Investor Alert – Fraudsters Target CARES Act Retirement Savings Relief

If you are considering using provisions under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) to withdraw and reinvest money from your retirement savings, be aware that fraudsters may be targeting you. Be wary when someone encourages you to use your retirement savings to make new investments. When considering new investments, do your own research and consider contacting an unbiased investment professional or an attorney.

CARES Act Retirement Savings Benefits

The CARES Act includes provisions designed to provide relief for individuals who are financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Among these provisions are relief efforts that allow individuals to pay back amounts withdrawn from qualified retirement plans without paying income tax on the withdrawal. The CARES Act also allows individuals to take out larger retirement plan loans with limited income tax consequences. For those suffering financial hardship, the CARES Act benefits can provide much-needed liquidity. Unfortunately, fraudsters and dishonest promoters are using this crisis to encourage investors to make high risk or high fee investments that may not be in the investor’s best interest.

How Fraudsters Are Targeting Retirement Savings

Promoters or investment professionals may contact you with a recommendation that you take advantage of the CARES Act benefits to withdraw money from your retirement savings and invest that money. If you have been contacted with such a recommendation, be very wary. The individual who contacted you may be part of a predatory scheme to profit off your retirement savings. Always be sure to verify that the person you are speaking with is licensed to give advice or sell investments. Contact your state securities regulator or use these free tools from the SEC and FINRA to verify the license and history of an investment professional.

Important Considerations for Using Your Retirement Accounts to Make New Investments

There are several important drawbacks you should consider before you use retirement funds to make new investments. The promoter may charge you high fees. Inquire how much of your money will be invested for you and how much will go to the person managing the investment. Liquidity – whether you can easily cash out of the investment – can be very important in today’s uncertain environment. Make sure to ask whether there are any fees for early withdrawal or sale. Consider the current value of your retirement investments. If the market is down when you withdraw retirement savings, you may not recover those losses when the market rebounds. If you invest the money that you take out as a loan from your retirement savings, you may have difficulty repaying the loan if the investment performs poorly.

Darlene Pasieczny, AttorneyDarlene Pasieczny is a fiduciary and securities litigator at Samuels Yoelin Kantor LLP.  She represents clients in Oregon and Washington with matters regarding trust and estate disputes, financial elder abuse cases, and securities litigation. She also represents investors nationwide in FINRA arbitration to recover losses caused unlawful broker conduct.  Her article, New Tools Help Financial Professionals Prevent Elder Abuse, was featured in the January 2019, Oregon State Bar Elder Law Newsletter.

Featured image courtesy of SYK paralegal Torrie Timbrook.

The CARES Act & Divorced or Separated Parents

“Perhaps due to the speed with which the law was passed, the Act is silent on how it will distribute the rebate money to parents who are divorced or separated.”

On March 27, 2020, Congress passed the CARES Act, a sweeping piece of legislation aimed at providing relief to individuals, families, and businesses adversely affected by the Coronavirus pandemic. The Act will have different repercussions for individuals in different circumstances, but the provision with perhaps the broadest impact is the recovery rebate. More commonly referred to as a stimulus payment, the recovery rebate is a one-time payment to US citizens and residents. For most the recovery rebate is good news, but for unmarried, divorced, or separated parents sharing custody of their children, the rebate may usher in unwelcome complications.

Individuals who make less than $75,000 will receive $1,200 plus $500 for each child that qualifies for the Child Tax Credit. However, many parents who share equal parenting time with their children alternate which parent claims the Child Tax Credit from year to year. Perhaps due to the speed with which the law was passed, the Act is silent on how it will distribute the rebate money to parents who are divorced or separated.

The recovery rebates are based on taxpayers’ 2019 tax return (or 2018 for those who have yet to file their 2019 return). The most likely result is that the parent who claimed the children in 2019 will receive the additional money for their qualifying children. This payment is a fully refundable tax credit, meaning it can be received by taxpayers regardless of what tax is owed. The rebates are technically a prepayment by the IRS of a 2020 tax credit; whichever parent claims the children in 2020 will have the rebate factored into their 2020 taxes. For parents who claim their children in alternate years, the tax rebate poses a unique problem that the IRS has yet to address. The parent who claimed their child in 2019 will probably receive the rebate if they have not already. However, the parent who will claim the child 2020 is also likely to receive the rebate after filing, if they did not receive it previously. What is unclear is whether the IRS will require the return of any overpayment, if not both parents may benefit from the stimulus.

