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IRS Issues Guidance on Employer COVID-19 Leave-Based Charitable Donation Payments

In Notice 2020-46, the IRS provided guidance allowing employers to make cash payments to certain charitable organizations in exchange for vacation, sick, or personal leave that its employees elect to forgo without otherwise including such amounts in the employees?ÇÖ gross income. In order to qualify for this relief, the payments must be made to a qualifying charitable organization no later than December 31, 2020?áfor the relief of victims of the COVID-19 pandemic as set forth in President Trump?ÇÖs March 13, 2020 declaration of a nationwide emergency (a copy of which is available here). The employees will not be treated as constructively receiving any of the amounts they elect to forgo under the program, and the employees cannot claim a charitable contribution deduction with respect to the value of the forgone paid leave. Employers should (i) make sure that any election made by their employees is in writing and the recipient… Continue Reading

IRS Expands Definition of Qualified Individual for Loans and Coronavirus-Related Distributions under the CARES Act

Notice 2020-50 provides additional guidance to taxpayers and sponsors of qualified retirement plans regarding coronavirus-related distributions and loan extensions under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the ?Ç£CARES Act?Ç¥). Among the guidance included in Notice 2020-50 are the following three items of special importance to plan sponsors: Notice 2020-50 expands the definition of ?Ç£Qualified Individual?Ç¥ for purposes of eligibility to receive a coronavirus-related distribution or special loan treatment to also include three new categories of individuals: an individual having a reduction in pay (or self-employment income) due to COVID-19 or having a job offer rescinded or start date for a job delayed due to COVID-19; an individual whose spouse or a member of the individual?ÇÖs household (as defined below) is quarantined, furloughed or laid off, or has work hours reduced due to COVID-19, is unable to work due to lack of childcare due to COVID-19, has a reduction… Continue Reading

The IRS Amends COVID-19 Relief to Add Additional Time-Sensitive Actions

Previously, IRS Notice 2020-23 extended the due dates for certain tax payments, filings, and other ?Ç£Time-Sensitive Actions?Ç¥ that would ordinarily fall on or after April 1, 2020 through July 14, 2020 to July 15, 2020. See our prior blog post on Notice 2020-23 here. The IRS recently issued Notice 2020-35 to make additional Time-Sensitive Actions eligible for relief. For example, under this new guidance, an employer that receives a compliance statement issued under the voluntary correction program (VCP) component of the Employee Plans Compliance Resolution System (EPCRS) with a 150-day deadline to implement all corrective actions that ends between April 1, 2020 through July 14, 2020 has until July 15, 2020 to implement the corrections. A full list of the Time-Sensitive Actions is included in Section III.B of Notice 2020-35, which is available here.

Employer Friendly Changes to PPP Loan Forgiveness Requirements

On June 5, 2020, the President signed the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act (the ?Ç£Act?Ç¥), which made certain changes to the requirements of forgivable loans made under the Paycheck Protection Program (?Ç£PPP?Ç¥). For a PPP loan to be forgiven, the loan proceeds must be used to cover payroll and other approved operating costs incurred by the employer during a designated time period following the date on which the loan was made (the ?Ç£Coverage Period?Ç¥). The Act extended the coverage period from eight to 24 weeks and reduced the percentage of loan proceeds that must be used to cover payroll costs during the Coverage Period to 60% (down from 75%). Accordingly, up to 40% of the loan proceeds could be used by an employer to cover other non-payroll operating costs, such as rent, utilities, and interest on its other debt obligations that are due during the Coverage Period. The Act is… Continue Reading

Reminder: A Severance Policy Could be an ERISA Plan

As the coronavirus pandemic continues, many employers have been forced to reduce their workforce, oftentimes paying some form of severance to their employees. One area that continues to cause confusion among employers is whether their severance policy is an employee benefit plan subject to ERISA. Generally, informal arrangements that feature one-time payments in response to ad hoc situations and that do not have an ongoing administrative scheme will not be subject to ERISA. However, it is not always clear when such arrangements become ?Ç£employee benefit plans?Ç¥ that are subject to ERISA. It is generally not to the employer?ÇÖs advantage to have its severance strategy characterized as an informal arrangement not subject to ERISA. For example, the beneficiary of such an arrangement would be able to sue in state court for benefits, which could expose the employer to larger damage awards than are available under ERISA. Employers should ask their counsel… Continue Reading

