In a News Release and accompanying IRS webpages in FAQ format, IRS has announced that wages paid for leave taken to accompany an individual who is obtaining a COVID-19 vaccination or to care for an individual who is recovering from a vaccination may be considered qualified family leave wages for purposes of the qualified family leave wages credit; in addition, they may be considered qualified sick leave wages for purposes of the qualified sick leave wages credit. This rule applies to wages paid, and to self-employment income, with respect to leave taken from April 1, 2021, through September 30, 2021.
Background. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) makes credits available to employers with fewer than 500 employees, and certain governmental employers without regard to the number of employees ('Eligible Employers'), for qualified sick and family leave wages ('qualified leave wages') paid with respect to leave taken by employees beginning on April 1, 2021, through September 30, 2021. The credits are the qualified sick leave wages credit and the qualified family leave wages credit.
ARPA also provides equivalent credits available for certain self-employed individuals.
Code Sec. 3132(c)(1) and Code Sec. 3131(c)(1) provide the definition of qualified leave wages. Those Code sections list circumstances under which wages qualify as qualified leave wages, then say that qualified leave wages include compensation under Code Sec. 3231(e)(1) that Eligible Employers pay with respect to leave taken by an employee during which the employee is unable to work because the employee is experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of HHS in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Labor.
Wages for employees who help persons who get vaccinations. The Secretary of HHS has specified, in consultation with the Secretaries of Treasury and Labor, that an employee who takes leave to accompany an individual to obtain immunization related to COVID-19, or to care for an individual who is recovering from any injury, disability, illness, or condition related to the immunization, is experiencing a “substantially similar condition” for which the Eligible Employer may pay qualified sick leave wages. And an Eligible Employer may also pay qualified family leave wages for these reasons.
The HHS Secretary further specified that, for this purpose, “individual” has the same meaning as was assigned to that term in 29 CFR 826.20(a)(5) for purposes of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act of 2020. Thus, “individual” means an immediate family member, someone who regularly resides in the employee’s home, or a similar person with whom the employee has a relationship that creates an expectation that the employee would care for the person. For this purpose, “individual” does not include persons with whom the employee has no personal relationship.
'Although the reasons for Eligible Employers to pay employees the qualified family leave wages are the same as for the qualified sick leave wages, the wages cannot be for the same hours for purposes of claiming the credits.' (Questions 27a and 38a)
Comparable provisions apply for the equivalent credits for self-employed individuals. (Question 108)