The IRS may address this issue in future guidance, but we recommend that amicable co-parents be proactive in discussing how they will use the rebate money so that it can best benefit the child. A frank conversation about how to use the money may prevent disagreements in the future. While we encourage parents to reach out to their attorney with questions related to the rebate, it is likely that the cost of litigation to resolve this issue will far exceed the amount of the rebate.

Emily Clark Cuellar is a litigator at Samuels Yoelin Kantor. Her practice is centered around families, and her passion is helping families navigate all the various obstacles they may face. Her practice focuses on domestic relations and fiduciary and probate litigation.

Because Your Government CARES

Valerie Sasaki, of Samuels Yoelin Kantor, LLP facilitated a “Cocktails and Conversation” discussion with the Portland Chapter of Women in Insurance and Financial Services, which explored the recent Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act. The CARES Act is Congress’ comprehensive legislation to provide relief to individuals, families, and businesses that are adversely affected by the Coronavirus pandemic. Despite frequent news coverage and criticism, the scope and effect of the CARES Act can seem impenetrable because it contains so many separate moving parts. In this discussion, Ms. Sasaki walked through the different components of the CARES Act and explained how each works to combat the economic hardship brought about by the Coronavirus epidemic.

The CARES Act is a $2 trillion economic relief package that creates new aid programs and expands existing programs. State and local governments will receive $339.8 billion, the majority of which goes to specific COVID-19 response efforts. The rest of the state and local government relief is divided between education, community development, and family assistance programs.

Aid to individuals totals around $560 billion. More than half the aid for individuals will come in the form of recovery rebates more commonly known as stimulus payments. In addition, the Act provides for a temporary $600 per week increase to employment benefits.  Independent contractors are eligible for direct government assistance through the end of 2020. On the public health side, the Act mandates that private insurance plans must cover COVID-19 treatments and vaccines and offer tests free of charge.

The second largest component of the Act is $500 billion for large businesses. Most of the relief to big businesses comes in the form of fully refundable tax credits available for 50{45ef85514356201a9665f05d22c09675e96dde607afc20c57d108fe109b047b6} of payroll compensation, although there is a substantial allotment of given directly to airlines. These larger business relief funds, however, comes with limitations (the “stick” to the “carrot”), which include: a 1-year ban on stock buybacks; additional reporting requirements; and, oversight by a Special Inspector General.

The $377 billion fund for small business is mostly allocated to the Payroll Protection Program (PPP). The PPP is a massive effort to provide forgivable loans to companies with less than 500 employees. To qualify for forgiveness, the companies must use 75{45ef85514356201a9665f05d22c09675e96dde607afc20c57d108fe109b047b6} of the loan for payroll. The Act also creates a substantial expansion of Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL), an existing program designed to help small business meet expenses during a disaster. The Act reduces interest rates and provides emergency cash advances to EIDL recipients.

For more information about the CARES Act see the slides from Ms. Sasaki’s talk.

Valerie Sasaki specializes in jurisdictional tax consulting, working closely with Fortune 50 companies involved in audits before the Oregon or Washington Departments of Revenue. She also works with business owners on tax, business, and estate planning issues in Oregon or Southwest Washington.

 

Retirement Plan Participant May Elect Loan Repayment Deferrals

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020 does more than aid small businesses. In addition to the PPP loans that received the bulk of the media attention, the CARES Act authorizes qualified retirement plan sponsors to amend retirement plans (401(a), 401(k), 403(b) and government plans) to help participants (qualified employees) who have been adversely economically impacted by the Coronavirus by allowing the deferral of loan payments. Once such an amendment is implemented by a plan sponsor, participants who have outstanding loan amounts from the qualified retirement plan may elect to defer loan payments for up to one year (with interest accruing) between now and December 31, 2020.

