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Tennessee Announces Small Business Relief Program

Updated: Sep 4, 2020

If you are located in Tennessee and you were forced to close your business due to COVID-19 you may be eligible for the Small Business Relief Program.

On June 2, 2020, Governor Bill Lee announced the use of federal Coronavirus Relief Funds to assist Tennessee small businesses impacted by COVID-19.  The Tennessee Department of Revenue will be issuing business relief payments through the Tennessee Business Relief Program to small businesses for costs incurred as a result of mandatory business closures.

The department will determine a business’ eligibility for the Tennessee Business Relief Program based on information available in its tax system. Eligibility notifications will be sent to businesses beginning the last week of June via TNTAP. Once notified, businesses will be prompted to complete an online pre-award certification form in order to verify their eligibility criteria and agree to the program’s payment guidelines. Businesses owners who do not have online access will be asked to complete a paper certification form.

Once the certification form has been completed and a business’ eligibility is confirmed, the department will issue a business relief payment. Payments for eligible businesses will be issued beginning the first week of July. 

The Department estimates that more than 28,000 small businesses in Tennessee will qualify. The Department expects to distribute approximately $200,000,000 in funds. Unlike some of the federal relief programs, these funds are not required to be repaid and are not a loan. It is unclear, but I would make the assumption they will be taxable income on your federal tax return so prepare accordingly.

So who is eligible for the Tennessee Small Business Relief Program?

The following types of small businesses are eligible:

  • Barber shops

  • Museums

  • Zoos

  • Beauty shops

  • Amusement parks

  • Nail salons

  • Bowling centers

  • Arcades

  • Tattoo parlors

  • Spas and other close contact personal care services 

  • Marinas

  • Gyms and fitness centers

  • Amusement, sports and recreational industries

  • Restaurants

  • Promoters of performing arts, sports, and similar events

  • Bars

  • Agents and managers of artists, athletes, and entertainers

  • Hotels and other travel accommodations

  • Independent artists, writers, and performers

  • Theaters, auditoriums, performing arts centers and similar facilities

In addition, the following small businesses are eligible if their sales were reduced by at least 25%, as shown on their April sales tax returns (filed in May):

  • Furniture stores

  • Book stores Home furnishing stores

  • Department stores

  • Clothing stores

  • Office supply, stationery and gift stores 

  • Shoe stores

  • Used merchandise stores 

  • Jewelry, luggage, and leather goods stores

  • Other miscellaneous stores

  • Sporting goods, hobby, and musical instrument stores

All eligible businesses must have gross sales of $10 million or less.

Businesses that are not registered with the Department to file either sales tax or business tax returns are not eligible for a business relief payment. If you need to register with the Tennessee Department of Revenue you can do that here.

Late August the Tennessee Department of Revenue expanded the relief program to include the following industries:

  • Caterers, mobile food services, and food service contractors

  • Wedding and event planners

  • Convention and trade show organizers

  • Wedding and banquet hall and similar property rental

  • Linen supply services

  • Photography studios

  • Travel agencies and travel arrangement Services

  • Car, truck, trailer, and RV rental

  • Sightseeing and tour operators

  • Taxi, limousine, bus, and other transportation services

  • Recreational vehicle and vacation camps

  • Sports and recreation instruction

  • Fine arts instruction, exam prep, driving schools, and other similar instruction

  • Motion picture and video production and distribution services

  • Music production, distribution, and publishing services

  • Sound recording studios

In addition, the following small businesses are now eligible if their sales were reduced by at least 25%, as shown on their April sales tax returns (filed in May):

  • Florists

  • Dry cleaners

  • Party and banquet equipment and other supply rental

  • Formal wear and costume rental

  • Consumer electronics and appliances rental

  • Home centers, hardware stores, and paint stores

  • Household appliance and electronics stores

  • Nurseries, garden centers, and outdoor power equipment stores

  • Pharmacies and drug stores

  • Optical goods stores

  • Cosmetics, beauty supply, and perfume stores

  • Supermarkets and other grocery stores

  • Baked goods and other specialty food stores

  • General rental centers and other consumer goods rental

  • Gasoline stations and convenience stores

  • Warehouse clubs and general merchandise stores

  • Beer, wine, and liquor stores

  • Food supplement stores

  • Vending machine operators

  • New and used car dealers

  • Recreational vehicle, boat, and other vehicle dealers

  • Automotive parts and accessories stores

  • Automotive repair services

  • Tire dealers

  • Online stores (selling from a Tennessee location)

  • Other direct selling establishments

If you previously submitted a certification form and received notification that your business was ineligible, there is no need to resubmit your information. If the department is able to confirm your eligibility under the expanded Tennessee Business Relief Program, you will automatically receive a relief payment as well as notice of this determination. It is important that you certify before the deadline of September 25th to secure the funds from this program.

The amount of the business relief payment will be based on the annual gross sales of the business.

Annual Gross Sales Payment Amount

$1 - $100,000 $2,500

$100,001 - $500,000 $5,000

$500,001 - $1,000,000 $10,000

$1,000,001 - $5,000,000 $20,000

$5,000,001 - $10,000,000 $30,000

Businesses that have been open for less than 12 months will be included in the Tennessee Business Relief Program.  The department is currently finalizing a method of measuring annual gross sales and any reduction in sales by these businesses. If you have multiple locations, the department will calculate gross sales for the business as a whole,  rather than by individual location. A single payment will be issued to a qualified business, even if its return includes multiple locations. 

Payments will be made by direct deposit if the business has previously provided bank account information and authorized the Department to save that information. Otherwise, payments will be made by check. 

Payments for eligible businesses will be issued beginning the first week of July.

If you have questions about this program you can call the Tennessee Department of Revenue Taxpayer Services Division, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Central time, at (615) 253-0600, or email them at


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