COVID-19’s pandemic caused unimaginable hardships to many organizations and businesses around the globe. Many employers faced decreased revenues, increased costs, and disruptions of operations as a result of lockdowns.
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 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 explain what the ERC is, how it works, and how to claim it for different time periods and eligibility criteria.
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? Gusto Employee Retention Credit
Employee Retention Credit (ERC), a refundable tax credits, is available for tax-exempt businesses or organizations with employees that were affected in any way by the COVID-19 Pandemic. The ERC has been created by the CARES Act for 2020. It was further extended and modified with subsequent legislation in 2021, 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
- The credit is equal to a percentage of qualified wages and health insurance costs paid to eligible employees, up to a certain limit per employee per quarter.
- The percentage and the limit vary depending on the time period for which the credit is claimed. In 2020, 50% of the employees will be eligible for the credit, with a maximum limit of $5,000 per employee. In 2021, 70% of the employees will be eligible for the maximum. The limit per employee is $7,000. For 2023, the percentage is 70% for the first two quarters and 40% for the last two quarters, and the limit is $10,000 per employee per quarter. Gusto Employee Retention Credit
- The credit amount is fully refundable, meaning if the credit exceeds your employer’s tax liability on payroll, you will receive the excess as a reimbursement.
- 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 can be claimed by filing an amended employment tax return (Form 941-X) or by reducing employment tax deposits in anticipation of the credit. Employers may also request an advanced payment of the credit using Form 7200.
To qualify as an employer for the Employee retention Credit (ERC), you must meet at least one of the two criteria below:
- The employer’s business or organization was fully or partially suspended by a government order due to COVID-19 during a calendar quarter in 2020 or 2021
- 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 the commerce, travel and group meetings that are prohibited by COVID-19
- The order will affect the operation of the business or the organization
- The order applies to any calendar quarter in 2020 or 2021
Some examples of orders from the government that could cause a business to be suspended are:
- Stay-at-home orders that restrict non-essential businesses 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 bans or restrictions that affect the ability of a business to transport goods or services
Employers must take into account the following to determine whether a business has been suspended in full or in part by an order of government:
- How the nature and scope and the order affect the operation of the business
- The duration and frequency of the order and how it coincides with the calendar quarters
- The impact and magnitude of the order to the business’s revenues and costs
A business or organization is considered to have experienced a significant decline in gross receipts if:
- 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 for any calendar quarter in 2021 were less than 80% of its gross receipts for the same quarter in 2019
Gross receipts are the total sums that an organization or a business has accrued or received from all its sources in a given accounting year, without any deductions. Gross receipts consist of:
- Sales of Goods & Services
- Dividends, rents, and royalties, as well as interest, are all examples of annuities.
- Contributions, gifts, grants, and donations Gusto Employee Retention Credit
- Membership fees and dues
- Gross income from trades or businesses
To compare gross revenues for different quarters an employer can 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 of income that it reported on its federal income tax return for 2019
Recovery Startup Business
A recovery startup business is a business that:
- 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
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 startup businesses are subject to certain restrictions and special rules.
- Maximum credit per quarter: $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 Amounts Calculation
The ERC has different rules and amounts for different periods of time and different types of employers. The main factors that affect the ERC 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.
- How many employees an employer had in 2019, 2020/2021 or whether they worked, or did not work during the pandemic
- The amount of money paid by the employer to each employee as well as their health insurance during pandemic
Employers must complete and send IRS forms to claim ERC. The forms must include the total amount paid by the employer to employees, their health insurance coverage and the reasons why they are eligible for 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.
The ERC won’t be around forever. It started in March 2020 and will end 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. Gusto Employee Retention Credit
Here is more information about the ERC and its calculation.
The ERC has been introduced, modified, and terminated in different laws between 2020 and 2021. 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 affects the calculation of qualified wages for employees and their health insurance 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)
Earnings and Costs of Health Insurance
Qualified wages include wages paid to eligible workers during a business suspension or revenue decrease. Other forms of compensation are also included in qualified wages, such as tips, bonuses and commissions. Qualified wage also includes the cost of health insurance for eligible employees. This may include premiums, deductibles, co-pays, or 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. Table 1 summarizes and gives examples of rules in various scenarios. Gusto 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|
Claiming and Reporting the Credit
To claim the Employees Retention Credit, an employer must file with the Internal Revenue Service a federal Employment Tax Return (Form941) or a adjusted Employment Tax return (Form941X). The employer must declare the wages and health insurance premiums paid to eligible employees, as well as the credit amount claimed each quarter.
Form 941 reports the quarterly federal tax liability of an employer, including income tax and Medicare taxes. Form 941 is used by the employer to claim ERC for the current quarter or future. The employer can use Form 941 to:
- ERCs can be used to reduce the amount of tax that an employer must pay to the IRS.
