qualifying COVID-19 related circumstances to delay loan repayments with due dates occurring between March 27, 2020, and Dec. 31, 2020, for one year.
  • Increasing loan limits from $50,000 to $100,000 for participants with qualifying COVID-19 related circumstances is optional.
  • Allowing distributions of up to $100,000 to participants with qualifying COVID-19 related circumstances is optional.

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How to claim COVID-19 tax credits via payroll

Employers may claim the Employee Retention Tax Credit and the tax credits available under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) for relief during the COVID-19 pandemic. They do this first, by reducing the employer portion of Social Security taxes, and then, by reducing the employer’s payroll deposits in an amount equal to the refundable portion of the accrued credits, instead of depositing said amount with the IRS.

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Important update on the Payroll Protection Program

Since the passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the U.S. Treasury Department have released a series of interim final rules and updated Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) (as of April 8, 2020) regarding Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). These updates provide critical guidance and information to borrowers and lenders alike in the implementation of the highly sought after program. This blog describes some of the key clarifications to the program since its enactment.

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Workplace exposure to COVID-19: Can employers be liable?

As COVID-19 cases continue to mount nationwide, so have lawsuits relating to fallout from the virus. On April 6, 2020, in one of the first COVID-19-related lawsuits of its kind, the estate of an Illinois Walmart Supercenter employee sued Walmart and the premises owner for wrongful death in Toney Evans v. Walmart, Inc., et al. My colleague Brodie Butland details the lawsuit in this Employer Law Report blog.

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