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What You Need to Know About the Employee Retention Tax Credit

The Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) is a special tax provision designed to help businesses who have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. The ERTC is available to employers who have seen a significant decline in their gross receipts or who have been forced to partially or fully suspend operations due to the pandemic.

This financial assistance can be used to offset expenses such as salaries, wages, and health insurance costs for employees who remain employed by the business. By offering businesses this tax credit, the government is providing much-needed relief to business owners who are struggling to keep their businesses afloat.

Definition of ERTC

The Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) is a provision of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, part of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, that provides employers with a tax credit for wages paid to employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. This credit encourages businesses to retain their workforces and minimize layoffs.

The ERTC is available to most employers regardless of size, including corporations, partnerships, sole proprietorships, nonprofits and tax-exempt organizations. The credit offsets employer payroll taxes on employment income up to $10,000 per employee per quarter from March 13 through December 31. It is available for wages paid to employees who are furloughed or experiencing reduced hours as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

Eligible employers can claim up to 50% of wages paid for each employee up to $10,000 per quarter for 2020 ($5,000 maximum credit per employee). Additionally, qualified employers can use a portion of the credit against obligations owed on 2021 income taxes in the first two quarters of 2021. Eligible employers must apply for it by filing Form 941-X with their regular quarterly Form 941 filings.

Employers must keep accurate records documenting their efforts in attempting to establish eligibility in order to qualify for this tax credit. This includes records such as:

  • Forms filed that demonstrate reduction in gross receipts and/or counts incurred due to COVID-19 related circumstances;
  • Documentation demonstrating how attendance levels have changed;
  • Documentation related to any work performed by employees that has been affected by COVID-19; and
  • Annual gross receipts used for prior years' calculation comparison against current year's figure.

Overview of ERTC

The Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) is a payroll tax incentive designed to help businesses and other employers keep their employees on the payroll. The ERTC was created in 2020 as part of the CARES Act, a financial aid package to help businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The ERTC offers employers refundable tax credits for a portion of wages paid to employees from March 13, 2020 through December 31, 2021. The refundable credits are available to employers of all sizes who experience full or partial suspension of operations or decline in gross receipts due to COVID-19. The amount of the credit is equal to 50% of employee wages for each calendar quarter during which an employer experiences full or partial suspension of operations or decline in gross receipts compared to 2019 gross receipts. The maximum amount an employer can claim on Form 941 each quarter is $5,000 per employee (or 10% of wages paid up to $10,000 per quarter).

Certain special rules apply for large organizations and self-employed individuals. It's important for employers considering taking advantage of this incentive program to understand all eligibility requirements and rules before applying. Businesses should consult with their financial advisors regarding any tax obligations related to this support program and its impact on payroll taxes otherwise due under federal law.

Benefits of ERTC

The Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) is a valuable tool for companies who need to retain their employees during difficult economic times. This credit provides tax incentives to businesses who employ and retain workers, which can ultimately help to keep workers on payrolls, saving jobs and helping businesses stay afloat.

Let's discuss the benefits of the ERTC and how it can help businesses secure their future:

Tax Savings

The ERTC consists of two parts: an Employee Retention Credit (ERC) and a Re-Hire Refundable Tax Credit. The ERC incentivizes employers to maintain their payroll levels for employees during the period from July 2020 to June 2021 – by offering a refundable payroll tax credit of up to $10,000 per employee for those employers who have seen reduced gross receipts in 2020 vs. 2019. Additionally, the Re-Hire Refundable Tax Credit provides eligible businesses with an incentive of up to $3,000 per employee for hiring new employees or rehiring or increasing wages of furloughed or laid-off employees that were employed prior to February 15, 2020.

By taking advantage of this tax credit, businesses are able to save money on their tax bills while still continuing to pay their employees and potentially hiring or rehiring additional workers. Organizations can take advantage of this opportunity now and spread out the benefit over the remainder of 2021-2022. As such, it is essential for businesses to familiarize themselves with this incentive as soon as possible so that they can make informed decisions about staffing levels for the remainder of the year and beyond.

Increased Employee Retention

Employers are able to use the employee retention tax credit (ERTC) to incentivize their staff to stay at the company. By taking advantage of this tax credit, employers can help offset the cost of qualified wages paid from March 13, 2020 through December 31, 2020.

The ERTC provides businesses with a federal income tax credit equal to 50% of up to $10,000 in qualified wages paid per employee for a maximum benefit of $5,000 per employee. This encourages employers to retain their valuable employees and can help them stay open instead of being forced to close due to employee turnover costs. Additionally, the ERTC is refundable which means that if it exceeds payroll taxes liability in a given quarter, then a business may receive the balance as refundable cash back at filing time.

