Employee retention tax credits in the CARES Act
Updated March 11, 2021
Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, certain employers (including tax-exempt entities) are eligible for employee retention tax credits (ERC). And with the passing of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), the Employee Retention Credit will now expire on December 31, 2021 (extended from June 30). This gives employers even more incentive to keep employees on their payroll during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Recently updated legislation now allows eligible employers to claim quarterly tax credits of 70% of any wages paid, for up to $10,000 in wages per employee. These tax credits expire on December 31, 2021, so an employer may take up to four quarterly tax credits. That could add up to as much as $28,000 per employee. That’s in addition to the $5,000 per employee retained in 2020, which can be retroactively claimed if newly eligible.
To be eligible for these tax credits, a company must meet the following criteria:
How is the credit calculated?
Each quarter, the amount of the credit is 70% of qualifying wages of up to $10,000 per employee. “Qualified wages” include both cash payments and the cost of any employer-provided health care.
Depending on the size of your company, qualifying wages can vary. Note that the size of your company is based on the average number of employees a company had in 2019.
Retroactively claiming ERC from 2020
If a business did not claim ERC in 2020, they may now do so retroactively under the new legislation. Since companies were not previously permitted to participate in the PPP while claiming ERC, many companies whose PPP loans have been forgiven are newly eligible to claim these tax credits.
Since the credit was 50% in 2020, tax credits may be retroactively claimed for 50% of the wages of each employee, up to $10,000 in wages. That means it may be possible to claim up to $5,000 in ERC per employee. This is the 2020 tax credit maximum for the entire year, while 2021 credits may be claimed quarterly up to December 31, 2021.
How do I receive a credit if my business is eligible?
Employers can be immediately reimbursed for the credit by reducing their required deposits of payroll taxes that have been withheld from employees’ wages by the amount of the credit.
Eligible employers will report their total qualified wages and the related health insurance costs for each quarter on their quarterly employment tax returns or Form 941. If the employer’s employment tax deposits are not sufficient to cover the credit, the employer may receive an advance payment from the IRS by submitting Form 7200, Advance Payment of Employer Credits Due to COVID-19.
Eligible employers can also request an advance of the Employee Retention Credit by submitting Form 7200.
For updates and more detail, take a look at the IRS Employee Retention Tax Credit FAQS and find additional, up-to-date information on the IRS Coronavirus page. This article will also be updated as the Treasury Department issues new information and guidelines. For additional information about CARES, FFCRA, and how your business can respond to the COVID-19 outbreak, please visit our COVID-19 Resource Center.
If you have questions about how the CARES Act or FFCRA impacts your business, please consult your legal advisor or tax professional.