The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented challenges and hardships for many businesses and organizations around the world. Many employers faced decreased revenues, increased costs, and disruptions of operations as a result of lockdowns.
Employee Retention Credit is a refundable income tax credit available to eligible employers that helps them retain their employees while providing health benefits.
The ERC, which was originally enacted in 2020 by the CARES Act, was extended and modified later by subsequent legislation in both 2021 & 2023. This article will describe what the ERC does, how it operates, and explain how to claim it.
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? Does The Employee Retention Credit Reduce Payroll Tax Expense
Employee Retention Credit is a tax credit that can be refunded to businesses and tax-exempt organizations who had employees affected by COVID-19. The ERC has been created by the CARES Act for 2020. It was further extended and modified with subsequent legislation in 2021, 2023. The ERC was created to encourage employers in crisis to keep workers on their payrolls and provide them health insurance.
Main Features and Advantages
- The credit is equal to a percentage of qualified wages and health insurance costs paid to eligible employees, up to a certain limit per employee per quarter.
- The percentage and limit will vary depending on when the credit is claimed. For 2020 the percentage is set at 50%, while the maximum per employee is set at $5,000. For 2021, there is a 70% percentage and a limit of $7,000 per employee per quarter. In 2023, 70% of the employees will be eligible for the first two quarterly limits and 40% in the final two. The limit for each employee is $10,000. Does The Employee Retention Credit Reduce Payroll Tax Expense
- The credit will be fully refundable if its amount exceeds that of the employer’s payroll taxes.
- Employers can claim this credit if they experienced a significant decrease in gross receipts due to an order from the government relating to COVID-19. Employers who are considered to be recovery startup businesses may also claim this credit, but only for 2023.
- The credit can be claimed by filing an amended employment tax return (Form 941-X) or by reducing employment tax deposits in anticipation of the credit. Employers can request an advance payment by submitting Form 7200.
To qualify for the Employee Retention Credit (ERC), an employer must meet one of the following two main criteria:
- The employer’s company or organization has been suspended, either fully or partly, by an order of the government due to COVID-19 at a particular calendar quarter in 2020/2021
- Employer’s gross receipts in a calendar quarter of 2020 or 2021 was less than 50% or 80% of the gross receipts in the same 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 can be eligible for ERC regardless of their revenue decline or suspension.
An order of the government can suspend a business or an organization in full or part if it:
- The order restricts commerce, travel or group meetings because of COVID-19
- The order affects the operations of the business or organization
- The order applies to all calendar quarters in 2020 and 2021
These are some examples:
- Stay-at-home orders prohibiting the operation of non-essential businesses
- Businesses are restricted in their operating hours by curfews
- Capacity limitations that reduce the amount of customers or clientele that a firm can service
- Travel restrictions or travel bans that limit the ability of businesses to transport products or services
To determine whether an employer’s business was suspended fully or partially by a government directive, the employer must:
- The nature and extent of the order, and its impact on the operation of your business
- The order’s duration, frequency, and alignment with the calendar quarters
- The impact and magnitude of the order to the business’s revenues and costs
A business or organization is considered to have experienced a significant decline in gross receipts if:
- The gross revenue for any calendar-quarter in 2020 was less than 50 percent of the gross revenues for the same period in 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 amount that a business or organization has received or accrued from all sources, during its annual accounting period. Gross receipts include:
- Sales of goods and Services
- Rents, dividends, and annuities are examples of income streams that include interest, dividends.
- Gifts, donations, and contributions Does The Employee Retention Credit Reduce Payroll Tax Expense
- Membership dues
- Gross income from trades or businesses
To calculate and compare gross receipts for different quarters, an employer must use:
- Use the same method (cash or accrual accounting) as it used when filing its federal income taxes for 2019
- The same quarters in the calendar year as those used for the federal employment tax returns (Form 941) filed by 2019 and 2020/2021
- The same sources of income that it reported on its federal income tax return for 2019
Recovery Startup Business
Recovery startup businesses are those that:
- Begun carrying on any business after February 15th, 2020
- The average annual gross receipts for the three tax years ending in the year preceding the quarter for which credit is calculated cannot exceed $1 million
It does not matter if a business meets the criteria of revenue decline or business suspension, a recovery-startup business qualifies for the ERC. Recovery startups are not exempt from certain rules and restrictions.
