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.
To help employers keep their employees, and to provide them with health insurance during these difficult times, the U.S. federal government has created the Employee Retention credit (ERC), an refundable tax credits that can offset some of payroll costs for employers who qualify.
The ERC first became law in 2020 with the CARES Act. It was then extended and modified in subsequent legislations in 2021 and 2023. The ERC will be explained in this article, along with how it works and the different eligibility criteria and time periods for which it can be claimed.
For a brief reading of what the Employee Retention Credit or ERC is, take a look at this video from the YouTube channel “ERC Specialists”. You can also continue below to read an in-depth explanation of ERC.
What is Employee Retention Credit (ERC)? Qualified Wages For Employee Retention Credit
The Employee Retention Credit (ERC) is a refundable tax credit for businesses and tax-exempt organizations that had employees and were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The ERC is a refundable tax credit that was created by 2020’s CARES Act and has been extended and changed by subsequent legislations of 2021 and 2023. The ERC’s goal is to encourage employers during a crisis to continue to employ their workers, and to offer them health coverage.
Main Features and Benefits
- Credit is a fixed percentage of qualifying wages and health care costs paid by employers to employees.
- 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. Qualified Wages For Employee Retention Credit
- The credit will be fully refundable if its amount exceeds that of the employer’s payroll taxes.
- The credit can be claimed by employers who experienced a significant decline in gross receipts or a full or partial suspension of operations due to a qualifying government order related to COVID-19. Employers who are considered to be recovery startup businesses may also claim this credit, but only for 2023.
- Credits may be obtained by filing a revised employment tax form (Form 941X) or reducing employment deposit amounts in anticipation. 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:
- 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 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.
An order of the government can suspend a business or an organization in full or part if it:
- The order restricts commerce, travel or group meetings because of COVID-19
- The order has an impact on the business or organization
- The order applies to all calendar quarters in 2020 and 2021
Some examples of government orders that can cause a business suspension are:
- Orders to stay at home that prevent non-essential companies from operating
- Curfews are restrictions on the hours that certain businesses can operate
- Limits in capacity that restrict the number or clients that a business can serve
- Travel bans and restrictions that restrict the ability for a company to transport services or goods
An employer should consider the following factors to determine if an order from a government has suspended a business in its entirety or only partially.
- The scope and nature of the order as well as how it impacts 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
It is considered that a business or organization has experienced a significant drop in gross receipts when:
- The gross receipts for any calendar quarter in 2020 were less than 50% of its gross receipts for the same quarter in 2019
- The gross revenue for any quarter of 2021 was less than 80% that for the same period in 2019.
Gross receipts refer to the total of all money received or accrued during a company’s annual accounting period. Gross receipts include the following:
- Sales of Goods and Services
- Interest, dividends, rents, royalties, and annuities
- Donations, contributions, grants and gifts Qualified Wages For Employee Retention Credit
- Membership fees and dues
- Gross profit from business or trade
Employers must use the following formulas to calculate gross receipts and compare them between quarters.
- The same method for accounting (cash-based or accrual-based) that was used to file the federal income Tax return for 2019
- The same calendar year quarters that it used to file its federal employment tax returns (Form 941) for 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:
- Began carrying on any trade or business after February 15, 2020,
- If you have average annual gross revenues of less than $1 million in any three tax-year period that ends with the tax-year preceding the calendar quarter for credit determination.
A recovery startup business can qualify for the ERC regardless of whether it meets the criteria of business suspension or revenue decline. Recovery startup businesses are subject to certain restrictions and special rules.
- The maximum amount of credit 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
- The credit is subject to an overall cap of $250 million for all recovery startup businesses
Credit Amounts Calculation
There are different ERC rules and amounts for different employers and periods of time. The ERC is primarily affected by:
- How much business income dropped compared to 2019.
- Employer’s number of employees in 2019 or 2021, and whether the employee worked or not.
- How much the employer paid to each employee and their health insurance during the pandemic
The employer has to fill out some forms and send them to the IRS to claim the ERC. The forms have to show how much the employer paid to their employees and their health insurance and why they qualify for the ERC. The IRS will then check the forms before giving the money to employers. The employer could use this money to pay health insurance for employees or to get refunds and credits for payroll taxes.
