Employee Retention Credit

Over the last few years, the COVID-19 pandemic did not discriminate against the businesses it has affected. Whether large or small, businesses were forced to reduce their operations. In some cases, they had to shut down completely. Thankfully, in March 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was passed. The act implemented many relief packages to help American families and businesses. Some of the more well-known programs include the paycheck protection program (PPP) and economic injury disaster (EDIL) loans. However, there were tax credits created to help as well. One of those tax credits is the Employee Retention Credit (ERC).

What is the Employee Retention Credit?

The Employee Retention Credit (ERC) is a fully refundable payroll tax credit. It was designed to encourage employers to keep employees on their payroll during the pandemic. The credit is for qualifying employee wages. Qualified wages include wages and some health expenses paid to employees during eligible periods. Small businesses, with less than 100 employees, can treat all wages paid to employees as qualified wages. However, larger businesses, with more than 100 full-time employees, can not treat all wages paid as qualified.

An employer can claim 50% of the first $10,000 in wages per employee that were paid in 2020. For 2021, they can claim 70% of the first $10,000 in wages per employee for quarters 1-3. In total, a small business can receive up to $26,000 in credit per eligible employee. The ERC is not an income tax credit and does not relate to a business’s profit or loss.

Who Qualifies for the Employee Retention Credit?

To qualify for the ERC, a business needs to meet certain criteria. A business must have had their operations partially or fully suspended due to the government orders regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Or a business must have experienced a significant decline in gross receipts during the calendar year compared to the same periods in 2019.

Businesses can also qualify for the ERC even if they have received other CARES Act assistance, such as the PPP Loan. However, the credit cannot go towards wages that were claimed in the PPP Loan application.

A business must complete a multi-step process to receive the employee retention credit. This process includes determining if the business qualifies for the credit, as well as calculating qualified wages. The amended payroll tax returns need to be filed. It can be a lengthy and tedious process, but it does not have to be. Our team members are here to assist you!


Contributed by Elizabeth Partlow