COVID-19’s pandemic caused unimaginable hardships to many organizations and businesses around the globe. Many employers have experienced reduced revenues, higher expenses, and disruptions to their operations because of lockdowns, distancing from social media, and health-and-safety measures.
To help employers retain their employees and provide them with health benefits during this difficult time, the U.S. government has introduced the Employee Retention Credit (ERC), a refundable tax credit that can offset some of the payroll costs for eligible employers.
The ERC 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 explain what the ERC is, how it works, and how to claim it for different time periods and eligibility criteria.
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? What Can The Employee Retention Credit Be Used For
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 has been created by the CARES Act for 2020. It was further extended and modified with subsequent legislation in 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 Benefits
- Credits are equal to a percent of the qualified wages and costs for health insurance paid to eligible employees up to a limit per employee each quarter.
- The percentage and the maximum credit vary depending on how long the credit can be claimed. In 2020, the 50% percentage and $5,000 limit per employee is applicable for the entire calendar year. For 2021, the percentage will be 70%, and the limit per quarter is $7,000 for each employee. For 2023, 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. What Can The Employee Retention Credit Be Used For
- The credit is fully refundable, meaning that if the amount of the credit exceeds the employer’s payroll tax liability, the excess will be paid to the employer as a refund.
- 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.
- Credits are available by submitting an amended employment return (Form 951) or by reducing deposits for employment taxes in anticipation. Employers may also request an advanced payment of the credit 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 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 can be eligible for ERC regardless of their revenue decline or suspension.
A government order will either fully or partially suspend an organization or business if:
- The order restricts the commerce, travel and group meetings that are prohibited by COVID-19
- The order will affect the operation of the business or the organization
- The order will apply to any calendar month in 2020 or even 2021
Here are some examples of government orders that can result in a business being suspended:
- Stay-at-home orders prohibiting the operation of non-essential businesses
- Businesses are restricted in their operating hours by curfews
- Limits on the capacity of a business that limit how many customers or clients it can serve
- Travel restrictions or travel bans that limit the ability of businesses to transport products or services
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 nature and scope of the order and how it affects the operations of the business
- The order’s duration, frequency, and alignment 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 in any calendar quarter of 2020 will be less than 50% the gross receipts in the same quarter of 2019.
- The gross revenue for any quarter of 2021 was less than 80% that for the same period in 2019.
Gross receipts can be defined as all the money received by an organization or business from any source during their annual accounting period, without deductions. Gross receipts can include:
- Sales of Goods & Services
- Rents, dividends, and annuities are examples of income streams that include interest, dividends.
- Gifts, donations, and contributions What Can The Employee Retention Credit Be Used For
- Dues and fees for membership
- Gross profits from trades and businesses
To compare gross receipts between different quarters of the year, employers must use:
- It should use the same method of accounting, either cash or accrual, that it used for its federal income tax returns 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
- The same sources of revenue that they reported on their federal income tax return in 2019
Recovery Startup Business
A recovery startup business is a business that:
- After February 15, 2020, you can start any business or trade.
- The average annual gross receipts for the three tax years ending in the year preceding the quarter for which credit is calculated cannot exceed $1 million
A recovery startup business can qualify for the ERC regardless of whether it meets the criteria of business suspension or revenue decline. Recovery startups are not exempt from certain rules and restrictions.
- 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 maximum credit available for startup businesses is $250 million.
Credit Amount and Calculation
There are different ERC rules and amounts for different employers and periods of time. The ERC is affected primarily by:
- How much an employer’s company was affected by the pandemic.
- The number of employees that the employer has in 2019 or 2020/2021 and whether or not they worked during the pandemic
- The amount of money paid by the employer to each employee as well as their health insurance during pandemic
In order to receive the ERC from the IRS, the employer will need to complete some forms. The form must show the amount the employer paid for their employees’ health insurance, and how they qualified for the ERC. The IRS will check the forms and give the money to the employer. The employer may use the money in order to pay their employees’ health insurance premiums, or get refunds for their payroll tax.
The ERC will not be available indefinitely. The ERC started in March 2020 and ends in September 2022. The employer must claim the ERC prior to its expiration or becoming unavailable. Employers must also use the money well and not waste it. What Can The Employee Retention Credit Be Used For
Below is more detailed information on the credit amount and calculation of ERC.
Different laws introduced, amended and terminated the ERC in 2020, 2021 and 2022. The amount of the credit varies according to the time period that it is applied for. The following table summarises the main features and differences between the ERCs of 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|
The Number of Employees
The number affects the calculation of qualified wages for employees and their health insurance 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 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 & 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 wages include health insurance costs for eligible employees such as co-pays and deductibles.
