Widening Washington D.C.’s Beltway & I-270 for Toll Lanes in Maryland: June 2020 Project Update


If you live in Montgomery or Prince George’s Counties, or you regularly commute into Washington D.C. or Northern Virginia, you are likely already aware of plans to widen the I-495 Beltway and I-270 to make way for new toll lanes.  Miller, Miller & Canby’s eminent domain and condemnation attorneys are closely monitoring this major infrastructure project.

The Landscape
This project is a priority of Governor Hogan, which is emerging out of the I-495 & I-270 Managed Lanes Study launched in March 2018 by Maryland Department of Transportation’s State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA).  A Public-Private Partnership (P3) has been established to manage and indeed fund the project’s development, design and construction.  The P3 releases periodic newsletters and maintains this project website.

On January 8, 2020, Maryland’s Board of Public Works (BPW), comprised of the Governor, Treasurer and Comptroller, voted 2-1 to approve Phase-1 of the project.  On February 7th the P3 posted an announcement on its website (click here to view) clarifying that the BPW’s vote “only allows the solicitation process to move forward for a Phase Developer to assist the MDOT SHA with preliminary development and design activities, which is allowable under federal regulations.”   Once the project’s new toll lanes are constructed, the P3’s development contractor will retain some level of ownership interest in those lanes while operating and maintaining them for a given time period – purportedly 50 years.

Prior to January’s BPW vote, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process was already well underway for the I-495 & I-270 Managed Lanes Study.  In fact, the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) was scheduled to be released earlier this year for public review and comment until the COVID-19 situation introduced delay.  The P3 is working to release the DEIS in the mid-July timeframe, and it will be followed by an announcement scheduling public hearings, which will most likely be held virtually, but in-person hearings have not yet been ruled out.  P3 also announced that the minimum-required 45-day review period will be extended.


The Plan for Phase 1
The P3’s February 7th website post included a map of Phase-1 as planned, a copy of which is provided below.  Phase-1 will widen I-495 and I-270 for toll lanes, beginning by replacing and widening the American Legion Bridge that crosses the Potomac River from Virginia, and extending northward to I-70 in Frederick County.  Current plans are to divide Phase-1’s delivery, first widening I-270 up to its intersection with I-370 in Montgomery County.  However, since the project’s details remain undefined, the extent of privately owned real estate that will be required to support the widening remains unresolved.  At present, there is an interactive map posted online by MDOT SHA for preliminary planning purposes, which remains subject to change.


Failure of Legislation Proposed to Stop the Project
This project remains highly controversial.  In fact, Bills S.B. 229 & H.B. 292, cross-filed in both chambers of the General Assembly in the 2020 regular session, proposed to prohibit the State from constructing toll roads or bridges without the consent of the majority of the affected Counties.  The Bills proposed to rewrite an existing law (Maryland Transportation Code Section 4-407), which already requires majority County consent for toll projects, but only amongst nine named Counties all located east of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.  If successfully enacted, the new law would have extended that majority consent requirement to ALL Maryland Counties and Baltimore City.  

However, on March 16, 2020, the House Environment and Transportation Committee voted 16-5 against HB292 and issued an unfavorable report.  The Senate’s version of the Bill, S.B. 229 technically died in the Finance Committee by March 18th, when the regular session prematurely adjourned due to the COVID-19 situation.

While the General Assembly’s debate over the 495/270 widening project may carry on due to its passionate opponents, they find themselves in the minority – so it seems highly unlikely the General Assembly will enact legislation that even potentially threatens to curb the project.


About Miller, Miller & Canby
Miller, Miller & Canby has extensive experience in protecting property owners’ rights throughout the eminent domain process. Jamie Roth is an Associate in the firm’s Litigation Practice Group, concentrating his practice in real estate litigation with a focus in eminent domain. Prior to becoming an attorney, Jamie enjoyed a distinguished career spanning over twenty years in the private and public sector with experience in project management, strategic planning, asset management and risk mitigation, including eleven years as a successful real estate consultant in federal eminent domain matters.

If you have any eminent domain-related questions or questions about the project or its potential impact to your property, please contact Jamie at 301.762.5212 or via email.

Visit our firm’s website for general information on the eminent domain process and our firm’s services by clicking here.

 





New Guidance on PPP Flexibility Act and New 3508EZ Forgiveness Application


On June 5, 2020, the Payroll Protection Program Flexibility Act (Flexibility Act) was signed into law, amending the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.  Central to the Flexibility Act was expanding the 8-week forgiveness period under the CARES Act for which businesses must spend their PPP loan proceeds to qualify for loan forgiveness.  Now, under the Flexibility Act, businesses may opt to spread their forgiven period over twenty-four (24) weeks, beginning on the date the PPP loan proceeds was disbursed.

