What Is The Employee Retention Credit

The Employee Retention Credit (ERC) was introduced under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and is designed to provide relief for employers affected by the pandemic by helping them cover costs associated with keeping employees employed. Under this incentive program, eligible employers are allowed to claim up to $5,000 per employee in credits against certain payroll taxes paid or incurred between March 13th 2020 through December 31st 2021. In order to qualify for ERCs, employers must experience either a full or partial suspension of operations due to governmental orders related to COVID-19 or they must suffer a significant decline in gross receipts compared to 2019 levels.

The ERC has been extremely helpful in improving employer’s ability to retain talent during trying times while simultaneously reducing expenses associated with hiring new workers once business resumes normal operations. It has provided businesses with much needed financial assistance when operating budgets were tight and cash flow limited due to decreased revenues resulting from reduced customer demand or other impacts of COVID-19 restrictions such as lockdowns, social distancing measures etc.. While highly beneficial for many companies looking for ways reduce costs without cutting jobs, understanding exactly how ERC works requires further exploration into key details regarding eligibility qualifications and allowable uses of funds received via credits earned under this program .


Employee Retention Credit (ERC) is a federal tax incentive introduced by the CARES Act in 2020 to help businesses retain their employees during the coronavirus pandemic. It allows employers to receive a refundable credit against payroll taxes for up to 50% of qualified wages paid from March 13, 2020 through December 31, 2020. Employers with fewer than 100 full-time equivalent employees are eligible if they have experienced either a full or partial suspension of business operations due to government orders related to COVID-19 or have suffered significant revenue losses due to it. The ERC can be used for all qualifying wages and health plan expenses that are incurred after March 12, 2020 but before January 1, 2021 and do not exceed $10,000 per employee on an annual basis. To determine eligibility for the Employee Retention Credit, employers must analyze three main criteria: work stoppage caused by governmental order; gross receipts decline test; and wage limitation qualification.

Eligibility Criteria

The Employee Retention Credit (ERC) is a beneficial resource for employers to take advantage of during the COVID-19 pandemic. This section will focus on understanding the eligibility criteria for receiving an ERC, as well as its qualifying wages to maximize tax savings.

To qualify for this credit, employers must meet two criteria: firstly, they must have fully or partially suspended operations due to government orders related to COVID-19; secondly, they must experience a significant decline in gross receipts compared to the same quarter in 2019. If these initial conditions are met and maintained throughout the entire calendar year, then businesses can receive up to $5,000 per employee in 2020 from their quarterly payroll taxes.

Qualifying wages are those that are paid after March 12th and before January 1st 2021. These wages cannot exceed more than $10,000 per employee for any given month. Therefore, if an employer has multiple employees with varying monthly paychecks but each individual does not make over 10k within that period then all would be applicable towards the ERC. Furthermore, payments made by third parties such as PEOs may also qualify under certain circumstances depending on how much control the employer holds over them.

Having considered these factors when determining eligibility criteria and qualifying wages necessary for securing an ERC, it’s important now to explore other aspects of this financial incentive – namely which industry sectors can benefit most from it and what qualifications need to be satisfied.

Qualifying Wages

Employee Retention Credit (ERC) is a refundable tax credit designed to provide relief to employers affected by COVID-19. It applies to wages paid after March 12, 2020 and before January 1, 2021. To qualify for the ERC, employers must have suspended or had reduced operation due to government orders related to COVID-19 or experienced a significant decline in gross receipts during certain quarters of 2020 compared with prior years. Qualifying wages are generally considered those that are eligible for the employer Social Security portion of FICA taxes. These include both cash wages and qualified health plan expenses paid by an employer on behalf of employees; however, sick leave and family medical leave wages do not qualify as qualifying wages.

The maximum amount of employee retention credits available per employee is $5,000 for all calendar quarters combined. The credit can be applied against withholding obligations up to the lesser of $10,000 per quarter or 50% of total qualified wages paid in the same period. This means that if an employer pays $20,000 in qualified wages in one quarter they could potentially claim up to $10,000 in ERCs for that quarter even though the maximum allowable credit would be only $5,000 across all quarters combined. Employers should also note that any amounts claimed as a payroll tax deferral under Internal Revenue Code section 2302 will reduce their potential Employee Retention Credit amount subject to rules regarding netting out these two items when claiming either benefit.

