The $2 trillion stimulus package recently enacted by Congress is designed to extend a helping hand to Americans and U.S. companies who may be struggling financially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here are some of the key provisions of the legislation, known as the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security):
Millions of individuals will receive a payment to help supplement their income during the crisis. For those with adjusted gross income under $75,000 (or $112,000 for head of household and $150,000 for married couples), the payout would be $1,200 for individuals or $2,400 for married couples. For those with children, an additional $500 would be paid for each child under age 17.
The payout would drop for those individuals and couples earning over the threshold amount. The rebate is reduced by $5 for each $100 of income exceeding the phase-out threshold. There would be a complete phase-out for single filers with income exceeding $99,000, heads of household exceeding $146,500, and for joint filers with no children exceeding $198,000.
The payout amount is based on the taxpayer’s 2019 tax return, if filed, or the 2018 return for those who have not yet filed for 2019. The rebate is considered an advanced tax credit which is to be claimed on your 2020 tax return. Payouts to low-income individuals, or those with only Social Security Income (who normally do not file a tax return) will have credit based on their SSA-1099 tax form.
Click here for a link to the FAQs on the economic impact payments on the IRS website.
Required minimum distributions waived
Individuals who are subject to a required minimum distribution (RMD) from an IRA or qualified employer plan are not required to take an RMD in 2020.
Those eligible for the waiver include anyone required to take an RMD in 2020, as well as anyone who turned 70 ½ in 2019 and elected to wait until 2020 to withdraw their 2019 RMD (the 2020 RMD is also waived for these individuals). Beneficiaries of IRAs or qualified employer plans are also included in the waiver.
It is important to note that the recent RMD age change included in the SECURE Act provisions remain in effect. Under those provisions, RMDs are no longer required until attaining age 72 for individuals who attain age 70 ½ in 2020 or later.
Hardship retirement fund distributions
For those who need to take a distribution from their retirement plan, the CARES Act offers some tax relief. Those who qualify may take up to $100,000 from their IRA or other qualified employer retirement plan.
While the distribution is taxable, the owner can include the distribution amount equally over tax years 2020, 2021 and 2022. However, the mandatory 20% withholding tax will not apply under the new rules.
To qualify for the distribution, you must meet one of the following criteria:
- You were diagnosed with COVID-19;
- You have a spouse or dependent who has been diagnosed with COVID-19;
- You experience adverse financial consequences as a result of the crisis, such as being quarantined, furloughed, laid off, or having your work hours reduced;
- You are unable to work because you lack childcare as a result of the crisis;
- You own a business that has closed or has been forced to reduce hours of operation;
- You meet some other criteria that the IRS determines permissible.
For those under 59 ½ who would normally have to pay a 10% penalty for early withdrawal (or the 25% penalty in a SIMPLE IRA during the first two years of participation), the penalty will be waived for individuals who qualify for this distribution.
If you find after withdrawing the money that you don’t need all of it or you can repay it in the future, you have up to three years to repay it after the date you receive the distribution. The repayment will be treated as a rollover. You may need to file an amended tax return to report the repayment.
Tax filing deadline extended
The deadline for filing and paying your federal taxes has been extended to July 15, 2020 for the 2019 tax year (through IRS Notice 2020-18). For state taxes, that will depend on your state of residence. Each state will determine its own extensions. The IRS urges taxpayers to check with their state tax agencies. State information is available here.
The deadline for making a 2019 IRA contribution or a Coverdell Education Savings Account contribution was also extended to July 15, 2020. You should make sure to designate your contribution for 2019 when you send it in.
Student loan payment deadline extended
Federal student loan payments have been deferred until September 30, 2020. No interest will accrue during this period. However, individuals must contact their loan provider to suspend payments. Involuntary debt collections for those with student loans are also suspended through September 30, including wage garnishment, reduction of other Federal benefits, and reduction of any tax refunds.
Borrowers with federally backed loans can request forbearance on mortgage payments for up to six months.
Charitable deduction provisions
Individuals who itemize deductions can make charitable contributions up to 100% of their adjusted gross income for 2020. Excess contributions would be carried over for the next five years. Individuals who do not itemize deductions can take a deduction of up to $300 against their adjusted gross income in 2020.
Up to 50% of payroll tax for 2020 can be delayed until the end of 2021. The remaining 50% can be delayed until the end of 2022.
A number of loan and relief options from the Small Business Administration are now available, including the Paycheck Protection Program. In order to provide funding for businesses to continue to pay employees, loans will be available for small businesses, including sole proprietors, independent contractors and self-employed persons, for up to a total of $10 million or 250% of their average monthly payroll costs.
These loans have a 2-year repayment term with a 1% interest rate. The deadline for filing for these loans is June 30, 2020. The loan amount may be forgiven if the funds are used for the appropriate purposes, and eligibility requirements are met.
Eligible lenders include any lending institution approved to participate in the program through the existing Small Business Administration (SBA) lending program, as well as additional lenders approved by the Department of Treasury. For more information on the Paycheck Protection Program and other relief options available, visit the SBA website.
Individuals who are eligible for unemployment benefits under state or federal law will receive $600 per week in addition to their regular unemployment under state law through July 2020.
The federal government will also be paying unemployment benefits for an additional 13 weeks after state unemployment benefits are exhausted – increasing benefits to 39 weeks.
The act also expands eligibility beyond individuals who would normally qualify for unemployment, like independent contracts, gig workers, freelancers and furloughed workers. That includes individuals who are not otherwise eligible for or have exhausted all rights to unemployment benefits and are unemployed, partially unemployed or unable to work because of any of the following COVID-19-related circumstances:
- Has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and is seeking a medical diagnosis;
- Has a member of household diagnosed with COVID-19;
- Provides care for a family member or household member who has been diagnosed with COVID-19;
- Is a primary caregiver for a child or other person in household who is unable to attend school or another facility that has been closed as a direct result of COVID-19 – and requires that arrangement to continue to work;
- Is unable to reach their place of employment because of a quarantine imposed as a direct result of COVID-19;
- Is unable to reach their place of employment because a health care provider has advised them to self-quarantine due to COVID-19 concerns;
- Was scheduled to begin employment and does not have a job or is unable to reach a job as a direct result of COVID-19;
- Has become breadwinner or major supporter for a household because the head of household has died as a direct result of COVID-19;
- Has been forced to quit a job as a direct result of COVID-19;
- Worked at a place of employment that was closed as a direct result of COVID-19.
If you’d like to know whether you qualify for unemployment benefits, start by researching your state’s unemployment website to learn more about its eligibility requirements.
While the needs of some individuals and businesses may still fall through the cracks under the CARES Act, Congress has vowed to enact an additional stimulus package in the near future designed to fill in some of those gaps and provide additional assistance for individuals and businesses who are adversely affected by the pandemic.