The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented challenges and hardships for many businesses and organizations around the world. Due to lockdowns and social distancing as well as health and safety measures, many employers have seen their revenues and expenses drop, while operations are disrupted.
Employee Retention Credit is a refundable income tax credit available to eligible employers that helps them retain their employees while providing health benefits.
The ERC was first enacted by the CARES Act in 2020 and was later extended and modified by subsequent legislation in 2021 and 2023. The ERC will be explained in this article, along with how it works and the different eligibility criteria and time periods for which it can be claimed.
For a brief reading of what the Employee Retention Credit or ERC is, take a look at this video from the YouTube channel “ERC Specialists”. You can also continue below to read an in-depth explanation of ERC.
What is the Employee Retention Credit? File Employee Retention Credit
Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERC), is a refundable tax credit for organizations and businesses with employees who have been affected by COVID-19. The ERC was created by the CARES Act in 2020 and was extended and modified by subsequent legislation in 2021 and 2023. The ERC was created to encourage employers in crisis to keep workers on their payrolls and provide them health insurance.
Main Features and Benefits
- 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. In 2020, the 50% percentage and $5,000 limit per employee is applicable for the entire calendar year. For 2021, it is 70%. The limit is $7,000 per quarter per employee. 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. File Employee Retention Credit
- The credit will be fully refundable if its amount exceeds that of the employer’s payroll taxes.
- The credit is available to employers who suffered a significant reduction in gross revenues or a partial or full suspension of operations because of an eligible government order relating COVID-19. In addition, employers who qualify as recovery-startup businesses for 2023 can also claim the credits.
- 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. By submitting Form 7020, employers can request an early payment of their credit.
Criteria for Eligibility
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 gross receipts of the employer for a calendar-quarter in 2020 or 2020 were less than 50 percent (for 2020), or 80 percent (for 2021), of their gross receipts during the same calendar 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 may suspend a business, or even partially suspend it.
- The order limits travel, commerce or group meetings as a result of COVID-19
- The order impacts the operations of a business or organization
- The order will apply to any calendar month in 2020 or even 2021
These are some examples:
- Stay-at-home orders that restrict non-essential businesses from operating
- Businesses are restricted in their operating hours by curfews
- Capacity limits that reduce the number of customers or clients that can be served by a business
- 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:
- The order’s nature, scope, and impact on the business
- The length, frequency, and timing of the order in relation to the quarters of the year.
- The extent and severity of the impact of the order on the revenues and expenses of the business
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 receipts of any quarter in calendar 2021 were below 80% of the gross receipts in the same quarter for 2019.
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 are:
- Sales of Goods & Services
- Dividends (rents), royalties and interest
- Contributions, gifts and grants File Employee Retention Credit
- Membership fees and dues
- Gross income from trades or businesses
To calculate and compare gross receipts for different quarters, an employer must use:
- Use the same method (cash or accrual accounting) as it used when filing its federal income taxes for 2019
- It will use the same calendar year quarters for 2019/2021 as it did to file its federal Employment Tax Returns (Form 941).
- The same sources as reported in the federal tax return for 2019
Recovery Startup Business
A startup that is in recovery can be defined as
- You must have started your business after the 15th of February 2020
- The average annual gross receipts for the three tax years ending in the year preceding the quarter for which credit is calculated cannot exceed $1 million
It does not matter if a business meets the criteria of revenue decline or business suspension, a recovery-startup business qualifies for the ERC. However, there are some limitations and special rules that apply to recovery startup businesses, such as:
- The maximum credit available per quarter is $50,000
- The credit is only applicable to wages paid for the third and fourth quarters of 2021
- The credit has a cap of 250 million dollars for all startup businesses that are eligible.
Credit Amounts and Calculation
There are different ERC rules and amounts for different employers and periods of time. The ERC is affected primarily by:
- 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
- How much did the employer pay each employee in health insurance?
Employers must complete and send IRS forms to claim ERC. The employer must provide proof of how much they paid their employees for health insurance as well as the ERC. The IRS will examine the forms to determine if the employer is eligible and then pay him the money. The employer can use the money to pay their employees and their health insurance or to get refunds or credits for their payroll taxes.
ERCs are not available forever. It started in March 2020 and will end in September 2022. The employer must claim ERC before the expiration date or when it becomes unavailable. The employer should also make sure to not waste the money. File Employee Retention Credit
The following information provides more details on the ERC credit and how it is calculated.
