COVID-19 has caused hardships and unprecedented challenges for businesses and organizations all over the world. Many employers have experienced reduced revenues, higher expenses, and disruptions to their operations because of lockdowns, distancing from social media, and health-and-safety measures.
To help employers keep their employees, and to provide them with health insurance during these difficult times, the U.S. federal government has created the Employee Retention credit (ERC), an refundable tax credits that can offset some of payroll costs for employers who qualify.
The ERC first became law in 2020 with the CARES Act. It was then extended and modified in subsequent legislations in 2021 and 2023. This article will explain what the ERC is, how it works, and how to claim it for different time periods and eligibility criteria.
For a brief reading of what the Employee Retention Credit or ERC is, take a look at this video from the YouTube channel “ERC Specialists”. You can also continue below to read an in-depth explanation of ERC.
What is the Employee Retention Credit? Accelerate America Employee Retention Credit
The Employee Retention Credit (ERC) is a refundable tax credit for businesses and tax-exempt organizations that had employees and were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The ERC is a refundable tax credit that was created by 2020’s CARES Act and has been extended and changed by subsequent legislations of 2021 and 2023. The ERC aims to encourage employers to keep their workers on the payroll and provide them with health benefits during the crisis.
Main Features and Benefits
- Credit is a fixed percentage of qualifying wages and health care costs paid by employers to employees.
- The percentage and the limit vary depending on the time period for which the credit is claimed. In 2020, 50% of the employees will be eligible for the credit, with a maximum limit of $5,000 per employee. For 2021, there is a 70% percentage and a limit of $7,000 per employee per quarter. For 2023, there will be a 70 percent percentage for the initial two quarters of the year and a 40 percent percentage for the last two. There will also be a limit of $10,000 per employee each quarter. Accelerate America Employee Retention Credit
- The credit amount is fully refundable, meaning if the credit exceeds your employer’s tax liability on payroll, you will receive the excess as a reimbursement.
- Employers may claim the credit if their gross receipts have declined significantly or they have had to suspend operations in whole or part due to a COVID-19-related government order. The credit can be claimed by employers who have been classified as recovery startups only until 2023.
- Credits may be obtained by filing a revised employment tax form (Form 941X) or reducing employment deposit amounts in anticipation. Employers can also request an advance payment of the credit by filing Form 7200.
To qualify as an employer for the Employee retention Credit (ERC), you must meet at least one of the two criteria below:
- The employer’s business or organization was fully or partially suspended by a government order due to COVID-19 during a calendar quarter in 2020 or 2021
- The gross receipts of the employer for a calendar-quarter in 2020 or 2020 were less than 50 percent (for 2020), or 80 percent (for 2021), of their gross receipts during the same calendar quarter in 2019.
The recovery startup rule also applies to businesses that began operating after February 14, 2020 and had average annual gross receipts not exceeding $1 million. These businesses may qualify for ERC regardless of revenue or business suspension.
A business or organization is considered fully or partially suspended by a government order if:
- The order prohibits travel, group meetings, and commerce due to COVID-19
- The order will affect the operation of the business or the organization
- The order will apply to any calendar month in 2020 or even 2021
Examples of government orders which can lead to a suspension of business include:
- Stay-at-home orders that restrict non-essential businesses from operating
- Certain businesses are subject to curfews which limit their hours of operation
- Limits in capacity that restrict the number or clients that a business can serve
- Travel restrictions or bans that impact the ability of an organization to transport goods and services
Employers must take into account the following to determine whether a business has been suspended in full or in part by an order of government:
- The order’s nature, scope, and impact on the business
- The order’s duration, frequency, and alignment with the calendar quarters
- The extent and severity of the impact of the order on the revenues and expenses of the business
A significant decline in gross revenues is experienced by a business or organization if:
- The gross receipts in any calendar quarter of 2020 will be less than 50% the gross receipts in the same quarter of 2019.
- The gross receipts from any calendar quarter during 2021 are less than 80% compared to the same quarter’s gross receipts from 2019.
