As we all experienced in one way or another, many state unemployment agencies had difficulty managing the drastic increases in unemployment compensation claims arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. Just as state agencies are catching up with UI benefit payment issues, many are also having difficulty matching benefit charges with employer’s accounts. The additional $600 payment required under Section 2104 of the CARES Act and the state by state emergency orders issued for “non-charging” of employer accounts have created additional challenges in this regard and provided little time for state agencies to make changes in their systems to accommodate employers.
State unemployment taxes in 2021 and 2022 are likely to increase, whether it be due to individual employer’s experience history or a depletion in state unemployment trust funds. Regardless, employers and state agencies should be careful in reviewing charges to employer accounts to ensure compliance with federal and state laws.
In most states, contribution rates for 2021 are based on unemployment claims filed and benefits payments for the one-year period ending June 30, 2020. State agencies are now faced with the difficult task of reconciling the benefits paid with employer account charges identified for COVID-19-related claim payments. State unemployment compensation charge statements should be closely reviewed with respect to a number of questions related to federal and state laws and special COVID-19 related provisions, including but not limited to:
- The extra $600 paid as Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) under Section 2104 of the CARES Act should not be charged to employer accounts. This applies not only to the most recent separating employer accounts but also to non-separating base period only chargeable accounts. The $600 charge may not show up as a separate charge but may be included in total charges.
- Employer accounts should not be charged for unemployment compensation related to COVID-19 as provided in Executive Orders from Governors and/or state legislative bodies adopted to provide relief from COVID-19 related unemployment claims.
Requests for relief of charges should be submitted in a timely manner to state agencies to enable corrections to be made as early as possible and thereby avoid long-term impacts on future tax rate calculations.
Additionally, contribution rates for 2021 that are typically released between November & February should be reviewed for timely appeal. In the event that any discrepancy is identified, an issue should be raised immediately to avoid erroneous factors used in tax rate assignment.
Unfortunately, the delay in payment of unemployment compensation and the complex programming required for proper charging of employer accounts may take time to sort out by state agencies. Even if there is non-charging of benefits to individual employer accounts due to COVID-19, there may also be increases in 2021 and 2022 due to the impact of lower average payroll used to determine rates. The extent of additional taxes for 2021 may not be determined until the end of 2020. Employers and states should be working through these details to assure that the appropriate charges, payments and contribution rates are determined under the applicable laws.
The last point to consider relates to additional increases in UI taxes specifically relating to federal unemployment taxes (FUTA). Many state UI trust funds have been depleted and this may trigger solvency tax increases and interest on Title XII federal loans in years to come. Our office is monitoring this matter, as we did during The Great Recession, and will continue to provide updates on this as they become available.
As always, if there are any questions please do not hesitate to contact us or visit our website at www.thomas-and-company.com.