We’ve been spending more of our time staring at electronic screens all day, and rumors abound about the possible negative consequences of that, as this piece in Lifehacker explains. Eyestrain is real, but the blue light from our screens won’t damage eyes. Simply holding your device a bit further from your eyes may reduce just as much blue light as expensive blue-light-blocking glasses. Practicing the 20-20-20 rule may help alleviate many of the eye problems that our electronic world of work can cause: every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
THE AMERICAN RECOVERY PLAN ACT (ARPA)
Economic Impact Payments (aka Stimulus Checks)
According to an article in Reuters, Americans plan to save more of their third stimulus payment than in the past. Some of this may be driven by the limited options available, and people may later spend those funds as the economy reopens. On average, surveyed households reported that they will spend 25% and save 42% of their third payments, compared to 29% spent and 37% saved from the first round of payments.
The IRS continues to update its EIP FAQ pages for the third wave of payments. Recent updates include what to do if a check is issued in the name of someone who was deceased prior to January 1, 2021. In this situation, you’ll need to return the payment to the IRS.
According to the IRS, if you didn’t receive your EIP payment as a direct deposit by March 24, you’ll be receiving it in the mail as either a prepaid debit card or a check. Checks and debit cards began going out March 19 and will continue over the next weeks. The best way to track your payment is using the IRS Get My Payment tool which has been updated for third round payments.
If you’re eligible for the first two stimulus payments but did not receive the full amount you’re entitled to, you can receive the additional stimulus payment as a Rebate Recovery Credit on your 2020 tax return.
100% Business Deduction for Restaurant Meals through 2022
Normally, only 50% of the expenses for meals are deductible for taxes, but between January 1, 2021 and December 31, 2022 that limitation has been lifted: Meals from restaurants are now 100% deductible. The IRS recently released guidance that explains this deduction. The guidance defines restaurants as businesses or services that prepare food and beverages for immediate consumption, regardless of whether the purchases are consumed on premises or not. This definition means that purchases from businesses that primarily sell pre-packaged foods, such as grocery stores, convenience stores, liquor stores, vending machines, and kiosks, will remain at the 50% deductible limit.
Shuttered Venue Operators Grants (SVOG)
The portal for submitting applications opened briefly on April 8, but shut down later that day, and remains closed until technical details that prevent applicants from uploading documents are resolved. When the portal re-opens, the first 14 days will be reserved for businesses that suffered more than a 90% loss in business, with succeeding application windows for businesses with smaller losses. Grants are available for 45% of 2019 gross revenue, up to a maximum of $10 million. The SBA has a dedicated webpage for the SVOG program, which includes eligibility requirements, video tutorials for the application process, and allowable uses of funds.
Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)
Although the deadline for applying for PPP funds was extended to May 31, the SBA projects that funds may run out before the deadline. As of early April, the SBA had only $66 billion in funds remaining out of a total of $292 billion appropriated since December. While expanded guidelines increased the amount that small solo businesses could receive, no additional funds were appropriated, which may leave many eligible recipients out of luck.
Other Tax Matters
A provision of the CARES Act allows people under the age of 59 ½ to withdraw up to $100,000 from retirement accounts without paying the usual 10% penalty when the withdrawal is COVID-related. Those withdrawals are still subject to income tax, but as a CNBC article explains, the law includes flexible options for paying that tax. The law allows taxpayers to spread the tax over three years or to repay the withdrawn amount over three years. However, whether you plan to repay that withdrawal or not, you will still need to pay tax on 1/3 of the withdrawal on your 2020 tax return. If you repay the entire distribution over the three-year timeframe, you’ll need to amend your tax returns to get a refund of the taxes previously paid.
In the remote world, a good part of our personal interactions is on Zoom calls. Marketing guru Seth Godin has ideas for making the experience less exhausting and more intimate. Some tips are free, while others require investing in special equipment. For free, you can adjust the Zoom settings at the beginning of every call to “hide self view” so you’re not fatigued by looking at yourself in a mirror on every call. Rearranging your workspace to that the source of light is not behind you will make it easier for others on the call to see your face. Further investments include a couple of LED lights, a camera, and a microphone, and for maximum quality, a teleprompter setup.
LIFE IN THE POST-PANDEMIC ERA
Now that the pandemic is beginning to ease, some companies are making plans to bring employees back in. While some employers want in-person work to be the norm, they are facing push-back from employees. Besides eliminating the time drag of lengthy commutes, many have found that working remotely improves their productivity by eliminating distractions. Some have health concerns regarding a return to close contact with others in elevators or public transit, while others crave a return for socialization. A hybrid model, with two or three days in the office to connect with team members and the remaining days for focused work at home may become the norm in the future.
When we go back to the office, will workplace benefits be the same as before the pandemic? Not according to Tim Allen, CEO of Care.com, who writes in the Harvard Business Review of the growing importance of childcare and senior care as benefits. On-site childcare is falling out of favor, while flexible work schedules and childcare options, mental health benefits, and senior care are all growing in popularity.
- IRS resources for stimulus payments:
- Use the Get My Payment tool to check on t payment status
- Eligibility and general information about Economic Impact Payments
- A list of frequently asked questions for stimulus payments
- The best source for up-to-date and accurate health information is the Center for Disease Control (CDC)
- The CDC also has recommendations for businesses and employers
- Intuit QuickBooks has a dedicated page to help small businesses
- Entrepreneur put together a listing of free tech resources for remote work
- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has warnings about COVID-related scams
- Fast Company has a listing of the best productivity apps for 2020
- The New York Times has an online newsletter on K-12 and higher education
- The Wall Street Journal has a collection of articles on education
- The Atlantic has a state-by-state coronavirus tracker
We sincerely hope that you and your family are well and remain well. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We are all in this together!