Many businesses and organizations have faced unprecedented hardships and challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 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 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 first became law in 2020 with the CARES Act. It was then extended and modified in subsequent legislations in 2021 and 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 Employee Retention Credit (ERC)? Employee Retention Credit Record Keeping
Employee Retention Credit (ERC) is a refundable credit available to tax-exempt and for-profit organizations and businesses that have employees who were affected by COVID-19. The ERC, created in 2020 by the CARES Act, was then extended and modified through subsequent legislation in both 2021-2023. 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 Benefits
- Credit is a fixed percentage of qualifying wages and health care costs paid by employers to employees.
- 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, the percentage will be 70%, and the limit per quarter is $7,000 for each employee. In 2023, 70% of the employees will be eligible for the first two quarterly limits and 40% in the final two. The limit for each employee is $10,000. Employee Retention Credit Record Keeping
- 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 may claim the credit if their gross receipts have declined significantly or they have had to suspend operations in whole or part due to a COVID-19-related government order. For 2023 only, employers that are classified as recovery startup business can 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. 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:
- 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
- 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.
In addition, there is a special rule for recovery startup businesses that began operations after February 15, 2020 and have average annual gross receipts of no more than $1 million. 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 restricts the commerce, travel and group meetings that are prohibited by COVID-19
- The order has a direct impact on the operations of an organization or business
- The order applies to all calendar quarters in 2020 and 2021
Some examples of government orders that can cause a business suspension are:
- Stay-athome orders restrict non-essential enterprises from operating
- Curfews that limit the hours of operation for certain businesses
- Limits in capacity that restrict the number or clients that a business can serve
- Travel restrictions or bans that impact the ability of an organization to transport goods and services
To determine if the business was partially or fully suspended by an official order, employers must consider:
- The nature and scope of the order and how it affects the operations of the business
- The length and frequency of your order and the way it corresponds to the calendar quarters
- The magnitude and impact of the order upon the revenue and expenses of a business
It is considered a significant decrease in gross revenue if a business has:
- The gross receipts from any quarter in 2020 is less than 50% its gross receipts from the same calendar quarter in 2019.
- The gross revenues for any calendar-quarter in 2021 will be less than 80 percent of the gross revenue in 2019 for that same quarter.
Gross receipts can be defined as all the money received by an organization or business from any source during their annual accounting period, without deductions. Gross receipts include:
- Sales of Goods & Services
- Interest, dividends, rents, royalties, and annuities
- Gifts, donations, and contributions Employee Retention Credit Record Keeping
- Membership dues
- Gross profit from business or trade
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
- The same sources reported on your federal income tax form for 2019
Recovery Startup Business
A startup that is in recovery can be defined as
- 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
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 still subject to some 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
- Credits for recovery startups are subject to a maximum of $250 million.
Credit Amount 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.
- How many employees an employer had in 2019, 2020/2021 or whether they worked, or did not work during the pandemic
- What the employer paid each employee for their health insurance and during the pandemic
To receive the ERC, employers must submit forms to the IRS. 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 could use this money to pay health insurance for employees or to get refunds and credits for payroll taxes.
ERCs are not available forever. The ERC started in March 2020 and ends in September 2022. The employer must claim ERC before the expiration date or when it becomes unavailable. The employer must also spend the money properly and not waste any of it. Employee Retention Credit Record Keeping
Below you will find detailed information on ERC, including the amount of credit and the calculation.
The ERC was introduced, amended, and terminated by different laws in 2020, 2021, and 2022. The credit amount depends on the period for which you claim it. The following table summarizes the key features and differences of the ERC for each time period:
|Time Period||Law||Eligible Employers||Credit Rate||Qualified Wages|
|2020||CARES Act||Employers with business suspension or revenue decline of more than 50%||50% of qualified wages up to $10,000 per employee per year||Wages paid from March 13 to December 31, 2020|
|Q1-Q3 2021||CAA and ARPA||Employers with business suspension or revenue decline of more than 20%||70% of qualified wages up to $10,000 per employee per quarter||Wages paid from January 1 to September 30, 2021|
|Q3-Q4 2021 (Recovery Startup Business)||ARPA||Recovery startup businesses with average annual gross receipts of no more than $1 million,||70% of qualified wages up to $10,000 per employee per quarter (subject to a $50,000 cap per quarter),||Wages paid from July 1 to December 31, 2021,|
|Q4 2021 – Q3 2022 (Severely Financially Distressed Employer)||ARPA and IIJA||Employers with a revenue decline of more than 90%||70% of qualified wages up to $10,000 per employee per quarter||Wages paid from October 1, 2021, to September 30, 2022|
Number of Employees
The number of employees affects the definition and calculation of qualified wages and health insurance costs for eligible employees. 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 the rules and thresholds for determining employer size in each time period.