The retirement plan participant may elect loan repayment deferrals if they meet one of the following criteria:

  1. They are diagnosed with the Virus by a test approved by the CDC;
  2. Their spouse or dependent is diagnosed with the Virus by a test approved by the CDC; or
  3. They experienced adverse financial consequences as a result of being quarantined, being furloughed or laid off or having work hours reduced due to such virus or disease, being unable to work due to lack of child care due to such virus or disease, closing or reducing hours of a business owned or operated by the individual due to such virus or disease, or other factors as determined by the Secretary of the Treasury.

During any deferral period, interest would continue to accrue. Once loan payments recommence, the accrued interest is included in loan calculations to determine the new payment amounts.  The date of the final payment is adjusted by the length of time deferred. The Plan Sponsor may rely on an employee’s certification that the employee satisfies the condition.

Eric Wieland puts his mastery of tax law and sharp attention to detail to work in his practice. He focuses on the areas of Estate Planning, Business Planning, Taxation, Qualified Retirement Plans, ERISA Compliance, and Trust and Estate Administration. The belief that no two clients are alike and no set of legal circumstances or objectives are the same ­ is at the heart of his specialized, individual approach.

COVID-19 Federal, State, and Local Prohibitions Against Non-Payment Evictions

Real Estate

“Landlords are temporarily prohibited from filing new eviction actions for nonpayment of rent as a result of COVID-19”

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has encouraged Oregon State Governor Kate Brown to issue a Stay at Home order effective statewide in an effort to curb the spread of the virus. As a result, many individuals are out of work, causing emotional stress and financial hardship.

Federal, state, and local governments have each taken action in an attempt to reduce financial stress on residential and commercial tenants.

Federal Response

On March 27, 2020, President Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”). In Section 4024, the CARES Act imposed immediate protections for some residential tenants. Specifically, the CARES Act placed a federal eviction moratorium for nonpayment of rent on covered properties. Landlords are temporarily prohibited from filing new eviction actions for nonpayment of rent as a result of COVID-19, as well as prohibited from charging late fees or other penalties for tenants’ nonpayment of rent. It is critical for landlord to review the definition of covered properties, and confer with a knowledgeable attorney is they are unsure whether they own a covered property.

The moratorium took effect immediately on March 27, 2020 and expires July 25, 2020. Landlords, that own covered properties, are prohibited from evicting residential tenants for nonpayment of rent during the entire course of the moratorium. After the moratorium expires, the landlord may take action against non-paying tenants, subject to a federally imposed 30-day notice to vacate. Please note that the CARES Act does not affect evictions unrelated to non-payment.

Oregon Response

On April 1, 2020, Governor Kate Brown issued Executive Order 20-13 (“EO 20-13”). EO 20-13 declared a moratorium on certain terminations of residential rental agreements and non-residential leases.

During this moratorium, any residential or non-residential tenant who is or will be unable to pay the full rent when due under their rental agreement or lease shall notify the landlord as soon as reasonably possible. Additionally, tenants shall make partial rent payments to the extent that they are financially able to do so.

With regard to non-residential tenants, the tenant must provide their landlord, within 30 calendar days of unpaid rent being due, with documentation or other evidence that nonpayment is caused by, in whole or in part, the COVID-19 pandemic. EO 20-13 does not require similar proof for residential tenants.

Consequently, the landlord may not, for reason of nonpayment of rent (which EO 20-13 defines to include evictions without cause), late charges, utility charges, or any other service charge or fee, terminate the tenant’s rental agreement or take any action, judicial or otherwise, relating to an eviction arising under ORS 105.105 through ORS 105.168. Prohibited actions include, without limitation, filing, serving, delivering or acting on any notice, order or writ of termination, or interfere with the tenant’s right to possession of the premises.

The moratorium does not relieve a tenant from paying rent, utility charges, or any other service charges or fees. The moratorium does, however, relieve a tenant from paying for late charges or other penalties arising from nonpayment.