Gross receipts are the total sums that an organization or a business has accrued or received from all its sources in a given accounting year, without any deductions. Gross receipts include the following:
- Sales of Goods & Services
- Dividends (rents), royalties and interest
- Contributions, gifts and grants Accelerate America Employee Retention Credit
- Dues and fees for membership
- Gross business income
To calculate and compare gross revenue for different quarters using the following:
- The same method for accounting (cash-based or accrual-based) that was used to file the federal income Tax return for 2019
- The same calendar year quarters that it used to file its federal employment tax returns (Form 941) for 2019 and 2020/2021
- The same sources of income that it reported on its federal income tax return for 2019
Recovery Startup Business
A startup that is in recovery can be defined as
- Begun carrying on any business after February 15th, 2020
- Has average annual gross receipts of no more than $1 million for the three-tax-year period ending with the tax year that precedes the calendar quarter for which the credit is determined
A recovery startup business can qualify for the ERC regardless of whether it meets the criteria of business suspension or revenue decline. Recovery startup businesses are subject to certain restrictions and special rules.
- The maximum credit amount per quarter is $50,000
- Only wages paid during the third and fourth quarters in 2021 are eligible for this credit
- The credit is subject to an overall cap of $250 million for all recovery startup businesses
Credit Amount and Calculation
The ERC has different rules and amounts for different periods of time and different types of employers. The main factors that affect the ERC are:
- How much of the employer’s income was affected in 2019 by the pandemic.
- The number of employees that the employer has in 2019 or 2020/2021 and whether or not they worked during the pandemic
- How much did the employer pay each employee in health insurance?
The employer has to fill out some forms and send them to the IRS to claim the ERC. The forms must include the total amount paid by the employer to employees, their health insurance coverage and the reasons why they are eligible for the ERC. The IRS will check the forms and give the money to the employer. The employer could use this money to pay health insurance for employees or to get refunds and credits for payroll taxes.
The ERC will not be available indefinitely. The ERC started in March 2020 and ends in September 2022. The employer must claim the ERC prior to its expiration or becoming unavailable. The employer must also spend the money properly and not waste any of it. Accelerate America Employee Retention Credit
Below you will find detailed information on ERC, including the amount of credit and the calculation.
Different laws introduced, amended and terminated the ERC in 2020, 2021 and 2022. The amount of the credit varies according to the time period that it is applied for. The table below summarises key features and differences for the ERC in each time frame:
|Time Period||Law||Eligible Employers||Credit Rate||Qualified Wages|
|2020||CARES Act||Employers with business suspension or revenue decline of more than 50%||50% of qualified wages up to $10,000 per employee per year||Wages paid from March 13 to December 31, 2020|
|Q1-Q3 2021||CAA and ARPA||Employers with business suspension or revenue decline of more than 20%||70% of qualified wages up to $10,000 per employee per quarter||Wages paid from January 1 to September 30, 2021|
|Q3-Q4 2021 (Recovery Startup Business)||ARPA||Recovery startup businesses with average annual gross receipts of no more than $1 million,||70% of qualified wages up to $10,000 per employee per quarter (subject to a $50,000 cap per quarter),||Wages paid from July 1 to December 31, 2021,|
|Q4 2021 – Q3 2022 (Severely Financially Distressed Employer)||ARPA and IIJA||Employers with a revenue decline of more than 90%||70% of qualified wages up to $10,000 per employee per quarter||Wages paid from October 1, 2021, to September 30, 2022|
Number of Employees
The number of eligible employees will affect the calculation and definition of health insurance and qualified wages. According to the time frame and number of full-time equivalents (FTEs), an employer can be classified as a small employer or large employer. The following table summarizes rules and thresholds to determine employer size.