Payroll Compensation Thresholds
Upon enactment of PPP loan program, it was unclear how to spread payroll costs out over the new 24-month period for individuals earning more than $100,000 per year.  Under the CARES Act, businesses are capped at $100,000 of annualized pay per employee, with a maximum amount paid to such employee capped at $15,385.  The SBA had arrived at that maximum amount by dividing the $100,000 amount by 52 weeks and multiplying by 8 weeks (100,000/52 x 8).  Last week, the Small Business Administration (SBA) released an Interim Final Rule (IRF) to address the confusion for whether the maximum amount under the 24-month forgiveness period would be the same as the 8-week forgiveness period.  Per the IFR, payroll costs are still capped at $100,000, but the maximum amount jumps to $46,154 per employee. In doing so, the SBA swapped the 8 weeks with 24 weeks (100,000/52 x 24).  Accordingly, businesses that opt for the 24-week forgiveness period are permitted to allocate almost 3 times as much PPP loan proceeds to employees making over $100,000 than they would under the 8-week forgiveness period.

The IFR also clarified owner compensation.  Now, under the Flexibility Act, owners may pay themselves either 1) 8 weeks’ worth (8/52) of 2019 net profit (up to $15,385) for an 8-week forgiveness period; or 2) 2.5 months’ worth (2.5/12) of 2019 net profit (up to $20,833) for a 24-week forgiveness period.  The IFR stated that, for self-employment income earners opting for the 24 week forgiveness period, the SBA limited the forgiveness of owner compensation to 2.5 months’ worth of 2019 net profit (up to $20,833) since the maximum loan amount is generally based on 2.5 months of the borrower’s total monthly payroll costs during the one-year period preceding the loan.

PPP Loan Forgiveness EZ Application
On June 17, the SBA released an EZ version of the forgiveness application, Form 3508EZ, that applies to borrowers that:

•    Are self-employee with no employees; or
•    Did not reduce the salaries or wages of their employees by more than 25% and did not reduce the number or hours of their employees; or
•    Experienced reductions in business activity as a result of health directives relating to COVID-19, and did not reduce the salaries or wages of their employees by more than 25%.

The EZ application requires fewer calculations and less documentation, and can accessed here.

SBA Guidance on Loan Forgiveness
On June 22, 2020, the SBA issued a clarification to its IFR whereby it detailed, among other things, when a borrower may apply for loan forgiveness.  Per this new guidance, borrowers may submit their forgiveness application any time on or before the maturity date of the loan, including before the end of the covered period, if the borrower has used all the PPP loan proceeds for which the borrower is requesting forgiveness. However, if the borrower applies for forgiveness before the end of the covered period, and the borrower has reduced any employee’s salaries/wages in excess of twenty five percent (25%), the borrower must account for the excess salary reduction for the full 8-week or 24-week covered period.  In addition, in the event the borrower does not apply for loan forgiveness within ten (10) months after the last day of the covered period, or if the SBA determines that the loan is not eligible for forgiveness (whether in whole or in part), the PPP loan will no longer be deferred, and the borrower must begin paying principal and interest.

For businesses interested in learning more about the loan forgiveness application or how to navigate their way through it, please contact Chris Young at 301-738-2033.

Chris Young
is an associate in the Business & Tax practice at Miller, Miller & Canby. He focuses his practice on corporate legal agreements, business formation, tax controversy work and helping clients deal with new tax regulations. View more information about Miller, Miller & Canby's Business & Tax practice by clicking here.
 





Good News for PPP Borrowers: The New Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020


The landmark COVID-19 stimulus package, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, has been a significant tool for assisting struggling small businesses during the current international pandemic. Indeed, it has provided much-needed financial relief and saved countless from closure or bankruptcy. However, the centerpiece of this legislation, the Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP), has been a source of confusion and frustration for many business owners seeking this aid. In an attempt to alleviate frustrations and stay true to the original intent of the bill—providing cash flow to keep people employed and businesses afloat—a new bipartisan bill was passed by the Senate and signed by President Trump on June 5, 2020. The Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020  modifies and provides additional flexibility to portions of the PPP to address those needs. These are the key changes in the new act:
 
●    An extension of time to use funds. A major source of concern for PPP loan borrowers has been the limitation of the eight-week covered period. Only expenses incurred during this time frame were eligible for loan forgiveness. Unfortunately, many businesses were anticipating that they would not be able to utilize all of the loan proceeds during this period because of challenges like restricted operations due to mandatory stay-home orders and lockdowns, and unconventional payroll structures. The new act addresses that issue by expanding the covered period from eight weeks to the earlier of twenty-four weeks or until December 31, 2020. By extending the covered period, businesses have the flexibility to use the loan funds in a way that is more consistent with their standard practices without forfeiting their ability to take advantage of loan forgiveness.

●    A reduction in the amount required to be directed to payroll. Under guidance provided by the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Department of the Treasury regarding PPP loans, in order to qualify for loan forgiveness of the total amount borrowed, small businesses had to spend at least 75 percent of their loan amount on payroll expenses. The new law reduces that requirement to 60 percent. This change affords business owners the opportunity to allocate the funds toward other eligible expenses such as utilities or rent without fearing the loss of loan forgiveness. However, there is a caveat: Under the language of the new law, which may be clarified by future SBA guidance, businesses must be careful to meet the lower 60 percent threshold because failure to do so will apparently result in the total loss of loan forgiveness. Previously, the forgiveness amount would have merely been reduced.

