Frequently Asked Questions

Answers to everything you’ve wanted to know about the Employee Retention Credit

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What is the Employee Retention Credit (ERC)?

The CARES Act’s Employee Retention Credit is a fully refundable tax credit. For the 2020 program, the ERC is equal to 50% of qualified wages that eligible employers pay their employees. This applies to wages paid after 3/12/2020 and before 1/1/2021. The maximum amount of wages taken into account with respect to each employee for all calendar quarters is $10,000, so that the maximum credit for an employee in 2020 is $5,000.

For the 2021 program, the credit is increased to 70% of the first $10,000 per quarter for the first 3 quarters of 2021. This means the annual maximum for an employee is 2021 is $21,000.

What is an Eligible Employer?

Eligible Employers for the purposes of the Employee Retention Credit are those that carry on a trade or business during calendar years 2020/2021, including a tax-exempt organization, that either:

  1. Had a full or partial suspension of operations, including capacity restrictions or supply chain disruption due to a government-imposed order, OR
  2. Experienced a significant decline in gross receipts during a calendar quarter when compared to the same calendar quarter in 2019

When is the Operation of a Trade or Business Considered Partially Suspended for the ERC?

The operation of a trade or business may be partially suspended if an appropriate governmental authority imposes restrictions upon the business operations by limiting commerce, travel, or group meetings (for commercial, social, religious, or other purposes). This can be a “Stay at Home Order” for non-essential businesses, a capacity restriction, or other possibilities.

What are Qualified Wages?

Qualified wages are compensation provided to employees during an eligible period. An eligible period is either:

  • the time during which the trade or business is fully or partially suspended by a governmental order, OR
  • for 2020, any calendar quarter during which gross receipts are 50% less than the amount received during the same quarter of 2019; for 2021, any calendar quarter during which gross receipts are 20% less than the same quarter of 2019

Can I claim the ERC if I received a PPP loan or other tax credits?

Yes, just not on the same employee wages. The government allows you to claim only one tax credit per eligible period. If you file with us, we use our methodology to separate PPP forgiven wages from ERC eligible wages. The good news is that different tax credits often cover different types of expenses and eligibility periods, so you’re still likely to get an ERC refund.

Can I qualify for the ERC even if my revenue went up?

Yes! A decline in revenue is not required to qualify for the ERC. If you can show that your business was more than nominally (10%) impacted by COVID-related restrictions or disruptions, you will qualify under the Government Mandate Test.

What can I use my refund for?

Anything you want. It’s your money! Many business owners use the funds to pay off debt, invest in new equipment, hire more employees, take a vacation, or even get a head start on next year’s taxes.

Doesn't my payroll system/CPA have this information?

The Employee Retention Credit has certain complexities that may impact receiving an accurate, optimized, and audit-ready number. It is important to fully document processes and procedures, organize your records, and avoid any risk areas in advance of a potential IRS audit of the claim, which may come years later.

The ERC has numerous issues such as Controlled Group criteria, documenting qualification methodology, coordination with PPP loans, allocating healthcare expenses to the appropriate time periods, etc. Your payroll company does not have all this information, and your CPA may not have the specific expertise to ask. Partnering with ERC Benefits can help prevent disaster and/or leaving money “on the table.”

Is there a deadline to apply?

Businesses can file retroactively for the 2020 credit until April 15, 2024, and for the 2021 credit until April 15, 2025.

How long will it take to get my refund?

It has taken our clients three to six months to receive their refund from the IRS, but the good news is wait times have been decreasing! However, wait times could increase later on as the deadline to apply draws closer. We recommend submitting your ERC application as soon as possible to receive your refund in the timeliest manner.

How much does it cost?

The initial analysis to determine your eligibility and approximate credit is completely free. If you file for an ERC with us, our fee is a percentage of the credit to be received.

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