Companies that took advantage of federal pandemic-relief efforts like payroll tax deferrals will face bigger bills next year, possibly complicating an already-challenging climb out of the Covid crisis.

In recent 10-Q filings and investor calls, companies have started to outline some of the hundreds of millions of dollars worth of immediate cash benefits reaped from the tax holiday, even as they warn about the headwinds it may create when the bills eventually come due. In other words, the quick-fix measures hold some potential risks.

"While this may be good for a short-term cash flow, it may backfire," said Cameron Hess, a tax attorney with Wagner Kirkman Blaine Klomparens & Youmans LLP in Sacramento, California. Instead of making prudent cost cuts, employers "are now under an even more serious financial crisis, with obligations owing to the U.S. Treasury."

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