Freelancers and self-employed business owners experiencing financial hardship due to Coronavirus (COVID-19) have the option to apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) — a low-interest federal disaster loan that's directly administered by the Small Business Administration (SBA). Learn whether you qualify for this loan and how receiving one may affect your taxes.

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Who qualifies for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan?

Small business owners, private nonprofits, and agricultural businesses with fewer than 500 employees in all U.S. states and territories that meet certain criteria may qualify for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL).

The purpose of these loans is to help businesses meet their financial obligations that wouldn't have needed assistance if the disaster hadn't occurred.

To be considered, you must generally fall into one of these categories:

  • You operate a business under a sole proprietorship or as an independent contractor (even without any employees other than you)
  • You run a cooperative, Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) or tribal small business with less than 500 employees
  • You operate a business, agricultural cooperative, aquaculture enterprise, nursery or producer cooperative with more than 500 employees that is still considered small for your industry under the SBA size standards
  • You run a private nonprofit and nongovernmental organization that has either been granted a 501(c), (d) or (e) from the IRS or has evidence from your state that you are a non-revenue producing organization that is either faith-based or doing business under State law

You should also know that if your business falls into any of the following categories, you can't qualify for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan:

  • You or your business is engaged in any federally illegal activity, such as selling cannabis
  • You or a principal applicant with at least 50% ownership interest in your business is more than 60 days delinquent on child support obligations
  • You or your business is profiting from activities that are of a "prurient sexual nature," such as exotic dancing or sex toys
  • More than one-third of your gross annual revenue comes from legal gambling
  • You are in the lobbying business
  • Your company is a state, local or municipal government entity and/or you are a member of Congress

How can the loan money be used?

Money loaned through an Economic Injury Disaster Loan can be used for the vast majority of normal operating expenses. In addition to payroll, Economic Injury Disaster Loan money can be used to pay for

  • health coverage,
  • benefits,
  • rent,
  • utilities, and
  • any business debts that would have been paid had the pandemic not occurred.

Is there anything the loan money can't be used for?

Loan funds cannot be used for certain items, including:

  • Payment of dividends or bonuses
  • Disbursements to owners unless for services
  • Repayment of certain stockholder/principal loans
  • Payment for lost sales or profits or business expansion
  • Loan payments on other federal debts
  • IRS tax penalties
  • Refinancing long-term debt

Have there been any changes to what type of businesses are allowed to apply?

The Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program was around prior to the pandemic, but the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act that went into law on March 27 expanded the program for business owners affected by COVID-19. For instance, traditional EIDLs weren't granted to U.S. agricultural businesses, but Congress has allowed those businesses to participate in the program now.

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What are the loan terms and is there a possibility for loan forgiveness?

With terms up to 30 years, the interest rates for Economic Injury Disaster Loans are currently:

  • 3.75% for businesses
  • 2.75% for nonprofits

There are no prepayment penalties or fees for these loans, but they aren't forgivable. In other words, you must pay back the loan. Repayment doesn't start until one year after the loan money is disbursed, although interest begins accruing immediately.

Note: As part of the CARES Act, the government was previously authorizing advances in the form of grants of up to $10,000. Those advances didn't have to be paid back, but they're no longer available (keep an eye out in case they make a comeback).

How much money can I get from an Economic Injury Disaster Loan?

Loan amounts vary between applicants and are based on how much your business has lost as a result of the emergency. While loans could be up to $2 million, they have reportedly been recently capped at $150,000 per applicant.

How do you apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan?

The online application is straightforward and requires basic information about your:

  • Business
  • Gross revenue
  • Cost of goods sold during the prior year

You should gather all relevant tax information and financial statements prior to filling out the application. The IRS won't provide the SBA with any missing information, so you should enter as much as you can as missing information delays the application process.

Should I wait to apply?

No need to wait -- the applications are processed as they come in, and once the money allotted for this program is gone, then you may be out of luck. It doesn't cost anything to apply, and you aren't obligated to accept the loan if you're approved, so there really is no harm in applying.

What are the tax implications for small businesses and freelancers taking an Economic Injury Disaster Loan?

The good news is that this loan won't have a negative impact on your taxes since loans aren't taxable income. The interest that you pay is typically a tax deduction for your business.

The bottom line: An Economic Injury Disaster Loan may be just the help your business needs right now. With low-interest rates and no tax penalties for receiving the loan, you won't be putting your business at risk should you decide to accept an Economic Injury Disaster Loan.

TurboTax is here to help you navigate the different COVID-19 relief programs that you might be eligible for. Get up to date information, tax advice and tools to help you understand what coronavirus relief means to you empowering you to get more money in your pocket in this time of need at our Self-Employed and Small Business Coronavirus Relief Center.