●    A change in the loan period from two to five years. The new law also changed how repayment of loans ineligible for loan forgiveness is handled. Rather than requiring the funds to be paid back within two years, the new act requires them to be paid back within five years. This amendment was effective immediately upon the law’s enactment. For businesses that have already obtained funds from lenders, the act leaves room for the lenders to make adjustments to the maturity terms for existing loans in order to comply with these improvements. Additionally, the timeline for deferring repayment has been extended. Lenders can defer all payments—principal, interest, and fees—until the loan forgiveness amount is determined.

●    Greater flexibility for rehiring employees or returning to typical workforce size. As was the case under the original PPP Act, businesses are still required to attempt to maintain or return to their prepandemic average number of full-time equivalent (FTE) employees in order to avoid a reduction in their loan forgiveness amount. However, the new law has provided more flexibility to businesses that seek to restore their workforce to previous levels. First, businesses have been given additional time—until December 31, 2020—to restore their workforces before incurring a reduction in their loan forgiveness amount. Next, small businesses that are still unable to meet the requirement due to challenges in rehiring for post-COVID-19-related reasons may be eligible for additional exemptions under the new legislation. To benefit from the exemptions, businesses must show that because of COVID-19-related orders from the federal government, they have been unable to restore their average number of FTE employees despite having made good-faith efforts to (1) restore the workforce and (2) restore the business to normal business functions. Documentation showing these good-faith attempts is required in order to avoid a reduction in the loan forgiveness amount.

●    Deferment of payroll taxes. The new act expands the number of businesses allowed to defer payroll taxes. Previously, small businesses were given the opportunity to defer payroll taxes, but businesses that had obtained PPP loans were not allowed to take advantage of this option if they also planned to seek forgiveness of their loans. Now, even borrowers who seek and receive PPP loan forgiveness can defer the Social Security tax and 50 percent of the tax on self-employment income from March 27 until December 31, 2020.

Ultimately, the PPP Flexibility Act alleviates many of the pressures small business owners were facing in an attempt to comply with the original PPP requirements under the CARES Act. In light of the changes in the new PPP Flexibility Act, an updated loan forgiveness application is anticipated. Nevertheless, one thing that has not changed is that documentation will still be a critical component of applying for loan forgiveness.

June 17 Update:  SBA and Tresury issued a press release announcing a new EZ PPP Loan Forgiveness Application and a Revised Full PPP Loan Forgiveness Application

For businesses interested in learning more about the loan forgiveness application or how to navigate their way through it, please contact Chris Young at 301-738-2033.

Chris Young
is an associate in the Business & Tax practice at Miller, Miller & Canby. He focuses his practice on corporate legal agreements, business formation, tax controversy work and helping clients deal with new tax regulations. View more information about Miller, Miller & Canby's Business & Tax practice by clicking here.
 





How the CARES Act Affects Your Retirement Plan


The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently published questions and answers (click here) regarding retirement provisions in Section 2202 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. In addition to providing the well-known stimulus aid for individuals and the Payroll Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan programs for businesses, the CARES Act increases accessibility to funds and loans from certain retirement plans and accounts. The information the IRS published clarifies which individuals may benefit from the legislation and which plans and accounts are covered.

Retirement Account Rules Established by the CARES Act
Under Section 2202 of the CARES Act, individuals may withdraw up to $100,000 in “Coronavirus-related” distributions from certain retirement accounts. Distributions are deemed “Coronavirus-related” if they are withdrawn from approved plans between January 1, 2020, and December 30, 2020, by individuals who have been adversely affected by COVID-19 in a number of specified ways (discussed below). Individuals may take distributions from 401(k), 403(b), and individual retirement accounts (IRAs). Under normal circumstances, a 10 percent penalty is imposed on distributions made from these accounts by account owners under the age of 59.5 - the CARES Act now waives this penalty.

In addition to expanding access to retirement distributions, eligible individuals may also take loans of up to $100,000 from their employer-sponsored retirement plans. Prior to the CARES Act, the limit was $50,000 or 50 percent of the vested account balance. Loans taken under this CARES Act provision must be entered into by September 22, 2020. For existing loans, payment due dates have been extended, and repayment is not required through December 31, 2020.

Qualified Participants
Like much of the legislation pertaining to COVID-19, the retirement relief sections were specifically designed to provide broad coverage. According to the IRS information, a qualified participant is eligible for the expanded access set forth in Section 2202 if the participant, the participant’s spouse, or the participant’s dependent was either diagnosed with COVID-19 using a test approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or has experienced “adverse financial consequences” caused by COVID-19. The “financial adverse consequences” experienced by the participant must be the result of one of the following:

  • The participant has been quarantined, furloughed, laid off, or has experienced a reduction of work hours due to COVID-19;

  • The participant has been unable to work due to the lack of child care caused by COVID-19; or

  • The participant has had to reduce business hours or close a business the participant owns or operates due to COVID-19.

An individual who falls within any of these categories is eligible for the expanded distribution and loan options available under the CARES Act.


Additional Benefits for Individuals of Retirement Age
The CARES Act also temporarily suspends required minimum distributions (RMDs) from IRAs, and 401(k) and 403(b) retirement accounts. In general, once an individual reaches a certain age (currently 72 years old per the SECURE Act – click here to learn more about SECURE), the government mandates that the individual begin taking out a minimum distribution to ensure that these retirement funds are not left untouched indefinitely. This temporary suspension of RMDs is unique because it is not limited to retirees impacted by COVID-19. The suspension also applies to:

  • individuals who turned 70.5 years old in 2019 and did not take their RMDs in 2019,

  • individuals who are 72 years old or older, and

  • beneficiaries of inherited IRAs for Decedents who died before 2020.

