COVID-19, the pandemic that has swept across the globe in recent years, has brought unprecedented challenges and hardships to businesses and organisations around. Many employers faced decreased revenues, increased costs, and disruptions of operations as a result of lockdowns.
The Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERC) is a refundable credit that employers can use to offset payroll costs.
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. This article will provide an overview of the ERC and its workings, as well as how to apply for it in different time periods.
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 Employee Retention Credit (ERC)? Employee Retention Credit Gross Receipts
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 was established by the CARES Act of 2020 and extended and modified in subsequent legislations in 2021 and in 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
- Credits are equal to a percent of the qualified wages and costs for health insurance paid to eligible employees up to a limit per employee each quarter.
- The credit limit and percentage are dependent on the period of time for which you claim the credit. For 2020, the percentage is 50%, and the limit is $5,000 per employee for the entire year. In 2021, 70% of the employees will be eligible for the maximum. The limit per employee is $7,000. 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. Employee Retention Credit Gross Receipts
- 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 can claim this credit if they experienced a significant decrease in gross receipts due to an order from the government relating to COVID-19. Alternatively, for 2023 only, employers who are considered recovery startup businesses can also claim the credit.
- The credit may be claimed by filing a modified employment tax return (941-X), or by reducing the employment tax deposits to prepare for the credit. By submitting Form 7020, employers can request an early payment of their credit.
Employers who wish to qualify for Employee Retention Credit (ERC) must meet two main criteria.
- A government order suspended the employer’s organization or business in full or part due to COVID-19 for a calendar quarter of 2020 or 2021
- The employer’s gross receipts for a calendar quarter in 2020 or 2021 were less than 50% (for 2020) or 80% (for 2021) of its gross receipts for the same quarter 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 may qualify for ERC regardless of revenue or business suspension.
A government order can either suspend or fully suspend a company or organization if the following conditions are met:
- 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
Some examples of government orders that can cause a business suspension are:
- Stay-at-home orders prohibiting the operation of non-essential businesses
- Certain businesses are subject to curfews which limit their hours of operation
- Capacity limitations that reduce the amount of customers or clientele that a firm can service
- Travel bans or restrictions that affect the ability of a business to transport goods or services
To determine whether an employer’s business was suspended fully or partially by a government directive, the employer must:
- 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 magnitude and impact of the order upon the revenue and expenses of a business
It is considered that a business or organization has experienced a significant drop in gross receipts when:
- The gross receipts from any quarter in 2020 is less than 50% its gross receipts from the same calendar quarter 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 are:
- Sales of Goods and Services
- Interest, dividends rents royalties and annuities
- Contributions, gifts and grants Employee Retention Credit Gross Receipts
- Dues and fees for membership
- Gross income from trades or businesses
To compare gross receipts between different quarters of the year, employers must use:
- The same method of accounting (cash or accrual) that it used to file its federal income tax return 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
- It is the same income sources that were reported on the federal income tax returns for 2019.
Recovery Startup Business
A recovery startup business is a business that:
- Start any new business or occupation after February 15, 2019,
- Have average annual gross income of no more than $1 million over the three-year period ending the tax year before the calendar quarter in which the credit is 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 startups are not exempt from certain rules and restrictions.
- The maximum credit available per quarter is $50,000
- The credit is only available for wages paid in the third and fourth quarters of 2021
- All recovery startup businesses are subject to an aggregate cap of $250,000,000.
Credit Amount Calculation
For different lengths of time, different types of employers and different amounts of ERC, the ERC has different rules. The ERC’s main influences are:
- The employer’s business has been affected by the pandemic. This could be due to the government ordering the closure or reduction of operations or a significant drop in income from 2019.
- The number of employees that the employer has in 2019 or 2020/2021 and whether or not they worked 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 form must show the amount the employer paid for their employees’ health insurance, and how they qualified for the ERC. The IRS will review the forms and pay the money back to the employer. The employer can use the money to pay their employees and their health insurance or to get refunds or credits for their payroll taxes.
The ERC won’t be around forever. The ERC started in March 2020 and ends in September 2022. The employer has to claim the ERC before it expires or becomes unavailable. The employer also has to use the money wisely and not waste it. Employee Retention Credit Gross Receipts
You can find more information below on ERC calculation and credit amount.
