Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020 – Businesses
As a year-end holiday gift, Congress included a number of individual and business friendly tax provisions in its year-end spending package that was signed into law by President Trump on December 20, 2019. The “Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020” (2020 Act) brought back to life many deductions and credits that had expired at the end of 2017, as well as a few others that had either expired at the end of 2018 or were scheduled to expire at the end of 2019. In addition, substantial changes were made to retirement-related tax provisions, some of which may benefit your business. The funding for some of these changes will come from increases made to various penalty provisions – notably increases in the penalties for failing to timely file a tax or retirement plan return or timely pay taxes due.
To the extent that your business tax return for 2018 could have benefited from any of the resurrected 2017 tax provisions, we should file an amended return to claim any refunds your business may be due. The 2020 Act changes may also affect your business’s 2019 tax liability.
The following is a recap of the provisions that expired at the end of 2017 but are now available for 2018 and future tax returns:
Special Expensing Rules for Film, TV, or Theatrical Productions
The owner of a qualified film or television production or a qualified live theatrical production that began after 2015 and before 2021 may elect to deduct production costs in the year the costs are paid or incurred in lieu of capitalizing the costs and recovering them through depreciation allowances.
Energy Efficient Home Credit
The credit for energy efficient homes is extended to 2018, 2019, and 2020 for homes acquired after December 31, 2017. The credit applies to contractors who construct or manufacture qualifying energy efficient homes in the year such homes are sold or leased for use as a residence. The credit is $2,000 or $1,000, depending on whether the home is constructed or manufactured and on the energy saving standards satisfied.
Alternative Fuel Refueling Property Credit
The credit under Code Sec. 30C for alternative fuel refueling property is extended to property placed in service before January 1, 2021. The credit is equal to 30 percent of the cost of any qualified alternative fuel vehicle refueling property placed in service by the taxpayer during the tax year.
Qualified Fuel Cell Motor Vehicles Credit
The alternative motor vehicle fuel credit is extended to motor vehicles purchased before 2021. The credit applies to vehicles propelled by chemically combining oxygen with hydrogen and creating electricity (i.e., fuel cell vehicles). The base credit is $4,000 for vehicles weighing 8,500 pounds or less. Heavier vehicles can get up to a $40,000 credit, depending on their weight. An additional $1,000 to $4,000 credit is available to cars and light trucks to the extent their fuel economy exceeds the 2002 base fuel economy set forth in the Code.
Two-Wheeled Plug-In Electric Vehicle Credit
The credit applicable for the acquisition of a qualified two-wheeled plug-in electric drive motor vehicle has been extended and now applies to vehicles acquired before January 1, 2021.
Credit for Electricity Produced from Certain Renewable Resources
The credit for electricity produced from certain renewable resources at qualified facilities is extended through 2020. In addition, (1) the election to treat qualified facilities as energy property is available through 2020; (2) a wind facility under construction, where the construction of the facility begins before January 1, 2021, is a qualified facility for purposes of the credit; and (3) for purposes of the phaseout of the credit for wind facilities, the credit amount is 40 percent for any facility the construction of which begins after December 31, 2019, and before January 1, 2021.
Biodiesel and Renewable Diesel Incentives
The credit for certain biodiesel or renewable diesel used or sold as fuel in a trade or business is extended through 2022. There are five components to this credit: (1) the biodiesel credit; (2) the renewable diesel credit; (3) the biodiesel mixture credit; (4) the renewable diesel mixture credit; and (5) the small agri-biodiesel producer credit. In addition, the credit for alcohol fuel, biodiesel, and alternative fuel mixtures is extended to any sale or use for any period before January 1, 2023.
Energy Efficient Commercial Buildings Deduction
The deduction available for the cost of energy efficient commercial building property is extended to property placed in service before 2021. The deduction is limited to the excess (if any) of (1) the product of $1.80 and the square footage of the building, over (2) the aggregate amount of the energy efficient commercial property deductions allowed with respect to the building for all prior tax years.
Classification of Certain Race Horses as 3-Year Property
The three-year depreciation period now applies to any race horse placed in service before 2021.
Classification of Motorsports Entertainment Complexes as 7-Year Property
The seven-year depreciation period for certain motorsports entertainment complex now applies to any such property placed in service before January 1, 2021.
Accelerated Depreciation Deduction for Business Property on Indian Reservations
The accelerated depreciation deduction for qualified Indian reservation property now applies to property placed in service before January 1, 2021.
Indian Employment Credit
Under the Indian employment credit, employers are allowed a credit for a percentage of the wages and health insurance costs paid to employees who are American Indians. This credit is now available through the end of 2020. However, the total amount of wages and health insurance costs that may be taken into account for any qualified employee for a tax year is limited to $20,000.
