Freelancers guide to coronavirus relief money

At Keeper Tax, our mission is to be the best business expense tracker to help freelancers find “free money”. So in the spirit of our purpose, here's a summary of all the different kinds of loans, benefits, and payments available to freelancers as part of the newly enacted CARES act. Whether your freelancing income has taken a big hit or not, we recommend looking into these four programs and hope this guide makes that a little bit easier. 

Economic Impact Payments

The amount you’ll receive depends on your latest tax return. If you haven’t filed your taxes for 2019 yet, the government will use your 2018 tax return.


Also, families will receive an extra $500 per qualifying child that is under 16 years old.

You must have a social security number to be eligible for the payment.


When will I get it? 

The IRS hasn’t committed to a date, but we expect payments to start coming in within the coming week.


How will I receive it? 

The IRS says they will use the direct deposit info reported on your latest tax return. If the bank and routing information isn’t accessible, they will mail it to the address on file for you. For the remainder of people whose correct info is not on file, the treasury plans to create an online portal to update their banking information but it is not yet clear when this will be available.

Unemployment Benefits

The CARES Act now makes it possible for freelancers and independent contractors to claim unemployment benefits. It’s great news for struggling freelancers everywhere, and we hope you take advantage of it if you can.


Do I qualify?

In order to qualify, you must prove that the coronavirus pandemic has made it impossible to earn a living with your freelancing income. 

  • Are unemployed through no fault of your own. In most states, this means you have to have separated from your last job due to a lack of available work.
  • Meet work and wage requirements. You must meet your state’s requirements for wages earned or time worked during an established period of time referred to as a "base period." (In most states, this is usually the first four out of the last five completed calendar quarters before the time that your claim is filed.)
  • Meet any additional state requirements. Find details of your own state’s program.


How do I apply?

You’ll need to go through your state’s unemployment benefits application program. Since self-employed people were recently not eligible for these benefits, many states don’t yet have a good process in place for collecting supporting documentation so expect some slowness.

When you file a claim, you will be asked for certain information, such as addresses and dates of your former employment. To make sure your claim is not delayed, be sure to give complete and correct information.

It generally takes two to three weeks after you file your claim to receive your first benefit check.


How much will I get?

This depends on your state, but the CARES act has added an additional $600 per week for up to 13 weeks (ending July 31, 2020) on top of the regular unemployment benefits your state provides. For the typical freelancer, this means around $900 per week. 


Economic Injury Disaster “Loan” (EIDL)

Today, the SBA has started taking applications for the EIDL program. With the coronavirus relief efforts, they have released a new streamlined way to apply for the loan online.  


Do I qualify?

Freelancers and independent contractors should qualify for the loan. You don’t have to have an LLC or other official business structure. We recommend everyone applies - it’s free money.


How much will I get?

If you’re approved, you’ll get $10,000. 

Note: this initial advance does not have to be paid back if properly applied to operating expenses like rent, software, transportation, and so on. 

You may also qualify for a larger loan of up to $200,000, but this will need to get paid back with interest rates.


How do I apply?

Use this link. It takes 10 minutes. 

Freelancers and independent contractors without an LLC should mark themselves as a “sole proprietor” and input their own name as their business name, and their social security number for their EIN.


Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)

This program was designed to help incentivize small businesses to retain their employees. You cannot get a PPP loan if you are also claiming unemployment benefits, and it’s harder to qualify for a solo-freelancer / independent contractor than the other, but it’s definitely worth a try!

Do I qualify?

If you pay salaried employees through your small business, then you definitely qualify. However, we recommend applying even if you are a solo-freelancer paying freelancers - just in case. You can read more here.


How much will I get?

The maximum loan amount under this program is your average monthly payroll multiplied by 2.5. If you’re a solo-freelancer, making $3,000 per month, that’s $7,500.

Again, you won’t need to pay it back as long as it’s used for payroll, mortgage interest, rent and utilities for the eight weeks following the signing date. There is documentation required to prove this to your lender, so keep good records. 

Can you apply for both the EIDL and the PPP? 

Yes, but you cannot use the money for the same purpose. For example, you can use one for payroll and the other for rent and utilities.


How do I apply?

Applying for the PPP is a bit more complicated than the other relief money types. You’ll need to go through your bank and we recommend reaching out now, before the rush.

While application guidelines are still being finalized, you’ll definitely want to have proof of how long you’ve been in operation, and documentation showing your expenses and revenue.

Justin W. Jones, EA

Justin W. Jones, EA

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Justin is an IRS Enrolled Agent, allowing him to represent taxpayers before the IRS. He loves helping freelancers and small business owners save on taxes. He is also an attorney and works part-time with the Keeper Tax team.

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Note: at Keeper Tax, we're on a mission to help freelancers overcome the complexity of their taxes. That sometimes leads us to generalize tax advice. Please reach out via email if you have questions.

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