COVID-19, the pandemic that has swept across the globe in recent years, has brought unprecedented challenges and hardships to businesses and organisations around. Lockdowns, social distance, health and security measures and lockdowns have caused many employers to face reduced revenue, increased expenses and disruptions in their operations.
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The ERC, which was originally enacted in 2020 by the CARES Act, was extended and modified later by subsequent legislation in both 2021 & 2023.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? Employee Retention Credit Overpayment
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 encourages employers to maintain their workers and to provide health benefits to them during the crisis.
The Main Features and Benefits
- 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 credit amount and percentage vary according to the time period in which it 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. For 2023, there will be a 70 percent percentage for the initial two quarters of the year and a 40 percent percentage for the last two. There will also be a limit of $10,000 per employee each quarter. Employee Retention Credit Overpayment
- The credit is fully refundable, meaning that if the amount of the credit exceeds the employer’s payroll tax liability, the excess will be paid to the employer as a refund.
- 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 may be claimed by filing a modified employment tax return (941-X), or by reducing the employment tax deposits to prepare for 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.
- The employer’s gross revenues for a quarterly calendar period in 2020, 2021 or both were less that 50% (for the 2020 quarter) or 80% (2021 quarter) of its gross revenue for the same year-ago quarter.
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 can qualify for the ERC regardless of business suspension or revenue decline.
A government order will either fully or partially suspend an organization or business if:
- The order limits travel, commerce or group meetings as a result of COVID-19
- The order has an impact on the business or organization
- This order is applicable to any calendar quarter of 2020 or 2021
Some examples of government orders that can cause a business suspension are:
- Stay-at-home orders that restrict non-essential businesses from operating
- Certain businesses have curfews that limit their hours of operations
- Limits on the capacity of a business that limit how many customers or clients it can serve
- Bans on travel or restrictions on the ability to transport goods or service by a business
To determine whether an employer’s business was suspended fully or partially by a government directive, the employer must:
- How the nature and scope and the order affect the operation of the business
- The duration, frequency of the orders and their alignment with the four quarters calendar.
- 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 in any calendar quarter of 2020 will be less than 50% the gross receipts in the same quarter of 2019.
- The gross receipts of any quarter in calendar 2021 were below 80% of the gross receipts in the same quarter for 2019.
Gross receipts refer to the total of all money received or accrued during a company’s annual accounting period. Gross receipts include:
- Sales of Goods & Services
- Rents, dividends, and annuities are examples of income streams that include interest, dividends.
- Contributions are gifts, donations and grants Employee Retention Credit Overpayment
- Dues and fees for membership
- Gross revenue from businesses or trades
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
- For 2019 and 2020/2021, the same quarters of the calendar year that were used for filing federal employment tax returns on Form 941.
- The same sources of revenue that they reported on their federal income tax return in 2019
Recovery Startup Business
A startup that is in recovery can be defined as
- Start any new business or occupation after February 15, 2019,
- 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.
The ERC is available to a recovery startup business regardless of whether or not it meets the criteria for business suspension or revenue decrease. Recovery startups are not exempt from certain rules and restrictions.
- Maximum credit per quarter: $50,000
- The credit is only available for wages paid in the third and fourth quarters of 2021
- Credits for recovery startups are subject to a maximum of $250 million.
Credit Amounts and Calculation
For different lengths of time, different types of employers and different amounts of ERC, the ERC has different rules. The main factors that affect the ERC are:
- How much of the employer’s income was affected in 2019 by the pandemic.
- The number of employees that the employer has in 2019 or 2020/2021 and whether or not they worked during the pandemic
- How much the employer paid to each employee and their health insurance during the 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 then check the forms before giving the money to employers. The employer could use this money to pay health insurance for employees or to get refunds and credits for payroll taxes.
The ERC will no longer be available. The ERC started in March 2020 and ends in September 2022. Employers must claim their ERC before they expire or become unavailable. The employer must also spend the money properly and not waste any of it. Employee Retention Credit Overpayment
Below you will find detailed information on ERC, including the amount of credit and the calculation.
