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Coalition urges Congress to overturn IRS rule, allow PPP loan forgiveness to be taxable

December 03, 2020

By Jennifer Garvin

WashingtonThe ADA and more than 500 like-minded stakeholders are calling on Congress to overturn an Internal Revenue Service rule and allow Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiveness to be fully tax-free.

In a Dec. 3 letter to leaders of the House and Senate, the groups, led by the Associated General Contractors of America, urged lawmakers to enact legislation before the end of the year to correct the tax treatment of loan forgiveness under the Paycheck Protection Program.

IRS Notice 2020-32 states that “normally deductible business expenses will not be deductible if the business pays the expense with a Paycheck Protection Program loan that is subsequently forgiven,” which the coalition believes is a misinterpretation of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. Section 1106(i) of the CARES Act states business expenses are “includible in gross income of the eligible recipient by reason of forgiveness” and “shall be excluded from gross income,” for purposes of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986. The coalition wants Congress to clarify this contradiction. The ADA has been advocating to overturn this since the notice was released and joined forces with the Associated General Contractors to write this letter.

“At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress responded with speed, cooperation and an eye to preventing the worst potential economic outcomes. We ask that you bring that same spirit of urgency and cooperation before the end of this session to prevent an avoidable catastrophe for millions of small businesses that, without Congressional action, will face a surprising, and, in many cases, insurmountable tax bill next year,” the groups wrote.

“The terms of the PPP are simple: if qualifying small businesses use a federally-guaranteed loan to pay their employees and cover certain non-payroll expenses, the loan will be forgiven,” the letter continued. “From April 3, when the program launched, through Aug. 8, when its authorization expired, the Small Business Administration guaranteed $525 billion in PPP loans to 5.2 million qualifying small businesses nationwide, preserving tens of millions of paychecks for their employees as the pandemic spread throughout the country.”

The coalition noted that if unchanged, the IRS ruling could increase small businesses’ taxes up to 37%.

“Since the IRS issued Notice 2020-32, Congress has signaled that it intends to reverse the ruling,” the letter said. “The Democratic and Republican Chairs of the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees issued public statements saying that the IRS Notice, and, more recently, the IRS Revenue Ruling, is flawed and contrary to Congressional intent."

The coalition added that the “most recent IRS revenue ruling” has created a renewed sense of urgency for Congress to address the issue before the end of the year.

“Allowing the IRS position to remain unchallenged will result in a significant tax increase on small business owners already suffering from the effects of COVID-19 shutdowns,” the groups wrote. “This tax will hit small business owners after their PPP loan has already been spent, and just as many states are re-imposing mandatory closures of thousands of businesses in the face of spiking numbers of COVID-19 cases. Many PPP loan recipients retained employees on their payrolls, even when there was little to no work to perform, in compliance with the intent of the program to keep people employed and off the unemployment rolls. The IRS changed the rules after businesses took out PPP loans, and business owners are now being asked to pay what amounts to a surtax on their workforce.

"Without Congressional action, businesses will face an unexpected tax bill when they file their taxes for 2020, as they continue to struggle with government mandated shutdowns or slowdowns. Many of those businesses will close and never re-open. This senseless tax policy stands both the letter and spirit of the PPP on its head,” the letter concluded.

For more information about the ADA’s advocacy efforts during COVID-19, visit ADA.org/COVID19Advocacy.