HOSPITALITY: Legislation and tax provisions that can help hotels cope with COVID-19

hospitality covid-19 tax

Closed doors, dark hotel rooms, and furloughed employees have become commonplace in recent months as the hotel industry continues to cope with the devastating impact of COVID-19. Hotel owners across the country are also struggling to make sense of the operational changes necessary as they begin planning for reopening. Nearly 7 out of 10 U.S. hotel rooms were empty as of May 13, the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) reported, citing STR data, in addition to the thousands of hotels that have closed operations completely. 

While this is all terrible news for the hotel industry, a number of different programs have been enacted at the federal and state levels that offer coronavirus relief to eligible taxpayers, including hotels. Here are some of these programs, along with updated tax policy changes, and how they can offer hotel operators a bit of financial relief. 

Small business administration programs (PPP and EIDL)

On April 24, the U.S. government passed a new $484 billion stimulus package that included $310 billion in new funding for the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and another $60 billion for its Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program. The initial $349 billion in funding for the PPP was exhausted in under two weeks as the SBA reported processing more than 1.6 million loans during that time.

Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)

The PPP is designed to help small businesses (fewer than 500 employees) with funding to pay up to eight weeks of payroll costs, including benefits. The funds can also be used to pay mortgage interest, rent, and utilities. The maximum loan amount for each qualifying business is the lesser amount of:

  • 2.5 times the average monthly payroll costs during a specific period (calendar year 2019 for most)
  • $10 million

Hotels and franchises are waived from the SBA’s current affiliation rules within certain criteria, and a PPP loan may ultimately be fully or partially forgiven if a hotel uses the loan to continue paying salaries and benefits to employees and other costs such as rent (subject to specific rules limiting forgiveness amounts by expense type).   

On May 15 the SBA released its PPP Loan Forgiveness Application, which the small business borrower must complete and submit to their bank or lender from whom they received PPP funds. The application provides for a step-by-step calculation to determine the amount eligible for forgiveness, highlights the documentation required with the application, and contains representations and certifications that need to be made on behalf of the borrower. The lender has 60 days to issue a decision on the submitted application once it is completed and filed.

Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL)

The EIDL program provides small businesses with up to $2 million in coronavirus-related economic relief in certain states and territories. The loans are available to small businesses and private nonprofit organizations to provide working capital and ease economic injury due to a temporary loss of revenue. Funds can be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable, and other bills. There are specific rules to follow if applying for both EIDL and PPP loans.

The interest rate for these SBA loans is 3.75% for small businesses and 2.75% for nonprofits. Loan conditions are determined on a case-by-case basis with repayment terms of up to 30 years.

The SBA is currently not accepting new EIDL applications, but watch for updates in case there is additional funding in a future congressional stimulus package.

Tax deferment and credit programs

Employee Retention Credit

The Employee Retention Credit is designed to encourage businesses to keep employees on payroll. An alternative to the PPP, this refundable tax credit is 50 percent of up to $10,000 in wages paid by an eligible employer whose business has been hurt financially by COVID-19 (i.e., the maximum per-employee credit is $5,000).

To qualify for this credit, the employer’s business must be fully or partially shut down by government order due to COVID-19 during a calendar quarter, or gross receipts must be less than 50 percent of the comparable quarter in 2019. Eligibility is calculated each calendar quarter. If the employer's gross receipts exceed 80 percent of a comparable quarter in 2019, the employer, at the end of that quarter, would no longer qualify for the credit. This credit is not available if a hotel receives a PPP loan.

Payroll tax deferment

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act permits employers to defer their share of 2020 Social Security payroll taxes, with 50% of the deferred taxes due by Dec. 31, 2021, and the other half due by Dec. 31, 2022. This payroll tax deferral would help hotels retain some immediate liquidity but does not release them from payment responsibility. Consequently, hoteliers could be dealing with a large tax bill in 2021 and 2022 if 2020 tax payments are deferred. Hotels seeking PPP loans should be aware that if any portion of their PPP loan is forgiven, the tax deferral will only be available for the period from March 27 up to and until they receive notice of the forgiveness from their lender. (So, they can defer their payments while waiting to find out if they receive a PPP loan and qualify for forgiveness, but if any portion is forgiven, the deferral will not be available for the period following the receipt of the forgiveness notice.)

