Weekly Digest – 21 April 2020
Resources to Help You Survive – and Thrive – During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread across the country and around the globe, leaving nearly no one completely untouched. But among the tragic stories are also stories of incredible resourcefulness, like this one about a 99-year-old WWII veteran from the UK who raised more than £23 million (~$28 million US) for healthcare workers by walking laps around his yard. Like that gentleman, we are all finding our own ways to make the best of the strange new world we are in. Here are some of the most helpful resources we’ve found lately to help you thrive.
CARES ACT UPDATES
Economic Impact Payments (aka Stimulus Checks)
Many people have already received their Economic Impact Payments by direct deposit. This first wave began the week of April 13 and went out to people who had already filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return which included banking information for direct deposit.
To check on the status of your payment, the IRS has a special page where you can check on the status of your payment, update your banking information and request a payment if you haven’t filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return. You can get general information about the program at the IRS Economic Impact Payment Information Center, where you can also find answers for the most common questions about the program. For example, Question 20 asks “Is the Payment taxable as 2020 income?” The answer is “No, the Payment is not income and you will not owe tax on your Payment. It will not reduce your refund or increase the amount you owe when you file your 2020 tax return next year.” These payments will not affect your eligibility for federal programs.
To check on the status of your payment, you’ll want to use the Get My Payment application. Answers to the most frequent questions about the Get My Payment application can be found here. These questions cover eligibility, updating banking information, and explanations of the different status updates. Payment status is updated on a daily basis.
Paycheck Protection Program
The first $349 billion in loans was fully exhausted by April 16, and according to some bank executives, was spoken for within minutes. Negotiations are underway to fund another $310 billion in loans for small businesses.
On April 17, Inc.com held a town hall meeting with Neil Bradley, VP and Chief Policy Officer at the US Chamber of Commerce, where he answered questions about the PPP and other parts of the Federal stimulus program. In another video from Inc.com, Neil Bradley briefly explains the two tests for getting your PPP loan forgiven.
However, as CPA and tax expert Tony Nitti points out in this Forbes article, there’s still a lot we don’t know about exactly how the loan forgiveness program will operate. Experts advise recipients to sequester the loan proceeds in a separate bank account that will be used only for eligible expenses to make record keeping easier.
Expanded Unemployment Benefits Now Being Implemented by the States
Part of the CARES Act was an expansion of unemployment benefits to include the self-employed under the Pandemic Unemployment Act (PUA). However, states were not able to provide these benefits until guidance was issued by the federal Department of Labor. Associated Builders and Contractors has put together this listing by states of their progress in implementing the new program, including links to the relevant state websites.
Technical Fix to Bonus Depreciation for Qualified Improvement Property
When the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was passed at the end of 2017, technical errors in the law meant that Qualified Improvement Property – which includes improvements to leaseholds, restaurant and retail locations – was inadvertently made ineligible for bonus depreciation and was instead to be depreciated over 39 years. The CARES Act fixed this technical error, and the IRS has now released guidance for this change.
This correction means that businesses can cut their tax bill by fully writing off the costs to improve the interiors of office buildings, restaurants and retail locations in the year the improvements are made instead of slowly over 39 years. This article in the Journal of Accountancy explains how to take retroactive 100% bonus depreciation for eligible property.
The change can be made either by filing amended returns on paper or filing Form 3115 electronically. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the IRS is not currently processing paper returns, so filing Form 3115 electronically allows for a quicker refund.
WORKING FROM HOME
Using technology in new and different ways is a crucial part of transitioning from working in the office to working from home. Sometimes the apps you already use have functions that might not be using. For example, Slack can be used for video calls as well as text chats. That and more helpful ideas are in this article from The Muse. Tech companies have been using tech tools for years to manage remote teams and keep projects on track. This article from ZDNet describes essential tools and best practices for remote teams, including maintaining security plus tips for managing remote teams. Another article from ZDNet lists the free offerings from tech companies for communication, project management, security, marketing and more.
Of course, setting up a home office entails more than just cracking open a laptop and putting on a headset. Many working from home in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic did not have the luxury of setting up a perfect workspace in advance, and are improvising with what they have on hand. Here are some ideas for making the best of a less-than-ideal situation to keep yourself healthy in body and mind. If you’re doing back-to-back Zoom calls, you’ll want to read this article from Fast Company for pointers on how to protect your energy.
Managing a remote team is different from managing an on-site team, and keeping everyone on the same page during a crisis is even more challenging. This post from Zapier outlines strategies for helping their teams through the current pandemic, and includes links to additional helpful resources.
RESOURCES FOR PARENTS AND FAMILIES
Are you worried about contaminating your home when you return from the store or bring in the mail? The New York Times asked experts to weigh in on questions from readers. Rest assured, it’s harder to catch COVID-19 from going shopping or walking your dog than you might think.
Parents and teachers alike are scrambling to find low-cost or free resources to keep kids engaged and learning. This list from School Choice has free resources that range from learning to type to foreign languages and educational websites.
HELP FOR SMALL BUSINESSES
Small businesses that couldn’t get funding through the PPP may be able to get help from other sources. This article in Forbes lists loans and grants available in all 50 states. Emergency funding is also available from many cities and large organizations, including Facebook and Google.
If you want to help small businesses in your community, here are 11 ideas to help out with your time, money and other resources.
- Payroll, HR and benefits company Gusto has put together An Employer’s Guide to Navigating the Coronavirus
- Accounting Today has a special page for articles on COVID-19
- Forbes has a listing of resources for startups
- The best source for up-to-date and accurate health information is the Center for Disease Control (CDC)
- The CDC also has recommendations for businesses and employers
- Intuit QuickBooks has a dedicated page to help small businesses
- CNet has a comprehensive guide on staying healthy and entertained at home
- Small business resources from the Small Business Development Center
- edu has made freely available a collection of curated scientific research on the coronavirus
- These museums are offering free virtual tours
- The AICPA has a page with COVID-19 resources, including a chat feature to help with tax issues, available M-F, 9-5 eastern time
- The Red Cross has pointers to help young adults stay safe
Thank you for your continued support and patience as we wade through government updates and packages as they are announced and refined. We appreciate your patience.
We sincerely hope that you and your family are well and remain well. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We are all in this together!