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CARES ACT SUMMARY OF IMPORTANT PROVISIONS FOR INDIVIDUALS

On March 27, 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) was signed into law by President Donald J. Trump.  The CARES Act provides emergency financial relief to individuals, businesses and specific industries in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic.  The Act directs additional dollars and expands resources for a broad array of emergency relief measures.  We have prepared this summary of provisions that may be of interest to you.

The material below is presented with a view to distilling the massive amount of information in the CARES Act into a friendly format.  This summary is divided as follows:

  • Part I: Extended Tax Deadline and Economic Impact Payments for Individuals
  • Part II: Enhancements to Unemployment Benefits
  • Part III: Withdrawing from your Retirement Plan and IRA or Waiving your RMD
  • Part IV: Student Loan Deferment
  • Part V: Changes to Charitable Contribution Limits

EXTENDED TAX FILING DEADLINE AND ECONOMIC IMPACT PAYMENTS FOR INDIVIDUALS

When is the 2019 tax deadline?

The deadlines to file and pay federal income taxes, originally due on April 15, 2020 are extended to July 15, 2020.

Am I eligible for an Economic Impact Payment?

Maybe. Tax filers with an adjusted gross income up to $75,000 for individuals (and up to $150,000 for married couples filing jointly) are eligible to receive the full payment. For tax filers with income above those amounts, the eligible payment amount is reduced by $5 for each $100 above the $75,000/$150,000 thresholds.  Single filers with income exceeding $99,000 ($198,000 for couples filing jointly) and with no children are not eligible.

In addition, Social Security recipients and railroad retirees who are otherwise not required to file a tax return are also eligible for a payment and will not be required to file a return.

What is the amount of the Economic Impact Payment?

Eligible persons who filed tax returns for either 2019 or 2018 will automatically receive an economic impact payment of up to $1,200 for individuals ($2,400 for married couples) and up to $500 for each qualifying child.

When will I receive my Economic Impact Payment?

The IRS is scheduled to begin sending payments in the next three weeks. For most filers, payments will be sent automatically.  Individuals who receive Social Security benefits who are not typically required to file tax returns will not need to file to receive a payment; payments will be automatically deposited into their bank accounts. However, some individuals who typically do not file tax returns will need to submit a simple tax return to receive the economic impact payments.

How will the IRS know where to send my Economic Impact Payment?

The vast majority of people do not need to take any action. The IRS will calculate and automatically send the economic impact payment to those eligible.  The economic impact payment will be deposited directly into the same banking account reflected on the 2019 (or 2018 return if a 2019 return has not been filed) return filed. For those individuals who do not have direct deposit information on file, there will be a Treasury Department online portal developed soon to obtain banking information for the IRS, so that payments may be immediately sent.

Can I receive a payment if I am not typically required to file a tax return?

Yes. The IRS plans to use the information on the Form SSA-1099 or Form RRB-1099 to generate payments to recipients of benefits reflected in the Form SSA-1099 or Form RRB-1099 who are not required to file a tax return and did not file a return for 2018 or 2019. This includes senior citizens, Social Security recipients and railroad retirees who are not otherwise required to file a tax return. Such persons would receive $1,200 per person, without any additional amount for any qualifying children.

I have not filed my tax return for 2018 or 2019. Can I still receive a payment?

Yes. Economic Impact Payment will be available throughout the rest of 2020.  The IRS is encouraging persons who are required to file returns but who have not yet filed for 2018 or 2019 to file as soon as they can to receive a payment, and to include direct deposit banking information on the return.

ENHANCEMENTS TO UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

Am I eligible for unemployment insurance?

Each state administers its own unemployment benefits program. As a result, eligibility will vary by state.  The CARES Act extends eligibility to include individuals who are not typically eligible (e.g., self-employed individuals, part-time individuals, and independent contractors).  The Act also expands eligibility to include persons who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, have a household member with COVID-19 or are unable to go to work because of quarantines, and individuals who had to quit their jobs or are laid off because of COVID-19.