The ERC was introduced, amended, and terminated by different laws in 2020, 2021, and 2022. The amount of credit depends on the time frame for which it’s claimed. 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 and type of employees can affect the definition and calculation for qualified wages and health care costs. The size of an employer depends on its number of FTEs 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. Qualified wages include tips, commissions, bonuses, severance pay, sick leave pay, family leave pay, and other forms of compensation. Qualified wages also include the cost of providing health insurance to eligible employees, such as premiums, deductibles, co-pays, and co-insurance.
The employer size, the time period and the calculation of the qualified wage and health insurance cost will affect the calculation. This table summarises the rules and provides examples for various scenarios. File Employee Retention Credit
|Employer Size||Time Period||Qualified Wages and Health Insurance Costs||Example|
|Small||2020||All wages and health insurance costs paid to any employee, regardless of whether the employee worked or not||An employer with 80 FTEs in 2019 paid $8,000 in wages and $2,000 in health insurance costs to an employee in 2020. The employer had a revenue decline of more than 50% in Q2 2020. The qualified wages and health insurance costs for Q2 2020 are $10,000.|
|Small||Q1-Q3 2021||All wages and health insurance costs paid to any employee, regardless of whether the employee worked or not||An employer with 400 FTEs in 2019 paid $12,000 in wages and $3,000 in health insurance costs to an employee in Q1 2021. The employer had a revenue decline of more than 20% in Q1 2021. The qualified wages and health insurance costs for Q1 2021 are $15,000.|
|Small||Q3-Q4 2021 (Recovery Startup Business)||All wages and health insurance costs paid to any employee, regardless of whether the employee worked or not (subject to a $50,000 cap per quarter)||A recovery startup business that began operations in March 2020 paid $9,000 in wages and $1,000 in health insurance costs to an employee in Q3 2021. The business had average annual gross receipts of $800,000. The qualified wages and health insurance costs for Q3 2021 are $10,000.|
|Small||Q4 2021 – Q3 2022 (Severely Financially Distressed Employer)||All wages and health insurance costs paid to any employee, regardless of whether the employee worked or not||An employer with 600 FTEs in Q2 2019 paid $11,000 in wages and $4,000 in health insurance costs to an employee in Q4 2021. The employer had a revenue decline of more than 90% in Q4 2021. The qualified wages and health insurance costs for Q4 2021 are $15,000.|
|Large||2020||Wages and health insurance costs paid to an employee for the time that the employee did not work (up to the amount that the employee would have been paid for working an equivalent duration during the 30 days immediately preceding the period of economic hardship)||An employer with 120 FTEs in 2019 paid $10,000 in wages and $2,000 in health insurance costs to an employee who worked full-time (40 hours per week) in 2020. The employer had a business suspension due to a government order in April 2020. The employee did not work for two weeks in April 2020. The qualified wages and health insurance costs for April 2020 are $2,308 ($10,000 x2/52+$2,000 x2/52).|
|Large||Q1-Q3 2021||Wages and health insurance costs paid to an employee for the time that the employee did not work (up to the amount that the employee would have been paid for working an equivalent duration during the 90 days immediately preceding the period of economic hardship)||An employer with 550 FTEs in 2019 paid $15,000 in wages and $5,000 in health insurance costs to an employee who worked full-time (40 hours per week) in Q1 2021. The employer had a revenue decline of more than 20% in Q1 2021. The employee did not work for three weeks in Q1 2021. The qualified wages and health insurance costs for Q1 2021 are $5,769 ($15,000 x3/13+$5,000 x3/13).|
|Large||Q3-Q4 2021 (Severely Financially Distressed Employer)||All wages and health insurance costs paid to any employee, regardless of whether the employee worked or not (only if the employer had a revenue decline of more than 90%. Otherwise, the same rules as Q1-Q32021 apply.)||An employer with 700 FTEs in Q4 2019 paid $12,000 in wages and $6,000 in health insurance costs to an employee who worked full-time (40 hours per week) in Q4 2021. The employer had a revenue decline of more than 90% in Q4 2021. The qualified wages and health insurance costs|
Claim the Credit and Report It
For the Internal Revenue Service to grant the Employee Retention credit (ERC), employers must file either a federal tax return for employment (Form 941), or an amended tax return for employment (Form941-X). The employer will need to declare the qualified wages paid and the health insurance expenses paid for eligible employees. They must also report the credit claimed.