The moratorium began April 1, 2020 and will continue in effect until June 30, 2020, unless terminated sooner by Governor Kate Brown. Any person found to be in violation of EO 20-13 is subject to criminal penalties.

Multnomah County Response

Prior to the announcement of EO 20-13, on March 11, 2020, the Multnomah County Chair signed Executive Order 388 (“EO 388”), declaring an emergency for Multnomah County and announcing a moratorium on residential evictions for nonpayment of rent and rent deferral  in Multnomah County. EO 388 was ratified by the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners on March 19, 2020, and the Multnomah Commissioners adopted Ordinance 1282 putting in effect the County wide eviction moratorium. On April 16, 2020, the Multnomah Commissioners passed Ordinance 1284 that suspended the enforcement of Ordinance 1282, in order to align the County with the Governor’s EO 20-13. Ordinance 1284 continues the six month grace period for residential tenants to repay their unpaid rent, but tenants no longer need to provide proof of the substantial loss of income to their landlords or notify their landlords on or before the day that the rent is due that they are unable to pay rent. The tenants instead need to notify their landlords as soon as reasonably possible that they are unable to pay rent.

Multnomah County Ordinance 1284 does not relieve a tenant of paying rent. The tenant must still pay the missed rent within 6 months after expiration of the emergency; however, no late fees will accrue.

Civil proceedings to enforce Ordinance 1284, may be instituted by Multnomah County or the tenant. A landlord that fails to comply with any of the requirements set forth in Ordinance 1284 shall be subject to appropriate injunctive relief, and for an amount up to 3 times the monthly rent, as well as actual damages, reasonable attorney fees, and costs.

Properties within Multnomah County are subject to both the statewide EO 20-13 moratorium and the Multnomah County Ordinance 1284.

For assistance in determining how your property may be affected by the CARES Act, EO 20-13, and Ordinance 1284, we encourage you to speak with a knowledgeable real estate attorney.

Denise Gorrell draws upon her extensive knowledge of restaurants and the wine industry to inform her real property and commercial law practice. She helps hospitality industry clients navigate complex, important issues such as business formation, real estate agreements, trademarks, OLCC rules and other governmental regulations.

Colleen Munoz

 

Colleen O. Muñoz is a law clerk at and certified law student at SYK who graduated with honors from Lewis & Clark Law School in January 2020. She published a law review article in March 2020 dissecting the categorical approach to contested deportation proceedings.

U.S. Treasury Releases Paycheck Protection Program Loan Application, Additional Information

On March 31, 2020, the U.S. Treasury Department released the initial loan application for borrowers under the “Paycheck Protection Program,” a Small Business Administration (SBA) forgivable loan program that is part of the CARES Act passed by Congress last week.  In addition, the Treasury Department provided borrowers with an “Information Sheet” for borrowers under the program.

Here are some notable highlights from these releases:

  • On the loan application, the borrower and each 20{45ef85514356201a9665f05d22c09675e96dde607afc20c57d108fe109b047b6} or greater owner of the borrower must make certain certifications, including that “[c]urrent economic uncertainty makes this loan request necessary to support the ongoing operations” of the borrower, and the loan will be used “to retain workers and maintain payroll or make mortgage payments, lease payments, and utility payments.”
  • With respect to the future applications to potentially forgive the loan, the application states that “[d]ue to likely high subscription, it is anticipated that not more than twenty-five percent (25{45ef85514356201a9665f05d22c09675e96dde607afc20c57d108fe109b047b6}) of the forgiven amount may be for non-payroll costs.”
  • The Information Sheet states that borrowers can begin applying for the Paycheck Protection Loans on April 3, 2020 and includes a link to help borrowers locate a local SBA lender.

A link to the loan application can be found HERE.

A link to the Information Sheet can be found HERE.

Michael D. Walker is a business, tax and estate planning attorney who has worked with individuals and small to medium-sized businesses for nearly 30 years. A careful listener, Michael skillfully guides his clients to meet the wide variety of legal challenges they face in our current complex world.