These law changes allow retirees to keep their money invested for a longer time. If you have already taken an RMD that you were not required to due to the CARES Act, please note that you may be able to redeposit these distributions via rollover provisions, but you must act quickly. In the past, the IRS allowed the rollover of funds within sixty days of withdrawal. Under the CARES Act, however, the sixty-day rollover period has been extended to July 15, 2020.

A Word of Caution
Despite the various new options available under the CARES Act, it is critical to carefully consider whether distributions should be taken from any accounts. The tax implications of these options vary, and action should be taken only after careful consideration of an individual’s personal goals and capacity.

Schedule a Meeting
We know that these are trying times. Let us help you choose the best course of action.  We are more than happy to meet with you by phone or video conference.

David Lucas
is an attorney in the Estates & Trusts and Business & Tax practice groups at Miller, Miller & Canby. He focuses his practice in Estate Planning and Trust and Estate Administration. He provides extensive estate and legacy planning, asset protection planning, and retirement planning.

Contact David at 301.762.5212 or via email. To learn more about Miller, Miller & Canby's Estates & Trusts practice click here.  


 





PPP Loan Forgiveness Clarified: Borrowers May Begin Calculating How Much, If Any, Must be Repaid


The CARES Act was enacted in late March with the goal of saving the economy from collapse or depression.  Central to the CARES Act’s goal is the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) with its design of saving small businesses from bankruptcy or closure.  As enacted, Congress offered complete loan forgiveness so long as borrowers met certain requirements relating to employee retention and spending limitations.  However, even for unforgiven PPP loan amounts, borrower-friendly terms such as a one percent (1%) interest rate and a six (6) month repayment deferral are offered.  Accordingly, the PPP was immediately and overwhelmingly popular.  Indeed, the pool of PPP money ran out in a few weeks, requiring Congress to replenish the funds.  

The Small Business Administration (SBA) recently published its long-awaited loan forgiveness application and offered some clarity on unanswered questions and outstanding concerns.  Specifically, borrowers now have the benefit of designating their loan proceeds and imputing those figures into a worksheet to determine which amounts would likely be forgiven, and which amounts would revert to the original PPP loan terms and be required to be repaid.

As you likely recall, loan forgiveness will focus on a borrower’s expenditures during an eight (8) week, or 56 day, period, commencing on either:

  1. the day on which the borrower received the PPP loan, or

  2. for borrowers with a biweekly (or more frequent) payroll schedule, the first day of the borrower’s first pay period following the PPP loan disbursement date.  


Given the PPP’s namesake, its focus is on preserving payroll and retaining employees.  As such, expenses that fit within the definition of “payroll costs” will eligible for loan forgiveness – such as compensation, employer contributions to group health care coverage and retirement plans, and certain state and local taxes assessed on employee compensation, among other costs.  Eligible compensation is capped at $15,385 per employee during the 8-week period (which is the 8-week equivalent of $100,000 per year).  In addition to such payroll costs, there are non-payroll costs that are likewise eligible for forgiveness.  These non-payroll costs include:

  1. mortgage interest payments on both real and personal property obligations incurred prior to February 15, 2020;

  2. lease payments on real and personal property leases executed prior to February 15, 2020; and

  3. utility payments for electricity, gas, water, transportation, telephone or internet access that was in service prior to February 15, 2020.  

In addition, with regard to eligible payroll costs, such costs that are incurred during the 8-week period, but not paid during the last pay period of such 8-week period, are eligible for forgiveness so long as they are paid on or before the next regular payroll date.

Once all eligible payroll and non-payroll costs have been identified and added together, borrowers must then determine the portion of their maximum loan forgiveness amount that will be reduced, if any.  Specifically, borrowers must reduce their maximum loan forgiveness amount by the following:
    

  1. Salary/hourly wage reduction.  For employees that were employed by the borrower in 2019, and had an annual salary of $100,000 or less, the borrower must have maintained that employee’s average pay during the 8-week period at a rate of at least 75% of the employee’s average pay from January 1, to March 31, 2020.  A borrower’s loan forgiveness will be reduced by the amount of any reduction in pay.  However, there is a safe harbor whereby borrowers can avoid such reduction if, by June 30, 2020, the borrower restores the employee’s salary to an amount equal to or greater than the employee’s annual salary as of February 15, 2020.

  2. Full-time equivalency (FTE) reduction.  Borrowers are required to maintain the number of employees and the average paid hours of employees during the 8-week period.  If there is a reduction in the average number of weekly full-time FTEs during the 8-week period compared to the period covering either (i) February 15 to June 30, 2020; (ii) January 1 to February 29, 2020; or (iii) for seasonal employers, a consecutive 12-week period between May 1 and September 15, 2019, the loan forgiveness will be reduced unless the borrower qualifies for the safe harbor or one of the exceptions.  Specifically, borrowers will not be penalized for an FTE reduction if (i) the borrower made a good-faith written offer to rehire the employee during the 8-week period, or (ii) the employee was terminated for cause, voluntarily resigned or voluntarily requested a reduction of hours.  For the FTE safe harbor, for borrowers that reduced their FTEs between February 15 and April 26, 2020, there will be no FTE reduction if the FTEs are restored by June 30, 2020.

