Many businesses and organizations have faced unprecedented hardships and challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 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 was first enacted by the CARES Act in 2020 and was later extended and modified by subsequent legislation in 2021 and 2023. The ERC will be explained in this article, along with how it works and the different eligibility criteria and time periods for which it can be claimed.
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? Eligibility For 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, created in 2020 by the CARES Act, was then extended and modified through subsequent legislation in both 2021-2023. The ERC is designed to encourage employers to retain their employees and offer them health benefits in times of crisis.
Main Features and Advantages
- Credit is a fixed percentage of qualifying wages and health care costs paid by employers to employees.
- The credit amount and percentage vary according to the time period in which it is claimed. For 2020, the percentage is 50%, and the limit is $5,000 per employee for the entire year. For 2021, it is 70%. The limit is $7,000 per quarter per employee. For 2023, there is a 70% percentage for the first 2 quarters followed by 40% for the second two quarters. There is a $10,000 limit per employee. Eligibility For Employee Retention Credit
- The credit is fully refundable. If the amount of credit exceeds an employer’s liability for payroll tax, the excess will then be paid back to the employer.
- The credit is available to employers who suffered a significant reduction in gross revenues or a partial or full suspension of operations because of an eligible government order relating COVID-19. Alternatively, for 2023 only, employers who are considered recovery startup businesses can also claim the credit.
- Credits can be claimed either by amending your employment tax return (Form 941)-X or by reducing your employment tax deposit in anticipation of receiving the credit. Employers can also request an advance payment of the credit by filing Form 7200.
To qualify for the Employee Retention Credit (ERC), an employer must meet one of the following two main criteria:
- A government order has suspended or halted the business or organization of an employer due to COVID-19 in a calendar year 2020 or 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.
Additionally, there is an additional rule that only applies to startups who began operating on or after February 15, 2021, and have gross receipts totaling no more than $1.0 million. These businesses are eligible for the ERC, regardless of whether their business has been suspended or if revenue has declined.
A government order will either fully or partially suspend an organization or business if:
- The order limits commerce, travel, or group meetings due to COVID-19
- The order has an impact on the business or organization
- The order applies to any calendar quarter in 2020 or 2021
Some examples of orders from the government that could cause a business to be suspended are:
- Stay-at-home orders that restrict non-essential businesses from operating
- Curfews are restrictions on the hours that certain businesses can operate
- Limits to the number of clients or customers that a company 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 scope and nature of the order as well as how it impacts the business.
- The duration and frequency of the order and how it coincides with the calendar quarters
- The impact of an order on revenue and expenses
It is considered that a business or organization has experienced a significant drop in gross receipts when:
- The gross receipts of any calendar quarter in 2020 are less than half the gross receipts of the same quarter in 2019.
- The gross receipts for any calendar quarter in 2021 were less than 80% of its gross receipts for the same quarter in 2019
Gross receipts refer to the total of all money received or accrued during a company’s annual accounting period. Gross receipts can include:
- Sales of goods and services
- Dividends (rents), royalties and interest
- Contributions are gifts, donations and grants Eligibility For Employee Retention Credit
- Dues and fees for membership
- Gross profits from trades and businesses
Employers must use the following formulas to calculate gross receipts and compare them between quarters.
- Use the same method (cash or accrual accounting) as it used when filing its federal income taxes for 2019
- Use the same calendar quarters as it did for its federal employment tax return (Form 941 ) for 2019 and 2021/2022
- The same sources as reported in the federal tax return for 2019
Recovery Startup Business
Recovery startup businesses are those that:
- After February 15, 2020, you can start any business or trade.
- Average annual gross receipts not exceeding $1 million during the three-year period ending on the tax year immediately preceding the calendar quarterly for which the credit will be determined
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 startup businesses are subject to certain restrictions and special rules.
- The maximum amount of credit per quarter is $50,000
- The credit can only be used for wages paid between the third and the fourth quarters of 2020
- The maximum credit available for startup businesses is $250 million.
Credit Amounts and Calculation
ERC amounts and rules vary for different time periods and employers. The ERC is affected primarily by:
- How much business income dropped compared to 2019.
- How many employees an employer had in 2019, 2020/2021 or whether they worked, or did not work during the pandemic
- How much the employer paid to each employee and their health insurance during the pandemic
In order to receive the ERC from the IRS, the employer will need to complete some forms. The employer must provide proof of how much they paid their employees for health insurance as well as the ERC. The IRS will examine the forms to determine if the employer is eligible and then pay him the money. The money can be used by the employer to pay for health insurance, to pay employees, or refunds on payroll taxes.
The ERC will no longer be available. The ERC began in March 2020, and it will end in September 2022. The employer is required to claim ERCs before they expire, or are no longer available. Employers must also use the money well and not waste it. Eligibility For Employee Retention Credit
The following information provides more details on the ERC credit and how it is calculated.
In 2020, 2021, & 2022, different laws were passed to introduce, amend, and terminate the ERC. The amount of the credit varies according to the time period that it is applied for. The following table summarises the main features and differences between the ERCs of 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|
The Number of Employees
The number affects the calculation of qualified wages for employees and their health insurance costs. 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 table below summarizes all the rules and thresholds that determine an employer’s 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 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 employer size, the time period and the calculation of the qualified wage and health insurance cost will affect the calculation. This table summarises the rules and provides examples for various scenarios. Eligibility For 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
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requires that employers claim the Employee-Retention Credit by filing a federal income tax return, Form 941, or a modified employment tax form (Form941X), with them. The employer will need to declare the qualified wages paid and the health insurance expenses paid for eligible employees. They must also report 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. The employer can use Form 941 to:
- Reduce the amount of taxes that the employer has to deposit with the IRS by the amount of the ERC
- The employer can request an advanced payment of the ERC credit if it exceeds taxes that they have to deposit. Eligibility For 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 newest version of the Form 941, which reflects changes to laws that impact the ERC.