The size of an employer’s business and the period in which they operate will determine the definition and calculation for qualified wages and health care costs. The following table provides a summary of the rules for different scenarios. What Can The Employee Retention Credit Be Used For
|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 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 allows employers to declare their quarterly federal taxes, including income taxes, Medicare and Social Security tax. Form 941 also allows the employer to claim the ERC for 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
- The employer can request an advanced payment of the ERC credit if it exceeds taxes that they have to deposit. What Can The Employee Retention Credit Be Used For
- Carry forward any excess credits to future quarters
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.
- Use the IRS worksheets and instructions to calculate and report the ERC
- Use Line 1c to report on the health insurance and wages that eligible employees have received.
- Use Line 13d to report the amount of credit claimed for each quarter
- Use Line 13f for any advance payment received from IRS.
- Use Line 24 to request a credit advance if necessary
- Line 25 is the place to enter any excess credit which can be carried to a subsequent quarter.
- Sign the form 941, and attach any supporting documents.
Here are some tips and resources to help you fill out Form 941:
- Use electronic filing (e-file) or online services to submit Form 941 faster and more securely
- You can find updates, FAQs, and more information on the IRS site about Form 941, the ERC.
- Need clarification? Contact an IRS agent or tax professional.
Form 941-X allows you to correct mistakes or make adjustments in Form 941 that has already been filed. Form 941 X also allows for the employer to claim ERC retroactively. The employer may use Form 941 to: What Can The Employee Retention Credit Be Used For
- Claim a refund or credit for overpaid taxes due to claiming the ERC
- Report additional qualified wage and health insurance expenses paid to eligible employees which were not reported in Form 941
- Correct any errors or omissions you find on Form 941, which may affect your credit claim.
To avoid making common errors and fill out the Form 941-X correctly, employers should:
- Use the most recent version of Form 941X, which reflects any changes or updates to the ERC laws.
- For calculating and reporting your ERC, follow the IRS’s instructions and worksheets.
- Use the Part 2 to indicate on which lines you are correcting or adjusting Form 941
- Use Part 3 for explaining why form 941 has been corrected or adjusted
- Use Line 24 for any additional qualified wage and health insurance expenses paid to eligible workers
- Use Line 25 for any additional credit claimed each quarter.
- You can use Line 26 to request a refund or credit due to claiming ERC.
- Sign the form 941-X, date it and include any documents or schedules that you wish to attach.
The following are some resources and tips for filling in Form 941X.
- File a separate Form 941-X for each quarter that is being corrected or adjusted What Can The Employee Retention Credit Be Used For
- If you discover an error on Form 941 or make an adjustment, file Form 941X as soon as you can.
- You can find updates, FAQs, and more information on the IRS site about the ERC and Form 941X.
- If you need clarification or assistance, contact the IRS or an accountant.
Deadline and Statute of Limitations
Form 941 must be filed by the last date of the month that follows the end each quarter. For example, Form 941 for Q1 of 2021 (January to March) is due April 30, 2020. 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. The end of the quarter. For example, the Q1 of 2021 is January-March. The Form 941 should be received by May 10th, 2021. What Can The Employee Retention Credit Be Used For
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 Q1 of 2020 (January through March), the deadline for Form 941 to be filed was April 30, 2020. If an employer filed Form 941 on April 30, 2020, and paid the tax on April 30, 2020, the deadline for filing 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 (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 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 credit can be claimed with IRS Forms 941 or 941X by reporting to them the qualified health insurance and wages costs as well as the amount claimed each quarter.
You should not miss the opportunity to benefit from this tax incentive if you are an eligible employer. 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.
The ERC is a great tool for both your business and employees. It will help you to keep your employees, maintain a healthy cash flow, as well as recover from pandemic. This article aims to provide you with more information about the ERC. Thanks for reading and please stay safe.
What Can The Employee Retention Credit Be Used For
What is an ERC?
Employee Retention Credit: This is a credit that employers can claim if they retained employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The CARES Act, 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.
Is everyone eligible for the 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.
Below are some details about eligibility.
- A government-issued order temporarily or permanently suspended the organization or business 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.
- 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.
How much is the ERC?
The amount of ERC a company or organization receives will depend on several factors.
One of the factors is the length of time the company has been in business, the number and type of employees it has, the amount that qualifies as wages, or the health insurance premiums paid to employees who are eligible. To learn more about how ERCs are calculated, please read the article.
How to claim the ERC?
To claim ERC benefits, an employer needs to file Form 941X or federal employment tax reform with the IRS.
The employer must provide a quarterly report detailing the wages, health insurance and other costs that are eligible for credit as well as the amount claimed.
When is the deadline to submit the ERC form?
The deadlines of Form 941, Form 941X and ERC 941 are different.
Form 941 deadline is typically the last of the month following each quarter. For Form 941X, the deadline is three years following the date on which the original form 941 was filed. This can also be up to two years, based on the date when the tax is paid.