Additionally, borrowers are subject to the 75% requirement whereby a borrower’s non-payroll costs cannot exceed 25% of all forgivable costs.    The application has a mechanism for determining whether at least 75% of the potential forgiveness amount was used for payroll costs.

The SBA application also requires borrowers whose PPP loans exceed $2 million to disclose that fact by checking a specific box.  It had been previously been announced that all such loans would be automatically subject to audit, and this feature allows the SBA to easily identify such borrowers.

While the application is complicated in places and confusing in others, organized borrowers should be able to navigate it.  In addition, there are already rumors relating to changes to the structure of PPP loans as well as what will be eligible for forgiveness.  Currently, the loan forgiveness application must be filed by October 31, 2020.

A copy of the SBA loan forgiveness application may be found here.

For businesses interested in learning more about the loan forgiveness application or how to navigate their way through it, please contact Chris Young at 301-738-2033.

Chris Young
is an associate in the Business & Tax practice at Miller, Miller & Canby. He focuses his practice on corporate legal agreements, business formation, tax controversy work and helping clients deal with new tax regulations. View more information about Miller, Miller & Canby's Business & Tax practice by clicking here.




 





Don’t Procrastinate: Answer these 4 Questions to Get a Quick Jump-Start on Your Estate Plan


As the coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt daily life and leave Americans uncertain of the future, you do not have to feel helpless. In fact, now is a great time to be proactive and organize your affairs in the event you or a loved one should fall ill. One of the most important things you can do (and should do) is get your estate plan in place. If you can answer the following questions or at least begin to think them through, you can get a jump-start on the estate planning process today.

1.    Who Do You Want to Handle Your Financial Affairs?
One major issue that must be addressed during the estate planning process is the control of your money and property. This includes what will happen while you are alive and what will happen at your death. The person(s) you choose to put in charge of your money and property should be trustworthy, detail-oriented, financially savvy, and organized. To assist you with your financial affairs, you may decide to appoint someone to serve as your Agent (aka attorney-in-fact) under a financial power of attorney and/or a successor Trustee of your revocable living trust.

The agent is responsible for carrying out the financial transactions listed in the financial power of attorney document on your behalf while you are alive. The document can be tailored to meet your needs, granting your agent as much or as little authority as necessary or desired. You could grant your agent the authority to do everything you could do (known as a general durable power of attorney), or the agent could be instructed to only open a bank account for the purposes of depositing a specific check (known as a limited power of attorney). You also have the ability to specify when your agent’s authority to act on your behalf becomes effective. With a “springing” power of attorney, the agent can act only if you become incapacitated. The method used to determine whether you are incapacitated is stated in the power of attorney (note: in general, “springing” powers of attorney are not recommended). Alternatively, an immediately effective power of attorney allows your agent to act the moment you sign the document, even though you are still able to conduct your own financial affairs. This feature, however, does not limit your ability to carry out your own transactions - it merely provides that another person can carry them out in addition to you.

Another way a trusted individual can assist you is by serving as a successor trustee of your revocable living trust. When the trust is first created and you transfer money and property to the trust, you will likely serve as the initial trustee and will be in full control of the money and property, just as you were before your transferred it to the trust. In addition to being the trustee, you will also be the current beneficiary, allowing you to continue to enjoy the money and property even though they are technically owned by the trust. For the foreseeable future, this situation will work well. However, the true benefit of the trust arises when you are no longer able to fulfill the role of trustee. At that point, the trusted individual you have appointed as your successor trustee will step in and manage the money and property for you, without court involvement. Your successor trustee can also step up at your death without court involvement. But no matter when the successor trustee takes over, i.e., when you are unable to manage your affairs or upon your death, he or she is required to follow the instructions that have been detailed in the trust document. This means that the money and property will continue to be used for your benefit during your lifetime and for the benefit of those you have chosen at your death.

2.    Who Will Communicate Your Medical Decisions to the Appropriate Medical Personnel?
In the event you are unable to communicate your medical wishes, your agent under an advance medical directive or medical power of attorney is the person who can make the life or death decisions on your behalf. Your health care agent should be level headed, able to act under pressure, and most importantly, able communicate your wishes, even if their own wishes or beliefs differ from yours. If you have family members that disagree with your choices, you may want to rethink before giving them the authority to make medical decisions on your behalf. It is also essential that you consider the individual’s availability to act for you. Medical emergencies can happen without warning. It is necessary that the person you choose as your agent is available in the required capacity to make those decisions for you. If the person you would like to choose is across the country, do they have the time and finances to travel? If your first choice has a demanding job or home life, can he or she be reached in a reasonable amount of time in the event a decision can be made over the phone?

Medical decisions are very personal. Even if you have the most capable person appointed as your health care agent, it is helpful if you can provide him or her with your wishes in writing. This can be a valuable tool for your agent. An advance medical directive or ‘living will” allows you to state your wishes regarding your end-of-life care: Do you want medication to help manage any pain? Do you want to be put on a ventilator if needed, etc.? While these decisions may take some soul searching, this information may be crucial in allowing your agent to make the best decisions on your behalf.
 
