Many small business owners are still putting off doing their taxes after Tax Day was delayed until July 15. With that day now fast approaching, preparing your taxes may seem even more daunting with all of the COVID-19 uncertainty—plus this year’s set of new changes to the small business tax code.
But there’s a good reason to stop procrastinating and prepare your taxes as soon as possible. You could get a nice, big check from the US Treasury.
One of the little-noticed forms of coronavirus aid for small businesses is a new set of COVID-19 tax credits. These credits are primarily designed for employees who had to take sick leave or time off to care for sick family members, or who could not work because of daycare needs. But some of these credits are big rebates for businesses that kept their employees onboard or provided sick leave or family care for their staff.
Employee Retention Credit
You heard about those Paycheck Protection Program loans that Congress offered earlier this year, allowing businesses to get their loans forgiven if they met certain criteria—most notably keeping their staffs employed. But even if you didn’t get a PPP loan, you might be eligible for a sizable amount of money through the IRS’s new Employee Retention Credit.
This tax credit is similar to the PPP loans in that it’s money you get if you retained your employees instead of laying them off. The money comes in the form of a refundable tax credit of as much as $5,000 per employee, or, as the IRS puts it, “50% of up to $10,000 in wages paid by an eligible employer.” And if you meet the criteria, you can even request an advance check and get paid directly for the sum of your Employee Retention Credit.
But getting these tax credits is a complicated bookkeeping nightmare. You can only get credit on wages paid between March 12, 2020, and January 1, 2021. Further, you have to meticulously document that your business income is way down because of government shutdowns or a fall off in business revenue, defined by the IRS as “the employer’s gross receipts [being] less than 50% of its gross receipts for the same calendar quarter in 2019.”
Credit for Eligible Employers
Employers can also receive immediate tax credits for paid sick leave granted under COVID-19 and compensation for any paid time off for childcare. But per the new rules, it must be sick leave or time taken off for family care between April 1, 2020, and December 31, 2020.
These new paid sick leave requirements apply to employees who had time to take coronavirus sick leave or were “unable to work due to caring for someone with coronavirus.” But the childcare credit is much more general and applies to any employee whose children’s “school or place of care is closed,” a very common circumstance these last few months.
The tax credits vary from a $2,000 credit for family medical care to as much as $10,000 for the childcare credit. But the formula is an incredibly convoluted mix of calculating days, hours, percentages of federal minimum wage, and other factors. You’d be well-advised to consult a tax preparer, not only to get not only the maximum possible return but also to help with Form 7200, which can get your credit sent to you right away as a direct check.
Benefits for Your Employees
Most of these tax credits are geared toward employees. Employees can now get up to 80 hours of paid sick leave if they have COVID-19 or symptoms, 80 hours of partially-paid family leave care if a family member is infected, and partial pay if they need to take time off for childcare due to closed schools or daycare facilities. These benefits are explained in the IRS’s new coronavirus tax credits, and while the employer pays these costs, they are fully refundable in the form of tax credits.
There’s a new benefit to filing your taxes ASAP, and that’s immediate tax relief, possibly even in the form of a check. That could really take a bite out of the quarterly tax payments that will be due on July 15. The IRS is putting more money on the table for small businesses with these COVID-19 tax credits, and a good accounting app can help you claim as much of it as possible.