Other deductions and credits which were scheduled to expire but have been extended include the following:
Work Opportunity Credit
The work opportunity credit, which was scheduled to expire at the end of 2019, is extended through 2020. An employer is generally allowed a 40 percent credit for qualified first-year wages paid or incurred during the tax year to individuals who are members of a targeted group of employees.
Employer Credit for Paid Family and Medical Leave
The paid family and medical leave credit, which was scheduled to expire at the end of 2019, is extended through 2020. The credit allows eligible employers to claim a general business credit equal to an applicable percent of the amount of wages paid to qualifying employees during any period in which such employees are on family and medical leave, provided that the rate of payment under the program is at least 50 percent of the wages normally paid to an employee.
New Markets Tax Credit
The New Markets credit, which was scheduled to expire at the end of 2019, is extended through 2020. The New Markets credit provides that a taxpayer is entitled to a credit for a percentage of the amount paid for a qualified equity investment in a qualified community development entity. In addition, if the tax credit limitation for any calendar year exceeds the aggregate amount allocated for such year, such limitation for the succeeding calendar year is increased by the amount of such excess.
Repeal of Increase in Unrelated Business Taxable Income for Certain Fringe Benefit Expenses
Of interest to nonprofits, the 2020 Act eliminates the increase in unrelated business taxable income of an organization for a deduction that was not allowable by reason of Code Sec. 274 and which was paid or incurred by such organization for any qualified transportation fringe, any parking facility used in connection with qualified parking, or any on-premises athletic facility.
As you are aware, providing excellent benefits to employees can make hiring and retaining talented employees much easier. A number of retirement-related tax provisions were enacted in the 2020 Act, including several that may affect your business or might make adopting certain retirement benefits for employees more attractive.
Tax Credit Increase for Small Employer Pension Plan Startup Costs
An eligible small employer may qualify for a nonrefundable income tax credit for qualified startup costs incurred in adopting a new qualified retirement plan, SIMPLE IRA plan, or SEP (i.e., an eligible employer plan), provided that the plan covers at least one non-highly compensated employee. Qualified startup costs are expenses connected with the establishment or administration of the plan or retirement-related education for employees with respect to the plan. Before the 2020 Act, the credit was the lesser of (1) a flat dollar amount of $500 per year, or (2) 50 percent of the qualified startup costs. Under the 2020 Act, the flat dollar amount for a tax year after 2019 is the greater of (1) $500 or (2) the lesser of (a) $250 multiplied by the number of nonhighly compensated employees of the eligible employer who are eligible to participate in the plan, or (b) $5,000. As under present law, the credit applies for up to three years. You are considered an eligible small employer if, for the preceding year, your business had no more than 100 employees, each with compensation of $5,000 or more.
Small Employer Automatic Enrollment Credit
For tax years beginning after 2019, an eligible employer is allowed a business tax credit of $500 per year for up to three years for startup costs for new Section 401(k) plans and SIMPLE IRA plans that include automatic enrollment. This credit is in addition to the plan startup credit allowed under present law. An eligible employer is also allowed a credit of $500 per year for up to three years if the employer converts an existing plan to an automatic enrollment design. The credit applies for up to three years beginning with the year the plan is first effective, or, at the election of the employer, with the year preceding the first plan year.
Qualified Cash or Deferred Arrangements Must Allow Part-Time Employees to Participate
The 2020 Act requires a Section 401(k) plan to allow an employee to make elective deferrals if the employee has worked at least 500 hours per year with the employer for at least three consecutive years and has met the age requirement (age 21) by the end of the three consecutive year period (for this purpose, an employee is referred to as a “long-term part-time employee” after having completed this period of service). Thus, if your business has a 401(k) plan, a long-term part-time employee cannot be excluded from the plan because the employee has not completed a year of service as defined under the prior-rule participation requirements (i.e., a 12-month period with at least 1,000 hours of service).
Penalty-Free Withdrawals from Retirement Plans for Individuals in Case of Birth of Child or Adoption
New parents can withdraw up to $5,000 from a qualified employer retirement plan or individual retirement plan without any early withdrawal penalty for a qualified birth or adoption. A qualified birth or adoption distribution is a distribution from an applicable eligible retirement plan to an individual if made during the one-year period beginning on the date on which a child of the individual is born or on which the legal adoption by the individual of an eligible adoptee is finalized. An eligible adoptee means any individual (other than a child of the taxpayer’s spouse) who has not attained age 18 or is physically or mentally incapable of self-support.
Finally, the 2020 Act also made some taxpayer and business friendly changes with respect to disaster-related events.
