The new coronavirus has had severe effects on economies around the world, causing businesses to shut down and unemployment numbers to soar. To cushion businesses against the economic impact of Covid-19, the United States Senate passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) act in March this year. Among the targets of this $2.2 trillion act were small businesses, which benefited in the form of forgivable loans and a number of tax breaks. In passing this bill unanimously, the administration hoped to keep businesses from shutting down even as their operations were crippled by the lockdown measures imposed in several states. They hoped to keep businesses operational in the period of almost zero economic activity so that employees could retain their jobs and be able to fend for their families.
Employee retention tax credits
If your business was one of those whose operations were directly affected or suffered a significant decline in revenue due to the Covid-19 pandemic, you are entitled to an employee retention tax credit. The tax credit was up to half of your employees’ qualified wages going up to a maximum of $10,000. And this credit will be available to affected businesses until the end of 2020. You will need to provide evidence that your revenues dropped by 50% as compared to the same period in 2019 because of a coronavirus-related lockdown.
Note, however, that if you’re a recipient of a Paycheck Protection Loan under the same CARES package, you won’t be eligible for this form of tax relief.
Michael Peres, an entrepreneur who has founded several startups, is wary of loans of any kind. Besides running his tech and media startups, Peres is a software engineer, journalist and radio host. Drawing from his experience managing businesses in diverse fields, he also offers consultation services to many small and medium-sized businesses, helping them with their financial planning and bookkeeping. Mikey Peres, as he is commonly known, advises entrepreneurs to avoid loan-based services if possible. “Times are tough but the key here is to make your path back to normalcy as short and quick as possible.”
Staggered tax remittance
The CARES act also allows small businesses to delay payment of payroll and social security taxes due in 2020 until their operations recover from the Covid-enforced economic downturn. Business owners, therefore, have until the end of 2021 to remit 50 percent of their taxes due in 2020 and until the end of 2022 to pay the remaining half. Tempting as it may be to divert the resources that would have been reserved for these remittances, wisdom dictates paying as soon as your business is in a position to do so.
A higher limit for tax-deductible contributions
As an incentive for companies to loosen their purse strings further when offering assistance to the needy, the CARES act increased the limit for tax-deductible charitable contributions. The limit for tax initially stood at 10 percent of their income but was pushed to 25 percent by the CARE act.
Claim 2021 AMT now
If your company was due to receive alternative minimum tax (AMT) credit in 2021, you can claim the refund now if you need the funds. Many businesses need all the funds they can get to keep paying salaries or stocking up in the face of declining revenue. However, if you can maintain your operations with your current revenues, Peres advises against making the move for your AMT credit. Assuming that the coronavirus threat will ease and business will pick up in the coming months, the additional cash may be better used to fund expansion.
There are quite a number of intricacies about the post-Covid tax regime that you may not be aware of, and therefore not using to your advantage. Mikey Peres urges business owners to empower their accounts staff to stay on top of these changes by providing them with the technological tools they require. “Entrepreneurs should leverage readily available, and sometimes freely available, digital tools to help their staff plan and execute tasks as well as work collaboratively,” he says. Where resources are available, he encourages business owners to outsource credible accountants and bookkeepers to handle their tax requirements.