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Employee Retention Tax Credit Documentation Standards

In order to benefit from the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC), it is crucial for businesses to maintain accurate and comprehensive documentation. The ERTC is a valuable tax incentive designed to encourage businesses to retain their employees during challenging times, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. By understanding and adhering to the necessary documentation standards, businesses can ensure their eligibility for the credit and maximize their tax savings. This article will provide an in-depth guide on the documentation requirements for the Employee Retention Tax Credit.

Understanding the Employee Retention Tax Credit

Before delving into the documentation standards, it is important to have a clear understanding of the Employee Retention Tax Credit itself. The ERTC was introduced as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in 2020. It aims to support businesses that have experienced significant financial hardships due to the pandemic.

The credit is available to eligible employers who have experienced either a full or partial suspension of their operations or a significant decline in gross receipts. It provides a refundable tax credit of up to $5,000 per employee for wages paid between March 13, 2020, and December 31, 2021.

Documentation Requirements for the Employee Retention Tax Credit

To successfully claim the ERTC, businesses must maintain detailed documentation that supports their eligibility and calculates the credit amount accurately. The following are the essential documentation standards to be followed:

1. Proof of Employee Retention

Businesses must document the steps taken to retain employees during the pandemic. This includes demonstrating the suspension of operations or significant decline in gross receipts that made them eligible for the credit. Documentation may include:

  • Financial statements showing the decline in revenue or sales during the specified period.
  • Documents indicating any government orders that forced the suspension of operations.
  • Records of furloughs, layoffs, or reduced work hours due to the pandemic.

2. Employee Eligibility Records

To claim the ERTC, employers must have accurate records of all eligible employees. Documentation should include:

  • Employee names and social security numbers.
  • Dates of employment and wages paid during the qualifying period.
  • Records of any employees who were excluded from the credit calculation, such as highly compensated individuals.

3. Calculation of Qualified Wages

Businesses must calculate the qualified wages used to determine the ERTC amount accurately. Documentation should include:

  • Policies or procedures used to determine which wages qualify for the credit.
  • Timekeeping records indicating the number of hours worked by each employee.
  • Payroll records showing the wages paid during the eligible period.

4. Interaction with Other Relief Programs

To avoid double-dipping or overlapping benefits, businesses must document any other relief programs they have participated in. Documentation may include:

  • Records of loans received through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the amount forgiven.
  • Documentation of any other tax credits or incentives claimed for the same wages.

5. Retention of Documentation

Maintaining proper documentation is not only essential for claiming the ERTC, but it is also required by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Businesses should retain all relevant documentation for a minimum of four years from the date the tax return claiming the credit is filed or the due date of the tax return, whichever is later.

Best Practices for Documentation Management

To ensure compliance and ease the process of claiming the ERTC, businesses should adopt the following best practices for documentation management:

  1. Organize documentation: Establish a systematic approach to organizing and storing all relevant documentation. This ensures that the required records are readily accessible when needed.

  2. Maintain a centralized system: Utilize digital platforms or accounting software to centralize all documentation. This helps in efficient recordkeeping and reduces the risk of misplacing important documents.

  3. Regularly review and update documentation: Continuously review and update documentation to accommodate any changes in business operations, employee status, or applicable laws and regulations.

  4. Seek professional assistance: Consider consulting with a tax advisor or professional who specializes in ERTC to ensure compliance with the constantly evolving guidelines and regulations.


Maintaining accurate and comprehensive documentation is crucial for businesses seeking to benefit from the Employee Retention Tax Credit. By understanding the required documentation standards and implementing best practices for documentation management, businesses can ensure their eligibility for the credit and maximize their potential tax savings. Remember to consult with a tax professional to stay updated on the latest regulations and guidelines related to the ERTC.
due to being related to the business owner or exceeding the maximum credit amount.

3. Calculation of Qualified Wages

Accurate calculation of qualified wages is crucial for determining the credit amount. Documentation should include:

  • Payroll records and tax forms that reflect the wages paid to eligible employees.
  • Breakdown of wages by quarter and by employee.
  • Documentation of any qualified health plan expenses included in the credit calculation.

4. Allocation of Credit

If the business is part of a controlled group or aggregated employer, proper allocation of the credit is necessary. Documentation should include:

  • Documentation of the group’s or employer’s common ownership or control.
  • Calculation of each member’s share of qualified wages and eligible expenses.
  • Records of any agreements or contracts related to the allocation of the credit.

By maintaining accurate and comprehensive documentation that adheres to these standards, businesses can ensure their eligibility for the Employee Retention Tax Credit and maximize their tax savings.

Note: This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal or tax advice. Businesses should consult with a qualified professional to understand the specific documentation requirements and eligibility criteria for the Employee Retention Tax Credit.