- Employers can request a payment in advance if their ERC is higher than the taxes they are required to pay. Gusto Employee Retention Credit
- You can carry forward any credit balance to subsequent quarters
To fill out Form 941 correctly and avoid common errors, the employer should:
- Use the latest version 941 which reflects updates and changes in the ERC.
- Follow the IRS instructions and worksheets for calculating the ERC and reporting it.
- Use Line 11c for the amount of qualified wages and health benefits paid to eligible employees
- Use Line 13d for the credit claim amount per quarter
- Line 13f is used to report any advance payment of credit received by the IRS
- Use Line 24 to request an advance payment of the credit if needed
- Use Line 25 to report any excess credit that can be carried forward to subsequent quarters
- Sign and date Form 941, attaching any supporting documents, schedules, or schedules.
You can find some helpful tips on how to fill out Form 941 here:
- Use electronic filing (e-file) or online services to submit Form 941 faster and more securely
- You can find updates, FAQs, and more information on the IRS site about Form 941, the ERC.
- Need clarification? Contact an IRS agent or tax professional.
The Form 941X can be used to make corrections or adjustments on an earlier Form 941. Form 941-X also allows the employer to claim the ERC retroactively for past quarters. Form 941-X can be used by the employer to: Gusto Employee Retention Credit
- Claim your refund or credit due to overpaid taxes by claiming the ERC
- Report additional qualified wages paid and health insurance premiums paid to eligible workers that have not been reported on Form 941
- Correct any mistakes or omissions made on Form 941 that affect the amount of credit claimed
To avoid making common errors and fill out the Form 941-X correctly, employers should:
- Use the latest version 941-X to reflect the updated laws and regulations that impact 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 to explain the reason for a correction or adjustment on Form 941
- Use Line 24 to report any additional qualified wages and health insurance costs paid to eligible employees
- Line 25 should be used to declare any additional amount claimed as a credit each quarter
- Use Line 26 when reporting any refund or credit that you have requested as a result of claiming your ERC
- 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 Gusto Employee Retention Credit
- File Form 941-X as soon as possible after discovering an error or making an 0adjustment on Form 941
- Check the IRS website for updates, FAQs, and guidance on Form 941-X and the ERC
- If you need clarification or assistance, contact the IRS or an accountant.
Deadline and Statute of Limitations
Form 941 must be filed by the last date of the month that follows the end 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. The end of the quarter. Form 941 for the first quarter of 2021 (January – March) is due on May 10, 2021. Gusto Employee Retention Credit
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 Q1 of 2020 (January through March), the deadline for Form 941 to be filed was April 30, 2020. If an employer submitted Forms 941 on 30 April 2020 and the tax was paid on 30 April 2020, it is now April 2023 before they can file Forms 941-X. If an employer filed Form 941 on April 30, 2020, and paid the tax on June 15, 2020, the deadline for filing Form 941-X is June 15, 2022.
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 is a refundable tax credit. It varies based on time, number of employees, and amount of wages and health insurance 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.
Do not miss out on this opportunity if you’re an employer that meets the ERC eligibility criteria. The ERC does not last forever. It has a deadline, and there is a statute of limitations for claiming the ERC. Use the resources and tips provided in this article to ensure that you fill out your forms correctly and avoid common mistakes. You can contact the IRS for help or clarification, or you could consult a tax expert.
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 that this article helped you to understand more about ERC and the claim process. Thanks for reading and please stay safe.
Gusto Employee Retention Credit
What is ERC and what does it do?
The Employee Retention Credit is a tax credit for employers who retained their employees in their payroll during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The CARES Act was passed in March 2020. It was amended and extended in December 2020 by the CAA Act (Consolidated Appropriations Act) and in March 2021 by the ARPA Act (American Rescue Plan Act of 2021).
Can everyone apply for ERC?
The ERC is not available to everyone. Only employers who paid wages and retained employees between March 13, 2019, and December 31, 2020, are eligible.
You can read more about the criteria here. Here are some highlights.
- A government order suspended the business (fully or partly) because of the COVID-19 epidemic.
- 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.
- These businesses are recovery startups that have been in operation since February 15, 2020. They also generate gross revenues of no more than $1 million on average per year.
What is the ERC worth?
The amount ERC received by a business or organization will depend upon several 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. For a detailed explanation of ERC, you can read the article mentioned above.
How do I claim my ERC?
To claim the ERC, an employer must file a federal employment tax reform or an adjusted employment tax return (Form 941-X) with the IRS.
The employer must provide a quarterly report detailing the wages, health insurance and other costs that are eligible for credit as well as the amount claimed.
When is ERC’s deadline?
The deadlines of Form 941, Form 941X and ERC 941 are different.
The last day for Form 941 in most cases is the last month following the end each quarter. Meanwhile, the deadline for Form 941-X is generally three years from the date that the original Form 941 was filled. This can also be up to two years, based on the date when the tax is paid.