What are the changes to unemployment benefits under the CARES Act?

The CARES Act increases the amount of unemployment benefits available to affected workers by $600 per week, and extends the length of time for payments for up to four months.

How do I apply for unemployment benefits?

Visit your state’s website or call to obtain more information about applying for benefits.

How soon will I receive benefits after I submit my application?

This will also vary by state and the volume of applications that are received.

WITHDRAWING FROM YOUR RETIREMENT PLAN OR IRA AND WAIVING YOUR RMD

The CARES Act permits certain retirement plans to make tax-favored distributions and authorizes expanded loans from retirement plans with the aim of providing financial resources for employees directly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Can employees take a distribution from their 401(k) plan if they have been affected by the coronavirus?

Yes, under certain circumstances.  Under the CARES Act, a 401(k) plan can permit an employee to take a distribution from a 401(k) plan if the employee:

  • is diagnosed with COVID-19,
  • has a spouse or dependent diagnosed with COVID-19, or
  • has experienced adverse financial consequences stemming from COVID-19 as a result of
    • being quarantined, furloughed or laid off,
    • having reduced work hours or
    • being unable to work due to lack of child care.

Can non-employee business owners also take a distribution from their 401(k) plans?

Yes.  Plans can permit business owners to take a distribution from their 401(k) plan accounts if they or a spouse or dependent have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or if they have experienced adverse financial consequences stemming from COVID-19 as a result of the closing or reduction of hours of their business.

Is there a limit on how much can be distributed from a 401(k) plan for these purposes?

Yes.  Distributions for the reasons described above (referred to as “coronavirus-related distributions”) are limited to $100,000 from all retirement plans maintained by the same employer (and the employer’s affiliates).

What if an employee or business owner is still working full-time and neither has COVID-19 nor has a family member with COVID-19, but has lost income due to the general business slow down.  Is a coronavirus-related distribution available under those circumstances?

It is not clear whether a coronavirus-related distribution would be permitted in this situation.  We expect that the IRS will issue addition guidance soon.  Hopefully, it will address this situation.

If plan participants cannot take a coronavirus-related distribution because they do not meet the criteria, they still may be able to take 401(k) plan distributions if they meet other criteria.  For example, plan participants who are over age 59 ½ or experiencing a financial hardship may be able to take a distribution if permitted under the plan.  The standards for a hardship distribution are quite strict, however.  Participants should check the summary plan description or plan document to see whether they meet the requirements. 

Do participants have to pay tax on a distribution from their 401(k) plan?

Yes, but the CARES Act provides special favorable tax treatment for coronavirus-related distributions.  Normally, if a plan participant take a distribution from a 401(k) plan, the distribution must be included in income in the year of distribution, is subject to 20% withholding and, if the participant is under age 59 ½, is subject to an additional 10% early distribution tax.

Coronavirus-related distributions of $100,000 or less are not subject 20% withholding, are not subject to the 10% additional tax on early distributions and can be included in income ratably over three years.

Can participants repay coronavirus related distributions in the future if they have the money to do so?

Yes.  Coronavirus-related distributions can be repaid, in full or in part, at any time during the three years following the distribution.

Can participants take a loan from a plan instead of a distribution?

Yes, if the plan permits loans.  If a participant meets the criteria for a coronavirus-related distribution, the participant may be able to borrow more than is normally permitted and postpone some of the loan repayments.  The individuals eligible for these special loan provisions are participants who:

  • have been diagnosed with COVID-19,
  • have spouses or dependents diagnosed with COVID-19, or
  • have experienced adverse financial consequences stemming from COVID-19 as a result of
    • being quarantined, furloughed or laid off,
    • having reduced work hours,
    • being unable to work due to lack of child care or
    • for business owners, the closing or reduction of hours of the owner’s business.

How much can a participant borrow from a plan?