3.    Who Will Look After Your Minor Children, Even if it is Just Temporary?
If you have a minor child, you know that they require some level of supervision. In case you are not able to take care of your minor child, and the other custodial parent is not available, you must make sure to appoint someone to step in and take care of your child, even if it is just for a short period of time. This person should have the ability to take on the mental, emotional, and possibly financial day-to-day responsibilities of raising your child. Because it is impossible to know in advance the amount of time your child would need to spend with them, you will also need to consider whether the person is geographically desirable or if your child would be required to move, even temporarily.

4.    How Do You Want Your Money and Property Divided at Your Death?
When considering how to divide your money and property, think about what is in the best interests of each person. You do not have to give the money and property to your loved ones outright: You have options.

If you are concerned about giving a chosen beneficiary access to 100% of the money and property they will inherit, you could choose to stagger distributions over a period of time. For example, the beneficiary could receive 25% at age 25, 50% at age 40, and the remaining 25% at age 60. By staggering the distributions in this fashion, your younger beneficiary may be able to use the last portion as a nest egg for retirement.

In the event you would like to incentivize certain behaviors, you can set aside money or property to be distributed when a beneficiary accomplishes certain milestones (i.e., graduates college, stays sober for 180 days, gets their first full-time job). This can be helpful if you are concerned that the inheritance might derail a beneficiary from a productive path. By making the distributions contingent on certain behaviors, you can help ensure that they are staying on the right track even after you are gone.

For some beneficiaries, it may be more appropriate for any distribution to be solely within the complete discretion of the named successor trustee. Although this may sound harsh, there are many types of beneficiaries that can be safely provided for using this strategy. If your beneficiary has creditor issues, their creditors can only take the money or property that has been given to the beneficiary. So long as the money and property remain in the trust, and the trustee is not required to make distributions to the beneficiary, the money can stay out of the hands of the creditors. Additionally, a properly structured trust can prevent the beneficiary’s former spouse from taking the inheritance due to the limited control your beneficiary has over the money. This does not mean that your beneficiary will never receive any benefit from the trust - it just means that the trustee has the ability to ensure that distributions are truly in the best interest of the beneficiary, at the best time, and in the right amount.

We Are Here to Help
We are here to help you navigate through the estate planning process during these unprecedented times. Let us help you be proactive and get your affairs in order.

David Lucas
is an attorney in the Estates & Trusts and Business & Tax practice groups at Miller, Miller & Canby. He focuses his practice in Estate Planning and Trust and Estate Administration. He provides extensive estate and legacy planning, asset protection planning, and retirement planning.

Contact David at 301.762.5212 or via email. To learn more about Miller, Miller & Canby's Estates & Trusts practice click here.





Jody Kline Joins University of Maryland School of Architecture as Guest Lecturer


On the evening of Thursday, April 30, Jody Kline of the Land Use and Zoning Department at Miller, Miller & Canby was a guest speaker / lecturer at a class offered at the University of Maryland’s School of Architecture, Planning & Preservation.  The class, titled “Planning Policy, Practice and Politics for Developers” is offered within the University’s Master of Real Estate Development program.  Through videoconferencing, Jody spoke to graduate students along with their instructor, Jamey Pratt, a Senior Planner of the Area 3 Team of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission in Silver Spring. 

Jody began his presentation by explaining how developers of real estate use the services of attorneys during the land development process to secure entitlements throughout a project, from acquisition to implementation.  Relying on his more than 45 years of experience in the land use field, Jody discussed how real estate development is highly influenced by area master plans, governing regulations and even the personalities of plan reviewers.  He encouraged the students to recognize that the success of their potential future projects would be more determined by how they responded to the challenges of the development review process, rather than what pro forma told them.  Each project is unique with its own issues and attention needed to walk through the process. Finally, based on his experience from years in the field, he provided a cautionary tale of realistic time constraints that can either make or break a real estate development project.
   
Jody Kline
has been a principal at Miller, Miller & Canby since 1981 and co-chairs the Land Development practice group with attorney Soo Lee-Cho. The practice group has been honored with a national “Tier 1” ranking in US News & World Report Best Law Firms.

Jody Kline concentrates his practice on land use, zoning and subdivision law in Montgomery County and he has represented clients in many of the County’s planning and economic development initiatives. His areas of expertise include zoning, special exception, subdivision, master planning, building permit issuance, and administrative and real estate matters related to land development. He represents private clients, non-profit entities and municipal corporations and agencies. He is a recognized “Super Lawyer,” and U.S. News & World Report “Best Lawyer” in the state of Maryland, as well as a recognized Top Real Estate Lawyer in publications that include Washingtonian and Bethesda Magazine.

To learn more about his practice, contact Jody Kline here; learn more about Miller, Miller & Canby’s Land Development practice by clicking here
 





Main Street Lending Program: How to Save Your Business Without Relying on Congress or the CARES Act


As most small businesses have likely heard, the CARES Act’s Payroll Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program both ran out of money last week. While there is pending federal legislation to replenish both with several billions of dollars, given how the first round of funding went, it is all but certain that any second-round funding will be depleted in a matter of days. As such, there are going to be businesses that lose out on CARES Act funding altogether, especially considering how much money has already been injected into it and the uncertainty surrounding the duration of the pandemic. For those unlucky businesses, there are other CARES Act programs and mechanisms as well as state and local relief programs that they can take advantage of; or they can look to a less-publicized Federal Reserve program. Indeed, the Main Street Lending Program (the “Program”) is Federal Reserve creation and is an alternative to the PPP and EIDL and other CARES Act programs (it is unaffiliated with the Small Business Administration (SBA)).