|Time Period||Small Employer Threshold||Large Employer Threshold|
|2020||Less than or equal to 100 FTEs in 2019||More than 100 FTEs in 2019|
|Q1-Q2 2021||Less than or equal to 500 FTEs in 2019||More than 500 FTEs in 2019|
|Q3-Q4 2021||Less than or equal to 500 FTEs in any calendar quarter in either calendar year beginning after December 31, 2019, and ending before July 1, 2021. If an employer did not have in either calendar year beginning after December 31, 2019, and ending before July 1, 2021, the employer is treated as a small eligible employer if it had less than or equal to 500 FTEs in any calendar quarter beginning after June 30, 2021. For recovery startup businesses, the employer size is irrelevant. For severely financially distressed employers, the employer size is irrelevant if the employer had a revenue decline of more than 90%. Otherwise, the same rules as Q1-Q2 2021 apply.||More than 500 FTEs in any calendar quarter in either calendar year beginning after December 31, 2019, and ending before July 1, 2021. If an employer did not exist in either calendar year beginning after December 31, 2019, and ending before July 1, 2021, the employer is treated as a large eligible employer if it had more than 500 FTEs in any calendar quarter beginning after June 30, 2021.|
To count FTEs for a given year or quarter, an employer must use the following steps:
- Count the number of employees who worked at least 30 hours per week (or at least 130 hours per month) for each month in the year or quarter
- Add up the total hours worked by all other employees (who are not counted as FTEs) for each month in the year or quarter
- Divide the total hours by120and round down to the nearest whole number
- Add the number of FTEs from Step One and Step Three for each month in the year or quarter
- Calculate the average number of FTEs by adding up the monthly totals and dividing by 12 (for a year) or 3 (for a quarter)
Qualified Wages and Health Insurance Costs
Qualified wages include wages paid to eligible workers during a business suspension or revenue decrease. The list of qualified wages includes tips, bonuses, commissions, and severance payments, as well as sick leave, family leave, severance, and other compensation. Qualified wages also include the cost of providing health insurance to eligible employees, such as premiums, deductibles, co-pays, and co-insurance.
The employer size, the time period and the calculation of the qualified wage and health insurance cost will affect the calculation. The following table provides a summary of the rules for different scenarios. Accelerate America Employee Retention Credit
|Employer Size||Time Period||Qualified Wages and Health Insurance Costs||Example|
|Small||2020||All wages and health insurance costs paid to any employee, regardless of whether the employee worked or not||An employer with 80 FTEs in 2019 paid $8,000 in wages and $2,000 in health insurance costs to an employee in 2020. The employer had a revenue decline of more than 50% in Q2 2020. The qualified wages and health insurance costs for Q2 2020 are $10,000.|
|Small||Q1-Q3 2021||All wages and health insurance costs paid to any employee, regardless of whether the employee worked or not||An employer with 400 FTEs in 2019 paid $12,000 in wages and $3,000 in health insurance costs to an employee in Q1 2021. The employer had a revenue decline of more than 20% in Q1 2021. The qualified wages and health insurance costs for Q1 2021 are $15,000.|
|Small||Q3-Q4 2021 (Recovery Startup Business)||All wages and health insurance costs paid to any employee, regardless of whether the employee worked or not (subject to a $50,000 cap per quarter)||A recovery startup business that began operations in March 2020 paid $9,000 in wages and $1,000 in health insurance costs to an employee in Q3 2021. The business had average annual gross receipts of $800,000. The qualified wages and health insurance costs for Q3 2021 are $10,000.|
|Small||Q4 2021 – Q3 2022 (Severely Financially Distressed Employer)||All wages and health insurance costs paid to any employee, regardless of whether the employee worked or not||An employer with 600 FTEs in Q2 2019 paid $11,000 in wages and $4,000 in health insurance costs to an employee in Q4 2021. The employer had a revenue decline of more than 90% in Q4 2021. The qualified wages and health insurance costs for Q4 2021 are $15,000.|
