Apr 09, 2021 // News

Experts: IRS Guidance Needed on American Rescue Plan

The IRS needs to issue new rules and guidance to implement the American Rescue Plan, experts said on March 11 as President Joe Biden signed his COVID-19 relief measure.

"I hope Treasury will say something very soon: FAQs, press release, something. IRS undoubtedly will have to write new regs," commented Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center Senior Fellow Howard Gleckman. He stressed IRS certainly will have to figure out how to make the retroactive tax exemption for some 2020 unemployment benefits work. Gleckman also said he suspects the Child Tax Credit will require new guidance.

Gleckman claimed a new form this late in the tax season is unlikely. "Amended returns seems easiest," said the veteran IRS observer.

To help implement the tax-related changes in the American Rescue Plan, a colleague at the Tax Policy Center, Janet Holtzblatt, said that she, as well, is looking for guidance from the IRS on what taxpayers would do if they received unemployment benefits in 2020. Holtzblatt noted the law would exclude $10,200 of those benefits from adjusted gross income if the taxpayers’ adjusted gross income is less than $150,000.

What people will want to know, Holtzblatt stated, is:

  • What to do if they already filed their tax return and paid income taxes on those benefits? Do they have to file an amended tax return just to get the tax refund for that reason, or will the IRS establish a simpler method to do so?
  • And going forward, what about people who have not yet filed their tax return? If a new form is not released, what should they report on the existing return—the full amount or the partial amount? And how will the IRS know when the tax return is processed whether the taxpayer reported the full amount or the partial amount? (Eventually, the IRS could—when, after the filing season is over and tax returns are matched to 1099s from UI offices—but that could be months before taxpayers would be made whole.)

For the CARES Act, Holtzblatt said the IRS generally provided guidance through FAQs on their website which was insufficient for some tax professionals and later voided. "Some of their interpretations raised questions—and in the case of the treatment of prisoners, was challenged in the courts and led to a reversal of the interpretation in the FAQ," she explained.

National Association of Tax Professionals Director of Marketing, Communications & Business Development Nancy Kasten said new rules are musts and the agency will have to issue new FAQs, potentially on all of the key provisions in the legislation. The NATP executive asserted that old forms are going to need to be revised for Tax Year 2021. "Regarding 2020 retroactive items, we are waiting on IRS guidance," said Kasten.

National Conference of CPA Practitioners National Tax Policy Committee Co-Chair Steve Mankowski said the primary rules that will need to be written ASAP relate to the changes in the 2020 unemployment, especially since it appears to be income based as well as the increased child tax credit with advanced payments being sent monthly unless a taxpayer opts out. He added there will most likely need to be a worksheet added to the 2020 tax returns to show the unemployment received and adjusting UE income down to the taxable amount.

Mankowski, immediate past president of NCCCPAP said the primary items for new FAQs include the unemployment and the income limit on the non-taxability, changes in the child tax credit; and changes in the Employee Retention Credit.

In response to an email seeking what the agency plans to do to help implement the pandemic relief measure, an IRS spokesman forwarded the following statement released on March 10:

"The IRS is reviewing implementation plans for the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 that was recently passed by Congress. Additional information about a new round of Economic Impact Payments and other details will be made available on IRS.gov, once the legislation has been signed by the President."

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