The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented challenges and hardships for many businesses and organizations around the world. Lockdowns, social distance, health and security measures and lockdowns have caused many employers to face reduced revenue, increased expenses and disruptions in their operations.
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 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 the Employee Retention Credit? Is The Employee Retention Credit Considered Income
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 was created by the CARES Act in 2020 and was extended and modified by subsequent legislation in 2021 and 2023. The ERC encourages employers to maintain their workers and to provide health benefits to them during the crisis.
Main Features and Benefits
- Credit is a fixed percentage of qualifying wages and health care costs paid by employers to employees.
- The 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. Is The Employee Retention Credit Considered Income
- 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. For 2023 only, employers that are classified as recovery startup business can claim the credit.
- The credit may be claimed by filing a modified employment tax return (941-X), or by reducing the employment tax deposits to prepare for the credit. The credit can be requested in advance by employers 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:
- 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.
The recovery startup rule also applies to businesses that began operating after February 14, 2020 and had average annual gross receipts not exceeding $1 million. 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 limits travel, commerce or group meetings as a result of COVID-19
- The order has a direct impact on the operations of an organization or business
- The order will apply to any calendar month in 2020 or even 2021
Examples of government orders which can lead to a suspension of business include:
- Stay-athome orders restrict non-essential enterprises from operating
- Curfews that limit the hours of operation for certain businesses
- Capacity limitations that reduce the amount of customers or clientele that a firm can service
- Bans on travel or restrictions on the ability to transport goods or service by a business
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:
- The nature and scope of the order and how it affects the operations of the business
- The length, frequency, and timing of the order in relation to the quarters of the year.
- 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 receipts from any quarter in 2020 is less than 50% its gross receipts from the same calendar 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 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 and services
- Dividends (rents), royalties and interest
- Contributions, gifts and grants Is The Employee Retention Credit Considered Income
- Membership dues
- Gross revenue from businesses or trades
Employers must use the following formulas to calculate gross receipts and compare them between quarters.
- It should use the same method of accounting, either cash or accrual, that it used for its federal income tax returns 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 of income that it reported on its federal income tax return for 2019
Recovery Startup Business
A recovery startup is a business:
- Start any new business or occupation after February 15, 2019,
- Have average annual gross income of no more than $1 million over the three-year period ending the tax year before the calendar quarter in which the credit is determined
Even if it does not meet the criteria for revenue decline or suspension of business, a recovery startup can still qualify. However, there are some limitations and special rules that apply to recovery startup businesses, such as:
- The maximum credit per quarter will be $50,000
- Only wages paid during the third and fourth quarters in 2021 are eligible for this credit
- All recovery startup businesses are subject to an aggregate cap of $250,000,000.
Credit Amount and Calculation
ERC amounts and rules vary for different time periods and employers. The ERC is primarily affected by:
- How much business income dropped compared to 2019.
- How many employees the employer had in 2019 or 2020/2021, and whether they worked or not during the pandemic
- What the employer paid each employee for their health insurance and during the pandemic
Employers must complete and send IRS forms to claim ERC. The employer has to fill out the forms and show how much he paid his employees, as well their health insurance, to qualify for ERC. The IRS will examine the forms to determine if the employer is eligible and then pay him the money. The money can be used by the employer to pay for health insurance, to pay employees, or refunds on payroll taxes.
The ERC will not be available indefinitely. It began in March 2019 and will finish in September 2020. The employer must claim ERC before the expiration date or when it becomes unavailable. Employers must also use the money well and not waste it. Is The Employee Retention Credit Considered Income
Below you will find detailed information on ERC, including the amount of credit and the calculation.
The ERC was introduced, amended, and terminated by different laws in 2020, 2021, and 2022. The 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 of eligible employees will affect the calculation and definition of health insurance and qualified wages. 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 following table summarizes the thresholds and rules for determining the employer size for 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 and 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 wages include health insurance costs for eligible employees such as co-pays and deductibles.
The calculation of qualified wages, health insurance costs and employer size depends on the time period. Table 1 summarizes and gives examples of rules in various scenarios. Is The Employee Retention Credit Considered Income
|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|
Claiming and Reporting the Credit
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 must report the qualified wages and health insurance costs paid to eligible employees and the amount of credit claimed for each quarter.
Form 941 is used by employers to report their quarterly federal tax liabilities, which includes income tax, Medicare tax, and social security tax. Form 941 allows the employer also to claim ERCs in current or future quarters. Form 941 allows the employer to do:
- 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. Is The Employee Retention Credit Considered Income
- 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 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
- 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.
- If you need to receive an advance payment, use Line 24.
