COVID-19’s pandemic caused unimaginable hardships to many organizations and businesses around the globe. 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.
In order to help employers retain employees and offer them health benefits in this tough time, the U.S. Government has introduced the Employee retention credit (ERC), which is a tax credit refundable that can be used by eligible employers to offset some payroll costs.
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 provide an overview of the ERC and its workings, as well as how to apply for it in different time periods.
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)? How Do You Qualify For Employee Retention Credit
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 is designed to encourage employers to retain their employees and offer them health benefits in times of crisis.
Main Features and Advantages
- Credits are equal in percentage to the wages and insurance costs that employees who qualify for them have paid, but there is a maximum per employee.
- The credit limit and percentage are dependent on the period of time for which you claim the credit. For 2020 the percentage is set at 50%, while the maximum per employee is set at $5,000. For 2021, there is a 70% percentage and a limit of $7,000 per employee per quarter. For 2023, there is a 70% percentage for the first 2 quarters followed by 40% for the second two quarters. There is a $10,000 limit per employee. How Do You Qualify For Employee Retention Credit
- The credit is fully refundable. If the amount of credit exceeds an employer’s liability for payroll tax, the excess will then be paid back to the employer.
- Employers who have experienced a significant drop in gross receipts or a complete or partial suspension of their operations as a result of a government order relating to COVID-19 can claim the credit. In addition, employers who qualify as recovery-startup businesses for 2023 can also claim the credits.
- 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 can request an advance payment by submitting Form 7200.
Criteria for Eligibility
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 organisation was suspended in whole or in part by a government decree due to the COVID-19, during a quarter calendar of 2020 or 21
- 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 qualify for ERC despite business suspensions or revenue decreases.
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 impacts the operations of a business or organization
- The order applies to all calendar quarters in 2020 and 2021
Some examples of orders from the government that could cause a business to be suspended are:
- Stay-athome orders restrict non-essential enterprises from operating
- Curfews that limit the hours of operation for certain businesses
- Limits on the capacity of a business that limit how many customers or clients it can serve
- Travel restrictions or bans that impact the ability of an organization to transport goods and services
To determine whether an employer’s business was suspended fully or partially by a government directive, the employer must:
- The scope and nature of the order as well as how it impacts 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
A business or organization is considered to have experienced a significant decline in gross receipts if:
- The gross receipts of any calendar quarter in 2020 are less than half the gross receipts of the same quarter in 2019.
- The gross receipts from any calendar quarter during 2021 are less than 80% compared to the same quarter’s gross receipts from 2019.
Gross receipts are the total amount that a business or organization has received or accrued from all sources, during its annual accounting period. Gross receipts are:
- Sales of goods and services
- Dividends (rents), royalties and interest
- Gifts, donations, and contributions How Do You Qualify For Employee Retention Credit
- Membership fees and dues
- Gross profit from business or trade
To compare gross receipts between different quarters of the year, employers must use:
- Use the same method (cash or accrual accounting) as it used when filing its federal income taxes for 2019
- The same quarters in the calendar year as those used for the federal employment tax returns (Form 941) filed by 2019 and 2020/2021
- It is the same income sources that were reported on the federal income tax returns for 2019.
Recovery Startup Business
A recovery startup is a business:
- Begun carrying on any business after February 15th, 2020
- 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
The ERC is available to a recovery startup business regardless of whether or not it meets the criteria for business suspension or revenue decrease. There are certain limitations and rules that apply to recovery startups businesses.
- The maximum credit available per quarter is $50,000
- The credit will only be available to employees who have paid wages in the third quarter and fourth of 2021
- All recovery startup businesses are subject to an aggregate cap of $250,000,000.
Credit Amounts and Calculation
For different lengths of time, different types of employers and different amounts of ERC, the ERC has different rules. The ERC is primarily affected by:
- 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.
- What number of employees did the employer have in 2019 and 2020/2021?
- How much each employee received from their employer and how they were covered by health insurance in the pandemic
The employer has to fill out some forms and send them to the IRS to claim the ERC. The form must show the amount the employer paid for their employees’ health insurance, and how they qualified for the ERC. The IRS will review the forms and pay the money back to the employer. The employer can use the money to pay their employees and their health insurance or to get refunds or credits for their payroll taxes.
The ERC will not be available indefinitely. The ERC will expire in September 2022. The employer is required to claim ERCs before they expire, or are no longer available. The employer has to spend the money efficiently and not waste. How Do You Qualify For Employee Retention Credit
Here is more information about the ERC and its calculation.