The program is designed so that businesses with 500 or fewer full-time employees may be eligible for some level of support and assistance even if they do not qualify for other assistance programs such as the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Qualified wages are subject to certain limits based on average monthly employment size so it is highly recommended that employers consult with their CPA or financial advisor about eligibility or alternative sources for lesser amounts. Ultimately, leveraging ERTC can provide sustainable benefits for both employers and their employees as there is no expiry date put in place and no minimum number of days required for participation – every day counts!

Improved Employee Morale

The Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) was a part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) and is designed to reduce the financial burden of businesses affected by the COVID pandemic. The ERTC allows eligible employers to claim a credit equal to 50% of up to $10,000 in qualified wages paid or incurred between March 13, 2020, and December 31, 2020.

By taking advantage of this tax credit, employers can help improve employee morale by demonstrating their commitment to their workforce and proving that their actions will benefit both the company and its workers. In addition, reducing operational costs through savings identified due to ERTC helps ensure that resources are available for hiring new individuals or offering bonuses to current employees. Enhanced benefits such as health insurance or 401ks may be made available at an enhanced rate due to the ERTC savings provided.

Additionally, taking advantage of ERTC benefits can also directly benefit small businesses’ employee retention strategies during times of economic distress – reducing turnover from employees seeking employment in more secure environments. This overall helps create a more resilient atmosphere for both employers and employees navigating through difficult economic times together. Through improved morale created from cost savings generated by the Employee Retention Tax Credit program small business owners can better ensure job satisfaction at their worksite(s).

Eligibility Requirements

The employee retention tax credit (ERTC) is a program that allows employers to receive a credit on their taxes for wages paid to employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. The credit, which is part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, is available for employers who are facing certain economic hardships due to the pandemic.

To be eligible, employers must meet certain requirements. This section will discuss the eligibility requirements for ERTC:

Employer Size

To be eligible for the employee retention tax credit (ERTC), employers must have experienced an economic hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The credit is available to employers of any size, including those with over 500 employees. However, for employers who had more than 100 full-time employees in 2019, the economy hardship must be demonstrated by either weathering a significant decline in gross receipts or having partially or completely suspended operations due to government-ordered restrictions related COVID-19. Employers of all sizes may demonstrate economic hardship based on a decline in gross receipts or closure due to business activity decline.

Any employer that meets the federal requirements and utilized projects approved through the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) program administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, are also eligible for ERTC. Additionally, all businesses that received a Payroll Protection Program loan can apply for ERTC so long as they meet all other program requirements.

Note: Private clubs and organizations exempted from income taxes under Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(4), (5) or (6); as well as domestic production activities deduction businesses capitalizing costs under Internal Revenue Code Section 263A; can't claim ERTC unless such business is established after March 21st 2020 when CARES Act was signed into law.

Employee Eligibility

Employee eligibility requirements must be understood and adhered to by employers when offering benefits to employees. Eligibility requirements vary depending on the type of benefit being offered, with some benefits having more verbose requirements than others. Though eligibility differs depending on an array of factors, there are certain baseline considerations that remain constant and should be taken into account by any employer when establishing guidelines for their employees.

The most basic factor is age; many forms of employee benefits (such as life insurance, vision and dental plans, etc.) require that employees be over a certain age before they are eligible to receive coverage or take part in a plan. Additionally, in some instances an employee must have been a part of the organisation for a set amount of time or worked a certain number of hours before they would qualify to receive benefits. Another significant factor is the type of independent contractor or employee status; many forms of employee benefit have varying eligibility criteria based upon the individual’s employments status (salaried, part-time contracted etc.).

It is essential that employers take all these factors into consideration when looking at eligibility requirements for any benefits they offer their employees. They should carefully research all options available to their company so that any potential legal, financial and/or HR related issues can be avoided down the line.

Wages Paid

Under the Eligibility Requirements to claim the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC), wages paid after March 12, 2020, and before January 1, 2021 are eligible for the credit. This includes both qualified wages paid to employees and employer payments of employee health insurance costs during that period. Qualified wages that are taken into account in determining an employer’s ERTC are generally limited to no more than $10,000 per employee for all calendar quarters in 2020.

Qualified wages also include those paid to furloughed employees during the applicable period. If an employer rehires a worker previously furloughed or laid off since March 12, 2020, such wages are also eligible for the credit even if they occur after December 31, 2020. The amount of qualified wages for each employee is capped at $10,000 per calendar quarter in 2020; any excess qualified wages do not qualify for the credit.

