San Francisco Tax Preparation / CPA: Deposit Penalty Relief Extended for COVID-19 Employer Credits

Filed in CCH NEWS FEED by on May 5, 2021

The IRS has extended the penalty relief provided in Notice 2020-22, I.R.B. 2020-17, 664, for failure to deposit employment taxes, to eligible employers that reduce their required deposits in anticipation of the following credits:

  • the paid sick and family leave credits under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (Families First Act) ( P.L. 116-127), as amended by the COVID-related Tax Relief Act of 2020 (Tax Relief Act) (Division N of P.L. 116-260), for qualified leave wages paid with respect to the period beginning January 1, 2021, and ending March 31, 2021;
  • the paid sick and family leave credits under Code Secs. 3131, 3132, and 3133, added by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARP) ( P.L. 117-2), for qualified leave wages paid with respect to the period beginning April 1, 2021, and ending September 30, 2021;
  • the employee retention credit under section 2301 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) ( P.L. 116-136), as amended by the Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act of 2020 (Relief Act) (Division EE of P.L. 116-260), for qualified wages paid with respect to the period beginning January 1, 2021, and ending June 30, 2021;
  • the employee retention credit under Code Sec. 3134, added by ARP, for qualified wages paid with respect to the period beginning July 1, 2021, and ending December 31, 2021; and
  • the COBRA Continuation Coverage Premium Assistance credit under Code Sec. 6432, added by ARP, for continuation coverage premiums not paid by assistance eligible individuals under section 9501(a)(1) of the ARP, during the period beginning April 1, 2021, and ending September 30, 2021.

Background
Eligible employers claim the paid sick and family leave credits under the Families First Act, and the employee retention credit under the CARES Act, against the employer’s share of the Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (Social Security) portion of FICA tax under Code Sec. 3111(a). Employers that are eligible for the paid sick and family leave credits under Code Secs. 3131, 3132, and 3133, the employee retention credit under Code Sec. 3134, or the COBRA Continuation Coverage credit under Code Sec. 6432, can claim the credit(s) against the employer’s share of the Hospital Insurance (Medicare) portion of FICA tax under Code Sec. 3111(b). The credits are also available to eligible railroad employers for the attributable Railroad Retirement Tax Act (RRTA) taxes under Code Sec. 3221(a).

These refundable tax credits are reported on the employer’s employment tax return for reporting its FICA tax liability, which for most employers is the quarterly Form 941. Certain employers may claim an advance payment of the refundable credits by filing Form 7200, Advance Payment of Employer Credits Due to COVID-19.

Code Sec. 6656 imposes a penalty for failure to timely deposit required tax amounts, unless the failure is due to reasonable cause and not willful neglect. Failure to deposit employment taxes required under Code Sec. 6302 generally subjects an employer to the penalty. The various legislative acts and provisions implementing the refundable employment tax credits described above either instruct the IRS to waive the penalty or authorize guidance that provides penalty relief.

Paid Leave Credit Penalty Relief
An employer can reduce an employment tax deposit for a calendar quarter without a penalty, by the amount of the applicable paid sick or family leave credit anticipated for the calendar quarter prior to the required deposit, as long as:

  • the employer paid qualified leave wages, qualified health plan expenses, or qualified collectively bargained contributions, for the period beginning on April 1, 2021, and ending on September 30, 2021, to its employees in the calendar quarter prior to the time of the required deposit,
  • the amount of employment taxes that the employer does not timely deposit is less than or equal to its anticipated applicable paid leave credits claimed for the calendar quarter as of the time of the required deposit, and
  • the employer did not seek payment of an advance credit by filing Form 7200 for the anticipated credits it relied upon to reduce its deposits.

The total amount of the deposit reduction cannot be more than the total amount of the employer’s anticipated paid leave credits as of the time of the required deposit, minus any amount of those anticipated credits that had previously been used (1) to reduce a prior required deposit in the calendar quarter and obtain this relief or (2) to seek payment of an advance credit.

Employee Retention Credit Penalty Relief
After a reduction, if any, of an employment tax deposit by the amount of the anticipated paid sick or family leave credits, an employer may further reduce an employment tax deposit for a calendar quarter without a penalty, by the amount of its applicable employee retention credit anticipated for the calendar quarter prior to the required deposit, as long as:

  • the employer paid qualified retention wages for the period beginning January 1, 2021 and ending December 31, 2021, to its employees in the calendar quarter prior to the time of the required deposit,
  • the amount of employment taxes that the employer does not timely deposit— reduced by the amount of employment taxes not deposited in anticipation of the paid leave credits claimed— is less than or equal to the amount of the employer’s anticipated applicable employee retention credits for the calendar quarter as of the time of the required deposit, and
  • the employer did not seek payment of an advance credit by filing Form 7200 for the anticipated credits it relied upon to reduce its deposits.

The total amount of any deposit reduction cannot be more than the total amount of the employer’s anticipated employee retention credit as of the time of the required deposit, minus any amount of the anticipated credit that had previously been used (1) to reduce a prior required deposit in the calendar quarter and obtain this relief or (2) to seek payment of an advance credit.

COBRA Credit Penalty Relief
After a reduction, if any, of an employment tax deposit by the amount of the anticipated paid sick or family leave credits and the anticipated employee retention credit, an employer may further reduce an employment tax deposit for a calendar quarter without a penalty, by the amount of the employer’s COBRA continuation coverage credit anticipated for the calendar quarter prior to the required deposit, as long as:

  • the employer is a “person to whom premiums are payable,”
  • the amount of employment taxes that the employer does not timely deposit— reduced by the amount of employment taxes not deposited in anticipation of the paid leave credits and the employee retention credits claimed—is less than or equal to the amount of the employer’s anticipated credits under Code Sec. 6432 for the calendar quarter as of the time of the required deposit, and
  • the employer did not seek payment of an advance credit by filing Form 7200 for the anticipated credits it relied upon to reduce its deposits.

The total amount of any deposit reduction cannot be more than the total amount of the employer’s anticipated COBRA continuation coverage credit as of the time of the required deposit, minus any amount of the anticipated credit that had previously been used (1) to reduce a prior required deposit in the calendar quarter and obtain this relief or (2) to seek payment of an advance credit.

Effect on Other Documents
Notice 2020-22, I.R.B. 2020-17, 664, is amplified.