Form 941 is used by employers to report their quarterly federal tax liabilities, which includes income tax, Medicare tax, and social security tax. Form 941 allows employers to claim ERCs for current or future quarterly periods. The employer can use Form 941 to:
- ERC reduces taxes that employers have to deposit at the IRS.
- The employer can request an advanced payment of the ERC credit if it exceeds taxes that they have to deposit. File Employee Retention Credit
- Any excess credit can be carried forward to the next quarter
To ensure the correct completion of Form 941, and to avoid common errors:
- Use the newest version of the Form 941, which reflects changes to laws that impact the ERC.
- For calculating and reporting your ERC, follow the IRS’s instructions and worksheets.
- Use Line 11c to report the qualified wages and health insurance costs paid to eligible employees
- Use Line 13d to report the amount of credit claimed for each quarter
- Use Line 13f to declare any advance payments received from the IRS.
- Line 24 is the place to ask for an advance payment if you need it.
- You can report excess credit on Line 25 for the following quarters.
- Sign and date Form 941, attaching any supporting documents, schedules, or schedules.
Some tips and resources for filling out Form 941 are:
- Use electronic filing services (efile) and online services to submit the Form 941 faster, more securely
- You can find updates, FAQs, and more information on the IRS site about Form 941, the ERC.
- Contact the IRS or a tax professional for assistance or clarification if needed
Form 941-X allows you to correct mistakes or make adjustments in Form 941 that has already been filed. The employer can also claim the ERC retroactively by using Form 941X. The employer may use Form 941 to: File Employee Retention Credit
- Claim refunds or credits for taxes overpaid due to the ERC
- 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
Employers should avoid these common mistakes when filling out Form 941 X and ensure that they are filled out correctly.
- Use the latest version 941-X to reflect the updated laws and regulations that impact the ERC.
- Follow the instructions and worksheets provided by the IRS for calculating and reporting the ERC
- Use Part 2 for indicating which lines of the Form 941 need to be corrected or adjusted
- Use Part 3 to explain the reason for a correction or adjustment on Form 941
- Line 24 should be used to record any additional health insurance and wages paid to employees who qualify.
- Use Line 25 for any additional credit claimed 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:
- Filter a separate Form 941/X for every quarter that needs to be corrected or adjusted File Employee Retention Credit
- You should fill out Form 941/X as quickly as possible after you have made an adjustment or discovered an error.
- You can find updates, FAQs, and more information on the IRS site about the ERC and Form 941X.
- Contact the IRS or a tax professional for assistance or clarification if needed
Deadline and Statute of Limitations
Form 941 must be filed by the last date of the month that follows the end each quarter. For example, Form 941 for Q1 of 2021 (January to March) is due April 30, 2020. Nevertheless, if the employer deposited all taxes due in a given quarter on time, they may file Form 941 before the 10th day. The end of the quarter. For example, for Q1 2021 (January-March), Form 941 is due by May 10, 2021, File Employee Retention Credit
Form 941X must be filed within three years of the original filing date or two from the payment date, whichever comes later. 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 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 (ERC) Credit is an important tax benefit which can help employers that were affected by COVID-19 to retain their employees, and lessen the impact the pandemic had on their organizations or businesses.
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. 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 will not be available indefinitely, and it has a set deadline and statute of limitations. Use the resources and tips provided in this article to ensure that you fill out your forms correctly and avoid common mistakes. For clarifications or help, you can always contact an IRS agent or tax professional.
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. We hope this article has helped you understand more about the ERC and how to claim it. We thank you for reading. Please stay safe.
File Employee Retention Credit
What is ERC and what does it do?
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. Only employers who paid wages and retained employees between March 13, 2019, and December 31, 2020, are eligible.
More details are available above. But here are some of the highlights.
- A government order imposed a suspension (full or partial) on the business or organization due to COVID-19.
- The gross receipts of a calendar quarter for 2020 or 2021 were less than a percent of the gross receipts from a similar quarter 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 rate?
The amount ERC received by a business or organization will depend upon several factors.
Some of these factors include the time period, the number of employees, the number of qualified wages, and health insurance costs paid 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.
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.
Form 941 deadline is typically the last of the month following each quarter. While the deadline for the Form 941-X will be three years after you filled out the original Form 941. It can be as late as two years after you paid the tax, but the later date is the preferred date.