The ERC was implemented, amended, or terminated by various laws in 2020. The credit amount varies depending on the time period for which it is claimed. The table below summarizes key differences and features of the ERCs 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 and type of employees can affect the definition and calculation for qualified wages and health care costs. A small employer or a large employer is determined by the number of employees who worked full-time (FTEs) in 2019 and the time period. The following table summarizes rules and thresholds to determine employer size.
|Time Period||Small Employer Threshold||Large Employer Threshold|
|2020||Less than or equal to 100 FTEs in 2019||More than 100 FTEs in 2019|
|Q1-Q2 2021||Less than or equal to 500 FTEs in 2019||More than 500 FTEs in 2019|
|Q3-Q4 2021||Less than or equal to 500 FTEs in any calendar quarter in either calendar year beginning after December 31, 2019, and ending before July 1, 2021. If an employer did not have in either calendar year beginning after December 31, 2019, and ending before July 1, 2021, the employer is treated as a small eligible employer if it had less than or equal to 500 FTEs in any calendar quarter beginning after June 30, 2021. For recovery startup businesses, the employer size is irrelevant. For severely financially distressed employers, the employer size is irrelevant if the employer had a revenue decline of more than 90%. Otherwise, the same rules as Q1-Q2 2021 apply.||More than 500 FTEs in any calendar quarter in either calendar year beginning after December 31, 2019, and ending before July 1, 2021. If an employer did not exist in either calendar year beginning after December 31, 2019, and ending before July 1, 2021, the employer is treated as a large eligible employer if it had more than 500 FTEs in any calendar quarter beginning after June 30, 2021.|
To count FTEs for a given year or quarter, an employer must use the following steps:
- Count the number of employees who worked at least 30 hours per week (or at least 130 hours per month) for each month in the year or quarter
- Add up the total hours worked by all other employees (who are not counted as FTEs) for each month in the year or quarter
- Divide the total hours by120and round down to the nearest whole number
- Add the number of FTEs from Step One and Step Three for each month in the year or quarter
- Calculate the average number of FTEs by adding up the monthly totals and dividing by 12 (for a year) or 3 (for a quarter)
Qualified Wages, 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. Other forms of compensation are also included in qualified wages, such as tips, bonuses and commissions. Qualified wages also include the cost of providing health insurance to eligible employees, such as premiums, deductibles, co-pays, and co-insurance.
The size of an employer’s business and the period in which they operate will determine the definition and calculation for qualified wages and health care costs. The table below summarizes rules and examples in different scenarios. Employee Retention Credit Overpayment
|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|
Claiming and Reporting the Credit
To claim the Employee Retention Credit (ERC), an employer must file a federal employment tax return (Form 941) or an adjusted employment tax return (Form 941-X) with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The employer must report the qualified wages and health insurance costs paid to eligible employees and the amount of credit claimed for each quarter.
Form 941 reports the quarterly federal tax liability of an employer, including income tax and Medicare taxes. The employer can also claim the ERC in Form 941 for future or current quarters. The employer can use the Form 941 for:
- ERC – Reduce the amount the employer is required to pay in taxes.
- The employer can request an advanced payment of the ERC credit if it exceeds taxes that they have to deposit. Employee Retention Credit Overpayment
- You can carry forward any credit balance to subsequent quarters
To ensure the correct completion of Form 941, and to avoid common errors:
- Use the latest Form 941, which reflects all the updates and changes made to the ERC by new laws.
- For calculating and reporting your ERC, follow the IRS’s instructions and worksheets.
- Use Line 11c to declare the wages and costs of health insurance paid to employees who qualify.
- Use Line 13d for the credit claim amount per quarter
- Line 13f should be used to report any advance payments made by the IRS.
- Use Line 24 if you require an advance credit payment.
- Use Line 25 to report any excess credit that can be carried forward to subsequent quarters
- Sign and date Form 941, and include any supporting documents and schedules.
