Weekly Digest – June 17 2021
Before the pandemic, commuting was widely considered the worst part of one’s day and only worsened one’s sense of well-being. However, now that most office workers have skipped the commute for more than a year, the hidden benefits are emerging. Commuting serves as a distinct boundary between the home and office. Interesting that my contribution to a recent article “How to Draw the Line Between Work and Home” also focused on the expectations for behavior and engagement, and the importance of a clear demarcation, enabling us to switch on the correct persona. To regain a sense of separation between home and work, the author of this article in The Atlantic suggests some of the tactics I also recommended such as changing into work-appropriate clothing or going for a walk or run (maybe they read my article and liked my suggestions). Not sure that covering your computer with a cloth at the end of a workday signaling the end of the work day helps shut your brain off as well as a glass of wine or cup of tea as you sit on your back deck with your feet up though.
THE AMERICAN RECOVERY PLAN ACT (ARPA)
Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)
The PPP was a lifeline for many small businesses, and while Congress has passed legislation that makes the proceeds of forgiven PPP loans tax free, not all states are following suit. California, Florida, Hawaii, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Texas, Utah, Vermont and Washington have all either passed legislation that makes PPP loan proceeds taxable at the state level or are considering doing so. In some states, the proceeds themselves will be treated as taxable income, while in others, any expenses paid with the proceeds will not be deductible.
As we get closer to the filing deadline for corporation tax returns, we are hoping for a bit more guidance with the interplay of tax credits, PPP forgiveness and state adoption of federal rules.
Unemployment Refund Checks
The IRS is in the process of sending out refund checks to taxpayers who received unemployment income, but who filed their return before Congress exempted up to $10,200 of that from federal income tax. However, figuring out whether you’re eligible and how much you may receive can be challenging, as that refund is not likely tracked with the usual Where’s My Refund tool. This article on CNet explains a workaround that involves checking your tax transcript.
Monthly Child Tax Credit Payments of $250-300 Per Child for Many Families Scheduled to Start July 15th
Eligible families are comprised of roughly 39 million households, covering 88% of children in the United State. The American Rescue Plan increased the maximum Child Tax Credit in 2021 to $3,600 for children under the age of 6 and to $3,000 per child for children between ages 6 and 17. This is expected to affect roughly 39 million households, covering 88% of children in the United States. Eligible families are slated to begin receiving monthly payments without any further action required. They will receive a payment of up to $300 per month for each child under age 6 and up to $250 per month for each child age 6 and above. Check out this IRS link for more information as it becomes available. You can read more in this recent article from Accounting Today.
The IRS launched a new tool on its website to help families who normally do not file tax returns sign up for the monthly advance child tax credits. This new tool is for families that did not file a 2019 or 2020 income tax return and who did not use the IRS non-filer tool last year to sign up for Economic Impact Payments. The IRS also cautions that scams around this credit are rampant. The only way to get this credit or Economic Impact Payments is through the IRS by filing a tax return or signing up on the IRS website. The IRS will never approach taxpayers initially via phone, text, or email.
Meanwhile, even though the IRS is still working through a backlog of tax returns, the agency has been sending out letters to 36 million families to alert them that they may be eligible for monthly child tax credit payments. These payments are scheduled to begin in July. While families have the option to opt out of these payments, the IRS has not yet created a method for doing so.
The employees who left the office to work at home a year ago are not the same as the employees who are returning to the office now. Working remotely has changed them. They have become accustomed to setting their own schedules and having more autonomy over how, when, and where they do their work. Bosses and managers may need to renew each relationship as if they are starting from scratch. Some may have acquired new skills or the ability to identify tasks and deadlines on their own. While some managers may not be willing to allow their in-office employees the same level of autonomy they had working remotely, it may help to recall that, overall, most employees were more productive at home.
REOPENING THE OFFICE
Adjusting to an all-remote work routine may seem easy compared to the new adjustments to a messy hybrid work schedule. Among the adjustments will be determining which teams will be in the office on which days and ensuring that any fully remote workers don’t fall behind in promotions and raises. Some companies report difficulties in finding knowledge workers willing to come to the office five days a week. Others are offering remote staff memberships at co-working spaces near their homes. Companies that switched to a hybrid workforce before the pandemic report that it was difficult to prevent remote workers from feeling left out of social activities for the in-office crew.
As employees return to the office, employers and employees alike need to be alert to signs of burnout among employees. Burnout generally stems from three root causes: depletion of mental or physical resources; depletion of social connectedness; or depletion of self-value. A 15-minute meditation break can help with exhaustion, while sharing a coffee with a co-worker can help with feelings of social isolation. Both of those interventions can also help increase feelings of self-worth.
Reopening for business is proving more challenging for many businesses because they can’t find enough employees. This is especially true in the retail industry, so many businesses are offering sign-on bonuses to new hires. This tactic, which until now had been rare among retailers, is generally less expensive than offering higher wages. Amazon is offering $1,000 sign-on bonuses in many locations, and a supermarket chain in the Northeast is offering $2,000 bonuses for its distribution center.
- IRS resources for stimulus payments:
- The best source for up-to-date and accurate health information is the Center for Disease Control (CDC)
- Entrepreneur put together a listing of free tech resources for remote work
- Our Covid-19 Resource Center with relevant blog posts, videos and prior weekly newsletters
- Payroll, HR and benefits company Gusto has put together An Employer’s Guide to Navigating the Coronavirus
- Accounting Today has a special page for articles on COVID-19
- Intuit QuickBooks has a dedicated page to help small businesses
- 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 Louvre has digitized 482,000 artworks from its collection
- PC Magazine explains how to carry your vaccination card on your phone
- How to create a strong password
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!
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