The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented challenges and hardships for many businesses and organizations around the world. 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. This article will explain the ERC, how it functions, and how you can claim it.
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? Unclaimed Employee Retention Credit
Employee Retention Credit is a tax credit that can be refunded to businesses and tax-exempt organizations who had employees 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 aims to encourage employers to keep their workers on the payroll and provide them with health benefits during the crisis.
Main Features and Benefits
- 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 amount and percentage vary according to the time period in which it is claimed. In 2020, the 50% percentage and $5,000 limit per employee is applicable for the entire calendar year. In 2021, 70% of the employees will be eligible for the maximum. The limit per employee is $7,000. In 2023, 70% of the employees will be eligible for the first two quarterly limits and 40% in the final two. The limit for each employee is $10,000. Unclaimed Employee Retention Credit
- The credit will be fully refundable if its amount exceeds that of the employer’s payroll taxes.
- Employers may claim the credit if their gross receipts have declined significantly or they have had to suspend operations in whole or part due to a COVID-19-related government order. In addition, employers who qualify as recovery-startup businesses for 2023 can also claim the credits.
- 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.
To qualify for Employee Retention credit (ERC), employers must meet either of two main criteria.
- 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 employer’s gross receipts for a calendar quarter in 2020 or 2021 were less than 50% (for 2020) or 80% (for 2021) of its gross receipts for the same quarter in 2019
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 will either fully or partially suspend an organization or business if:
- The order limits travel, commerce or group meetings as a result of COVID-19
- The order has an impact on the business or organization
- This order is applicable to any calendar quarter of 2020 or 2021
Here are some examples of government orders that can result in a business being suspended:
- Stay-at-home orders that restrict non-essential businesses from operating
- Certain businesses have curfews that limit their hours of operations
- Capacity limits that reduce the number of customers or clients that can be served by a business
- Travel restrictions or travel bans that limit the ability of businesses to transport products or services
Employers must take into account the following to determine whether a business has been suspended in full or in part by an order of government:
- How the nature and scope and the order affect the operation of the business
- The length, frequency, and timing of the order in relation to the quarters of the year.
- The impact and magnitude of the order to the business’s revenues and costs
A business or organization is considered to have experienced a significant decline in gross receipts if:
- The gross 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 for any calendar quarter in 2021 were less than 80% of its gross receipts for the same quarter in 2019
Gross receipts are the total sums that an organization or a business has accrued or received from all its sources in a given accounting year, without any deductions. Gross receipts are:
- Sales of goods and Services
- Interest, dividends, rents, royalties, and annuities
- Donations, contributions, grants and gifts Unclaimed Employee Retention Credit
- Dues and fees for membership
- Gross income from trades or businesses
To compare gross receipts between different quarters of the year, employers must use:
- The same method of accounting (cash or accrual) that it used to file its 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
- The same sources of revenue that they reported on their federal income tax return in 2019
Recovery Startup Business
Recovery startup businesses are those that:
- You must have started your business after the 15th of February 2020
- The average annual gross receipts for the three tax years ending in the year preceding the quarter for which credit is calculated cannot exceed $1 million
Even if it does not meet the criteria for revenue decline or suspension of business, a recovery startup can still qualify. Recovery startup businesses are subject to certain restrictions and special rules.
- The maximum amount of credit per quarter is $50,000
- The credit can only be used for wages paid between the third and the fourth quarters of 2020
- The credit has a cap of 250 million dollars for all startup businesses that are eligible.
Credit Amount Calculation
The ERC has different rules and amounts for different periods of time and different types of employers. The ERC’s main influences are:
- How much the employer’s business was affected by the pandemic, either by having to close or reduce operations due to government orders or by having a big drop in income compared to 2019
- How many employees an employer had in 2019, 2020/2021 or whether they worked, or did not work during the pandemic
- 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. It started in March 2020 and will end in September 2022. The employer has to claim the ERC before it expires or becomes unavailable. The employer should also make sure to not waste the money. Unclaimed Employee Retention Credit
Below you will find detailed information on ERC, including the amount of credit and the calculation.
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 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 employed affects how wages are calculated and defined, as well as the health insurance premiums for eligible employees. A small employer or a large employer is determined by the number of employees who worked full-time (FTEs) in 2019 and the time period. The following table summarizes rules and thresholds to determine employer size.
|Time Period||Small Employer Threshold||Large Employer Threshold|
|2020||Less than or equal to 100 FTEs in 2019||More than 100 FTEs in 2019|
|Q1-Q2 2021||Less than or equal to 500 FTEs in 2019||More than 500 FTEs in 2019|
|Q3-Q4 2021||Less than or equal to 500 FTEs in any calendar quarter in either calendar year beginning after December 31, 2019, and ending before July 1, 2021. If an employer did not have in either calendar year beginning after December 31, 2019, and ending before July 1, 2021, the employer is treated as a small eligible employer if it had less than or equal to 500 FTEs in any calendar quarter beginning after June 30, 2021. For recovery startup businesses, the employer size is irrelevant. For severely financially distressed employers, the employer size is irrelevant if the employer had a revenue decline of more than 90%. Otherwise, the same rules as Q1-Q2 2021 apply.||More than 500 FTEs in any calendar quarter in either calendar year beginning after December 31, 2019, and ending before July 1, 2021. If an employer did not exist in either calendar year beginning after December 31, 2019, and ending before July 1, 2021, the employer is treated as a large eligible employer if it had more than 500 FTEs in any calendar quarter beginning after June 30, 2021.|
To count FTEs for a given year or quarter, an employer must use the following steps:
- Count the number of employees who worked at least 30 hours per week (or at least 130 hours per month) for each month in the year or quarter
- Add up the total hours worked by all other employees (who are not counted as FTEs) for each month in the year or quarter
- Divide the total hours by120and round down to the nearest whole number
- Add the number of FTEs from Step One and Step Three for each month in the year or quarter
- Calculate the average number of FTEs by adding up the monthly totals and dividing by 12 (for a year) or 3 (for a quarter)
Qualified Wages, Health Insurance Costs
Qualified wages include wages paid to eligible workers during a business suspension or revenue decrease. 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. Table 1 summarizes and gives examples of rules in various scenarios. Unclaimed 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
To claim the Employees Retention Credit, an employer must file with the Internal Revenue Service a federal Employment Tax Return (Form941) or a adjusted Employment Tax return (Form941X). The employer must 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 to report the employer’s quarterly federal tax liability, including income tax, social security tax, and Medicare tax. Form 941 is used by the employer to claim ERC for the current quarter or future. Form 941 allows the employer to do:
- ERC – Reduce the amount the employer is required to pay in taxes.
