PPP Loans: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

As you likely know by now, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan and its forgiveness process have been an ever-changing (and often confusing) ride so far.


With the new rules for PPP loans of $50,000 or less, you escape the most difficult part of the loan forgiveness if you had to consider employees. And you may even obtain more loan forgiveness than you would have otherwise.


Before

Before the $50,000-or-less rule, you had to either suffer a reduction in loan forgiveness or meet one of the many exceptions that allowed you to

  • cut annual salaries or hourly wages by more than 25 percent, and/or
  • reduce the average number of employees or average hours paid.

After

Now, with a PPP loan of $50,000 or less, you don’t have to consider the myriad rules about employees.

Regardless of what you did with your employees, you qualify for full forgiveness if

  • your PPP loan is for $50,000 or less,
  • you spent the PPP money on costs that are eligible for forgiveness, and
  • at least 60 percent of the forgiveness is for qualified payroll costs (including defined payroll for owners).

Example. You obtain a PPP loan of $34,000 based on your 2019 Schedule C income and pay to your part-time employee. When COVID-19 hit, you laid off your part-time worker and have not rehired him. Using SBA Form 3508S and the 24-week covered period, you qualify for 100 percent forgiveness of your $34,000 loan because you paid $20,833 (61 percent) of the deemed payroll to yourself and the remainder on five months’ rent and utilities.


Planning note. You are not an employee of your Schedule C business. You receive no W-2 income. But the PPP rules deem your 2019 Schedule C profits as your payroll for PPP loan purposes. The rules cap the Schedule C taxpayer’s loan amount and forgiveness at a maximum of $20,833 when Schedule C income is $100,000 or more.


New IRS Efforts to Destroy Tax Deductions for PPP Paid Expenses


From what we know, when lawmakers originally passed the PPP they thought that under its provisions,

  • you did not pay taxes on the forgiveness amount, and
  • you also could deduct the expenses that you paid with the PPP money.

Obstacle

In late April, the IRS issued Notice 2020-32, which asserts that PPP loan recipients may not deduct business expenses paid using the PPP monies that gave rise to forgiveness (defined payroll, rent, utilities, and interest).

Lawmakers’ Take

In a letter to Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin on May 5, 2020, Senator Chuck Grassley (chairman of the Committee on Finance), Senator Ron Wyden (ranking member on the Committee on Finance), and Congressman Richard E. Neal (chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means) jointly stated that the IRS got this wrong and that the intent of the CARES Act was for the PPP to be a tax-free grant.

The Do-Nothings

The IRS was unmoved by the lawmakers’ letter. The IRS position was clear: no deduction for the expenses paid with the PPP money. The IRS understood that perhaps lawmakers didn’t mean that to happen, but in the eyes of the IRS, the way that the lawmakers enacted the law created the problem. To fix it, lawmakers simply need to pass a new law.

Frankly, we thought that lawmakers would pass a new law and take care of this problem. But no, that has not happened.

New Nails in the Coffin

On November 18, 2020, the IRS drove two new nails into the coffin regarding deductions for PPP monies that were forgiven and spent on payroll, rent, interest, or utilities.

  • Nail 1. In Revenue Ruling 2020-27, the IRS ruled that you may not deduct expenses paid with the PPP loan monies if you have received or expect to receive forgiveness of those loan monies.
  • Nail 2. In Revenue Procedure 2020-51, the IRS set forth safe-harbor procedures to follow if your PPP forgiveness is subsequently denied or if you decide not to apply for forgiveness.

With the rulings described above, the IRS has clarified its position to lawmakers: if you don’t like the non-deductibility of expenses paid with PPP monies, change the law.


What to Do Now

Join with hundreds of thousands of business taxpayers and tax professionals who are urging lawmakers to fix the non-deductibility issue.

To help encourage the action you desire (whether you’re for or against deductibility), get in touch with the lawmakers.

  • S. 3612 is the Senate bill to make the PPP forgiveness money used to pay business expenses tax-deductible. To express your yea or nay on S. 3612, contact your senators. You can find them at this link: https://www.senate.gov/senators/contact.
  • H.R. 6821 is the House bill to make the PPP forgiveness money used to pay business expenses tax-deductible. To express your yea or nay on H.R. 6821, contact your representative. You can find him or her at this link: https://www.house.gov/representatives.

Your yea or nay doesn’t need to be long or formal. You can fax, email, or phone and simply say you support or oppose the bill. It’s that easy—and it’s effective. Do it.

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