The ERC was introduced, amended, and terminated by different laws in 2020, 2021, and 2022. The amount of the credit varies according to the time period that it is applied for. The table below summarizes key differences and features of the ERCs for each time period:
|Time Period||Law||Eligible Employers||Credit Rate||Qualified Wages|
|2020||CARES Act||Employers with business suspension or revenue decline of more than 50%||50% of qualified wages up to $10,000 per employee per year||Wages paid from March 13 to December 31, 2020|
|Q1-Q3 2021||CAA and ARPA||Employers with business suspension or revenue decline of more than 20%||70% of qualified wages up to $10,000 per employee per quarter||Wages paid from January 1 to September 30, 2021|
|Q3-Q4 2021 (Recovery Startup Business)||ARPA||Recovery startup businesses with average annual gross receipts of no more than $1 million,||70% of qualified wages up to $10,000 per employee per quarter (subject to a $50,000 cap per quarter),||Wages paid from July 1 to December 31, 2021,|
|Q4 2021 – Q3 2022 (Severely Financially Distressed Employer)||ARPA and IIJA||Employers with a revenue decline of more than 90%||70% of qualified wages up to $10,000 per employee per quarter||Wages paid from October 1, 2021, to September 30, 2022|
Number of Employees
The number and type of employees can affect the definition and calculation for qualified wages and health care costs. An employer is considered a small or large employer depending on the time period and the number of full-time employees (FTEs) it had in 2019. 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 earnings also include costs associated with providing health insurance coverage to eligible employees. These include premiums as well as deductibles.
The definition and calculation of qualified wages and health insurance costs depend on the employer size and the time period. The following table provides a summary of the rules for different scenarios. How Do You Qualify For Employee Retention Credit
|Employer Size||Time Period||Qualified Wages and Health Insurance Costs||Example|
|Small||2020||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||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)||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 the Credit
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requires that employers claim the Employee-Retention Credit by filing a federal income tax return, Form 941, or a modified employment tax form (Form941X), with them. 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 to report the employer’s quarterly federal tax liability, including income tax, social security tax, and Medicare tax. Form 941 allows the employer also to claim ERCs in current or future quarters. Form 941 is used by employers to:
- 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 You Qualify For Employee Retention Credit
- Carry over any excess credit into the following quarter
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.
- The IRS has provided worksheets to help you calculate the ERC.
- 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
- Use Line 13f to declare any advance payments received from 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 Form 941, date it and attach any documents or schedules that you wish to include.
You can find some helpful tips on how to fill out Form 941 here:
- Use electronic filing services (efile) and online services to submit the Form 941 faster, more securely
- Check the IRS website for updates, FAQs, and guidance on Form 941 and the ERC
- If you need clarification or assistance, contact the IRS or an accountant.
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. Form 941-X can be used by the employer to: How Do You Qualify For Employee Retention Credit
- Claim your refund or credit due to overpaid taxes by claiming the ERC
- Report additional qualified wages and health insurance costs paid to eligible employees that were not 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 Form 941-X which reflects all the updates and changes made to the ERC by new laws.
- Follow the IRS instructions and worksheets for calculating the ERC and reporting it.
- Use Part 2 of Form 941 to indicate which lines are being amended or corrected.
- Use Part 3 to explain why Form 941 is being corrected or adjusted
- 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 to report any credit or refund due to the ERC claim.
- Sign the form 941-X, date it and include any documents or schedules that you wish to attach.
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 You Qualify For 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
The last day to file Form 941 usually falls on the last month after the end of each quarterly period. For example, for Q1 2021 (January-March), Form 941 is due by April 30, 2021. Nevertheless, if the employer deposited all taxes due in a given quarter on time, they may file Form 941 before the 10th day. After the end quarter. For example, Q1 2020 (January to March) requires that Form 941 be returned by May 10, 2021. How Do You Qualify For 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 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 (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. It varies based on time, number of employees, and amount of wages and health insurance paid to eligible employees. 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.
Don’t miss this chance to get a tax break if your employer meets the ERC 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. For clarifications or help, you can always contact an IRS agent or tax professional.
ERCs are a powerful tool that can help your company or organization, as well as your employees. It can help your business or organization retain workers, maintain cash flow and recover from a pandemic. We hope this article has helped you understand more about the ERC and how to claim it. Stay safe and thank you for reading.
How Do You Qualify For Employee Retention Credit
What is the ERC?
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?
Not everyone is eligible for the ERC. The ERC is only available to employers that have paid wages to employees between March 13, 2020, and December 31, 2021.
There are also criteria for eligibility; more details can be read above, but here are the highlights:
- A government-issued order temporarily or permanently suspended the organization or business 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.
- You are a new business in recovery that has started operating after February 15th, 2020. Your average annual gross sales is no more than $1,000,000.
What is the ERC worth?
The amount of ERC that a company will receive depends on a number of factors.
These factors include time, the number of employees and the amount of wages that qualify. They also include health insurance costs for eligible employees. If you want a more detailed explanation, read the above article.
How to claim ERC
For an employer to claim the ERC, they must file either a federal reform of employment tax or an amended employment tax return (941-X).
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 file the ERC Forms
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 also be from two years from the date that the tax was paid, with the later date being the more preferred one.