|Time Period||Small Employer Threshold||Large Employer Threshold|
|2020||Less than or equal to 100 FTEs in 2019||More than 100 FTEs in 2019|
|Q1-Q2 2021||Less than or equal to 500 FTEs in 2019||More than 500 FTEs in 2019|
|Q3-Q4 2021||Less than or equal to 500 FTEs in any calendar quarter in either calendar year beginning after December 31, 2019, and ending before July 1, 2021. If an employer did not have in either calendar year beginning after December 31, 2019, and ending before July 1, 2021, the employer is treated as a small eligible employer if it had less than or equal to 500 FTEs in any calendar quarter beginning after June 30, 2021. For recovery startup businesses, the employer size is irrelevant. For severely financially distressed employers, the employer size is irrelevant if the employer had a revenue decline of more than 90%. Otherwise, the same rules as Q1-Q2 2021 apply.||More than 500 FTEs in any calendar quarter in either calendar year beginning after December 31, 2019, and ending before July 1, 2021. If an employer did not exist in either calendar year beginning after December 31, 2019, and ending before July 1, 2021, the employer is treated as a large eligible employer if it had more than 500 FTEs in any calendar quarter beginning after June 30, 2021.|
To count FTEs for a given year or quarter, an employer must use the following steps:
- Count the number of employees who worked at least 30 hours per week (or at least 130 hours per month) for each month in the year or quarter
- Add up the total hours worked by all other employees (who are not counted as FTEs) for each month in the year or quarter
- Divide the total hours by120and round down to the nearest whole number
- Add the number of FTEs from Step One and Step Three for each month in the year or quarter
- Calculate the average number of FTEs by adding up the monthly totals and dividing by 12 (for a year) or 3 (for a quarter)
Qualified Wages, Health Insurance Costs
Qualified wage is the number of wages that are paid to employees who qualify during a time when a business has been suspended or revenue has decreased. Qualified wages can include severance payment, bonuses, severance tips, sick pay, family pay and other forms compensation. Qualified salaries also include the costs of providing health coverage to eligible workers, including premiums, copays, deductibles, and coinsurance.
The employer size, the time period and the calculation of the qualified wage and health insurance cost will affect the calculation. The table below summarizes rules and examples in different scenarios. Employee Retention Credit Record Keeping
|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
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 must report the qualified wages and health insurance costs paid to eligible employees and the amount of credit claimed for each quarter.
Form 941 is used to report the employer’s quarterly federal tax liability, including income tax, social security tax, and Medicare tax. Form 941 allows employers to claim ERCs for current or future quarterly periods. The employer can use the Form 941 for:
- Reduce the amount of taxes that the employer has to deposit with the IRS by the amount of the ERC
- Request an advance payment of the ERC if the credit exceeds the taxes that the employer has to deposit Employee Retention Credit Record Keeping
- Carry over any excess credit into the following quarter
To avoid making common errors and fill out Form 941 correctly, employers should:
- Use the most recent version of Form 941, which reflects any changes or updates to the ERC laws.
- For calculating and reporting your ERC, follow the IRS’s instructions and worksheets.
- Use Line 11c to report the qualified wages and health insurance costs paid to eligible employees
- Use Line 13d when reporting the credit 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 excess credit that can be carried forward to subsequent quarters
- Sign Form 941, date it and attach any documents or schedules that you wish to include.
The following are some resources and tips for filling in Form 941.
- Use electronic filing services (efile) and online services to submit the Form 941 faster, more securely
- The IRS website has updated FAQs on the ERC and Form 941.
- Need clarification? Contact an IRS agent or tax professional.
Form 941-X is used to correct errors or make adjustments on a previously filed Form 941. The Form 941X allows the employer retroactively to claim ERC for previous quarters. Employers can use Form 941/X for Employee Retention Credit Record Keeping
- Claim refunds or credits for taxes overpaid due to the ERC
- Report additional qualified wages paid and health insurance premiums paid to eligible workers that have not been reported on Form 941
- The amount of credit claimed will be affected by any mistakes or omissions in Form 941.
The employer should:
- Use the most recent version of Form 941X, which reflects any changes or updates to the ERC laws.
- The IRS has provided worksheets to help you calculate the ERC.
- Use Part 2 to indicate which lines of Form 941 are being corrected or adjusted
- Use Part 3 to explain your corrections or adjustments 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 report any additional amount of credit claimed for each quarter
- Use Line 26 for any refunds or credits due to ERC claims.
- Attach any supporting documents and schedules to Form 941-X.
You can find some helpful tips on how to fill out the Form 941-X here:
- Fill out a separate form 941-X per quarter being corrected or recalculated Employee Retention Credit Record Keeping
- Fill out Form 941-X immediately after you find an error in Form 941
- The IRS website has updated FAQs on the ERC, Form 941 X, and updates to the IRS website.
- 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 Q1 2021 (January-March), the Form 941 must be filed by April 30th, 2021. The employer can still file Form 941 if they have deposited their taxes on time. After the end of the quarterly period. Form 941 for the first quarter of 2021 (January – March) is due on May 10, 2021. Employee Retention Credit Record Keeping
The deadline for submitting Form 941X is usually three years following the original date of Form 941 or two after the date on which the tax was 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 employer filed form 941 on April 30 2020 and paid the tax by June 15, 2020, then the deadline to file Form 941-X will be 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 (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. 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.
If you are an employer who meets the eligibility criteria for the ERC, you should not miss this opportunity to take advantage of this tax benefit. The ERC 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 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 be used to help retain your employees, maintain your cash flow, and recover in the event of a pandemic. This article aims to provide you with more information about the ERC. Stay safe and thank you for reading.
Employee Retention Credit Record Keeping
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.
The CARES Act, passed by Congress in March of this year, was amended in December of that year by the CAA Act. In March 2021, the ARPA Act (American Rescue Plan Act of 2021), was extended.
Can everyone apply for 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.
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 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.
- The business is a startup that started operations after February 15, 2020, and has an average gross revenue of less than $1 million.
What is the ERC worth?
The amount of ERC that a company will receive depends on a number of factors.
One of the factors is the length of time the company has been in business, the number and type of employees it has, the amount that qualifies as wages, or the health insurance premiums paid to employees who are eligible. The article above provides a detailed explanation on how ERC is calculated.
How to claim your ERC?
To claim the ERC, an employer must file a federal employment tax reform or an adjusted employment tax return (Form 941-X) with the IRS.
Employers must declare the wages and costs of health insurance paid to employees who qualify and the credit claimed each quarter.
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. In contrast, the deadline to submit Form 941 X is generally set at three years since the date of the original 941. It can also be from two years from the date that the tax was paid, with the later date being the more preferred one.