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IRS and Labor Announce Plan to Implement Coronavirus Paid Leave

Businesses that are still in operation are trying to get their hands wrapped around the Emergency Paid Sick and Family Medical leave that was expanded when the Families First Coronavirus Response Act was passed on Wednesday, March 18, 2020. The provisions will go into effect on April 2, 2020.

To understand a summarization of these changes, click here.

The IRS recently released IR 2020-57 on March 21, 2020 to help answer some ongoing questions.

How will the employer receive the credit?

Under guidance that will be released next week, eligible employers who pay qualifying sick or child care leave will be able to retain an amount of the payroll taxes equal to the amount of qualifying sick and child care leave that they paid, rather than deposit them with the IRS.

The payroll taxes that are available for retention include withheld federal income taxes, the employee share of Social Security and Medicare taxes, and the employer share of Social Security and Medicare taxes with respect to all employees.

For example, if an eligible employer paid $5,000 in sick leave and is otherwise required to deposit $8,000 in payroll taxes, including taxes withheld from all its employees, the employer could use up to $5,000 of the $8,000 of taxes it was going to deposit for making qualified leave payments. The employer would only be required under the law to deposit the remaining $3,000 on its next regular deposit date.

What happens if the qualifying sick or family and medical leave credits are greater than the payroll taxes being paid?

If there are not sufficient payroll taxes to cover the cost of qualified sick and child care leave paid, employers will be able file a request for an accelerated payment from the IRS. The IRS expects to process these requests in two weeks or less. The details of this new, expedited procedure will be announced next week.

For example, if an eligible employer paid $10,000 in sick leave and was required to deposit $8,000 in taxes, the employer could use the entire $8,000 of taxes in order to make qualified leave payments and file a request for an accelerated credit for the remaining $2,000.

When will the Department of Labor provide further guidance regarding the small business exception (employers under 50 employees) in relation to emergency family and medical leave (Child Care Leave)?

Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees will be eligible for an exemption from the leave requirements relating to school closings or childcare unavailability where the requirements would jeopardize the ability of the business to continue. The exemption will be available on the basis of simple and clear criteria that make it available in circumstances involving jeopardy to the viability of an employer’s business as a going concern. Labor will provide emergency guidance and rule making to clearly articulate this standard.

When will this policy start to be enforced?

Labor will be issuing a temporary non-enforcement policy that provides a period of time for employers to come into compliance with the Act. Under this policy, Labor will not bring an enforcement action against any employer for violations of the Act so long as the employer has acted reasonably and in good faith to comply with the Act. Labor will instead focus on compliance assistance during the 30-day period.