How to Claim the Employee Retention Tax Credit

The Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) is a valuable tax incentive provided by the government to help businesses during challenging times, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. This credit is designed to encourage employers to retain their employees and keep their businesses afloat. If you’re a business owner who has been adversely affected by the pandemic, you may be eligible for this credit. In this blog, we will guide you through the process of claiming the Employee Retention Tax Credit, but please note that this should be done in consultation with a tax professional or accountant to ensure accuracy and compliance with IRS regulations.

What Is the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC)?
The ERTC was established as part of the CARES Act in response to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was later extended and expanded under subsequent legislation, including the Consolidated Appropriations Act and the American Rescue Plan Act. The credit is designed to provide financial relief to eligible employers who retain employees during periods of economic hardship, such as business closures or reduced operations due to COVID-19.
Eligibility Criteria
Before you can claim the Employee Retention Tax Credit, you need to determine if your business meets the eligibility criteria. Eligibility criteria include:
Impact Due to COVID-19: Your business must have experienced either a partial or full suspension of operations or a significant decline in gross receipts due to COVID-19.

Size of the Business: The criteria for business size vary based on the year. In 2020, eligible employers had up to 100 employees, while in 2021 and 2022, this threshold was increased to 500 employees.

Government Financial Assistance: If you received a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan, you may still be eligible for the ERTC, but there are specific rules and limitations.

How to Claim the Employee Retention Tax Credit
Determine Eligibility: The first step in claiming the ERTC is to assess whether your business meets the eligibility criteria outlined above. This determination should be made for each quarter in which you wish to claim the credit.

Calculate the Credit: Once you’ve established eligibility, calculate the amount of the credit you’re entitled to for each eligible quarter. The credit amount can vary, but it generally covers a percentage of qualified wages paid to eligible employees during the specified time frame.

Report on Payroll Tax Returns: To claim the ERTC, report it on your quarterly employment tax returns (Form 941 for most employers). You can reduce your required payroll tax deposits by the amount of the anticipated credit.

Claiming Refunds: If the amount of the ERTC exceeds the payroll taxes owed, you can request a refund of the excess credit.

Documentation and Records: Maintain detailed records and documentation to support your eligibility and the amount of the credit claimed. This documentation should include information related to your business’s financial impact due to COVID-19, as well as payroll records.

Consult a Tax Professional: It’s strongly recommended that you consult with a tax professional or accountant who can help you navigate the complex rules and regulations surrounding the ERTC. They can also assist with proper documentation and ensure compliance with IRS guidelines.

Common Mistakes to Avoid
When claiming the ERTC, it’s important to be aware of common mistakes that can lead to issues or delays:
Inaccurate Documentation: Failing to maintain accurate and thorough records of your business’s financial impact and payroll records can result in discrepancies during an IRS audit.

Missing the Deadline: Ensure that you file your employment tax returns (Form 941) on time to claim the credit for the relevant quarters. Missing deadlines can lead to the loss of eligible credits.

Miscalculations: Errors in calculating the credit amount can lead to under- or over-claiming. It’s crucial to double-check your calculations.

PPP Loan Interference: If you received a PPP loan, be cautious when claiming the ERTC, as there are specific rules and limitations regarding double-dipping on benefits.

The Employee Retention Tax Credit can provide much-needed financial relief to businesses that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, navigating the complexities of this credit can be challenging, and it’s essential to consult with a tax professional or accountant to ensure accurate calculations and compliance with IRS regulations.
By taking the time to understand the eligibility criteria, accurately calculate the credit, maintain thorough documentation, and seek professional guidance, you can maximize your chances of successfully claiming the Employee Retention Tax Credit and obtaining the financial support your business needs during these challenging times.
Hood & House