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 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 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. This table summarizes thresholds and rules to determine the size of an employer for each 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 wages are wages paid to eligible employees during a period of business suspension or revenue decline. Qualified wages include tips, commissions, bonuses, severance pay, sick leave pay, family leave pay, and other forms 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. The following table summarizes the rules and examples for different scenarios: Employee Retention Credit Gross Receipts
|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 Credit
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 must declare the wages and health insurance premiums paid to eligible employees, as well as the credit amount claimed each quarter.
Form 941 is used by employers to report their quarterly federal tax liabilities, which includes income tax, Medicare tax, and social security tax. Form 941 allows the employer also to claim ERCs in current or future quarters. The employer can use the Form 941 for:
- ERC reduces taxes that employers have to deposit at the IRS.
- Request an advance payment of the ERC if the credit exceeds the taxes that the employer has to deposit Employee Retention Credit Gross Receipts
- Carry forward any excess credits to future quarters
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 for the amount of qualified wages and health benefits paid to eligible employees
- Report the amount of credit claimed each quarter using Line 13d.
- Use Line 13f for any advance payment received from 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 and date Form 941, and include any supporting documents and schedules.
Here are some tips and resources to help you fill out Form 941:
- Use electronic filing services (efile) and online services to submit the Form 941 faster, more 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.
The Form 941 X is used for corrections and adjustments to a Form 941. Form 941-X allows employers to claim ERC retroactively. The employer may use Form 941 to: Employee Retention Credit Gross Receipts
- Claim the ERC to get a refund of taxes that you have overpaid.
- Report additional qualified earnings and health benefits paid to eligible employee that weren’t reported on Form 941.
- Correct any mistakes or omissions made on Form 941 that affect the amount of credit claimed
To fill out Form 941-X correctly and avoid common errors, the employer should:
- Use the latest form 941X that reflects changes to laws that are applicable to the ERC.
- Follow the IRS instructions and worksheets for calculating the ERC and reporting it.
- Use Part 2 to indicate which lines of Form 941 are being corrected or adjusted
- Use Part 3 of Form 941 to explain why it is being amended or corrected
- Use Line 24 for any additional qualified wage and health insurance expenses paid to eligible workers
- Use Line 25 to report any additional amount of credit claimed for each quarter
- Use Line 26 to report any credit or refund due to the ERC claim.
- Attach any supporting documents and schedules to Form 941-X.
Here are some tips and resources to help you fill out Form 941X:
- Fill out a separate form 941-X per quarter being corrected or recalculated Employee Retention Credit Gross Receipts
- If you discover an error on Form 941 or make an adjustment, file Form 941X as soon as you can.
- 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 to submit Form 941 is usually the last day in the month following each quarter. For example, for Q1 2021 (January-March), Form 941 is due by April 30, 2021. The employer can still file Form 941 if they have deposited their taxes on time. After the end of the quarterly period. For example, for Q1 2021 (January-March), Form 941 is due by May 10, 2021, Employee Retention Credit Gross Receipts
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), for example, Form 941 is due on April 30, 2020. If an employer files Form 941 by April 30, 2020 and pays the tax on April 30 2020, then the deadline to file Form 941-X will be 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 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 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. 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.
You should not miss the opportunity to benefit from this tax incentive if you are an eligible employer. The ERC is not available forever and has a deadline and a statute of limitations for claiming it. You should file your forms as soon as possible and use the tips and resources provided in this article to fill them out correctly and avoid common errors. If needed, you can also reach out to the IRS or a professional tax advisor for clarification or help.
The ERC can make a big difference for your business or 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. Thank you for reading, and stay safe.
Employee Retention Credit Gross Receipts
What is an ERC?
Employee Retention Credit is an employer tax credit available to employers who kept their employees on payroll during COVID-19.
The CARES Act created the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 in March 2021. Later, the CAA (Consolidated Appropriations Act), in December 2020, was amended and expanded by ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act of 2021), in March 2021.
Is everyone eligible for the ERC?
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 revenues for a quarter calendar in 2020 or in 2021 were lower than a percentage compared to their gross revenues for the same period 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.
How much does the ERC cost?
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. If you want a more detailed explanation, read the above article.
How to claim your ERC?
To receive the ERC, employers must file with the IRS a Form 941-X (revised employment tax returns) or a Federal Employment Tax Reform.
Employers are required to report each quarter the total amount claimed as a credit and the wages and insurance premiums paid by eligible employees.
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 deadline for Form 941 is usually the last day in the month after the end of every quarter. While the deadline for the Form 941-X will be three years after you filled out the original Form 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.