The IRS issued two new, separate sets of frequently-asked-questions (FAQs) to assist families and small and mid-sized employers) in claiming credits under the American Rescue Plan (ARP). These FAQs provide information on eligibility, computing the credit amounts and how to claim these important tax benefits. Enacted in March to assist families and small businesses with the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic and recovery underway, the ARP enhanced the child and dependent care credit and the paid sick and family leave credit.
Child and Dependent Care Credit
For 2021, the ARP increased the maximum amount of work-related expenses for qualifying care that may be taken into account in calculating the credit, increased the maximum percentage of those expenses for which the credit may be taken, modified how the credit is reduced for higher earners, and made it refundable. Additionally, eligible taxpayers can claim qualifying work-related expenses up to:
- $8,000 for one qualifying person, up from $3,000 in prior years; or
- $16,000 for two or more qualifying persons, up from $6,000 in prior years.
Further, the taxpayers are required to have earnings, and the amount of qualifying work-related expenses claimed cannot exceed the taxpayer’s earnings. Combined with the increase to 50-percent in the maximum credit rate, taxpayers with the maximum amount of qualifying work-related expenses would receive a credit of $4,000 for one qualifying person, or $8,000 for two or more qualifying persons.
A dependent under the age of 13 or a dependent of any age or spouse who is incapable of self-care and who lives with the taxpayer for more than half of the year is considered a qualifying person for this credit. Under the new ARP, more taxpayers will qualify for the new maximum 50-percent credit rate. However, the 50-percent credit rate goes down as income rises above $125,000. Taxpayers with adjusted gross income over $438,000 are not eligible for the credit.
The credit is fully refundable for the first time in 2021. This means eligible taxpayers can receive the credit even if they owe no federal income tax. To be eligible for the refundable credit, a taxpayer must reside in the U.S. for more than half of the year. However, special rules apply to military personnel stationed outside the U.S. To claim the credit for 2021, taxpayers need to complete Form 2441, Child and Dependent Care Expenses, and include the form when filing their tax returns in 2022.
Paid Sick and Family Leave Credit
The paid sick and family leave credits reimburse eligible employers for the cost of providing paid sick and family leave to their employees for reasons related to COVID-19, including leave taken by employees to receive or recover from COVID-19 vaccinations. Self-employed individuals are eligible for similar tax credits. Additionally, under the ARP, eligible employers may now claim the credit for paid family leave wages for the same reasons that they can claim the credit for paid sick leave wages.
Under the ARP, eligible employers, including businesses and tax-exempt organizations with fewer than 500 employees and certain governmental employers, may claim tax credits for qualified leave wages and certain other wage-related expenses (such as health plan expenses and certain collectively bargained benefits) paid with respect to leave taken by employees beginning on April 1, 2021, through September 30, 2021. The ARP kept the daily wage thresholds that previously existed for these credits under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) ( P.L. 116-127). The aggregate cap on qualified sick leave wages remains at two weeks (up to a maximum of 80 hours), and this aggregate cap reset with respect to leave taken by employees beginning on April 1, 2021. The aggregate cap on qualified family leave wages increases to $12,000 from $10,000, and this aggregate cap reset with respect to leave taken by employees beginning on April 1, 2021.
The paid leave credits under the ARP are tax credits against the employer’s share of Medicare tax. This credit is refundable, which means that the employer is entitled to payment of the full amount of he credit to the extent it exceeds the employer’s share of Medicare tax. Self-employed individuals may claim comparable credits on the Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.