The $1.9 trillion stimulus plan passed by the House of Representatives early Saturday contains many tax provisions, including a new round of economic impact payments, a tax credit for COBRA continuation coverage, and the expansion of several other tax credits. The House passed the bill, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, H.R. 1319, by a vote of 219–212, and it now goes to the Senate for consideration.
Subtitle G of the bill, titled "Promoting Economic Security," enacts a new Sec. 6428B that provides individuals with a $1,400 recovery rebate credit ($2,800 for married taxpayers filing jointly) plus $1,400 for each dependent for 2021. As with the two recovery rebates enacted in 2020, the IRS will make advance payments, which the Service has been calling economic impact payments.
The recovery rebate credit phases out for taxpayers with adjusted gross income (AGI) over $75,000 ($150,000 for married filing jointly).
The bill uses 2019 AGI to determine eligibility, unless the taxpayer has already filed a 2020 return.
COBRA continuation coverage
Subtitle F of the bill, titled "Preserving Health Benefits for Workers," provides COBRA continuation coverage premium assistance for individuals who are eligible for COBRA continuation coverage between the date of enactment and Sept. 21, 2021. The bill creates a new Sec. 6432, which allows a COBRA continuation coverage premium assistance credit to taxpayers. The credit is allowed against the Sec. 3111(b) Medicare tax. The credit is refundable, and the IRS may make advance payments to taxpayers of the credit amount.
The credit applies to premiums and wages paid after April 1, 2021.
Under new Sec. 6720C, a penalty is imposed for failure to notify a health plan of cessation of eligibility for the continuation coverage premium assistance.
Taxpayers who receive the COBRA continuation coverage premium assistance credit are not also eligible for the Sec. 35 health coverage tax credit.
Under new Sec. 139I, continuation coverage premium assistance is not includible in the recipient's gross income.
Child tax credit
The bill expands the Sec. 24 child tax credit in several ways. It makes the credit fully refundable for 2021 and makes 17-year-olds eligible as qualifying children.
The bill increases the amount of the credit to $3,000 per child ($3,600 for children under 6). The increased credit amount phases out for taxpayers with incomes over $150,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly, $112,500 for heads of household, and $75,000 for others.
The IRS is directed to estimate taxpayers' child tax credit amounts and pay monthly in advance one-twelfth of the annual estimated amount. Payments will run from July through December 2021.
The IRS must set up an online portal to allow taxpayers to opt out of advance payments or provide information that would be relevant to modifying the amount.
The taxpayer in general will have to reconcile the advance payment amount with the actual credit amount on next year's return and increase taxable income by the excess of the advance payment amount over the actual credit allowed. But taxpayers whose modified AGI for the tax year does not exceed 200% of the applicable income threshold ($60,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly) will have the increase for an excess advance payment reduced by a safe harbor amount of $2,000 per child.
Earned income credit
The bill also makes several changes to the Sec. 32 earned income credit. It introduces special rules for individuals with no children: For 2021, the applicable minimum age is decreased to 19, except for students (24) and qualified former foster youth or homeless youth (18). The maximum age is eliminated.
The credit's phaseout percentage is increased to 15.3%, and the phaseout amounts are increased.
The credit would be allowed for certain separated spouses.
The threshold for disqualifying investment income would be raised from $2,200 to $10,000.
Temporarily, taxpayers would be allowed to use their 2019 income instead of 2021 income in figuring the credit amount.
Child and dependent care credit
The bill makes changes to the Sec. 21 child and dependent care credit, including making it refundable for 2021. The bill also increases the exclusion for employer-provided dependent care assistance to $10,500 for 2021.
Family and sick leave credits
The credits for sick and family leave originally enacted by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), P.L. 116-127, would be extended to Sept. 30, 2021.
The bill increases the limit on the credit for paid family leave to $12,000.
The number of days a self-employed individual can take into account in calculating the qualified family leave equivalent amount for self-employed individuals increases from 50 to 60.
The paid leave credits will be allowed for leave that is due to a COVID-19 vaccination.
The limitation on the overall number of days taken into account for paid sick leave will reset after March 31, 2021.
The credits are expanded to allow 501(c)(1) governmental organizations to take them.
Employee retention credit
The bill extends the employee retention credit through the end of 2021. The employee retention credit was originally enacted in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, P.L. 116-136, and it allows eligible employers to claim a credit for paying qualified wages to employees.
Under the bill, the employee retention credit would be allowed against the Sec. 3111(b) Medicare tax.
Premium tax credit
The bill expands the Sec. 36B premium tax credit for 2021 and 2022 by changing the applicable percentage amounts in Sec. 36B(b)(3)(A). A special rule is added that treats a taxpayer who has received, or has been approved to receive, unemployment compensation for any week beginning during 2021 as an applicable taxpayer.
Miscellaneous tax provisions
The bill repeals Sec. 864(f), which allows affiliated groups to elect to allocate interest on a worldwide basis.
The bill provides that targeted Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) grants received from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) are not included in gross income and that this exclusion from gross income will not result in a denial of a deduction, reduction of tax attributes, or denial of basis increase. Similar treatment is afforded SBA restaurant revitalization grants.
The bill temporarily delays the designation of multiemployer pension plans as in endangered, critical, or critical and declining status and makes other changes for multiemployer plans in critical or endangered status.
For more on the nontax portions of the bill, see, "House Passes $1.9 Trillion Stimulus Bill with a Variety of Small Business Relief."
— Alistair M. Nevius, J.D., (Alistair.Nevius@aicpa-cima.com) is the JofA's editor-in-chief, tax.