A $2.2 trillion, 300 page bill, the CARES act set records when it was signed into law in March 2020. But while most people were focused on the stimulus check, unemployment, PPP loans, and EIDL loans, the package also came with a significant amount of tax relief and tax deductions. Here’s what you need to know about how the CARES act might influence your taxes.
First: The Stimulus Check and Individual Tax Deductions
The stimulus check that was distributed in 2020 was actually a tax credit for 2020 taxes. This doesn’t effectively mean anything to most people; the only reason you would really need to know this is if you didn’t receive your stimulus. If you didn’t receive your stimulus in 2020 — and should have received it by all other requirements — you will be able to claim it when you go to file your 2020 taxes. A tax credit is not a tax deduction.
There are a few other minor changes for individuals: individuals taking a standard deduction in 2020 will be able to take an additional $300 in charitable giving, tax-deductible charitable contributions were raised from 50 percent to 100 percent of adjusted gross income, and the losses from pass-through entities can temporarily be applied to non-business income on an unlimited basis.
But the rest of the deductions are for corporations.
Deferred Payments of Social Security Tax
For employers, the employer’s share of social security tax can now be deferred up to two years. Self-employment tax corresponding to this employer’s portion can also be deferred by up to two years. The only exception is if the PPP has been taken and forgiven during this time period.
The Refundable Employee Retention Tax Credit
Though this wasn’t discussed as often as the PPP, the employee retention tax credit can offer substantial bonuses to companies affected by COVID-19. The tax credit is equal to 50 percent of wages that were paid from March 13, 2020 to December 13, 2020, and for some it may actually be more than the PPP forgiven loan. The maximum credit is $5,000 per employee, and wages included health care. But it is not possible to get both the employee retention tax credit and the PPP.
Increased Tax Deductions for Net Operating Losses
Tax deductions for net operating losses were increased from 80 percent to 100 percent from 2018 to 2020. Further, the $500,000 limit on tax-deductible net operating losses have been suspended until 2021. Net operating losses can be carried back up to five years, so retroactive tax refunds may be in play.
Increased the Limit for Tax Deductible Charitable Contributions for Corporations
Corporations usually have a limit on tax deductible charitable contributions of 10 percent, but the limit has been increased to 25 percent. Further, the limit of tax-deductible contributions of food inventory was increased from 15 percent to 25 percent of income. Both meant to encourage corporations to donate more, especially in food inventory that restaurants may have otherwise lost.
These deductions and credits need to be considered when businesses and individuals are planning their taxes for the next year. Businesses, in particular, may want to consult with a CPA regarding the changes that are being made and how it might influence them.