|Large||2020||Wages and health insurance costs paid to an employee for the time that the employee did not work (up to the amount that the employee would have been paid for working an equivalent duration during the 30 days immediately preceding the period of economic hardship)||An employer with 120 FTEs in 2019 paid $10,000 in wages and $2,000 in health insurance costs to an employee who worked full-time (40 hours per week) in 2020. The employer had a business suspension due to a government order in April 2020. The employee did not work for two weeks in April 2020. The qualified wages and health insurance costs for April 2020 are $2,308 ($10,000 x2/52+$2,000 x2/52).|
|Large||Q1-Q3 2021||Wages and health insurance costs paid to an employee for the time that the employee did not work (up to the amount that the employee would have been paid for working an equivalent duration during the 90 days immediately preceding the period of economic hardship)||An employer with 550 FTEs in 2019 paid $15,000 in wages and $5,000 in health insurance costs to an employee who worked full-time (40 hours per week) in Q1 2021. The employer had a revenue decline of more than 20% in Q1 2021. The employee did not work for three weeks in Q1 2021. The qualified wages and health insurance costs for Q1 2021 are $5,769 ($15,000 x3/13+$5,000 x3/13).|
|Large||Q3-Q4 2021 (Severely Financially Distressed Employer)||All wages and health insurance costs paid to any employee, regardless of whether the employee worked or not (only if the employer had a revenue decline of more than 90%. Otherwise, the same rules as Q1-Q32021 apply.)||An employer with 700 FTEs in Q4 2019 paid $12,000 in wages and $6,000 in health insurance costs to an employee who worked full-time (40 hours per week) in Q4 2021. The employer had a revenue decline of more than 90% in Q4 2021. The qualified wages and health insurance costs|
Claim the Credit and Report It
To claim the Employees Retention Credit, an employer must file with the Internal Revenue Service a federal Employment Tax Return (Form941) or a adjusted Employment Tax return (Form941X). The employer must report the qualified wages and health insurance costs paid to eligible employees and the amount of credit claimed for each quarter.
Form 941 is used to report the employer’s quarterly federal tax liability, including income tax, social security tax, and Medicare tax. Form 941 allows the employer also to claim ERCs in current or future quarters. The employer can use the Form 941 for:
- Reduce the amount of taxes that the employer has to deposit with the IRS by the amount of the ERC
- You can ask for advance payment if your ERC exceeds the amount of taxes you have to pay. Accelerate America Employee Retention Credit
- Carry over any excess credit into the following quarter
To fill out Form 941 correctly and avoid common errors, the employer should:
- Use the latest version of Form 941 that reflects the changes and updates made by the laws that affect the ERC
- Follow the instructions and worksheets provided by the IRS for calculating and reporting the ERC
- Use line 11c to report qualified wages paid and health insurance premiums paid to eligible employees
- Use Line 13d when reporting the credit for each quarter.
- Use Line 13f to declare any advance payments received from the IRS.
- Use Line 24 to request an advance payment of the credit if needed
- Line 25 is the place to enter any excess credit which can be carried to a subsequent quarter.
- Sign the form 941, and attach any supporting documents.
Some tips and resources for filling out Form 941 are:
- Form 941 can be submitted faster and more securely by using electronic filing (efile) or online services
- Visit the IRS website to get the latest updates, FAQs, and guidance regarding Form 941 and ERC.
- Need clarification? Contact an IRS agent or tax professional.
The Form 941 X is used for corrections and adjustments to a Form 941. Form 941-X allows employers to claim ERC retroactively. Employers can use Form 941/X for Accelerate America Employee Retention Credit
- Claim a refund or credit for overpaid taxes due to claiming the ERC
- Report any additional wages or health insurance costs that are paid to employees who are eligible but not reported on Form 951.
- Correction of errors or omissions on Form 941 which affect credit amount claimed
The employer should:
- Use the latest version of Form 941-X that reflects the changes and updates made by the laws that affect the ERC
- For calculating and reporting your ERC, follow the IRS’s instructions and worksheets.
- Use the Part 2 to indicate on which lines you are correcting or adjusting Form 941
- Use Part 3 for explaining why form 941 has been corrected or adjusted
- Line 24 is used to report additional wages and health insurance premiums paid to eligible employees.
- Use Line 25 for any additional credit claimed each quarter.
- Use Line 26 to report any refund or credit requested due to claiming the ERC
- Attach any supporting documents and schedules to Form 941-X.
