The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that was passed last year included a new tax credit for employers that allows them to claim a credit based on wages paid to qualifying employees while they are on family and medical leave.
To qualify for the credit, an employer must have a written policy that provides at least two weeks of paid family and medical leave annually to all qualifying employees who work full time, which can be prorated for part-time. The wages paid during the leave period cannot be less than 50 percent of what the employee is normally paid.
The credit is variable. It begins at 12.5% and increases by 0.25%, up to a maximum of 25%, for each percentage point that the rate of payment exceeds 50% of the employee’s normal pay.
Example: ABC, Inc. has a qualifying written policy to pay an employee 70% of their normal wage while on family or medical leave. The rate of 70% is 20 percentage points above the 50% credit threshold. Thus the credit is increased by 5% (.25 x 20), which when added to the base credit of 12.5% results in a credit percentage of 17.5% (12.5% plus 5%). Assuming the total leave wages paid for the year were $15,000, the credit would be $2,625 (.175 x $15,000).
A qualifying employee for this credit is any employee who has been employed for one year or more and who had compensation that did not exceed a specified amount for the preceding year. For 2018, the employee must not have earned more than $72,000 in 2017. Thus leave benefits for higher-income taxpayers will not qualify for this credit.
For the purposes of this credit, “family and medical leave” is leave for one or more of the following reasons:
- Birth of an employee’s child and to care for the newborn.
- Placement of a child with the employee for adoption or foster care.
- Care for the employee’s spouse, child or parent who has a serious health condition.
- A serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the functions of his or her position.
- Any qualifying event due to an employee’s spouse, child or parent being on covered active duty – or being called to duty – in the Armed Forces.
- Care for a service member who is the employee’s spouse, child, parent or next of kin.
The credit only applies to qualified leave wages paid to a qualifying employee for up to 12 weeks per taxable year, and the employer must reduce its deduction for wages or salaries paid or incurred by the amount determined as a credit. Any wages taken into account in determining any other general business credit may not be used toward this credit.
CAUTION – CREDIT TIME-LIMITED
The credit is generally only effective for wages paid in taxable years of the employer beginning after December 31, 2017. It is not available for wages paid in taxable years beginning after December 31, 2019
The credit is part of the general business credit, where business incentive credits are combined into one “general business credit” for purposes of determining each credit’s allowance limitation for the tax year. A general business credit is generally limited to the taxpayer’s tax liability for the year (excluding self-employment tax), and any excess over the tax liability is carried back one year and forward 20 years. “Carrying back” means, in most instances, amending the return of the year to which the credit is carried; if no return was filed for that year, then the carryback credit would be claimed on an original late-filed return for that year.