President Trump on March 27 signed the $2 trillion bipartisan Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act ( P.L. 116-136). The House approved the historically large emergency relief measure by voice vote just hours before Trump’s signature. The CARES Act cleared the Senate unanimously on March 25, by a 96-to-0 vote.
Generally, the following individual and business tax-related provisions are included in what lawmakers have dubbed the “phase three” COVID-19 emergency relief package:
- Direct cash payments of up to $1,200 for certain individual taxpayers and $2,400 for certain married couples filing jointly; those amounts would increase by $500 for every eligible child;
- The 10-percent early withdrawal penalty is waived for distributions up to $100,000 from qualified retirement accounts for coronavirus-related purposes;
- Payments delayed for employer-side payroll taxes;
- The taxable income limit is eliminated for certain net operating losses (NOL) and businesses and individuals can carry back NOLs arising in 2018, 2019, and 2020 to the last five tax years;
- Excess business loss rules suspended under section 461(l);
- Refunds accelerated of previously generated corporate AMT credits;
- Forgivable loans to small businesses that retain their employees throughout this crisis;
- Temporarily enact provisions of the bipartisan Employer Participation in Repayment Act, which would allow employers to contribute up to $5,250 tax-free to help pay down their employees’ student loans; and
- Various technical corrections to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) ( P.L. 115-97), including the so-called retail glitch.
Wolters Kluwer Special Report CARES Act Tax Briefing
Wolters Kluwer provides a detailed discussion of the tax-related provisions under the CARES Act in the “Special Report CARES Act (COVID-19 Economic Stimulus) Tax Briefing” (at https://engagetax.wolterskluwer.com/Cares-Act.pdf).
Let’s Work Together
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who spent many late nights in the U.S. Capitol recently participating in bipartisan negotiations on the Senate’s CARES Act, thanked Republican and Democratic leadership in both the Senate and the House for their bipartisanship. “I am pleased that Congress has passed the CARES Act, the largest economic relief package in history for hardworking Americans and businesses that, through no fault of their own, have been adversely impacted by the coronavirus outbreak,” Mnuchin said in a March 27 press release. “President Trump is fully committed to ensuring that American workers and businesses have the resources they need. This legislation provides much-needed relief to help our fellow Americans overcome this difficult but temporary challenge.”
Phase Four Economic Relief Package
The CARES Act is considered “phase three” of lawmakers’ and the Trump administration’s collaborative response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, including House Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal, D-Mass., have said they want to see a fourth economic relief measure.
“Our work to help Americans during this emergency won’t stop here. Congress must do more to address the significant public health and economic consequences of the coronavirus,” Neal said in a March 27 statement. “In a fourth response package, I want to provide any needed additional support to people who have lost their incomes and to affected patients and health care providers. We should take bold action to improve our country’s economic health too,” he added. Additionally, Neal said that he would like to see the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit expanded, as well as infrastructure investments to put people back to work and reinvigorate the economy.
Legislative View – Looking Back and Ahead
“From a legislative view, the CARES Act shares the key characteristics that we’ve seen with other emergency legislation, namely bipartisan willingness to forego typical concerns over cost and take action at unusual speed,” John Gimigliano, principal-in-charge of federal legislative and regulatory services in the Washington National Tax practice of KPMG LLP, told Wolters Kluwer in a March 27 emailed statement. “Similar dynamics were apparent in other emergency legislation including bills enacted after the attacks of September 11, Hurricane Katrina, and during the financial crisis,” Gimigliano added. “But those precedents also show that each of those three characteristics begins to break down with successive legislative attempts. That made quick passage of the CARES Act key and the development of a ‘coronavirus 4’ package something to watch closely.”