Main Street Lending Program
The Program is designed to assist banks with loaning money more freely by requiring the Federal Reserve to purchase ninety five percent (95%) of the loans, while the lender assumes the remaining five percent (5%). As such and similar to the PPP, local banks serve as the lender for economically stressed businesses. In addition, businesses that have already received PPP loans may also take advantage of the Program.  

The Program operates in two (2) facilities:

  1. Main Street New Loan Facility (MSNLF)

  2. Main Street Expanded Loan Facility (MSELF).

For both facilities, repayment on these loans are four (4) years, amortization of principal and interest is deferred for one (1) year, and the interest rate is an adjustable rate of secured overnight financing rate (SOFR) plus 250-400 basis points. The minimum loan under both is $1 million, but the maximum under the MSNLF is generally $25 million, and for the MSELF it is generally $150 million. However, a key distinction between the two facilities is that, under the MSNLF, the loans are unsecured.

The Program is aimed to help small and medium-sized businesses. Accordingly, eligible borrowers must have either:

  • 10,000 or less employees; or

  • 2019 revenues of $2.5 billion or less.  

In addition, eligible borrowers must be created or incorporated in the United States, with a significant portion of their operations and employees based here. Borrowers must also make several attestations when submitting a loan application and depending on which particular facility it applies to, including, among other things, that the borrower will not use loan proceeds to pay preexisting loans or lines of credit; it will not cancel or reduce existing lines of credit; that it requires this financing due to COVID-19 pandemic and it will make reasonable efforts to use the loan proceeds to maintain its payroll during the term of the loan; and that it will follow stock repurchase, compensation and capital distribution restrictions set forth in the CARES Act.

For businesses looking for liquidity to carry them through the health emergency the Program offers a possible alternative on borrower-friendly terms, even though it does not provide for loan forgiveness like the PPP.  Likewise, the automatic $10,000 grant of the EIDL program, or the non-repayable aspect of the Employee Retention Credit, are additional options for businesses looking to obtain much needed-cash while they are under economic distress.

The Federal Reserve is currently working to create and implement the Program’s infrastructure. Final terms and conditions have not yet been released. For businesses interested in learning more about the Program, please contact Chris Young at 301-738-2033.

Chris Young
is an associate in the Business & Tax practice at Miller, Miller & Canby. He focuses his practice on corporate legal agreements, business formation, tax controversy work and helping clients deal with new tax regulations. View more information about Miller, Miller & Canby's Business & Tax practice by clicking here.





The CARES Act: Mechanisms for Avoiding Bankruptcy and Not Requiring a Loan Application


Now that the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) has been around for several weeks, we know what has worked and what has caused confusion and frustration. The most popular aspects of the CARES Act has arguably been the Payroll Protection Program (PPP), which is designed to assist businesses with retaining employees through federally-backed and forgivable loans (provided certain requirements are met), and the Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) program, which is intended to provide small businesses with similar relief as the PPP. However, on April 16, 2020, the $349 billion that had been allocated to the PPP and the EIDL program ran out, and the Small Business Administration (SBA) immediately stopped accepting applications for both. As such, businesses that did not submit their application prior to the depletion of this CARES Act funding may have missed out on what became a “cash grab.”  While there is talk of another round of federal funding, any details pertaining to such talks amount to mere speculation. However, the CARES Act provides other mechanisms that provide more indirect economic relief as opposed to cash injections through the loan programs.

Employee Retention Credit
Specifically, the Employee Retention Credit is a fully refundable tax credit for employers equal to fifty percent (50%) of qualified wages that “eligible employers” pay their employees. “Eligible employers” are businesses and non-profits that carry on a business or trade during calendar year 2020 and that either (1) fully or partially suspend operations during any quarter of 2020 due to a governmental order, or (2) experience a significant decline in gross receipts during such quarter. This credit is only available to eligible businesses and non-profits, self-employed individuals are not eligible for the credit for self-employment services or earnings. This credit applies to qualified wages paid after March 12, 2020 and before January 2021, and the maximum amount of qualified wages taken into account for each employee for all quarters of calendar year 2020 is $10,000 – so the maximum credit for an eligible employer for qualified wages paid to any employee is $5,000. 

For purposes of the Employee Retention Credit, “qualified wages” include qualified health plan expenses, and is primarily dependent on the average number of full-time employees employed during 2019. Specifically, for eligible employers with more than 100 full time employees in 2019, qualified wages are wages paid to an employee that is not providing services to such employer due to (1) a full or partial suspension of operations by a governmental order due to COVID-19, or (2) a significant decline in gross receipts. For eligible employers with 100 or fewer employees in 2019, qualified wages are wages paid to any employee during either period described above where the employer experiences an economic hardship.