IRS Relief Allows Individuals to Make Participant Elections Electronically

Treasury Regulations ?º 1.401(a)-21(d)(6) requires participant elections, including spousal consents, to be witnessed in the physical presence of a plan representative or notary public.?á In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the IRS recently issued Notice 2020-42 (the ?Ç£Notice?Ç¥) to allow individuals making participant elections to do so through electronic means for the period from January 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020.?á For participant elections, including spousal consents, that require a signature to be witnessed in the physical presence of a notary public, the ?Ç£physical presence?Ç¥ requirement is satisfied if remote notarization is done through live audio-video technology that otherwise satisfies the requirements of Treasury Regulations ?º 1.401(a)-21(d)(6) and is compliant with state law applicable to notaries.?á For participant elections, including spousal consents, that require a signature to be witnessed in the physical presence of a plan representative, the ?Ç£physical presence?Ç¥ requirement is satisfied if (i) the person signing the participant… Continue Reading

PPP Loans: SBA Releases New Loan Forgiveness Application and Instructions

The Small Business Administration (?Ç£SBA?Ç¥) recently released a form Loan Forgiveness Application and instructions related to the potentially forgivable loans made under the Paycheck Protection Program (?Ç£PPP?Ç¥). PPP loans are generally forgivable if, among other things, the loan proceeds are used to cover certain payroll costs incurred over the eight-week period after the loan is made (for additional information on PPP loans, see our prior blog posts here, here, here, and here). To apply for the forgiveness of a PPP loan, borrowers should complete a Loan Forgiveness Application, which can be completed in either paper or electronic form, and then send the completed application to its lender. The Loan Forgiveness Application and instructions are available here. For additional information on the Loan Forgiveness Application and other recent SBA Guidance, see the following Haynes and Boone article: SBA Issues New Guidance via Interim Final Rule on Foreign Affiliates; Releases Loan Forgiveness… Continue Reading

Use Care When Implementing CARES Act Retirement Plan Distributions ?Çô State Law and Benefit Offset Concerns

As we have previously reported on our blog here and here, the CARES Act provided relief to participants in retirement plans by allowing employers to amend their retirement plans to include certain coronavirus-related distributions and to permit increased loan amounts for certain qualified individuals. Many employers have agreed to adopt these changes, and under federal law, the treatment of these distributions is clear. But there are other issues that employers and employees should consider, including: The coronavirus-related distributions could be subject to taxation under state law, even if the employee later repays the distribution to the plan; and If employees are receiving unemployment and/or disability benefits, the coronavirus-related distributions may reduce or offset these benefits. However, the enhanced loans would not be subject to taxation and may not offset unemployment and disability benefits, which may make the enhanced loan a better option for employees who anticipate paying back the distribution.… Continue Reading

COVID-19 Relief ?Çô Added Flexibility to Code Section 125 Cafeteria Plans

Prospective Mid-Year Election Changes IRS Notice 2020-29 allows employers to amend cafeteria plans to permit employees to make the following prospective mid-year election changes (including an initial election) for employer-sponsored health coverage, health flexible spending accounts (?Ç£FSAs?Ç¥), and dependent care FSAs during calendar year 2020, regardless of whether the basis for the election change satisfies the ?Ç£change in status?Ç¥ rules under Treas. Reg. ?º 1.125-4: Make a new election for employer-sponsored health coverage, if the employee initially declined to elect employer-sponsored health coverage; Revoke an existing election for employer-sponsored health coverage and make a new election to enroll in different health coverage sponsored by the same employer (including changing enrollment from self-only to family coverage); Revoke an existing election for employer-sponsored health coverage, provided the employee attests in writing that the employee is enrolled, or immediately will enroll, in other health coverage not sponsored by the employer; and Revoke an… Continue Reading

DOL Issues Relief for Plan Fiduciaries

The DOL’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (?Ç£EBSA?Ç¥) recently issued EBSA Disaster Relief Notice 2020-01. Notice 2020-01 applies to employee benefit plans, employers, labor organizations, and other plan sponsors, plan fiduciaries, participants and beneficiaries, and service providers subject to ERISA. Notice 2020-01 remains in effect from March 1, 2020 until 60 days after the announcement of the end of the presidentially declared national emergency due to COVID-19 (the ?Ç£National Emergency?Ç¥). Untimely Notice Relief Fiduciaries of ERISA plans generally have an obligation to provide notices and disclosures in accordance with the timing requirements of ERISA. However, under Notice 2020-01, the employee benefit plan and the responsible plan fiduciary will not be considered to violate ERISA for failing to timely furnish a notice, disclosure, or document that must be furnished between March 1, 2020 and 60 days after the announced end of the National Emergency, if the plan and responsible fiduciary act in… Continue Reading

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