- The maximum credit per quarter will be $50,000
- The credit will only be available to employees who have paid wages in the third quarter and fourth of 2021
- The credit has a cap of 250 million dollars for all startup businesses that are eligible.
Credit Amounts and Calculation
For different lengths of time, different types of employers and different amounts of ERC, the ERC has different rules. The ERC is affected primarily by:
- 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
- The amount of money paid by the employer to each employee as well as their health insurance during pandemic
Employers must complete and send IRS forms to claim ERC. The form must show the amount the employer paid for their employees’ health insurance, and how they qualified for the ERC. The IRS will examine the forms to determine if the employer is eligible and then pay him the money. The employer may use the money in order to pay their employees’ health insurance premiums, or get refunds for their payroll tax.
The ERC won’t be around forever. It began in March 2019 and will finish in September 2020. The employer has to claim the ERC before it expires or becomes unavailable. Employers must also use the money well and not waste it. Does The Employee Retention Credit Reduce Payroll Tax Expense
The following information provides more details on the ERC credit and how it is calculated.
The ERC has been introduced, modified, and terminated in different laws between 2020 and 2021. The credit amount depends on the period for which you claim it. The following table summarizes the key features and differences of the ERC for each time period:
|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 affects the calculation of qualified wages for employees and their health insurance costs. Employers are classified as small or large employers based on their number of full-time workers (FTEs), and the period in which they were employed. The table below summarizes the rules and thresholds for determining employer size in each time period.
|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, Health Insurance Costs
Qualified wage is the number of wages that are paid to employees who qualify during a time when a business has been suspended or revenue has decreased. Qualified wages can include severance payment, bonuses, severance tips, sick pay, family pay and other forms compensation. Qualified salaries also include the costs of providing health coverage to eligible workers, including premiums, copays, deductibles, and coinsurance.
The calculation and definition of health insurance and qualified wages are dependent on the size of the employer and the time period. The following table summarizes the rules and examples for different scenarios: Does The Employee Retention Credit Reduce Payroll Tax Expense
|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 and Report the Credit
For the Internal Revenue Service to grant the Employee Retention credit (ERC), employers must file either a federal tax return for employment (Form 941), or an amended tax return for employment (Form941-X). The employer has to report each quarter the wages and costs of health insurance paid to employees who are eligible and the credit claimed.
Form 941 allows employers to declare their quarterly federal taxes, including income taxes, Medicare and Social Security tax. Form 941 allows the employer also to claim ERCs in current or future quarters. Form 941 can be used by the employer to:
- ERC reduces the amount that employers must deposit with the IRS in order to pay taxes.
- Employers can request a payment in advance if their ERC is higher than the taxes they are required to pay. Does The Employee Retention Credit Reduce Payroll Tax Expense
- Carry forward any excess credits to future quarters
To avoid making common errors and fill out Form 941 correctly, employers should:
- Use the latest version 941 which reflects updates and changes in the ERC.
- For calculating and reporting your ERC, follow the IRS’s instructions and worksheets.
- Use Line 11c to report the qualified wages and health insurance costs paid to eligible employees
- Use Line 13d to declare the credit amount claimed for each quarter
- Use Line 13f to report any advance payments of the credit received from the IRS
- Use Line 24 to request a credit advance if necessary
- Line 25 is the place to enter any excess credit which can be carried to a subsequent quarter.
- Sign and date Form 941 and attach any supporting documents or schedules
The following are some resources and tips for filling in Form 941.
- Use electronic filing (e-file) or online services to submit Form 941 faster and more securely
- Check the IRS website for updates, FAQs, and guidance on Form 941 and the ERC
- If you need clarification or assistance, contact the IRS or an accountant.
Forms 941-X are used to rectify errors or make adjustments to Forms 941 previously submitted. Form 941 X also allows for the employer to claim ERC retroactively. The employer may use Form 941 to: Does The Employee Retention Credit Reduce Payroll Tax Expense
- Claim your refund or credit due to overpaid taxes by claiming the ERC
- Report additional qualified wages and health insurance costs paid to eligible employees that were not reported on Form 941
- Correct any mistakes or omissions made on Form 941 that affect the amount of credit claimed
The employer should:
- Use the latest Form 941-X which reflects all the updates and changes made to the ERC by new laws.