Employee Retention Credit for Employers Affected by Qualified Disasters
The 2020 Act provides a credit of 40 percent of the qualified wages (up to a maximum of $6,000 in qualified wages per employee) paid by an eligible employer to an eligible employee. You are an ”eligible employer” if you (1) conducted an active trade or business in a qualified disaster zone at any time during the incident period of the qualified disaster with respect to such qualified disaster zone, and (2) if your trade or business is inoperable at any time during the period beginning on the first day of the incident period of such qualified disaster and ending on December 20, 2019, as a result of damage sustained by reason of such qualified disaster.
Automatic Extension of Filing Deadlines for Businesses Affected by Federally Declared Disasters
The 2020 Act provides that, in the case of a federally declared disaster, a qualified taxpayer is entitled to a mandatory 60-day extension with respect to filing returns and paying tax due. The 60-day period begins on the earliest incident date specified in the declaration of the relevant disaster and ends on the date which is 60 days after the latest incident date so specified.
The section below describes how this legislation will impact your individual income tax planning and taxable income.
Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020 – Individuals
As a year-end holiday gift, Congress included a number of individual and business friendly tax provisions in its year-end spending package that was signed into law by President Trump on December 20, 2019. The “Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020” (2020 Act) brought back to life many deductions and credits that had expired at the end of 2017, as well as a few others that had either expired at the end of 2018 or were scheduled to expire at the end of 2019. In addition, substantial changes were made to retirement-related tax provisions and new disaster-related tax provisions have been added. Some of the funding for these changes will come from increases made to various penalty provisions – notably increases in the penalties for failing to timely file a tax return or timely pay the tax due.
To the extent that you could have benefited from any of the resurrected 2017 tax provisions on your 2018 tax return, we should file an amended return to claim any refunds you may be due. The 2020 Act changes may also affect your 2019 tax liability.
The following is a recap of the provisions that have been extended that may require the filing of an amended tax return for 2018.
Deduction for Qualified Tuition and Related Expenses
The deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses is now available for 2018, 2019, and 2020 and applies to qualified education expenses paid during the year for yourself, your spouse, or a dependent. The maximum deduction is $4,000 of expenses if your modified adjusted gross income does not exceed $65,000 ($130,000 in the case of a joint return). If your income is more than that, you can still deduct $2,000, as long as your adjusted gross income does not exceed $80,000 ($160,000 in the case of a joint return).
Expansion of Section 529 Plans
Several changes were made to the rules involving Section 529 plans – tax-advantaged savings plans designed to accumulate funds for future educational needs. First, tax-free distributions for higher education expenses now to apply to expenses for fees, books, supplies, and equipment required for the participation of a designated beneficiary in an apprenticeship program. The apprenticeship program must be registered and certified with the Secretary of Labor under Section 1 of the National Apprenticeship Act. Second, tax-free treatment applies to distributions of certain amounts used to make payments on principal or interest of a qualified education loan. No individual may receive more than $10,000 of such distributions, in aggregate, over the course of the individual’s lifetime. Third, a special rule allows tax-free distributions to a sibling of a designated beneficiary (i.e., a brother, sister, stepbrother, or stepsister). This rule allows a 529 account holder to make a student loan distribution to a sibling of the designated beneficiary without changing the designated beneficiary of the account.
Treatment of Mortgage Insurance Premiums as Qualified Residence Interest
For 2018, 2019, and 2020, you can treat amounts paid during the year for qualified mortgage insurance as qualified residence interest. The insurance must be in connection with acquisition debt for a qualified residence.
Exclusion from Gross Income of Discharge of Qualified Principal Residence Indebtedness
For 2018, 2019, and 2020, gross income does not include the discharge of indebtedness of a taxpayer if the debt discharged is qualified principal residence indebtedness which is discharged before January 1, 2021.
Elimination of Certain Kiddie Tax Provisions
If you have a child that was subject to the new kiddie tax rules that went into effect in 2018, those rules have now been repealed retroactive to the date they were adopted. As a result, the onerous trust and estate tax rates that applied to the child’s unearned income in 2018 no longer apply. Similarly, the reduced AMT exemption amount for such children has been eliminated.
Nonbusiness Energy Property Credit
The nonbusiness energy property credit is extended to property placed in service in 2018, 2019, and 2020. The nonbusiness energy property credit is available for (1) 10 percent of the amounts paid or incurred for qualified energy efficiency improvements installed during the tax year, and (2) the amount of residential energy property expenditures paid or incurred during the tax year.
Alternative Fuel Refueling Property Credit
The credit for alternative fuel refueling property has been extended to property placed in service in 2018, 2019, and 2020. The credit is equal to 30 percent of the cost of any qualified alternative fuel vehicle refueling property placed in service by the taxpayer during the tax year.
