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The PPP Loan Forgiveness Enigma

Posted by taxguru on December 3, 2020

Normally, during this last month of the year, we tax pros are working with our calendar year clients to get a handle on what their income taxes will look like so they can take any necessary steps to bring their numbers into sync with their goals by December 31. 

This year, there is a new twist to the calculations we are doing: SBA and lender forgiveness of PPP loans; both those waived by 12/31/20, as well as those expected to be canceled next year.

There is no uncertainty regarding the fact that the amount of the forgiven loans will not be considered to be taxable Cancellation of Debt income.  However, there is still a lot of confusion and difference of opinion regarding whether the expenses that had been paid from those loan proceeds can be deducted on the 2020 tax returns.  It’s even trickier in relation to expenses paid during 2020, with an expected forgiveness in the future, as compared to situations where the loan has been cancelled as of 12/31/20. There are disagreements on how we should handle this.

Since the actual tax returns aren’t due until April 15, 2021 for most businesses, there is still plenty of time for there to be an official resolution to this dilemma.  However, for year-end tax planning purposes, we don’t have the luxury of those four extra months.  Decisions need to be made now.  If our rulers don’t nail this issue down until next February or March, it will be too late for business managers to take the steps they needed to have done by December 31.

The AICPA has some good summaries of the situation:

From the Journal of Accountancy: IRS doubles down on nondeductibility of PPP-funded expenses

 

From The Tax Advisor: Expenses used for PPP loan forgiveness: Deductible or not?

From an AICPA press release that I received today (12/3/2020):

The AICPA and a coalition of more than 560 organizations representing millions of employers and American workers sent Congressional leaders a letter urging passage of legislation making it clear that expenses related to a forgiven Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan are tax deductible. The letter states that without legislation, there is “…the specter or a surprise tax increase of up to 37 percent on small businesses when they file their taxes for 2020.”

The actual letter that was sent to our rulers in DC comprises just the first two pages of this PDF document.  The remaining 17 pages list the various organizations “signing” the letter.  How successful this request will be in motivating an official resolution of this question is impossible to predict.

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