In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, congress passed several broad-sweeping legislative initiatives. Starting in March of 2020, the CARES Act was passed providing small businesses economic relief nationwide. Among the initiatives included in the legislation was the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC). Both initiatives were intended to encourage business owners to keep employment rolls active to avoid the likely tsunami of unemployment claims, further impacting the overall economy.
Many business owners were uninformed on the benefits of the ERTC primarily due to Congress’ initial ban on availing of both programs. Initially, Congress denied business owners who took a PPP loan to also avail themselves of the ERTC. After all, faced with the option of practically ‘Free’ money (PPP), why consider the lesser appealing ERTC.
Until 9 months later. On December 27th, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA) which made some retroactive changes to the Cares Act ERTC provisions. Among those being allowing business owners who took a PPP loan to also avail themselves of the ERTC. However, with one caveat. Wages used to claim PPP forgiveness could not also be used to claim ERTC.
So how can you determine if you qualify? Well, depends on which year your referring to. Read on..
Different rules for Different Years
For 2020, the eligibility rules are as follows:
- Eligibility qualifications:
- Business had a >50% reduction in Gross Receipts compared to same quarter in 2019, or
- Business operations were fully or partially suspended due to a government mandated order (More on this later.)
- Credit is 50% of up to $10,000 of qualified wages per employee for the entire year ($5k max per employee for 2020)
For 2021, the eligibility rules get better:
- Eligibility qualification:
- Business had a >20% reduction in Gross Receipts (Big Difference from 2020 rules) compared to same quarter in 2019. This assessment could alternatively use the immediately preceding quarter compared to same quarter in 2019.
- Business operations were fully or partially suspended due to a government mandated order
- Credit is 70% of up to $10,000 of qualified wages per employee PER QUARTER (Big difference from 2020 rules).
Is the calculation that simple?
While the ERTC calculation for eligible wages is simple, determining eligible ERTC wages can be complex. Due to the inability to claim same wages for PPP loan forgiveness, the ERTC wage eligibility must be determined at the employee level individually. Also keeping in mind that the ERTC eligibility is determined by QUARTER. While PPP forgiveness wages, paid during the PPP Covered Period, can span more than 1 quarter. One can easily see how complex the exercise to determine eligible wages can be. In addition, keeping audit ready records of how eligible wages were determined is critical as these amended payroll tax form filings are auditable for up to 6 years.
What is considered partial suspension of operations?
Many states and local government units have issued full or partial closures of certain non-essential businesses. For many business owners, state mandated closure or suspension of non-essential procedures. Since instances like these could fall under the ‘Partial suspension of operations’, many business owners may qualify for ERTC if they fail to meet the reduction in gross receipts test.
Does the ERTC need to be repaid?
Unlike the PPP loan, the ERTC is a payroll tax credit which is claimed by filing an amended 941-X for the appropriate quarter. The IRS will issue a refund check for the amount of the ERTC claimed. At the time of this article, ERTC refunds have been taking anywhere from 6-9 months.
Since most many businesses, in the authors experience, are most likely to be eligible for the ERTC for the 2nd or 3rd quarter of 2020 time is of the essence to claim the credit as the window is closing to amend these 941 filing in mid to late 2023.
Is the ERTC Taxable income?
Well, no. but kind of.
For those quarters which an ERTC is claimed, business owners will need to reduce wage expenses by the ERTC. In short, if you are filing for ERTC claim for 2Q 2020 you will most likely need to amend your business tax return to REDUCE wage expense. The reduction will consequently increase your taxable net income thus creating a taxable event. Despite the tax consequences of claiming the ERTC, most situations prove the cash flow positive benefits outweigh the cost.
The Employee Retention Credit cannot be overlooked as another potential opportunity to improve the working capital for your business, enabling further growth and financial strength to move ahead into 2022.
The ERTC-Experts team at John A Sanchez & Company have been helping dozens of business owners claim the Employee Retention Credit. To date, we’ve helped business owners claim over $1 million in ERTC funds helping to strengthen their working capital and enabling their businesses to thrive.
To explore how our ERTC-Experts team can help your business, find us at www.ERTC-Experts.com for more information and resources on the ERTC. While you’re there, apply for a no cost evaluation to determine if you qualify.
If you have questions, don’t hesitate to contact me.