In response to the dynamic challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, significant changes have been implemented regarding loan forgiveness under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The Payroll Protection Program Flexibility Act, signed into law on June 5, 2020, along with subsequent guidance from the Small Business Administration (SBA), has introduced positive developments that simplify the loan forgiveness process for borrowers. This article delves into the crucial modifications and clarifications that empower borrowers and enhance their eligibility for loan forgiveness.
Key Updates and Clarifications:
Extended Covered Period:
The covered period for loan forgiveness has been expanded from the initial 8 weeks to the earlier of 24 weeks or December 31, 2020. Borrowers who received the loan before June 5, 2020, have the option to elect an alternative 8-week period starting on the first day of their first pay period following the loan disbursement date.
Increased Non-Payroll Costs Allocation:
The permissible amount spent on non-payroll costs has been raised from 25% to 40%. If non-payroll costs exceed 40%, the loan forgiveness amount is reduced to ensure the non-payroll portion aligns with the 40% threshold. Eligible non-payroll costs include expenses paid or incurred during the covered period, with incurred expenses needing to be paid by the next regular billing date after the end of the covered period.
Participation in Payroll Tax Delay:
Those who experience loan forgiveness are now eligible to fully participate in the delay of payment of employer payroll taxes.
Extended Payback Period:
The payback period for PPP loans has been extended from two years to a minimum of five years, offering borrowers more time for repayment.
Extended Rehire Safe Harbor:
The rehire safe harbor, initially set to expire on June 30, 2020, has been extended to December 31, 2020, providing businesses with an extended window to rehire employees and maintain eligibility for loan forgiveness.
New Safe Harbor for FTE Employees:
A new safe harbor has been established for businesses experiencing a decrease in full-time equivalent (FTE) employees. This provision allows the determination of loan forgiveness without proportional reductions in FTE if the borrower can document an inability to rehire or hire similarly qualified employees due to circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The safe harbor is applicable if an eligible recipient can document:
Inability to rehire individuals who were employees as of February 15, 2020, or hire qualified replacements before December 31, 2020.
Inability to return to the same level of business activity as of February 15, 2020, due to compliance with health and safety guidelines issued by relevant authorities.
This provision is particularly beneficial to industries, such as restaurants, facing capacity constraints and operational challenges.
Compensation Cap for Owners:
The amount of compensation paid to owners (owner-employees, self-employed individuals, or general partners) eligible for loan forgiveness is capped at $20,833 (2.5-month equivalent of $100,000 per year) or the 2.5-month equivalent of their 2019 compensation, whichever is lower, for a 24-week covered period. For an 8-week covered period, the cap is 8/52 of 2019 compensation (up to $15,385).
Treatment of Health Insurance and Retirement Plan Costs:
Employer contributions for employee health insurance generally count as eligible payroll costs for loan forgiveness. However, the cost of health insurance for self-employed individuals, general partners, or owner-employees of an S Corporation is excluded, as these costs are already included in their compensation.
Similarly, while employer contributions to employee retirement plans are eligible payroll costs, the cost of retirement plans for the self-employed and general partners does not count, as these costs are already factored into their compensation.
Inclusion of Hazard Pay and Bonus Pay:
Hazard pay and bonus pay are considered eligible payroll costs for loan forgiveness purposes for employees whose annual pay does not exceed $100,000. This provision is particularly relevant for those opting for an 8-week covered period.
Loan Forgiveness Application Process:
Lenders may take up to 60 days to approve the loan forgiveness application, with an additional 90 days for the Small Business Administration (SBA) to grant final approval.
Statute of Limitations and Document Retention:
The SBA imposes a 6-year statute of limitations on reviewing the loan, starting from the day the loan is forgiven. Extensive documentation, beyond what is required for the application, must be retained by borrowers for compliance purposes.
The recent updates to the Paycheck Protection Program's loan forgiveness provisions represent a positive shift for borrowers, providing increased flexibility and clarity in navigating the economic challenges posed by the ongoing pandemic. These changes empower businesses to strategically manage their finances and workforce, ultimately aiding in their recovery and resilience.
However, it's crucial for borrowers to remain vigilant, understanding the nuances of the updated guidelines and seeking professional advice to ensure compliance. The evolving nature of the COVID-19 situation requires businesses to stay informed and adaptable. This comprehensive overview serves as a guide for borrowers, emphasizing the key modifications and considerations in the PPP loan forgiveness landscape.
Disclaimer: The content provided in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute tax advice. It is recommended to consult with a qualified tax advisor for advice tailored to specific situations.