How to Claim ERTC

The Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) is a federal tax credit available to qualified employers. It can provide up to $5,000 in tax credits for wages paid between March 13, 2020 and December 31, 2020. Employers must first meet certain eligibility criteria in order to claim the credit.

This article will explain how to claim ERTC.

Filing the Form 941

The Form 941 is the quarterly payroll tax return used to report employment taxes for employers. When claiming the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC), your Form 941 should be completed as follows:

  • Line 11 is where you will report the amount of qualified wages that your business paid during each quarter.
  • Line 14a is where you must indicate the amount of employer-side Social Security and Medicare taxes that were withheld from your employee’s paychecks and paid to the IRS on behalf of employee wages, usually reported as FICA.
  • Line 19b is where you must enter the total ERTC amount paid quarterly by subtracting lines 11 and 14a.

If claiming any advance payments of credit, an additional line 22b may be used on Form 941 to enter those payments into. You can also claim the credit through a payroll provider – Many payroll providers offer automatic calculation and filing of this form with their services.

If claiming less than 100 percent of eligible wages, you must adjust line 17 accordingly to reflect a smaller employer share when filing with a payroll provider. It’s important to note that ERTC cannot exceed qualified wages or allowable credits per quarter; any excess shall be reported as an overpayment in line 18b for refund value or in line 22b for advance payment adjustments for next quarter counts under IRC Section 3111(f).

Calculating the Credit

The amount of the tax credit available to employers is generally equal to 50% of qualified wages that are paid or incurred by the employer after March 12, 2020 and before January 1, 2021. Wages qualify for the ERTC if they are used to provide certain wage-replacement benefits (such as sick leave) in connection with COVID-19.

In calculating qualified wages for the ERTC, employers should keep in mind the following rules:

  • Eligible wages need to be paid or incurred between March 12, 2020 and January 1, 2021.
  • Qualifying wages include payments made for employers’ health plan expenses (including group health plans offered by Code Section 125).
  • Wages taken into account for purposes of calculating the credit are limited to $10,000 per employee.
  • Employers do not receive a double benefit in connection with any portion of qualified wages that are also used for other tax incentives – such as credits available under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
  • Employers cannot claim credits if their operations have been fully or partially suspended due to a governmental order limiting commerce, travel or group meetings due to the coronavirus.
  • Identified qualifying wages must be reported on IRS Form 941.

Claiming the Credit

The Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) is a new tax credit designed to encourage employers to keep employees on payroll during the coronavirus pandemic. Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, businesses that maintain their workforce during 2020 can receive up to a $5,000 tax credit per employee.

The ERTC is only available for businesses whose operations were fully or partially suspended due to governmental orders or experienced significant declines in gross receipts in 2020. To qualify for the credit, employers must have had 500 or fewer full-time employees during 2019 and have offered health insurance plans. Sole proprietorships can also qualify if they meet certain criteria.

Claiming the Credit: Employers seeking reimbursement from the Employee Retention Tax Credit must submit Form 941-X Quarterly Adjustment Request with the IRS when filing their quarterly taxes. Businesses can claim ERTC up to 80 percent of qualified wages paid between March 13th, 2020 and December 31st 2020 each quarter when filing Form 941 quarterly return. Non-profits must submit Form 990-T Exempt Organization Business Income Tax Return for Combined Groups within three months after the end of their taxable year to claim ERTC credits on a quarterly basis. Credits need to be recalculated when filing annual employer taxes in 2021 as they could change due to an increase or decrease in total revenue throughout the taxable year.


Concluding, the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) is a valuable new aid program for businesses that are struggling due to the economic impacts of COVID-19. Through this program, employers can benefit from refundable payroll tax credits of up to $7,000 per employee.

In order to qualify for this credit employers must either experience a full or partial suspension of operations due to an order from a government authority or have experienced at least a 50% reduction in gross receipts during certain quarters in 2020 compared to 2019. Employers should document their eligibility in order to receive the maximum amount of credits and should consider other tax breaks available under the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act).

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is ERTC?

A: ERTC stands for Employee Retention Tax Credit. It is a refundable tax credit for employers equal to 50% of up to $10,000 in wages paid to employees after March 12, 2020, and before January 1, 2021.

Q: Does ERTC apply to all employers?

A: No, the ERTC does not apply to all employers. It is primarily for employers whose businesses have been impacted by COVID-19, either through a significant decline in gross receipts or through government orders related to COVID-19.

Q: How does an employer claim the ERTC?

A: An employer can claim the ERTC by filing Form 941, Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return, and claiming the credit on Line 13c of the form. The employer must also complete Form 7200, Advance Payment of Employer Credits Due to COVID-19, in order to receive advance payment of the credit.