If the participant is an eligible individual described above, the participant can borrow up to the lesser of $100,000 or 100% of the participant’s vested account balance.  This special rule applies to loans made in the next 6 months (up to approximately September 27, 2020).  If a participant is not an eligible individual (or the plan does not adopt the higher loan limits), a participant can borrow up to the lesser of $50,000 or 50% of the participant’s vested account balance.

How long can a participant take to repay the loan?

Generally, any loan from a retirement plan must be repaid within 5 years, but participants who are eligible individuals described above can postpone for one year any loan payment that is otherwise due between March 27 and December 31, 2020.

Can participants who previously took a plan loan also postpone their loan repayments?

Yes.  Participants who are eligible individuals described above can postpone for one year any plan loan payments otherwise due between March 27 and December 31, 2020, if the plan permits the deferral.

Does interest accrue on the loan payments that are suspended?

Yes. Interest still accrues on suspended payments. The remaining payments must be adjusted to reflect the suspension.

Are retirement plans required to allow coronavirus related distributions and loans?

No.  Plans are not required to permit these distributions or loans, and some plan recordkeepers may not be able to program their systems immediately (or ever) to accommodate these new options.

I am typically required to take a RMD from my retirement plan and/or IRA. Do I have to take my RMD this year?

In addition to the changes described above, the CARES Act allows defined contribution plans and IRAs to suspend making required minimum distributions in 2020, including any initial required minimum distributions for 2019 that would have been due by April 1, 2020.  Required minimum distributions are the distributions that retired participants are required to take when they reach age 70 ½ (recently changed to age 72).

Additionally, any distributions made in 2020 that, but for the CARES Act, would have been a required minimum distribution, and thus not eligible for tax-free rollover, will instead be eligible for rollover, but not subject to the 20% withholding that normally applies to eligible rollover distributions.

If an individual has already received a required minimum distribution in 2020, it appears that amount is now eligible to be rolled into an IRA or another qualified plan, if the rollover requirements can otherwise be satisfied. Additional IRS guidance on this issue may be forthcoming.

STUDENT LOAN FORBEARANCE

Which student loans are eligible for forbearance?

Federal student loan borrowers are automatically being placed in an administrative forbearance, which allows students to temporarily stop making your monthly loan payments until Sept. 30, 2020. Students can still make payments if you choose. This forbearance does not apply to private student loans.

Do I need to apply for student loan deferment?

For federal student loans, the forbearance will be automatic. You are not required to take action. Automatic payments are automatically suspended during forebearance.

Which student loans are eligible for 0% interest rates?

From March 13, 2020 through Sept. 30, 2020, the interest rate is 0% on the following types of federal student loans owned by the U.S. Department of Education: (1) defaulted and non-defaulted Direct Loans; (2) defaulted and non-defaulted FFEL Program loans; and (3) Federal Perkins Loans. However, some FFEL Program loans are owned by commercial lenders, and some Perkins Loans are owned by the institution you attended. These loans are not eligible for a 0% interest rate.

Do I need to apply for a 0% interest?

If your federal student loans are eligible, the Department of Education will automatically adjust your account so that interest does not accrue effective March 13, 2020.

If I made a student loan payment for March, can I request that my payment be refunded?

If your payment was made on or after March 13, 2020, you may contact your loan servicer to request that your payment be refunded.

CHANGES TO CHARITABLE CONTRIBUTION LIMITS

What are the charitable contribution changes under the CARES Act for individuals?

Beginning in 2020, the CARES Act increases the deductible amount for an individual’s “qualified contributions” to 100% of the individual’s adjusted gross income, subject to a reduction for other charitable contributions.

In addition, individuals who take the standard deduction may claim an above-the-line tax deduction for cash donations to qualified charitable organizations, up to $300.

Jay A. Finke, CFP®, Matt A. Held, CFP® and Robert V.  Molenda, CLU, ChFC, CRPC® are registered representative of Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp.  We are here to answer any questions you may have.  Please reach out to us at 513.745.7095 or contact us at ClarityWealth@LFG.com.  We look forward to working with you and your families.

 CRN-3029053-040620