Many businesses and organizations have faced unprecedented hardships and challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many employers faced decreased revenues, increased costs, and disruptions of operations as a result of lockdowns.
To help employers retain their employees and provide them with health benefits during this difficult time, the U.S. government has introduced the Employee Retention Credit (ERC), a refundable tax credit that can offset some of the payroll costs for eligible employers.
The ERC is a program that was introduced by the CARES Act of 2020. Subsequent legislation was passed in 2021 and in 2023 to extend and modify it. 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? Employee Retention Credit Frequently Asked Questions
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 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 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 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, the percentage will be 70% for the two first quarters and 40% for the two last quarters. The limit per employee per quarter is $10,000. Employee Retention Credit Frequently Asked Questions
- The credit is fully refundable, which means that if it exceeds the employer’s payroll tax liability the excess amount will be returned to the employer.
- Employers who have experienced a significant drop in gross receipts or a complete or partial suspension of their operations as a result of a government order relating to COVID-19 can claim the credit. Employers who are considered to be recovery startup businesses may also claim this credit, but only for 2023.
- 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 request an advance payment by submitting Form 7200.
In order to qualify for Employee Recruitment Credit (ERC), a company must meet the following criteria:
- 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
- Gross receipts of an employer for a quarter calendar in 2020 or in 2021 are less than half (for 2020) and 80% (for 2021) their gross receipts from the same period in 2019.
A special rule is in place for businesses that have started operating after February 15, 2020, and whose average gross receipts per year are no more than one million dollars. These businesses qualify for ERC despite business suspensions or revenue decreases.
An order of the government can suspend a business or an organization in full or part if it:
- The order limits commerce, travel, or group meetings due to COVID-19
- The order has a direct impact on the operations of an organization or business
- Order applies to any calendar year in 2020 or 21
Some examples of orders from the government that could cause a business to be suspended are:
- Stay-athome orders restrict non-essential enterprises from operating
- Businesses are restricted in their operating hours by curfews
- Limits to the number of clients or customers that a company can serve
- Travel restrictions or travel bans that limit the ability of businesses to transport products or 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 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 significant decline in gross revenues is experienced by a business or organization if:
- The gross receipts for any calendar quarter in 2020 were less than 50% of its gross receipts for the same quarter in 2019
- The gross revenue for any quarter of 2021 was less than 80% that for the same period in 2019.
Gross receipts are defined as the total amount received or accrued by a business or organization from all sources during its annual accounting period without any deductions. Gross receipts can include:
- Sales of goods and services
- Dividends (rents), royalties and interest
- Contributions are gifts, donations and grants Employee Retention Credit Frequently Asked Questions
- Membership dues
- Gross business income
To compare gross receipts between different quarters of the year, employers must use:
- It should use the same method of accounting, either cash or accrual, that it used for its federal income tax returns for 2019.
- The same calendar year quarters that it used to file its federal employment tax returns (Form 941) for 2019 and 2020/2021
- It is the same income sources that were reported on the federal income tax returns for 2019.
Recovery Startup Business
The recovery startup business is one that:
- You must have started your business after the 15th of February 2020
- If you have average annual gross revenues of less than $1 million in any three tax-year period that ends with the tax-year preceding the calendar quarter for credit determination.
If a business is in recovery, it can still qualify for ERC even if the business has been suspended or its revenue has declined. Recovery startup businesses are subject to certain restrictions and special rules.
- The maximum credit amount per quarter is $50,000
- The credit is only applicable to wages paid for the third and fourth quarters of 2021
- Credits for recovery startups are subject to a maximum of $250 million.
Credit Amounts Calculation
ERCs have different rules and amounts depending on the length of time and type of employer. The ERC is affected primarily by:
- How much business income dropped compared to 2019.
- Employer’s number of employees in 2019 or 2021, and whether the employee worked or not.
- What the employer paid each employee for their health insurance and during the pandemic
The employer has to fill out some forms and send them to the IRS to claim the ERC. The employer must provide proof of how much they paid their employees for health insurance as well as the ERC. The IRS will check the forms and give the money to the employer. The employer may use the money in order to pay their employees’ health insurance premiums, or get refunds for their payroll tax.
The ERC will not be available indefinitely. The ERC started in March 2020 and ends in September 2022. The employer has to claim the ERC before it expires or becomes unavailable. Employers must also use the money well and not waste it. Employee Retention Credit Frequently Asked Questions
Here is more information about the ERC and its calculation.
Different laws introduced, amended and terminated the ERC in 2020, 2021 and 2022. The credit amount varies depending on the time period for which it is claimed. The following table summarizes and compares the ERC’s main features for each 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 of eligible employees will affect the calculation and definition of health insurance and qualified wages. 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 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, Health Insurance Costs
Qualified Wages are wages that eligible employees receive during periods of suspension or decline in revenue. Qualified wage includes tips and bonuses, as well as severance, pays, sick leave payments, family leave payments and other types of compensation. Qualified earnings also include costs associated with providing health insurance coverage to eligible employees. These include premiums as well as deductibles.