Employers may begin claiming the credit as early as March 13, 2020. The IRS has instructed all eligible employers to begin claiming the credit on Form 941 for the second quarter of tax year 2020. For qualified wages paid between March 13, 2020 and March 31, 2020, the IRS has released guidance that instructs eligible employers claim the credit on those wages on Form 941 for the second quarter of 2020. The credit cannot be claimed on a Form 941 for the first quarter of 2020.

The Employee Retention Credit is allowed against the employer portion of social security taxes and taxes imposed on railroad employers; and it is treated as an overpayment to the extent the credit exceeds the employer portion of employment taxes due. However, employers that received a PPP loan are not eligible to receive the Employee Retention Credit. For small businesses that claim the credit on its Form 941, and also receive a PPP loan, this credit is recaptured and must be repaid to the IRS.

The CARES Act also permits employers to defer the employer portion of the social security tax on wages that are paid from March 27, 2020 through December 31, 2020, with fifty percent (50%) due on December 31, 2021, and the other fifty percent (50%) due on December 31, 2022. However, this deferral is also unavailable to employers that have received a PPP loan.

Net Operating Loss Carryback
In addition, the CARES Act waives the carryback period for net operating losses (NOLs) arising in a taxable year beginning after December 31, 2017 and before January 1, 2021.  Following the Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA), NOLs generated in tax years beginning in 2018 and later years were disallowed from being carried back, and could only be carried forward to offset up to eighty percent (80%) of taxable income. Under the CARES Act, NOLs from 2018, 2019 and 2020 can be carried back to the previous five (5) tax years (beginning with the earliest tax year first), and it suspends the aforementioned eighty percent (80%) limitation through the entire 2020 tax year.

As a result of this waiver, taxpayers may take advantage of previously unusable losses to offset taxable income generated in prior tax years. Furthermore, prior to the TCJA, the federal corporate tax rate was as high as 35%. Taxpayers may now carry back losses to offset income generated in higher tax years, rather than carry it forward to tax year 2021, when the federal tax rate is currently set at 21%. Taxpayers desiring to take advantage of this provision will need to consult with their tax advisors, and amend tax returns to potentially generate refunds to assist with their business operating costs. 

Montgomery County Public Health Emergency Grant
From a local perspective, Montgomery County, Maryland has released the online application for the Public Health Emergency Grant (PHEG) program. The application may be found here.

Please contact Chris Young at 301-762-5212 with any questions you may have about the CARES Act, the PPP, the Employee Retention Credit, the NOL carryback waiver, or with Montgomery County, Maryland’s PHEG program.

Chris Young is an associate in the Business & Tax practice at Miller, Miller & Canby. He focuses his practice on corporate legal agreements, business formation, tax controversy work and helping clients deal with new tax regulations. View more information about Miller, Miller & Canby's Business & Tax practice by clicking here.





CARES Act: Corrects a TCJA Drafting Error Providing Relief to Commercial Property Owners and Tenants


The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act was enacted last month, and it is designed to provide economic relief to both businesses and individuals hit with financial stress and disaster due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For businesses, among the most publicized and popularized provisions, the CARES Act offers loans on borrower friendly terms, it provides cash grants, and it makes available certain federal tax benefits and incentives. For individuals, the CARES Act gave eligible taxpayers cash rebates depending on their filing status and adjusted gross income, and it offers deferment on mortgage payments and student loans. In addition, private businesses such as insurance companies, media companies, and internet providers have stepped up with assisting taxpayers in a time of health and economic crisis.

However, the CARES Act also provides relief in less publicized provisions. Specifically, the CARES Act revised (or, perhaps, corrected), an unintended consequence of the Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA) as it relates to the deductibility of interior property improvements made by commercial property owners and tenants.  Indeed, while drafting the TCJA, Congress had intended to expand the deductibility of qualified improvement property from fifty percent (50%) to one hundred percent (100%). In other words, commercial property owners and tenants making interior capital improvements could deduct 50% of the cost of such improvements – the TCJA intended to provide for the deductibility of the full cost of such improvements. This deduction had applied to both tenant and owner improvements of commercial properties, including retail shops, office buildings, and restaurants. However, due to drafting error, the precise language relating to such building improvements was left out of the TCJA. 

As a result, not only was the 100% deduction was left out of the TCJA, but it even voided the 50% deduction. In place of the 50% deduction, prior law kicked in, and for the past two (2) years, tenants and commercial property owners were instead stuck with a 39-year depreciation period. As a result, owners and tenants did not have much incentive to perform interior commercial improvements.

The CARES Act, however, corrects this drafting error. Now, commercial property owners and tenants can deduct one hundred percent (100%) of their property improvements immediately (there is no longer a depreciation period). In addition, the law is retroactive, allowing businesses to amend prior year’s tax returns to potentially receive a refund. 

Not only will this CARES Act revision provide certain businesses with potential refunds during these tough economic times, but it will also incentivize businesses to invest in their properties in the future.

Please contact Chris Young at 301-762-5212 for more information regarding this CARES Act provision.

Chris Young
is an associate in the Business & Tax practice at Miller, Miller & Canby. He focuses his practice on corporate legal agreements, business formation, tax controversy work and helping clients deal with new tax regulations. View more information about Miller, Miller & Canby's Business & Tax practice by clicking here.





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