The following are some resources and tips for filling in Form 941X.
- Fill out a separate form 941-X per quarter being corrected or recalculated Accelerate America Employee Retention Credit
- File Form 941-X as soon as possible after discovering an error or making an 0adjustment on Form 941
- Updates, FAQs, and guidance about Form 941X and ERC can be found on the IRS website.
- If you need clarification or assistance, contact the IRS or an accountant.
Deadline and Statute of Limitations
The deadline for submitting Form 941 generally falls on the last calendar day of the following month. For example for Q1 (2021) (January – March), Form 941 should be submitted by April 30, 2019. If an employer has made all the required deposits for the quarter in a timely manner, they can file Forms 941 on the 10th of the second month. After the end of the quarterly period. For example, Q1 2020 (January to March) requires that Form 941 be returned by May 10, 2021. Accelerate America Employee Retention Credit
The deadline for filing Form 941-X is generally three years from the date that the original Form 941 was filed or two years from the date that the tax was paid, whichever is later. For Q1 of 2020 (January through March), the deadline for Form 941 to be filed was April 30, 2020. If an employer filed Form 941 on April 30, 2020, and paid the tax on April 30, 2020, the deadline for filing Form 941-X is April 30, 2023. If an employee filed Form 941 April 30, 2020 and paid tax June 15, 2020 the deadline for submitting Form 941 X is June 15, 222.
The Employee Retention Credit (ERC) is a valuable tax benefit that can help employers who were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic keep their employees on the payroll and reduce the impact of the pandemic on their businesses or organizations.
The ERC is a refundable tax credit that varies depending on the time period, the number of employees, and the amount of qualified wages and health insurance costs paid to eligible employees. The ERC may be claimed through IRS Forms 941 and 941X, which require the employer to report the qualified wages paid and the health insurance expenses incurred by each employee.
Don’t miss this chance to get a tax break if your employer meets the ERC criteria. The ERC has a time limit and deadline for claiming. Use the resources and tips provided in this article to ensure that you fill out your forms correctly and avoid common mistakes. For clarifications or help, you can always contact an IRS agent or tax professional.
ERCs are a powerful tool that can help your company or organization, as well as your employees. It will help you to keep your employees, maintain a healthy cash flow, as well as recover from pandemic. This article aims to provide you with more information about the ERC. Stay safe and thank you for reading.
Accelerate America Employee Retention Credit
What is ERC and what does it do?
Employee Retention Credit is an employer tax credit available to employers who kept their employees on payroll during COVID-19.
It was created in March of 2020 by the CARES Act and later extended and amended by the CAA Act of December 2020 (Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021).
Are all ERC applicants eligible?
Not everyone is eligible for the ERC. Only employers who paid wages and retained employees between March 13, 2019, and December 31, 2020, are eligible.
There are also criteria for eligibility; more details can be read above, but here are the highlights:
- A government-issued order temporarily or permanently suspended the organization or business due to COVID-19.
- Their gross receipts for a calendar quarter in 2020 or 2021 were less than a percentage of their gross receipts for the same quarter in 2019.
- You are a new business in recovery that has started operating after February 15th, 2020. Your average annual gross sales is no more than $1,000,000.
How much is ERC?
The amount that an organization or company receives in ERC will depend on many factors.
One of the factors is the length of time the company has been in business, the number and type of employees it has, the amount that qualifies as wages, or the health insurance premiums paid to employees who are eligible. To learn more about how ERCs are calculated, please read the article.
How to claim ERC?
To claim ERC benefits, an employer needs to file Form 941X or federal employment tax reform with the IRS.
Employers must declare the wages and costs of health insurance paid to employees who qualify and the credit claimed each quarter.
When is the deadline to submit the ERC form?
The deadlines for filing ERC forms for Forms 941 and form 941 X are different.
The last day for Form 941 in most cases is the last month following the end each quarter. In contrast, the deadline to submit Form 941 X is generally set at three years since the date of the original 941. It can be as late as two years after you paid the tax, but the later date is the preferred date.