Temporary, Proposed Regs Authorize Assessment of Erroneous Refund of COVID-19 Employment Tax Credits

The IRS has issued temporary and proposed regulations that authorize the assessment of any erroneous refund of the COVID-19 employment tax credits which were added by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 ( P.L. 117-2). These credits for certain wages paid by employers are:

  • the Credit for Paid Sick Leave under Code Sec. 3131,
  • the Credit for Paid Family Leave under Code Sec. 3132, and
  • the Employee Retention Credit under Code Sec. 3134.

The text of the temporary regulations also serves as the text of the proposed regulations.

The temporary regulations apply to all credits under Code Secs. 3131 and 3132, including any increases to the credits under Code Sec. 3133, credited or refunded on or after April 1, 2021, including advanced refunds, as well as all credits under Code Sec. 3134 that are credited or refunded on or after July 1, 2021, including advanced refunds.

Erroneous Refunds
These credits are taken against the employer’s share of Medicare tax imposed under Code Sec. 3111(b) and the attributable Railroad Retirement Tax Act tax imposed under Code Sec. 3221(a). If the amount of the credits exceeds these taxes for any calendar quarter, then the excess must be treated as an overpayment to be refunded or credited under Code Secs. 6402(a) and 6413(b). Any credits claimed that exceed the amount to which the employer is entitled, and that are actually credited or refunded by the IRS, are considered to be erroneous refunds of these credits.

If a small eligible employer specified in Code Sec. 3134(j)(2) receives excess advance payments of the credit, then the tax imposed under Code Sec. 3111(b) (or the attributable Code Sec. 3221(a) tax) for the calendar quarter are increased by the excess amount.

The temporary regulations provide that erroneous refunds of these credits are treated as underpayments of the taxes imposed under Code Sec. 3111(b) (and the attributable Code Sec. 3221(a) tax). The temporary regulations authorize the IRS to assess any credits erroneously credited, paid, or refunded in excess of the amount allowed as if those amounts were the applicable taxes, subject to assessment and administrative collection procedures. This allows the IRS to prevent the avoidance of the purposes of the limitations under the credit provisions, and to recover the erroneous refund amounts efficiently, while also preserving administrative protections afforded to taxpayers with respect to contesting their tax liabilities under the Code and avoiding unnecessary costs and burdens associated with litigation.

These assessment and administrative collection procedures do not replace the existing recapture methods, but instead represent an alternative method available to the IRS.

Any amount of the credits for qualified leave wages and certain collectively bargained contributions under Code Secs. 3131 and 3132, plus any amount of credits for qualified health plan expenses under Code Secs. 3131(d) and 3132(d), and including any increases in these credits under Code Sec. 3133, and any amount of the employee retention credit for qualified wages under Code Sec. 3134 that are erroneously refunded or credited to an employer must be treated as underpayments of the employer’s share of the applicable Medicare tax by the employer, and may be administratively assessed and collected in the same manner as the taxes. The temporary regulations provide that the determination of any amount of credits erroneously refunded must take into account any credit amounts advanced to an employer under the process established by the IRS.

In certain situations, third-party payors claim tax credits on behalf of their common law employer clients. The temporary regulations address this by providing that employers against which an erroneous refund of credits may be assessed as an underpayment include persons treated as the employer under Code Secs. 3401(d), 3504, and 3511, consistent with their liability for the employment taxes against which the credits applied.

Effective Date; Request for Comments
The temporary regulations are effective on the date they are published in the Federal Register.

A public hearing on the proposed regulations will be scheduled if requested in writing by any person who timely submits electronic or written comments. Written or electronic comments and requests for a public hearing must be received by the date that is 60 days after the proposed regulations are published in the Federal Register.

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