Two-Wheeled Plug-In Electric Vehicle Credit
The credit available for the purchase of a qualified two-wheeled plug-in electric drive motor vehicle is extended to vehicles acquired in 2018, 2019, and 2020.
Another change made by the 2020 Act which may affect your 2019 tax return and future tax returns includes the following:
Reduction in Medical Expense Deduction Floor
The floor for deducting medical expenses for 2019 and 2020 has been reduced from 10 percent of adjusted gross income to 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income. In addition, there is no adjustment to the medical expense deduction when computing the alternative minimum tax for 2019 and 2020.
Some of the retirement-related provisions which may be of interest to you include the following:
Repeal of Maximum Age for Traditional IRA Contributions
The prohibition on contributions to a traditional IRA by an individual who has attained age 70½ has been repealed.
Increase in Age for Required Beginning Date for Mandatory Distributions
The required beginning date for required minimum distributions has been increased to 72 years old from 70 ½ years old. The former rules continue to apply to employees and IRA owners who attain age 70½ prior to January 1, 2020. The new provision is effective for distributions required to be made after December 31, 2019, with respect to individuals who attain age 70½ after December 31, 2019.
Penalty-Free Withdrawals from Retirement Plans for Individuals in Case of Birth of Child or Adoption
A new exception to the 10-percent early withdrawal tax applies in the case of a qualified birth or adoption distribution of up to $5,000 from an applicable eligible retirement plan. A qualified birth or adoption distribution is a distribution from an applicable eligible retirement plan to an individual if made during the one-year period beginning on the date on which a child of the individual is born or on which the legal adoption by the individual of an eligible adoptee is finalized. An eligible adoptee means any individual (other than a child of the taxpayer’s spouse) who has not attained age 18 or is physically or mentally incapable of self-support.
Certain Taxable Non-Tuition Fellowship and Stipend Payments Treated As Compensation for IRA Purposes
For tax years after 2019, an amount includible in an individual’s income and paid to the individual to aid the individual in the pursuit of graduate or postdoctoral study or research (such as a fellowship, stipend, or similar amount) is treated as compensation for purposes of IRA contributions.
Disaster-related provisions in the 2020 Act include the following:
Exception to Penalty for Using Retirement Funds
An exception to the 10-percent early withdrawal tax on a retirement-related distribution applies in the case of “qualified disaster distributions” from a qualified retirement plan, a Code Sec. 403(b) plan, or an individual retirement account (IRA). In addition, income attributable to a qualified disaster distribution may be included in income ratably over three years, and the amount of a qualified disaster distribution may be recontributed to an eligible retirement plan within three years. A “qualified disaster distribution” is any distribution from an eligible retirement plan made on or after the first day of the incident period of a qualified disaster and before June 18, 2020, to an individual whose principal place of abode at any time during the incident period is located in the qualified disaster area and who has sustained an economic loss by reason of such disaster, regardless of whether a distribution otherwise would be permissible.
Special Rules for Qualified Disaster-Related Personal Casualty Losses
Under a new provision, in the case of a qualified disaster-related personal casualty loss which arose as the result of a net disaster loss, such loss is deductible without regard to whether aggregate net losses exceed 10 percent of your adjusted gross income. In order to be deductible, however, such losses must exceed $500 per casualty. Such losses may be claimed in addition to the standard deduction and may be claimed even if you are subject to the alternative minimum tax.
Special Rule for Determining Earned Income
If you qualify, you may elect to calculate your earned income tax credit and additional child tax credit for an applicable tax year using your earned income from the prior tax year. Qualified individuals are permitted to make the election with respect to an applicable tax year only if their earned income for such tax year is less than their earned income for the preceding tax year. You are a qualified individual if (1) at any time during the incident period of a qualified disaster, you had your principal residence in the applicable qualified disaster zone, or (2) during any portion of such incident period, you were not in the applicable qualified disaster zone but your principal residence was in the applicable qualified disaster area and you were displaced from such principal place of abode by reason of the qualified disaster.
Automatic Extension of Filing Deadlines in the Case of Federally Declared Disasters
In the case of a federally declared disaster, qualified taxpayers get a mandatory 60-day extension period for filing and paying taxes.
As you can see, the provisions in the 2020 Act are quite extensive. Without a doubt, our CPA staff has the expertise to guide you through the many changes brought about by this legislation. In fact, you may be able to amend your 2018 business and individual tax return and seek a refund of taxes previously paid! Please call 732 936-1230 at your earliest convenience to schedule an appointment to discuss how these changes will impact your tax situation. Happy New Year!