- The IRS has provided worksheets to help you calculate the ERC.
- Use Part 2 to indicate which lines of Form 941 are being corrected or adjusted
- Use Part 3 to explain why Form 941 is being corrected or adjusted
- Line 24 is used to report additional wages and health insurance premiums paid to eligible employees.
- Line 25 is the place to enter any additional credit claims for each quarter.
- Use Line 26 for any refunds or credits due to ERC claims.
- Sign and date Form 941, and attach any supporting documentation or schedules
Tips and resources on how to complete Form 941 X include:
- You must file a separate 941X form for each quarter you are correcting or adjusting. Does The Employee Retention Credit Reduce Payroll Tax Expense
- You should fill out Form 941/X as quickly as possible after you have made an adjustment or discovered an error.
- Check the IRS website for updates, FAQs, and guidance on Form 941-X and the ERC
- Need clarification? Contact an IRS agent or tax professional.
Deadline and Statute of Limitations
The deadline to submit Form 941 is usually the last day in the month following each quarter. For Q1 2021 (January-March), the Form 941 must be filed by April 30th, 2021. The employer can still file Form 941 if they have deposited their taxes on time. Following the end of the quarter. For example, Q1 2020 (January to March) requires that Form 941 be returned by May 10, 2021. Does The Employee Retention Credit Reduce Payroll Tax Expense
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 example, for Q1 2020 (January-March), Form 941 was due by April 30, 2020. If an employee filed Form 941 in April 2020 and paid their tax in April 2020, the deadline to file the 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.
Employee Retention (ERC) Credit is an important tax benefit which can help employers that were affected by COVID-19 to retain their employees, and lessen the impact the pandemic had on their organizations or businesses.
The ERC can be claimed by filing Form 941 or Form 941-X with the IRS and reporting the qualified wages and costs of health insurance paid to eligible workers. The ERC credit can be claimed with IRS Forms 941 or 941X by reporting to them the qualified health insurance and wages costs as well as the amount claimed each quarter.
If you are an employer who meets the eligibility criteria for the ERC, you should not miss this opportunity to take advantage of this tax benefit. The ERC will not be available indefinitely, and it has a set deadline and statute of limitations. To avoid making common mistakes, you should fill out the forms correctly using the information and tips in this article. You can contact the IRS for help or clarification, or you could consult a tax expert.
ERCs can be a huge help to your organization or business and its employees. It can help your business or organization retain workers, maintain cash flow and recover from a pandemic. This article aims to provide you with more information about the ERC. Stay safe and thank you for reading.
Does The Employee Retention Credit Reduce Payroll Tax Expense
What is ERC?
Employee Retention Credit: This is a credit that employers can claim if they retained employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was created by the CARES Act in March 2020 and was later amended and extended by the CAA (Consolidated Appropriations Act) in December 2020, and the ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act of 2021) in March 2021
Does everyone qualify for the ERC program?
ERC isn’t available to everyone. The ERC is only available to employers that have paid wages to employees between March 13, 2020, and December 31, 2021.
There are also criteria for eligibility; more details can be read above, but here are the highlights:
- The business or organization was suspended (fully or partially) by government order due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- 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.
- They are a recovery startup business that began operations after February 15, 2020, and has average annual gross receipts of no more than $1 million.
What is the ERC rate?
The amount ERC received by a business or organization will depend upon several factors.
Some of these include the time period and number of employees. Others are the amount paid in qualified wages or health insurance to eligible employees. For a detailed explanation of ERC, you can read the article mentioned above.
How to claim ERC?
To claim the ERC, an employer must file a federal employment tax reform or an adjusted employment tax return (Form 941-X) with the IRS.
Employers must submit quarterly reports detailing the amounts of the tax credit, the wages paid and the health insurance premiums that they have claimed to be reimbursed.
What is the deadline for submitting the ERC forms?
The deadlines for filing Forms 941 and 941-X are different.
The last day to submit Form 941 for each quarter is the last calendar month. In contrast, the deadline to submit Form 941 X is generally set at three years since the date of the original 941. It can also be from two years from the date that the tax was paid, with the later date being the more preferred one.