You can find some helpful tips on how to fill out Form 941 here:
- Use online services (e-file or online filing) to submit Form 941, faster and with greater security.
- Visit the IRS website to get the latest updates, FAQs, and guidance regarding Form 941 and ERC.
- You can also contact a tax expert or the IRS for clarifications and assistance if you need it.
Forms 941-X are used to rectify errors or make adjustments to Forms 941 previously submitted. Form 941-X also allows the employer to claim the ERC retroactively for past quarters. The employer may use Form 941 to: Employee Retention Credit Overpayment
- Claim a credit or refund for the taxes you overpaid by claiming ERC
- Report additional qualified wages paid and health insurance premiums paid to eligible workers that have not been reported on Form 941
- You can correct any errors or omissions that may have affected the credit claimed amount on Form 941.
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.
- Follow the IRS instructions and worksheets for calculating the ERC and reporting it.
- Use the Part 2 to indicate on which lines you are correcting or adjusting Form 941
- Use Part 3 for explaining why form 941 has been corrected or adjusted
- Line 24 should be used to record any additional health insurance and wages paid to employees who qualify.
- 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.
- Sign and date Form 941-X and attach any supporting documents or schedules
Some tips and resources for filling out Form 941-X are:
- File a separate Form 941-X for each quarter that is being corrected or adjusted Employee Retention Credit Overpayment
- Fill out Form 941-X immediately after you find an error in Form 941
- Check the IRS website for updates, FAQs, and guidance on Form 941-X and the ERC
- Contact the IRS or a tax professional for assistance or clarification if needed
Deadline and Statute of Limitations
The deadline for submitting Form 941 generally falls on the last calendar day of the following month. For example for Q1 (2021) (January – March), Form 941 should be submitted by April 30, 2019. Nevertheless, if the employer deposited all taxes due in a given quarter on time, they may file Form 941 before the 10th day. After the end of the quarterly period. For Q1 2021 (January-March), form 941 must be submitted by May 10, 2020, Employee Retention Credit Overpayment
The deadline for filing Form 941-X is generally three years from the date that the original Form 941 was filed or two years from the date that the tax was paid, whichever is later. For Q1 2020 (January – March), for example, Form 941 is due on 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 employer files Form 941 in April 2020 and pays the tax on June 15 2020, they have until June 15 2022 to file Form 941.
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 (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 can be claimed by filing Form 941 or Form 941-X with the IRS and reporting the qualified wages and health insurance costs and the amount of credit claimed for each quarter.
Do not miss out on this opportunity if you’re an employer that meets the ERC eligibility criteria. The ERC cannot be claimed forever. There is a deadline to claim it and a statute that limits its use. It is important to file your forms quickly and correctly. This article provides tips and resources that will help you avoid common errors. If you need clarification or assistance, you can contact the IRS.
The ERC can make a big difference for your business or organization and your employees. It will help you to keep your employees, maintain a healthy cash flow, as well as recover from pandemic. This article should have helped you learn more about ERCs and how to apply for them. Thank you for reading. Stay safe.
Employee Retention Credit Overpayment
What is an 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 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).
Is everyone eligible for the ERC?
Not everyone is eligible for the ERC. Employers who retained their employees and paid them wages between March 13, 2020, and December 31, 2021, are eligible.
The criteria for eligibility is also listed above. For the highlights, please see:
- A government order imposed a suspension (full or partial) on the business or organization due to COVID-19.
- Their gross receipts for a calendar quarter in 2020 or 2021 were less than a percentage of their gross receipts for the same quarter in 2019.
- 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.
How much is ERC?
The amount of ERC a company or organization receives will depend on several factors.
Among these factors are the time period, employee count, amount of qualifying wages and health insurance cost paid to eligible workers. For a detailed explanation of ERC, you can read the article mentioned above.
How to claim your 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.
When is the deadline to submit the ERC form?
There are two different deadlines to file the ERC Forms: Form 941 (Form 941-X) and Form 941 (941).
The deadline for Form 941 is usually the last day in the month after the end of every quarter. 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.