CDC Guidelines for COVID19 Workplace Safety as Businesses Re-Open

Businesses grapple with safety issues while cautiously reopening.
Businesses grapple with safety issues while cautiously re-opening.

Communities are starting to ease their COVID19 restrictions, which means many businesses will be re-opening under new guidelines. While this is welcome news for many business owners, questions remain about workplace safety. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has an updated reference site for businesses with a guide to ongoing mitigation and resources for COVID19 prevention and support.

The site offers a special section for Frequently Asked Questions on the following topics: Suspected or Confirmed Cases of COVID-19 in the Workplace, Reducing the Spread of COVID-19 in Workplaces, Healthy Business Operations, Cleaning and Disinfection in the Workplace, and Critical Infrastructure.

The Department of Labor also has a thorough safety guide compiled under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) available for download. This 35-page document is not a standard or regulation, and it creates no new legal obligations. It does contain recommendations as well as descriptions of mandatory safety and health standards. Download the OSHA guide at https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3990.pdf

For more information on CDC guidance on other COVID19 issues that may affect you see https://www.galliganmanning.com/covid19-update-cdc-recommends-care-plans-for-both-older-adults-and-caregivers/.

Resources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Businesses and Workplaces: Plan, Prepare and Respond, updated April 20, 2020.

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Massive Changes to RMDs from Stimulus Package

The coronavirus stimulus package extended IRA contribution deadlines and waived 2020 RMDs.

Several of the provisions that were signed into law in the stimulus package relief bill can taken advantage of immediately, reports Financial Planning in the article “Major changes in RMDs and retirement contributions in $2T stimulus plan.” Here are some highlights.

Extended deadline for 2019 IRA contributions. With the tax return filing date extended to July 15, 2020 from April 16, the date for making 2019 contributions to IRA and Roth IRA contributions has also been extended to the same date. Those contributions normally must be made by April 15 of the following year, but this is no normal year. There have never been extensions to the April 15 deadline, even when taxpayers filed for extensions.

When this tax return deadline was extended, most financial professionals doubted the extension would only apply to IRA contributions, but the IRS responded in a timely manner, issuing guidance titled “Filing and Payment Deadlines Questions and Answers.” These changes give taxpayers more time to decide if they still want to contribute, and how much. Job losses and market downturns that accompanied the COVID-19 outbreak have changed the retirement savings priorities for many Americans. Just be sure when you do make a contribution to your account, note that it is for 2019 because financial custodians may just automatically consider it for 2020. A phone call to confirm will likely be in order.

RMDs are waived for 2020. As a result stimulus package, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARE Act), Required Minimum Distributions from IRAs are waived. Prior to the stimulus package’s enactment, 2020 RMDs would be very high as they would be based on the substantially higher account values of December 31, 2019 instead of the current lower values due to the drop in the market. If not for this relief, IRA owners would have to withdraw and pay tax on a much larger percentage of their IRA balances. By eliminating the RMD for 2020, tax bills will be lower for those who don’t need to take the money from their accounts. For 2019 RMDs not yet taken, the waiver still applies. It also applies to IRA owners who turned 70 ½ in 2019. This was a surprise, as the SECURE Act just increased the RMD age to 72 for those who turn 70 ½ in 2020 or later.  See here for a much fuller description of how the SECURE Act changed retirement planning.  https://www.galliganmanning.com/the-secure-act/

IRA beneficiaries subject to the five- year rule. Another group benefiting from these new rules are beneficiaries who inherited in 2015 or later and are subject to the 5-year payout rule. Those beneficiaries may have inherited through a will or were beneficiaries of a trust that didn’t qualify as a designated beneficiary. They now have one more year—until December 31, 2021—to withdraw the entire amount in the account. Beneficiaries who inherited from 2015-2020 now have six years, instead of five.

Additional relief for retirement accounts. The new act also waives the early 10% early distribution penalty on up to $100,000 of 2020 distributions from IRAs and company plans for ‘affected individuals.’ The tax will still be due, but it can be spread over three years and the funds may be repaid over the three-year period.

Many changes have been implemented from the stimulus package. Speak with your estate planning attorney to be sure that you are taking full advantage of the changes and not running afoul of any new or old laws regarding retirement accounts.

Reference: Financial Planning (March 27, 2020) “Major changes in RMDs and retirement contributions in $2T stimulus plan”

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Coronavirus Scams are Surfacing

Several coronavirus scams are surfacing which will affect seniors most of all. Here are some scams to watch out for and reliable sources for information.

Maryland U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur is “encouraging all Marylanders to be aware of individuals attempting to profit from the coronavirus pandemic,” reported Marcia Murphy, a USAO spokeswoman.  The Cecil Whig’s recent article entitled “Maryland U.S. attorney warns of COVID-19 scams; Cecil County remains vigilant” cautions that coronavirus scams are being uncovered around the country.

Scammers have been sending e-mails to people claiming to be from local hospitals offering coronavirus vaccines for a fee. However, no vaccine is currently available for the coronavirus. Some of these criminals are using websites that appear to be legitimate but are actually fake websites that infect the users’ computers with harmful malware or seek personal information that can be later used to commit fraud. Many of these coronavirus scams prey on the most vulnerable, especially the elderly.

Effected individuals need to contact the police if they think someone has targeted them for a scam and to educate themselves on the COVID-19-related scams by checking official government websites, like the CDC.gov for information.  Many governmental groups, including at the state and local levels, are also hosting coronavirus information pages.  For example, Harris County, Texas has provided a public health page with information about the virus and resources for assistance.  http://publichealth.harriscountytx.gov/Resources/2019-Novel-Coronavirus

Individuals need to scrutinize anyone who makes a contact with them about a COVID-19 vaccine—which does not exist—and to report any such interaction to law enforcement.

Late last week, U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr sent a memo to all U.S. Attorneys, in which he made the investigation of these coronavirus scams and the individuals perpetrating them a priority. Therefore, federal, state and local law enforcement agencies are prepared to investigate these frauds.

The Federal Trade Commission has consumer information about coronavirus scams on its website, including a complaint form to report scammers. Elderly victims can also call the newly launched Elder Fraud Hotline at 833-FRAUD-11 (833-372-8311), if they believe they are victims of coronavirus scams—or any other type of fraud.

In addition to selling bogus cures and infecting computers by using COVID-19-related communications, other examples of coronavirus scams include:

  • Phishing emails from entities posing as the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Those asking for donations for fraudulently, illegitimate, or non-existent charitable organizations; and
  • Scammers posing as doctors, who ask for patient information for COVID-19 testing and then use that information to fraudulently bill for other tests and procedures.

Barr asked the public to report suspected fraud schemes related to COVID-19, by calling the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline (1-866-720-5721) or by e-mailing the NCDF at disaster@leo.gov.

Reference:  Cecil Whig (March 23, 2020) “Maryland U.S. attorney warns of COVID-19 scams; Cecil County remains vigilant”

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