- If the ERC is greater than the tax that the employer must deposit, you can request an advance payment. Unclaimed Employee Retention Credit
- Carry over any excess credit into the following quarter
To avoid making common errors and fill out Form 941 correctly, employers should:
- Use the latest version 941 which reflects updates and changes in the ERC.
- For calculating and reporting your ERC, follow the IRS’s instructions and worksheets.
- Use Line 11c to report the qualified wages and health insurance costs paid to eligible employees
- Use Line 13d to report the amount of credit claimed for each quarter
- Use Line 13f for any advance payment received from IRS.
- If you need to receive an advance payment, use Line 24.
- You can report excess credit on Line 25 for the following quarters.
- Sign and date Form 941, and include any supporting documents and schedules.
The following are some resources and tips for filling in Form 941.
- Use electronic filing (e-file) or online services to submit Form 941 faster and more securely
- The IRS website has updated FAQs on the ERC and Form 941.
- For clarifications or help, you can contact the IRS.
Form 941-X is used to correct errors or make adjustments on a previously filed Form 941. Form 941 X also allows for the employer to claim ERC retroactively. Employers can use Form 941/X for Unclaimed Employee Retention Credit
- Claim your refund or credit due to overpaid taxes by claiming the ERC
- Report additional qualified earnings and health benefits paid to eligible employee that weren’t reported on Form 941.
- You can correct any errors or omissions that may have affected the credit claimed amount on Form 941.
The employer should:
- Use the most recent version of Form 941X, which reflects any changes or updates to the ERC laws.
- The IRS has provided worksheets to help you calculate the ERC.
- Use Part 2 for indicating which lines of the Form 941 need to be corrected or adjusted
- Use Part 3 of Form 941 to explain why it is being amended or corrected
- 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 for any refunds or credits due to ERC claims.
- Sign and date Form 941-X and attach any supporting documents or schedules
The following are some resources and tips for filling in Form 941X.
- Filter a separate Form 941/X for every quarter that needs to be corrected or adjusted Unclaimed Employee Retention Credit
- After making a correction or finding an error, you should file Form 941X.
- 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 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. If an employer has made all the required deposits for the quarter in a timely manner, they can file Forms 941 on the 10th of the second month. Following the end of the quarter. For example, the Q1 of 2021 is January-March. The Form 941 should be received by May 10th, 2021. Unclaimed Employee Retention Credit
Form 941X must be filed within three years of the original filing date or two from the payment date, whichever comes later. For example, for Q1 2020 (January-March), Form 941 was due by April 30, 2020. If an employer files Form 941 by April 30, 2020 and pays the tax on April 30 2020, then the deadline to file Form 941-X will be 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.
The Employee Retention Credit (ERC) is a valuable tax benefit that can help employers who were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic keep their employees on the payroll and reduce the impact of the pandemic on their businesses or organizations.
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. You can claim the ERC by submitting Form 941 to the IRS. This form will ask you for the number of employees, the amount paid in qualified wages and insurance costs each quarter, and how much credit is being claimed.
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 your business or organization retain workers, maintain cash flow and recover from a pandemic. This article should have helped you learn more about ERCs and how to apply for them. Stay safe and thank you for reading.
Unclaimed Employee Retention Credit
What is ERC and what does it do?
Employee Retention Credit (ERC) is a tax incentive for employers that retained their employees on their payrolls during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
The CARES Act, passed by Congress in March of this year, was amended in December of that year by the CAA Act. In March 2021, the ARPA Act (American Rescue Plan Act of 2021), was extended.
Can everyone apply for ERC?
The ERC is not available to everyone. 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.
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.
- Their gross receipts in a quarter of 2020 or 2021 are less than the percentage of their gross revenue in the same quarter of 2019.
- These businesses are recovery startups that have been in operation since February 15, 2020. They also generate gross revenues of no more than $1 million on average per year.
What is the ERC rate?
The amount of ERC an organization or business receives depends on several 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. To learn more about how ERCs are calculated, please read the article.
How to claim ERC?
To claim the ERC an employer must submit a federal employment reform (Form 941)-X or a revised employment tax return to the IRS.
Employers are required to report each quarter the total amount claimed as a credit and the wages and insurance premiums paid by eligible employees.
When is the Deadline for Filing the ERC Forms?
The deadlines for filing Forms 941 and 941-X are different.
The deadline for Form 941 is usually the last day in the month after the end of every quarter. Meanwhile, the deadline for Form 941-X is generally three years from the date that the original Form 941 was filled. This can also be up to two years, based on the date when the tax is paid.