- Report any credit balance that may be carried forward into the next quarter using Line 25
- Sign Form 941, date it and attach any documents or schedules that you wish to include.
Here are some tips and resources to help you fill out Form 941:
- Use online services (e-file or online filing) to submit Form 941, faster and with greater security.
- The IRS website has updated FAQs on the ERC and Form 941.
- Contact the IRS or a tax professional for assistance or clarification if needed
Forms 941-X are used to rectify errors or make adjustments to Forms 941 previously submitted. Form 941-X allows employers to claim ERC retroactively. The employer can use the Form 941 X to: Is The Employee Retention Credit Considered Income
- Claim a credit or refund for the taxes you overpaid by claiming ERC
- Report additional qualified earnings and health benefits paid to eligible employee that weren’t reported on Form 941.
- The amount of credit claimed will be affected by any mistakes or omissions in Form 941.
The employer should:
- Use the latest version 941-X to reflect the updated laws and regulations that impact the ERC.
- Use the IRS worksheets and instructions to calculate and report the ERC
- Use Part 2 to indicate the lines on Form 941 that are being corrected or adapted.
- 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 is the place to enter any additional credit claims for each quarter.
- Use Line 26 for any refunds or credits due to ERC claims.
- Sign the form 941-X, date it and include any documents or schedules that you wish to attach.
Some tips and resources for filling out Form 941-X are:
- For each quarter to be adjusted or corrected, you must submit a different Form 941X. Is The Employee Retention Credit Considered Income
- You should fill out Form 941/X as quickly as possible after you have made an adjustment or discovered an error.
- Visit the IRS website to get the latest updates, FAQs, and guidance regarding Form 941-X, the ERC, and other forms.
- Need clarification? Contact an IRS agent or tax professional.
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 Q1 2021 (January-March), the Form 941 must be filed by April 30th, 2021. In the event that an employer has deposited the taxes due on time for a particular quarter, Form 941 can be filed by the 10th date of the following month. Following the end of the quarter. For example, Q1 2020 (January to March) requires that Form 941 be returned by May 10, 2021. Is The Employee Retention Credit Considered Income
The deadline for submitting Form 941X depends on the time period. It is generally three or two years, depending on the date when the original Form 941 has been filed. For example, Q1 2019 (January to March), Form 941 had to be submitted by April 30, 2019. If an employee filed Form 941 in April 2020 and paid their tax in April 2020, the deadline to file the Form 941 X is April 30 2023. If an employee filed Form 941 April 30, 2020 and paid tax June 15, 2020 the deadline for submitting Form 941 X is June 15, 222.
Employee Retention Credit is a valuable tax credit that can assist employers affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic to keep their employees and reduce the impact on their business or organization.
The ERC can be claimed by filing Form 941 or Form 941-X with the IRS and reporting the qualified wages and costs of health insurance paid to eligible workers. 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.
If you are an employer who meets the eligibility criteria for the ERC, you should not miss this opportunity to take advantage of this tax benefit. The ERC will not be available indefinitely, and it has a set deadline and statute of limitations. You should file your forms as soon as possible and use the tips and resources provided in this article to fill them out correctly and avoid common errors. You can also contact the IRS or a tax professional for assistance or clarification if needed.
ERCs can be a huge help to your organization or business and its employees. It can help you retain your workers, maintain your cash flow, and recover from the pandemic. This article is intended to help you better understand the ERC, and how it can be claimed. Thank you for reading. Stay safe.
Is The Employee Retention Credit Considered Income
What is ERC and what does it do?
Employee Retention Credit is an employer tax credit available to employers who kept their employees on payroll during COVID-19.
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.
Who is eligible for the ERC?
Not everyone is eligible for the ERC. Employers who retained their employees and paid them wages between March 13, 2020, and December 31, 2021, are eligible.
There are also criteria for eligibility; more details can be read above, but here are the highlights:
- A government order imposed a suspension (full or partial) on the business or organization due to COVID-19.
- The gross receipts they had for a calendar-quarter in 2020, 2021 or both were less than 10% of their gross receipts during the same quarter last year.
- 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 ERC received by a business or organization will depend upon several factors.
Some of these include the time period and number of employees. Others are the amount paid in qualified wages or health insurance to eligible employees. To learn more about how ERCs are calculated, please read the article.
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.
The employer must report the qualified wages and health insurance costs paid to eligible employees and the amount of credit claimed for each quarter.
When is the deadline to file the ERC Forms
The deadline for filing the ERC forms is different for Form 941 and Form 941-X.
Form 941 deadline is typically the last of the month following each quarter. The deadline for Forms 941-X, however, is usually three years after the date the original Form was completed. This can also be up to two years, based on the date when the tax is paid.