ERCs are not available forever. The ERC will expire in September 2022. Employers must claim their ERC before they expire or become unavailable. The employer should also make sure to not waste the money. Qualified Wages For Employee Retention Credit
Below you will find detailed information on ERC, including the amount of credit and the calculation.
In 2020, 2021, & 2022, different laws were passed to introduce, amend, and terminate the ERC. The credit amount varies depending on the time period for which it is claimed. The table below summarises key features and differences for the ERC in each time frame:
|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 employed affects how wages are calculated and defined, as well as the health insurance premiums for eligible employees. According to the time frame and number of full-time equivalents (FTEs), an employer can be classified as a small employer or large employer. This table summarizes thresholds and rules to determine the size of an employer for each 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 wages also include the cost of providing health insurance to eligible employees, such as premiums, deductibles, co-pays, and co-insurance.
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. Qualified Wages For Employee Retention Credit
|Employer Size||Time Period||Qualified Wages and Health Insurance Costs||Example|
|Small||2020||All wages and health insurance costs paid to any employee, regardless of whether the employee worked or not||An employer with 80 FTEs in 2019 paid $8,000 in wages and $2,000 in health insurance costs to an employee in 2020. The employer had a revenue decline of more than 50% in Q2 2020. The qualified wages and health insurance costs for Q2 2020 are $10,000.|
|Small||Q1-Q3 2021||All wages and health insurance costs paid to any employee, regardless of whether the employee worked or not||An employer with 400 FTEs in 2019 paid $12,000 in wages and $3,000 in health insurance costs to an employee in Q1 2021. The employer had a revenue decline of more than 20% in Q1 2021. The qualified wages and health insurance costs for Q1 2021 are $15,000.|
|Small||Q3-Q4 2021 (Recovery Startup Business)||All wages and health insurance costs paid to any employee, regardless of whether the employee worked or not (subject to a $50,000 cap per quarter)||A recovery startup business that began operations in March 2020 paid $9,000 in wages and $1,000 in health insurance costs to an employee in Q3 2021. The business had average annual gross receipts of $800,000. The qualified wages and health insurance costs for Q3 2021 are $10,000.|
|Small||Q4 2021 – Q3 2022 (Severely Financially Distressed Employer)||All wages and health insurance costs paid to any employee, regardless of whether the employee worked or not||An employer with 600 FTEs in Q2 2019 paid $11,000 in wages and $4,000 in health insurance costs to an employee in Q4 2021. The employer had a revenue decline of more than 90% in Q4 2021. The qualified wages and health insurance costs for Q4 2021 are $15,000.|
|Large||2020||Wages and health insurance costs paid to an employee for the time that the employee did not work (up to the amount that the employee would have been paid for working an equivalent duration during the 30 days immediately preceding the period of economic hardship)||An employer with 120 FTEs in 2019 paid $10,000 in wages and $2,000 in health insurance costs to an employee who worked full-time (40 hours per week) in 2020. The employer had a business suspension due to a government order in April 2020. The employee did not work for two weeks in April 2020. The qualified wages and health insurance costs for April 2020 are $2,308 ($10,000 x2/52+$2,000 x2/52).|
|Large||Q1-Q3 2021||Wages and health insurance costs paid to an employee for the time that the employee did not work (up to the amount that the employee would have been paid for working an equivalent duration during the 90 days immediately preceding the period of economic hardship)||An employer with 550 FTEs in 2019 paid $15,000 in wages and $5,000 in health insurance costs to an employee who worked full-time (40 hours per week) in Q1 2021. The employer had a revenue decline of more than 20% in Q1 2021. The employee did not work for three weeks in Q1 2021. The qualified wages and health insurance costs for Q1 2021 are $5,769 ($15,000 x3/13+$5,000 x3/13).|
|Large||Q3-Q4 2021 (Severely Financially Distressed Employer)||All wages and health insurance costs paid to any employee, regardless of whether the employee worked or not (only if the employer had a revenue decline of more than 90%. Otherwise, the same rules as Q1-Q32021 apply.)||An employer with 700 FTEs in Q4 2019 paid $12,000 in wages and $6,000 in health insurance costs to an employee who worked full-time (40 hours per week) in Q4 2021. The employer had a revenue decline of more than 90% in Q4 2021. The qualified wages and health insurance costs|
Claim and Report Credit
For an employer to claim the Employee retention credit (ERC), they must submit a federal employment return (Form 951) or a revised employment tax report (Form 941X) to the Internal Revenue Service. 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 a quarterly tax return that the employer must file to show his federal tax liabilities. This includes income taxes, Medicare tax and Social Security taxes. The employer can also claim the ERC in Form 941 for future or current quarters. The employer can use the Form 941 for:
- ERC reduces taxes that employers have to deposit at the IRS.
