The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act – the CARES Act – is the largest economic bill in U.S. history and was designed to “provide emergency assistance and health care response for individuals, families, and businesses affected by the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.” Spanning close to 900 pages, the comprehensive aid package covers a lot, including direct payments to Americans, expanded unemployment insurance, changes to retirement rules and billions of dollars in aid to businesses. The CARES Act builds upon earlier versions of federal government support and is the third such bill, coming shortly after the “Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act” and the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act” were approved. Here are a few highlights that might be of interest to individuals:
Rebate for Individuals
The bill provides a $1,200 refundable tax credit for individuals ($2,400 for married taxpayers filing a joint tax return). Additionally, taxpayers with children will receive a flat $500 for each child. The rebates would not be counted as taxable income.
The rebate phases out at 5% per dollar (or $50 per $1,000 earned) adjusted gross income above: • $75,000 for individuals • $112,500 for head of household filers • $150,000 for married taxpayers filing a joint tax return In other words, the rebate phases out completely at $99,000 for individuals ($99,000 minus $75,000 is $24,000 and 5% of $24,000 is $1,200).
Unemployment insurance assistance now includes an additional $600 per week payment to each recipient for up to four months plus extends benefits to selfemployed workers, independent contractors, and those with limited work history. The $600 is funded by the federal government and is paid in addition to the normal state unemployment insurance payment. States that eliminate the one-week waiting period to receive unemployment benefits will have the first full week of benefits covered by the federal government. In addition, individuals may receive up to 13 additional weeks of unemployment benefits once they have exhausted regular unemployment benefits under state law, which are usually capped at 26 weeks. The program runs until December 31, 2020.
Waiver of 10% Withdrawal Penalty
The 10% penalty for early withdrawals from IRAs and retirement accounts is being waived for 2020, subject to a maximum allowable withdrawal of $100,000. Withdrawal amounts are taxable over three years, but taxpayers can recontribute the withdrawn funds into their retirement accounts for three years without affecting retirement account caps.
Required Minimum Distributions
For 2020, individuals expected to take Required Minimum Distributions will not be required to withdraw that amount from their IRA or retirement plan.
The CARES Act allows for “Coronavirus-related Distributions” which allow participants in IRAs and retirement plans the ability to take a qualifying withdrawal and pay those funds back without tax or interest over a 3-year period. The withdrawal is subject to a $100,000 limit. There are qualifications for Coronavirus-Related Distributions, however, including: • Personal, spouse or dependent diagnosis with COVID-19 • Quarantined, furloughed, laid off, or work hours reduced because of COVID-19 • Unable to work due to lack of childcare due to COVID-19 • Own a business that is closed or has reduced hours due to COVID-19 • Other factors later specified by the IRS Retirement Loans For those unable to meet the Coronavirus-Related Distributions criteria, withdrawals from retirement plans are allowed in the form of loans. Generally speaking, those loans need to be repaid over 5 years and cannot exceed $50,000 or half the vested account value, whichever is less. That amount is now doubled so that one can take a loan up to $100,000 or half of the vested account value, whichever is less. The loan still needs to be repaid, but payments can be deferred up to 1 year after the loan is taken.
Your Tax Advisor
As with all federal government programs, there are rules, deadlines and qualifications that can be difficult to decipher. The fact is that while this is by far the largest economic bill in America’s history, no bill can account for every unique situation. So, before you go down a path that might not be in your best interest long-term, make sure you talk to your tax advisor. This is especially important as the CARES Act is bill number three. And Washington has been talking about bill number four, which will undoubtedly bring more economic relief and changes.