A Short Overview of the Stimulus Payments

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Stimulus Checks will be issued soon, and our office has received several calls concerning the when, how and why. Here is what you need to know:

  • The stimulus payment is a 2020 credit that will be reconciled on the tax return filed in 2021 for the 2020 tax year
  • It is a maximum of $1200 for singles, $2400 for married taxpayers and then $500 for each child
  • The payment phases out for Singles earning more than 75K, Married earning more than 150K and those filing Head of Household earning more than $112,500
  • The payments are being sent in advance based on the return filed for 2019
  • If the 2019 return has not been filed, it will be based on the 2018 return
  • If neither the 2018 nor the 2019 return has been filed, you will want to file soon
  • If you do not get all the stimulus, you may receive it when you file the 2020 tax year return in 2021
  • Currently, the IRS is requiring all individuals to file a return to receive the stimulus, yet the law that was passed does not require that. The IRS has announced a special return for those that do not regularly file. Details are forthcoming
  • If you have provided a direct deposit account on your 2018 or 2019 return, the payment will go to that account.
  • The IRS will provide a database and web site that will allow you to change the account identification number if necessary.
  • The IRS has provided a web page with FAQs: https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/economic-impact-payments-what-you-need-to-know

There is considerable confusion over these rules and an unnecessary rush to file 2019 returns when the 2018 return is sufficient. If you have not filed in 2019 and show more than the allowed income on the 2018 return, that would be a reason to file sooner provided the 2019 return income is eligible for the payment. If both returns show disqualifying income, you still have another chance when you file for 2020.

Local Assignments and Tax-Free Lodging during COVID

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During the COVID crisis, several healthcare providers are taking local assignments to help with the surge of affected patients. They have valid concerns about exposing their family or those they share a home with to the virus.

Can they receive tax free housing even though they are working locally?

The answer is yes.  Tucked away in the Regulations (Section 1.162-32(a)) is a little-known provision for local lodging primary designed to accommodate local business meetings, conferences, training and other related activity. In addition to these situations, it also allows the lodging to be provided when the facts and circumstances of a situation require local lodging. The current COVID pandemic is such an event that would fit those limitations.

There are a few items to note.

  • The lodging should be a dwelling that the employer/agency/hospital provides in kind. In other words, they pay for the lodging directly. That can be a hotel, house or apartment.
  • The lodging must be a necessity rather than a personal preference
  • The lodging cannot be lavish or extravagant
  • There cannot be a greater social or personal benefit beyond the provision of a place to stay to fulfill one’s duties at the care facility.
  • These limitations do not allow giving a per diem in place of directly paying the lodging provider or paying by receipt. Agencies are required to track their non-taxable lodging and meal reimbursements

Reference: https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/26/1.162-32

Helpful Articles on the Stimulus

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Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

Below are links to two helpful articles regarding the stimulus

This one is a calculator to determine how much you will get. You will need your most recently filed return (2018 or 2019) to determine the income

Stimulus Calculator

The second is a concise overview of the program. Note that the payment is an ADVANCE of a 2020 tax credit so there will be a form to file next year to reconcile amounts already received if you did not get the full amount. Guidance is coming soon so stay tuned:

All About the Stimulus

Will the One Year Limit on Temp Assignments be Lifted During the COVID Crisis?

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This is a legitimate question for healthcare and other critical needs professions that are asked to stay on at a facility, or quarantined longer than a year in one geographic area (metro, not state).

The reason this is important is that per diems are taxable after one year of service in the same metro area.

Currently, none of the recent legislation has changed this rule, although an influential tax law firm reached out in early March with the suggestion ( see Request to Liberalize Away From Home Rules see page 5-6).

As of March 26, 2020, there has been no change in policy.

Stay tuned for further developments.