Business Report: COVID-19 vaccine developments, restoring SALT deduction, PPP loans and taxes

Johnson & Johnson expects to seek emergency use authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine early next month

There’s a setback in the efforts to increase the COVID-19 vaccine supply as Kenilworth-based Merck says it will discontinue development of its two COVID-19 vaccine candidates after a review of early clinical studies found they produced insufficient immune responses. Merck was late to the game in the effort to develop coronavirus vaccines and instead has been focusing on coronavirus treatments. Another big New Jersey pharmaceutical company, Johnson & Johnson, is expecting to seek emergency use authorization for its coronavirus vaccine early next month.

The push is on to restore full state and local tax deduction for New Jersey residents. Gov. Phil Murphy says he, along with the governors of New York and Connecticut, sent a letter to congressional leadership saying the SALT cap should be removed. Murphy says the cap unfairly hurts taxpayers, and that it served no practical purpose, only a political one. The SALT cap was put in place when the federal tax code was changed during the Trump administration and it impacted taxpayers in states with high property taxes.

The Biden administration has been talking with members of Congress, trying to win support for its $1.9 trillion economic stimulus plan. Some members are worried about the price tag. A new analysis from Moody’s Analytics finds the plan would create about 7.5 million jobs, according to chief economist Mark Zandi.

It’s a busy week for New Jersey lawmakers, and one bill that businesses are keeping their eye on has to do with PPP loans. State Sen. Troy Singleton introduced legislation that would ensure small businesses aren’t hit with a big tax bill if their PPP loans are forgiven. His bill would ensure that monies received from PPP loans would not be subject to state income tax and would allow for the deduction of business expenses paid for by the loan program.