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Congress Reverses IRS – Expenses Paid with PPP Loan Proceeds Are Deductible

December 28, 2020

By
Timothy J. Eifler
Member, Stoll Keenon Ogden PLLC
(502) 560-4208
timothy.eifler@skofirm.com

Business expenses generally are deductible. Expenses paid for or reimbursed by others are not. Section 265(a) of the Internal Revenue Code similarly effectuates these general principles by prohibiting taxpayers from deducting expenses funded with tax-exempt income. These features of the U.S. income tax are founded on the general policy that allowing untaxed income to generate deductible expenses would provide an impermissible double tax benefit.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act“) established the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP“) as a new loan program administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration. The PPP was designed to assist small businesses adversely impacted by the COVID-19 emergency to pay certain business expenses. PPP loans are forgivable to the extent the recipients establish the funds are used to pay payroll, rent, utilities, and other qualifying expenses during a specified period of time after the proceeds are received. The forgivable nature of the PPP payments normally would raise questions about the taxability of those funds – the discharge of debt generally results in an inclusion of the forgiven amount in a taxpayer’s gross income. The CARES Act overrides that general tax rule. The CARES Act provides that forgiven PPP loans are excluded from gross income. (See section 1106(i) of the CARES Act).

Soon after the PPP was enacted, taxpayers raised questions about the deductibility of expenses funded with PPP loans if the loans were forgiven. IRS quickly issued Notice 2020-32 in response. According to that Notice, expenses funded with forgiven PPP loans are not deductible because they otherwise would provide a double tax benefit. That Notice left open the issue of whether expenses are deductible in the 2020 tax year when the loan would not be forgiven until 2021. IRS in Revenue Ruling 2020-27 later determined that if a taxpayer “reasonably expects” the loan to be forgiven, the taxpayer cannot deduct the expenses regardless of when the loan actually is forgiven.

The Relief Act nullifies IRS’s taxpayer-unfriendly guidance by clarifying that expenses remain deductible even if funded by a forgiven PPP loan. Section 276 of the Relief Act states that “[f]or purposes of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 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 [the loan forgiveness provision that states forgiven PPP loans are not income].” Owners of partnerships and S corporations get basis in their units/shares for their share of the excluded income. Section 276 addresses special allocations of partnership items by requiring the allocation of the exempt income follow the allocation of the associated deductible expenses. This provision is effective for all taxable years ending after the date of the enactment of the CARES Act.

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The firm’s Tax attorneys advise businesses and individuals on all aspects of local, state and federal taxation, including tax planning, audits, administrative hearings and trials and including questions about the impact of the COVID-related Tax Relief Act of 2020.

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