FFCRA tax credits for employers and the self-employed

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) provides employers with tax credits against the employer-provided portion of FICA for those covering paid time off for employees. The credit allows for up to $511 per day paid to employees caring for themselves or $200 per day for those caring for family members. The credits are refundable to the extent that they exceed the employer’s payroll tax and are in effect through Dec. 31, 2020.

Modified tax provisions under The CARES Act

The CARES Act contains several tax provisions that could benefit hotels and hospitality companies. The benefits ultimately received depend on certain facts, including the company’s legal entity structure.

Alternative minimum tax (AMT)

Businesses taxed as C corporations can fully recover any remaining alternative minimum tax (AMT) credits in tax years beginning in 2019. Alternatively, an election may be made to take the AMT credit fully in tax years beginning in 2018 if not yet filed.

Net operating losses (NOLs)

For C corporations, any net operating losses (NOLs) incurred in 2018, 2019, and 2020 can be carried back five years to generate tax refunds. The 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act limited NOL usage to 80 percent of taxable income. The CARES Act removes this limitation for these years, offering businesses the ability to obtain a refund of prior-year taxes. The CARES Act also delays the application of the excess business loss limitation of Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 461(l) applicable to pass-through business owners and sole proprietors to tax years beginning after Dec. 31, 2020. Accordingly, all hotels incurring a tax loss in 2018 or 2019 should review their facts to see if it makes sense to file an NOL carryback.

Section 163(j) business interest expense deductions 

The CARES Act raises the Section 163(j) limit of interest deductions from 30 percent to 50 percent of adjusted taxable income for 2019 and 2020. However, since many hotels are organized as partnerships or LLCs for tax purposes, these entities should be careful, as the 50 percent deduction only applies to 2020 and not to 2019 for partnerships. Special rules apply to partners receiving excess business interest expense in 2019, so we recommend that you consult your tax advisor to see how these changes could help you.

Qualified improvement property

Qualified improvement property (QIP), with certain limitations, generally refers to improvements made to nonresidential real property after the date the property was first placed in service. The CARES Act corrects a drafting error contained in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), retroactively making QIP 15-year property that is eligible for 100 percent bonus depreciation. While state depreciation rules may differ, this correction could help multi-unit operators making property improvements, allowing those with QIP expense in 2018 and 2019 to potentially file amended federal income tax returns.


As  always, we encourage you to consult with your tax advisor when reviewing these programs and determining their potential benefits to you based on your specific tax situation.

For additional information, visit our Coronavirus Resource Center.


Jason Fleetwood, CPA, Partner


Joel Boff, CPA, CGMA, Partner


David Meyrowitz, CPA, Partner


Ginny Boyce, CPA, Director


Lisa Caputo, CPA, Manager


Subject matter expertise

  • Jason Fleetwood headshot
    Contact Jason Jason+Fleetwood
    Jason Fleetwood

    CPA, Partner

  • Joel Boff headshot
    Contact Joel Joel+Boff
    Joel Boff

    CPA, CGMA, Partner

  • Close


    Let’s start a conversation about your company’s strategic goals and vision for the future.

    Please fill all required fields*

    Please verify your information and check to see if all require fields have been filled in.

    Please select job function
    Please select job level
    Please select country
    Please select state
    Please select industry
    Please select topic

Coronavirus Resource Center

Related services

Any advice contained in this communication, including attachments and enclosures, is not intended as a thorough, in-depth analysis of specific issues. Nor is it sufficient to avoid tax-related penalties. This has been prepared for information purposes and general guidance only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. You should not act upon the information contained in this publication without obtaining specific professional advice specific to, among other things, your individual facts, circumstances and jurisdiction. No representation or warranty (express or implied) is made as to the accuracy or completeness of the information contained in this publication, and CohnReznick LLP, its partners, employees and agents accept no liability, and disclaim all responsibility, for the consequences of you or anyone else acting, or refraining to act, in reliance on the information contained in this publication or for any decision based on it.