The calculation and definition of health insurance and qualified wages are dependent on the size of the employer and the time period. Table 1 summarizes and gives examples of rules in various scenarios. Employee Retention Credit Frequently Asked Questions
|Employer Size||Time Period||Qualified Wages and Health Insurance Costs||Example|
|Small||2020||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||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)||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
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 is required to report the qualified wages, health insurance costs and credit claimed by each quarter.
Form 941 allows employers to declare their quarterly federal taxes, including income taxes, Medicare and Social Security tax. Form 941 also allows the employer to claim the ERC for current or future quarters. Form 941 allows the employer to do:
- ERC reduces the amount that employers must deposit with the IRS in order to pay taxes.
- Request an advance payment of the ERC if the credit exceeds the taxes that the employer has to deposit Employee Retention Credit Frequently Asked Questions
- Carry forward any excess credit to subsequent quarters
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.
- Follow the instructions and worksheets provided by the IRS for calculating and reporting the ERC
- Use Line 11c for the amount of qualified wages and health benefits paid to eligible employees
- 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
- If you need to receive an advance payment, use Line 24.
- Use Line 25 to report any excess credit that can be carried forward to subsequent quarters
- Sign the form 941, and attach any supporting documents.
Tips and resources on how to complete Form 941 include:
- Use electronic filing (e-file) or online services to submit Form 941 faster and more securely
- Updates, FAQs, and guidance about Form 941, the ERC, and other IRS forms can be found on the IRS website.
- Contact the IRS or a tax professional for assistance or clarification if needed
The Form 941 X is used for corrections and adjustments to a Form 941. Form 941-X also allows the employer to claim the ERC retroactively for past quarters. Form 941-X can be used by the employer to: Employee Retention Credit Frequently Asked Questions
- Claim refunds or credits for taxes overpaid due to the ERC
- Report additional qualified wage and health insurance expenses paid to eligible employees which were not reported in Form 941
- Correct any mistakes or omissions made on Form 941 that affect the amount of credit claimed
Employers can avoid common mistakes by filling in Form 941X correctly.
- Use the latest form 941X that reflects changes to laws that are applicable to the ERC.
- Use the IRS worksheets and instructions to calculate and report the ERC
- Use the Part 2 to indicate on which lines you are correcting or adjusting Form 941
- Use Part 3 of Form 941 to explain why it is being amended or corrected
- Line 24 is used to report additional wages and health insurance premiums paid to eligible employees.
- 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 the form 941-X, date it and include any documents or schedules that you wish to attach.
You can find some helpful tips on how to fill out the Form 941-X here:
- You must file a separate 941X form for each quarter you are correcting or adjusting. Employee Retention Credit Frequently Asked Questions
- If you discover an error on Form 941 or make an adjustment, file Form 941X as soon as you can.
- Check the IRS website for updates, FAQs, and guidance on Form 941-X and the ERC
- If you need clarification or assistance, contact the IRS or an accountant.
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 example, Q1 2020 (January-March) Form 941 will be due on April 30, 2021. The employer can still file Form 941 if they have deposited their taxes on time. Following the end of the quarter. For example, the Q1 of 2021 is January-March. The Form 941 should be received by May 10th, 2021. Employee Retention Credit Frequently Asked Questions
The deadline to file Form 941-X generally is three years after the date the original Form 941 is filed, or two years after the date the tax is paid. For example, for Q1 2020 (January-March), Form 941 was due by 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.
Employee Retention Credit is a valuable tax credit that can assist employers affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic to keep their employees and reduce the impact on their business or organization.
The ERC (Eligible Employees Credit) is a tax credit that can vary depending on the time frame, the number and type of employees employed, and the amount paid in wages and insurance to employees eligible for the credit. The ERC is claimed by filing IRS Form 941 or 941-X and reporting qualified wages, health insurance costs, and the credit amount claimed for each quarter.
Don’t miss this chance to get a tax break if your employer meets the ERC criteria. The ERC is not available forever and has a deadline and a statute of limitations for claiming it. Use the resources and tips provided in this article to ensure that you fill out your forms correctly and avoid common mistakes. If you need clarification or assistance, you can contact the IRS.
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 should have helped you learn more about ERCs and how to apply for them. Stay safe and thank you for reading.
Employee Retention Credit Frequently Asked Questions
What is the ERC?
Employee Retention Credit (ERC) is a tax incentive for employers that retained their employees on their payrolls 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
Is everyone eligible for the ERC?
ERCs are not available to all. Employers who retained their employees and paid them wages between March 13, 2020, and December 31, 2021, are eligible.
More details are available above. But here are some of the highlights.
- A government-issued order temporarily or permanently suspended the organization or business due to COVID-19.
- The gross receipts they had for a calendar-quarter in 2020, 2021 or both were less than 10% of their gross receipts during the same quarter last year.
- These businesses are recovery startups that have been in operation since February 15, 2020. They also generate gross revenues of no more than $1 million on average per year.
How much is the ERC?
The amount of ERC that a company will receive depends on a number of 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. You can read the article above for a more detailed explanation of how ERC is calculated.
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.
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.
When is the deadline to file the ERC Forms
There are two different deadlines to file the ERC Forms: Form 941 (Form 941-X) and Form 941 (941).
The last day to submit Form 941 for each quarter is the last calendar month. For Form 941X, the deadline is three years following the date on which the original form 941 was filed. This can also be up to two years, based on the date when the tax is paid.