COVID-19 has caused hardships and unprecedented challenges for businesses and organizations all over the world. Many employers faced decreased revenues, increased costs, and disruptions of operations as a result of lockdowns.
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 has been in place since 2020 when the CARES Act was passed. Later, in 2021 and again in 2023, it was modified and extended by new legislation. 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 Employee Retention Credit? How Do I Apply For Employee Retention Credit Under The Cares Act
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, created in 2020 by the CARES Act, was then extended and modified through subsequent legislation in both 2021-2023. The ERC is designed to encourage employers to retain their employees and offer them health benefits in times of crisis.
Main Features & 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 percentage and the limit vary depending on the time period for which the credit is claimed. In 2020, the 50% percentage and $5,000 limit per employee is applicable for the entire calendar year. For 2021, the percentage will be 70%, and the limit per quarter is $7,000 for each 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. How Do I Apply For Employee Retention Credit Under The Cares Act
- The credit is fully refundable, which means that if it exceeds the employer’s payroll tax liability the excess amount will be returned to the employer.
- Employers can claim this credit if they experienced a significant decrease in gross receipts due to an order from the government relating to COVID-19. 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. By submitting Form 7020, employers can request an early payment of their credit.
Criteria for Eligibility
To qualify for Employee Retention credit (ERC), employers must meet either of 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.
Additionally, there is an additional rule that only applies to startups who began operating on or after February 15, 2021, and have gross receipts totaling no more than $1.0 million. These businesses may qualify for ERC regardless of revenue or business suspension.
A government order will either fully or partially suspend an organization or business if:
- The order limits commerce, travel, or group meetings due to COVID-19
- The order has a direct impact on the operations of an organization or business
- This order is applicable to any calendar quarter of 2020 or 2021
Some examples of orders from the government that could cause a business to be suspended are:
- Stay-at-home orders prohibiting the operation of non-essential businesses
- Certain businesses have curfews that limit their hours of operations
- Limits to the number of clients or customers that a company can serve
- Travel bans or restrictions that affect the ability of a business to transport goods or services
To determine whether an employer’s business was suspended fully or partially by a government directive, the employer must:
- The nature and scope of the order and how it affects the operations of the business
- The duration and frequency of the order and how it coincides with the calendar quarters
- The impact of an order on revenue and expenses
A business or organization is considered to have experienced a significant decline in gross receipts if:
- The gross revenue for any calendar-quarter in 2020 was less than 50 percent of the gross revenues for the same period 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 can include:
- Sales of goods & services
- Dividends (rents), royalties and interest
- Donations, contributions, grants and gifts How Do I Apply For Employee Retention Credit Under The Cares Act
- Membership dues
- Gross profits from trades and businesses
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.
- It is the same income sources that were reported on the federal income tax returns for 2019.
Recovery Startup Business
Recovery startup businesses are those that:
- After February 15, 2020, you can start any business or trade.
- 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. There are certain limitations and rules that apply to recovery startups businesses.
- Maximum credit per quarter: $50,000
- The credit is only available for wages paid in the third and fourth quarters of 2021
- The maximum credit available for startup businesses is $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 ERC is affected by the following main factors:
- How much business income dropped compared to 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
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 verify the forms, and then give the money to your employer. The employer can then use the money for paying their employees, their health insurance and/or to receive refunds or credits on their payroll tax.
The ERC will not be available indefinitely. It began in March 2019 and will finish in September 2020. The employer has to claim the ERC before it expires or becomes unavailable. The employer should also make sure to not waste the money. How Do I Apply For Employee Retention Credit Under The Cares Act
The following information provides more details on the ERC credit and how it is calculated.
The ERC was implemented, amended, or terminated by various laws in 2020. 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 of eligible employees will affect the calculation and definition of health insurance and qualified wages. The size of an employer depends on its number of FTEs and the time period. 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 wages are wages paid to eligible employees during a period of business suspension or revenue decline. The list of qualified wages includes tips, bonuses, commissions, and severance payments, as well as sick leave, family leave, severance, and other compensation. Qualified salaries also include the costs of providing health coverage to eligible workers, including premiums, copays, deductibles, and coinsurance.
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 following table summarizes the rules and examples for different scenarios: How Do I Apply For Employee Retention Credit Under The Cares Act
|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 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 declare the wages and health insurance premiums paid to eligible employees, as well as the credit amount claimed each quarter.