- For calculating and reporting your ERC, follow the IRS’s instructions and worksheets.
- Use Line 1c to report on the health insurance and wages that eligible employees have received.
- Use Line 13d to declare the credit amount claimed for each quarter
- Line 13f is used to report any advance payment of credit received by the IRS
- Use Line 24 to request a credit advance if necessary
- Use Line 25 to report any credit excess that can be carried over to the next quarter.
- Sign and date Form 941, and include any supporting documents and schedules.
Some tips and resources for filling out Form 941 are:
- Use online services or electronic filing to submit Form 941 more quickly and securely
- Check the IRS website for updates, FAQs, and guidance on Form 941 and the ERC
- For clarifications or help, you can contact the IRS.
Form 941-X is used to correct errors or make adjustments on a previously filed Form 941. Form 941-X allows employers to claim ERC retroactively. The employer can use the Form 941 X to: Eligibility For Employee Retention Credit
- Claim your refund or credit due to overpaid taxes by 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
Employers should avoid these common mistakes when filling out Form 941 X and ensure that they are filled out correctly.
- Use the latest version of Form 941-X that reflects the changes and updates made by the laws that affect the ERC
- Follow the IRS instructions and worksheets for calculating the ERC and reporting it.
- Use Part 2 for indicating which lines of the Form 941 need to be corrected or adjusted
- Use Part 3 to explain the reason for a correction or adjustment on Form 941
- Line 24 should be used to record any additional health insurance and wages paid to employees who qualify.
- Use Line 25 to claim any additional credit for each quarter.
- Use Line 26 when reporting any refund or credit that you have requested as a result of claiming your ERC
- Sign and date the Form 941 X and add any supporting documents or schedules.
Tips and resources on how to complete Form 941 X include:
- Filter a separate Form 941/X for every quarter that needs to be corrected or adjusted Eligibility For Employee Retention Credit
- You should fill out Form 941/X as quickly as possible after you have made an adjustment or discovered an error.
- Visit the IRS website to get the latest updates, FAQs, and guidance regarding Form 941-X, the ERC, and other forms.
- For clarifications or help, you can contact the IRS.
Deadline and Statute of Limitations
The deadline for filing Form 941 is generally the last day of the month following the end of each quarter. For Q1 2021 (January-March), the Form 941 must be filed by April 30th, 2021. In the event that an employer has deposited the taxes due on time for a particular quarter, Form 941 can be filed by the 10th date of the following month. The end of the quarter. For example, Q1 2020 (January to March) requires that Form 941 be returned by May 10, 2021. Eligibility For Employee Retention Credit
The deadline for submitting Form 941X depends on the time period. It is generally three or two years, depending on the date when the original Form 941 has been filed. For Q1 2020, (January-March), the Form 941 must be filed by April 30th 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 employers filed Forms 941 and paid taxes on June 15, 2019, the deadline is June 15, 2022.
Employee Retention credit (ERC), a valuable benefit under tax law, can help employers who have been affected by COVID-19 keep their staff on payroll and minimize the impact of pandemic.
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. You can claim the ERC by submitting Form 941 to the IRS. This form will ask you for the number of employees, the amount paid in qualified wages and insurance costs each quarter, and how much credit is being claimed.
This tax benefit is available to employers who meet the ERC’s eligibility criteria. The ERC will not be available indefinitely, and it has a set deadline and statute of limitations. The forms should be filed as soon as you can. You can use the resources and advice provided in this post to avoid common mistakes and fill them out correctly. If needed, you can also reach out to the IRS or a professional tax advisor for clarification or help.
ERC can have a significant impact on your business, organization, and your employees. It can help you retain your workers, maintain your cash flow, and recover from the pandemic. This article should have helped you learn more about ERCs and how to apply for them. Thanks for reading and please stay safe.
Eligibility For Employee Retention Credit
What is the ERC?
Employee Retention Credit: This is a credit that employers can claim if they retained employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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).
Can everyone apply for ERC?
ERCs are not available to all. The ERC is only available to employers that have paid wages to employees between March 13, 2020, and December 31, 2021.
The criteria for eligibility is also listed above. For the highlights, please see:
- A government order has suspended the business or organization (wholly or partially) due to COVID-19.
- Their gross receipts in a quarter of 2020 or 2021 are less than the percentage of their gross revenue in the same quarter of 2019.
- It is a recovery-startup business that has been operating since after February 15, 2020. Their average annual gross receipts are no more than one million dollars.
What is the ERC worth?
The amount that an organization or company receives in ERC will depend on many factors.
Among these factors are the time period, employee count, amount of qualifying wages and health insurance cost paid to eligible workers. To learn more about how ERCs are calculated, please read the article.
How to claim the ERC?
To claim ERC benefits, an employer needs to file Form 941X or federal employment tax reform with the IRS.
The employer must provide a quarterly report detailing the wages, health insurance and other costs that are eligible for credit as well as the amount claimed.
What is the deadline for submitting the ERC forms?
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.