- Request an advance payment of the ERC if the credit exceeds the taxes that the employer has to deposit Qualified Wages 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 Form 941, 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 Line 11c for the amount of qualified wages and health benefits paid to eligible employees
- Use Line 13d to report the amount of credit claimed for each quarter
- Use Line 13f to declare any advance payments received from the IRS.
- 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.
The following are some resources and tips for filling in 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.
- Contact the IRS or a tax professional for assistance or clarification if needed
The Form 941 X is used for corrections and adjustments to a Form 941. Form 941 X also allows for the employer to claim ERC retroactively. The employer may use Form 941 to: Qualified Wages For Employee Retention Credit
- Claim a refund or credit for overpaid taxes due to claiming the ERC
- Report additional qualified earnings and health benefits paid to eligible employee that weren’t reported on Form 941.
- Correct any mistakes or omissions made on Form 941 that affect the amount of credit claimed
To fill out Form 941-X correctly and avoid common errors, the employer should:
- Use the latest version of Form 941-X that reflects the changes and updates made by the laws that affect the ERC
- Follow the instructions and worksheets provided by the IRS for calculating and reporting 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
- Line 24 is used to report additional wages and health insurance premiums paid to eligible employees.
- Use Line 25 to claim any additional credit for each quarter.
- Use Line 26 when reporting any refund or credit that you have requested as a result of claiming your ERC
- Attach any supporting documents and schedules to Form 941-X.
Tips and resources on how to complete Form 941 X include:
- For each quarter to be adjusted or corrected, you must submit a different Form 941X. Qualified Wages For Employee Retention Credit
- If you discover an error on Form 941 or make an adjustment, file Form 941X as soon as you can.
- Check the IRS website for updates, FAQs, and guidance on Form 941-X and the ERC
- For clarifications or help, you can contact the IRS.
Deadline and Statute of Limitations
The deadline for submitting Form 941 generally falls on the last calendar day of the following month. 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. After the end quarter. For example, Q1 2020 (January to March) requires that Form 941 be returned by May 10, 2021. Qualified Wages For Employee Retention Credit
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, for Q1 2020 (January-March), Form 941 was due by April 30, 2020. If the employer has filed Forms 941 and paid tax by April 30th 2020, they have until April 30th 2023 to submit Form 941X. If an employer filed form 941 on April 30 2020 and paid the tax by June 15, 2020, then the deadline to file Form 941-X will be June 15, 2022.
Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERC), is a valuable financial benefit that helps employers to keep their employees employed and reduces the impact COVID-19 has on their organization or business.
The ERC (Eligible Employees Credit) is a tax credit that can vary depending on the time frame, the number and type of employees employed, and the amount paid in wages and insurance to employees eligible for the credit. 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.
Do not miss out on this opportunity if you’re an employer that meets the ERC eligibility criteria. The ERC has a time limit and deadline for claiming. 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 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. This article aims to provide you with more information about the ERC. Thanks for reading and please stay safe.
Qualified Wages For 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.
It was created by the CARES Act in March 2020 and was later amended and extended by the CAA (Consolidated Appropriations Act) in December 2020, and the ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act of 2021) in March 2021
Can everyone apply for ERC?
ERC eligibility is not universal. Employers only eligible for the ERC are those who have retained and paid wages to their employees between March 14, 2020 and Dec 31, 2021.
More details are available above. But here are some of the highlights.
- 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.
How much is the ERC?
The amount of ERC that a company will receive depends on a number of factors.
Some of these factors include the time period, the number of employees, the number of qualified wages, and health insurance costs paid to eligible employees. You can read the article above for a more detailed explanation of how ERC is calculated.
How to claim your 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 the Deadline for Filing the ERC Forms?
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. The deadline for Forms 941-X, however, is usually three years after the date the original Form was completed. It can be as late as two years after you paid the tax, but the later date is the preferred date.