Form 941 allows employers to declare their quarterly federal taxes, including income taxes, Medicare and Social Security tax. Form 941 is used by the employer to claim ERC for the current quarter or future. Form 941 allows the employer to do:
- 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 How Do I Apply For Employee Retention Credit Under The Cares Act
- Carry forward any excess credit to subsequent quarters
The employer should:
- Use the newest version of the Form 941, which reflects changes to laws that impact the ERC.
- The IRS has provided worksheets to help you calculate the ERC.
- Use Line 11c to declare the wages and costs of health insurance paid to employees who qualify.
- Report the amount of credit claimed each quarter using Line 13d.
- Line 13f should be used to report any advance payments made by the IRS.
- Use Line 24 to request a credit advance if necessary
- Report any credit balance that may be carried forward into the next quarter using Line 25
- Sign and date Form 941 and attach any supporting documents or schedules
Here are some tips and resources to help you fill out Form 941:
- Use online services or electronic filing to submit Form 941 more quickly and securely
- The IRS website has updated FAQs on the ERC and Form 941.
- If you need clarification or assistance, contact the IRS or an accountant.
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 can use the Form 941 X to: How Do I Apply For Employee Retention Credit Under The Cares Act
- Claim refunds or credits for taxes overpaid due to the ERC
- Report additional qualified wages and health insurance costs paid to eligible employees that were not reported on Form 941
- You can correct any errors or omissions that may have affected the credit claimed amount on Form 941.
Employers should avoid these common mistakes when filling out Form 941 X and ensure that they are filled out correctly.
- Use the latest form 941X that reflects changes to laws that are applicable to the ERC.
- Follow the instructions and worksheets provided by the IRS for calculating and reporting the ERC
- Use the Part 2 to indicate on which lines you are correcting or adjusting Form 941
- Use Part 3 to explain why Form 941 is being corrected or adjusted
- Use Line 24 for any additional qualified wage and health insurance expenses paid to eligible workers
- 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.
You can find some helpful tips on how to fill out the Form 941-X here:
- You must file a separate 941X form for each quarter you are correcting or adjusting. How Do I Apply For Employee Retention Credit Under The Cares Act
- You should fill out Form 941/X as quickly as possible after you have made an adjustment or discovered an error.
- Updates, FAQs, and guidance about Form 941X and ERC can be found on the IRS website.
- Need clarification? Contact an IRS agent or tax professional.
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 example, Q1 2020 (January-March) Form 941 will be due on April 30, 2021. The employer can still file Form 941 if they have deposited their taxes on time. The following quarter. For example, for Q1 2021 (January-March), Form 941 is due by May 10, 2021, How Do I Apply For Employee Retention Credit Under The Cares Act
The deadline to file Form 941-X generally is three years after the date the original Form 941 is filed, or two years after the date the tax is paid. For example, Q1 2019 (January to March), Form 941 had to be submitted by April 30, 2019. 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 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, a refundable credit, varies according to the time period and number of employees as well as the amount of qualified wage and health insurance expenses paid to employees who are eligible. 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.
This tax benefit is available to employers who meet the ERC’s eligibility criteria. The ERC cannot be claimed forever. There is a deadline to claim it and a statute that limits its use. The forms should be filed as soon as you can. You can use the resources and advice provided in this post to avoid common mistakes and fill them out correctly. If you need clarification or assistance, you can contact the IRS.
The ERC is a great tool for both your business and employees. It will help you to keep your employees, maintain a healthy cash flow, as well as recover from pandemic. This article aims to provide you with more information about the ERC. Thank you for reading, and stay safe.
How Do I Apply For Employee Retention Credit Under The Cares Act
What is an ERC?
Employee Retention Credit: This is a credit that employers can claim if they retained employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The CARES Act created the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 in March 2021. Later, the CAA (Consolidated Appropriations Act), in December 2020, was amended and expanded by ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act of 2021), in March 2021.
Is everyone eligible for the ERC?
ERC isn’t available to everyone. The ERC is only available to employers that have paid wages to employees between March 13, 2020, and December 31, 2021.
Below are some details about eligibility.
- The business or organization was suspended (fully or partially) by government order due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Their gross revenues for a quarter calendar in 2020 or in 2021 were lower than a percentage compared to their gross revenues for the same period in 2019.
- They are a recovery startup business that began operations after February 15, 2020, and has average annual gross receipts of no more than $1 million.
What is the ERC rate?
The amount of ERC a company or organization receives will depend on 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. The article above provides a detailed explanation on how ERC is calculated.
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 last day to submit Form 941 for each quarter is the last calendar month. Meanwhile, the deadline for Form 941-X is generally three years from the date that the original Form 941 was filled. It can be as late as two years after you paid the tax, but the later date is the preferred date.