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SBA Guidance - What costs are eligible for loan forgiveness and limitations under PPP loans

Date: 08 May 2020

In this economic downturn, whether it is a sole proprietor or a company with more than 500 employees, it has surely felt the pressure. To address the challenges related to operational expenses the federal government has offered the Paycheck Protection Program loan (PPP Loan). The focus of the loan program is to assist small businesses to meet their operational costs.

The PPP was created as a part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic security Act (H.R. 748) (CARES Act), P.L. 116-136. The PPP is premeditated to assist small-business taxpayers for maintaining the functions and operations of their businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. On March 27, 2020, the PPP Loan was signed into law. The SBA, on March 31, issued its guidance and sample application for the loans.

The intent of Trump administration in creating the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is to maintain American workforce paid and engaged. The administration stated that the purpose of PPP crisis funding is to provide small businesses with eight weeks of cash flow assistance through federally guaranteed loans. The purpose of loan is for businesses to utilize the funds to cover costs such as payroll, supply chain disruptions, employee salaries and paid sick leave.

PPP loans are considered as a safe harbour for being partially or wholly forgiven if the proceeds are optimized to cover certain expenses, and the business does not fall into the considerations of subject to tax on such loan forgiveness.

What costs are eligible for loan forgiveness?
Actual amount of loan forgiveness is determined that is based on the certain costs incurred and for which the payments are made during the covered period. Under the PPP loans, Payroll costs are the main cost eligible for forgiveness.

The following payroll costs are eligible for loan forgiveness:
  • Salary, wages, commission or similar compensation (the recent SBA guidance states that the payroll cost includes all cash compensation, counting a housing stipend or allowance)
  • Payments for vacation, family, parental, medical or sick leave
  • State or local payroll taxes
  • Allowance for dismissal or separation
  • Payments for retirement benefits
  • Payments for the provision of group health care benefits, including insurance premiums

The list of additional non-payroll costs which are eligible for loan forgiveness:
  • Interest payments on a mortgage incurred in the regular course of business on real or personal property and that was in existence on Feb. 15, 2020.
  • Rent payments under leasing agreements in existence on Feb. 15, 2020
  • Utility payments for water, electricity, gas, telephone or internet, transportation for which service was in existence on Feb. 15, 2020

It is significant for businesses to consider strategies for maximizing loan forgiveness, while also creating a balance in their short-term and long-term needs.

What are the limitations on loan forgiveness?
Loan forgiveness has the following limitations:
  • Not more than 25% of the loan forgiveness amount can be attributable to non-payroll costs (i.e., rent, mortgage interest, and utilities)
  • Proceeds from any advance up to $10,000 on an Economic Injury Disaster Loan will be deducted from the loan forgiveness amount.

What documentation must be submitted with an application for loan forgiveness?
To receive loan forgiveness, the CARES Act obligates that the borrower to submit an application to the lender. The application must include the following documents:
  • Documentation that verifies the number of FTE employees on the payroll along with the pay rates for the covered period and the preceding periods included in the formulas for determining any reduction in loan forgiveness, together with payroll tax filings reported to the IRS and state income, payroll and unemployment insurance filings
  • Credentials, including payment receipts, cancelled cheques, transcripts of accounts or other documents verifying payments on rent payments, mortgage obligations, and utility payments
  • A certification from a representative of the business authorized to make certifications that:
    1. The documentation presented is true and correct
    2. The amount for which forgiveness is requested was used to make interest payments on a covered mortgage obligation, retain employees, make utility payments or make payments on a covered rent obligation.
  • Any other documentation/ certification determined necessary by SBA.

It is advised to the businesses to maintain detailed records of documents and certificates regarding the use of the PPP loan during the covered period.

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