COVID Tax Status: Natural Disaster and More

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When you think about natural disasters, the first things that come to mind are hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes. When the pandemic plagued America, causing several businesses to shut down, many wondered, “Is COVID a natural disaster?”.

Because of the destruction the disease caused, the government deemed the coronavirus a natural disaster, and soon afterward, they enabled disaster relief programs to keep businesses afloat. These programs, such as the employee retention credit and the paycheck protection program, were implemented to help keep employees on the payroll.

At the same time, employers tried to make sense of the government orders. So how do these programs play into your business’s taxes? Continue reading below to learn more about these programs and how you can properly account for them. 

Is COVID a Natural Disaster?

Per the government and the Internal Revenue Services, they declared the COVID pandemic a qualified natural disaster or a natural disaster on March 12, 2020. Businesses that reduced their business hours were shut down or otherwise had to halt some part of their business and were eligible for certain disaster relief credits. 

Is COVID Considered a Natural Disaster for Taxes?

For those wondering, “Is COVID a natural disaster?” or, “is COVID a qualified disaster,” when it comes to taxes, the answer is yes. Specific COVID-19 relief and payroll credits are available in response to the pandemic. For example, there is the employee retention credit, also known as the ERTC. 

Employee Retention Credit

Businesses that kept employees on their payroll during the pandemic were eligible for a retention credit against a portion of your social security tax. 

Eligibility for the ERTC:

  • Partial or complete suspension of business operations due to government order
  • Your business had a reduction in gross receipts

Depending on how many full-time employees your business has, you are able to generate a credit based on their health plan and qualified wages, granted you are an eligible business. Through the recently passed IIJA bill, if you also received a loan from the Paycheck Protection Program, you could retroactively claim the ERTC credit on wages not forgivable through the PPP. 

Common Misconceptions About COVID Taxes

There are several misconceptions and mistakes many business owners make when trying to account for these credits. For example, many believed that since their business was deemed essential, they did not qualify for these tax credits. In reality, companies, even those considered essential, still qualified if there was an impact or a change to their operations. 

For instance, if the business was still open, but vendors or other supplies for the industry were not, that directly impacted the business. Therefore, you may still qualify. 

My Business Was Not Shut Down

Even a partial shutdown of your business may qualify you for the available tax credits. As long as the shutdown, either partial or complete, was by a government agency, you could qualify. 

Examples of eligible business shutdowns:

  • Limited capacity inside your business
  • Shutdowns of your vendors or suppliers
  • Inability to access necessary work equipment
  • Disruption to your business
  • Reduction in services
  • Reduction in service hours

When determining eligibility, the main question you need to answer is, “was my business unable to continue normal operations even after the government order? Did the government order negatively affect the business?”

If the government order negatively affected the business, you could qualify. Of course, this is only one part of the eligibility test. Your business must also have a decline in receipts for the eligible tax year. 

Less than 50% Decline in Receipts

Many businesses assumed that since they did not meet the gross receipt requirements, they could not claim this credit. Fortunately, under the CAA (Consolidated Appropriations Act), the criteria changed from 50% to 20%. 

My Business Grew During the Quarantine

Businesses that expanded during the quarantine or who did not have a significant decline in receipts typically did not qualify for the credit. However, you could still be eligible if your company had to shut down, reduce hours, or a partial shutdown at any point during the tax year. Certain expenses may qualify, so be sure to reach out to a tax professional for more information. 

I Claimed the PPP

As mentioned earlier, those who claimed the disaster relief for COVID Paycheck Protection Program loan assumed they did not qualify for the credit. Due to the CAA, those who took the PPP could still claim ERTC credits for the wages not forgiven by the Paycheck Protection Program. 

Help with COVID Tax Status and ERC

Suppose you are unsure of your company’s eligibility status with the ERC, or you need help deciphering the difference between PPP forgiven wages and ERC wages. In that case, there are companies you can reach out to. 

For example, you can reach out to ERC Today for more information on how to retroactively claim the credits. They also have the resources needed to help you account for the ERTC. 

Although you may be tempted to use online tax software to help make sense of these credits, you will find that your options are limited. It would be best for you to reach out to a specialist to handle the filing and accounting on your behalf. 

COVID Disaster Relief Tax Assistance

Now that you know the answers to “is COVID a natural disaster?” and “does COVID count as a natural disaster for taxes?”, it’s time to see what tax relief options your business qualifies for. Many companies made inaccurate assumptions regarding their eligibility for the PPP and the ERC, but thankfully there are resources available to help clarify eligibility statuses.

There are also resources to help your business retroactively claim the credit. Contact us if you are ready to learn more about your ERC options or need help accounting for the credit. 

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