The House of Representatives on Monday passed a $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill that provides $600 stimulus payments to individuals, adds $300 to extended weekly unemployment benefits, and provides more than $300 billion in aid for small businesses.
The legislation, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, also ensures tax deductibility for business expenses paid with forgiven Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, provides fresh PPP funding, makes Sec. 501(c)(6) not-for-profit organizations eligible for loans for the first time, and offers businesses facing severe revenue reductions the opportunity to apply for a second loan.
The measure now goes to the Senate, which is expected to vote on it today before going home for the Christmas holidays. If it passes, the bill would go to President Donald Trump, who is expected to sign it into law.
Tax deductibility for PPP expenses
The bill also specifies that business expenses paid with forgiven PPP loans are tax-deductible. This supersedes IRS guidance that such expenses could not be deducted and brings the policy in line with what the AICPA and hundreds of other business associations have argued was Congress’s intent when it created the original PPP as part of the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, P.L. 116-136 (see the Dec. 3 letter from the AICPA and state societies to congressional leaders).
The COVID-19 relief bill clarifies that “no deduction shall be denied, no tax attribute shall be reduced, and no basis increase shall be denied, by reason of the exclusion from gross income provided” by Section 1106 of the CARES Act (which has been redesignated as Section 7A of the Small Business Act). This provision applies to loans under both the original PPP and subsequent PPP loans.
While the CARES Act excluded PPP loan forgiveness from gross income, it did not specifically address whether the expenses used to achieve that loan forgiveness would continue to be deductible, even though they would otherwise be deductible. In April, the IRS issued Notice 2020-32, which stated that no deduction would be allowed under the Internal Revenue Code for an expense that is otherwise deductible if the payment of the expense results in forgiveness of a PPP loan because the income associated with the forgiveness is excluded from gross income for purposes of the Code under CARES Act Section 1106(i).
In November, the IRS then expanded on this position by issuing Rev. Rul. 2020-27, which held that a taxpayer computing taxable income on the basis of a calendar year could not deduct eligible expenses in its 2020 tax year if, at the end of the tax year, the taxpayer had a reasonable expectation of reimbursement in the form of loan forgiveness on the basis of eligible expenses paid or incurred during the covered period. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also argued against businesses being able to deduct business expenses paid with forgiven, tax-free PPP funds, calling it an unwarranted double benefit for businesses.
The AICPA disputed this interpretation of the CARES Act loan forgiveness rules, arguing that it was not Congress’s intent to disallow the deduction of otherwise deductible expenses. Congress has now agreed with that position.