Congress Passes CARES Act, Adds Forgivable Loan Program for Small Businesses

Congress passes the CARES Act, by 96-0 vote. Adds forgivable loan program for small businesses.

Late in the evening on March 25th, the United States Senate passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the “CARES Act”) by a vote of 96-0. The House passed the Act on Friday, March 27th. President Trump signed the Act into law a few hours later. While SamuelsLawBlog.com will provide additional details on the CARES Act in the coming days, here are additional details of the Act’s significant $349 billion expansion of the Small Business Administration’s (“SBA”) Section 7(a) loan program:

Eligibility Requirements.

Small business and nonprofit organizations are eligible if they have not more that 500 employees (or the SBA’s applicable size standard for the industry, if higher). Independent contractors and other self-employed individuals are also eligible for loans.

Maximum Loan Amounts.

Business will be able to borrow the lesser of: (i) $10 million; or (ii) the business’s average monthly payroll costs during the prior year, times 2.5, plus any outstanding principal owed on SBA disaster loans entered into after January 31, 2020. For this purpose, payroll costs include salaries and wages (but excluding annual compensation to any individual in excess of $100,000), commissions, tips, health insurance premiums, retirement benefits, state and local taxes assessed on employee compensation, as well as vacation, parental, family medical or sick leave benefits. Qualified sick leave and family leave wages under the recently-passed Families First Coronavirus Response Act are not to be included in the calculation of monthly payroll costs for purposes of this calculation.

Use of Loan Proceeds. 

Borrowers under this program can use the loan proceeds to cover costs for payroll (including sick, medical, and family leave, and health benefits), rent, mortgage interest payments (not principal), utilities, and interest on any other debt obligations that were incurred before February 15, 2020.

Loan Terms.

The Act caps the maximum interest for these loans at 4 percent. If the loan is not forgiven (see below), the remaining loan balance will have a maturity of not more than 10 years. Additionally, the Act waives collateral and personal guarantee requirements under the 7(a) program.  Loan payments under this program can be deferred for at least six months and not more than a year.

Loan Forgiveness

Borrowers that receive loans under this program would be eligible, under certain circumstances, to have a portion of these loans forgiven. The total amount of loan forgiveness would not be allowed to exceed the amount of 7(a) loans granted by the CARES Act but would otherwise be equal to the amount of expenditures of the borrower made in the 8 weeks following the loan’s closing on payroll costs, including payroll costs for tipped workers in excess of their normal pay level, mortgage interest (not principal), rental payments, and utilities, in each instance for arrangements that were in place prior to February 15, 2020.

Reduction in Loan Forgiveness Amount.

The policy behind the loan forgiveness provisions is to encourage businesses to keep employees on the payroll. Therefore, the amount that can be forgiven is reduced proportionally by the reduction in employees as compared to a prior base period (i.e. at the election of the borrower, either: the period from February 15, 2019 to June 30, 2019, or the period from January 1, 2020 to February 29, 2020). The amount of loan forgiveness would also be further reduced for any reduction in wages to an employee beyond a 25{45ef85514356201a9665f05d22c09675e96dde607afc20c57d108fe109b047b6} reduction in compensation compared to the prior year’s compensation. This would only apply to employees that earn not more than $100,000 on an annualized basis in any pay period. For employees that are laid off or that have their wages cut between February 15, 2020 and 30 days after passage of the Act, the borrower will not have to take those cuts into account if those employees are rehired or their wages are restored to prior levels by June 30, 2020.

Tax Free Loan Forgiveness.

Interestingly, the CARES Act also states that the amount of loan forgiveness provided under the Act is not included in the borrower’s income (i.e. the forgiveness is tax free!).

Timing of Loan Program.

The CARES Act allows the SBA to move quickly to approve loans under this program.  Once a lender receives an application for loan forgiveness, they have 60 days to issue a decision on the application.

Michael D. Walker is a business, tax and estate planning attorney who has worked with individuals and small to medium-sized businesses for nearly 30 years. A careful listener, Michael skillfully guides his clients to meet the wide variety of legal challenges they face in our current complex world.