Although employers may want to maximize their eligibility for ERCs it’s important to remember that there are other considerations such as timing issues associated with taking advantage of this particular type of financial assistance program offered through IRS code section 2301 so employers should always consult with appropriate advisors when making decisions about how best to take advantage of these programs.

Calculating Retention Credit Amounts

Once a business has determined its qualifying wages, the next step is to calculate the employee retention credit amount. This calculation can be complicated and requires careful consideration of various tax credits related to payroll taxes such as Social Security, Medicare, or other associated state or local taxes. The amount of the credit depends on how much an employer pays in qualified wages and the number of employees they retain during any given quarter. Generally speaking, businesses are eligible for up to 50 percent of qualified wages per quarter with a maximum benefit of $5,000 each quarter per employee.

In addition to considering payroll taxes when calculating their employee retention credit amounts, employers must also factor in additional items like health benefits that may not qualify under IRS guidelines. For example, some types of supplemental health insurance plans cannot be used as part of the calculation because they do not qualify as “wages” according to IRS regulations. Additionally, employers should also consider any applicable tax credits available from their state or locality which may result in higher overall savings for them by reducing their federal income tax liability.

By taking into account all relevant factors regarding eligibility criteria and proper calculations for employee retention credits, employers can maximize their potential savings while ensuring compliance with all applicable laws and regulations. Doing so will ensure that businesses receive the full benefit allowed under current law and help them remain competitive in today’s challenging economic environment.

Tax Benefits For Employers

Tax benefits for employers making use of the Employee Retention Credit (ERC) include both short-term and long-term advantages. The immediate benefit is that businesses are able to deduct up to 50% of qualified wages paid in 2020, with a maximum credit amount per employee capped at $5,000. This allows companies to reduce their payroll tax liabilities significantly while also providing financial support to employees during difficult economic times.

In addition, ERC credits can be used against certain other taxes as well. For example, self-employed individuals may qualify for an equivalent credit on their income tax returns by reducing their adjusted gross income (AGI). Furthermore, if the ERC exceeds the employer’s total employment tax liability in any given quarter, then the remaining balance will be refunded directly to the business.

The long-term impact of taking advantage of these credits goes beyond simply lowering costs: it helps incentivize businesses to keep their workers employed which leads to higher levels of job retention and greater stability within our economy overall. Additionally, when businesses retain more staff members than necessary due to this incentive, they become better equipped to handle future surges in demand or changes in market conditions because they don’t need as much time for onboarding new hires should those positions become available again down the line. As such, utilizing ERC could provide great opportunities for both employers and employees alike over time. With all this taken into account, understanding how best to take advantage of these tax incentives is essential before filing requirements must be met in order to maximize savings potential.

Filing Requirements

Employee Retention Credit is a valuable tax benefit that has been made available by the federal government to assist employers with their financial burdens during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to recent reports, this credit can mean up to 5% of an employer’s wages are refundable. However, any business wishing to take advantage of this offer must adhere to specific filing requirements.

To begin with, businesses must provide proof of eligibility for the Employee Retention Credit which includes identifying affected employees and calculating qualified wages. Eligible companies will need to demonstrate that they have either experienced full or partial suspension due to governmental orders related to COVID-19, or their gross receipts have declined partially when compared against the same period in 2019. Additionally, businesses may be required to provide additional documentation such as copies of wage statements from 2020 and payroll records from 2019.

Having met these criteria, eligible entities should then fill out form 941C which is used for claiming credits on employment taxes already paid during quarter four of 2020; otherwise known as Form 941-X: Adjusted Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return or Claim for Refund. Employers must also file one final return at the end of 2021 containing all relevant information regarding their employee retention credits claimed throughout the year prior. It is important that each step in this process is completed accurately since mistakes can result in penalties being issued by the IRS.


In conclusion, the Employee Retention Credit is an important tool for employers to retain their workforce during difficult economic times. It provides a financial incentive for businesses to keep employees on their payroll and helps offset some of the costs associated with doing so. The credit is also beneficial from a tax perspective; it reduces taxable income and can increase cash flow by reducing employment taxes due. Employers should ensure that they meet all eligibility criteria in order to qualify for this valuable credit. To do this, they must understand the qualifying wages, calculate the expected amount of credit, and file any necessary forms correctly. Understanding how to use this powerful program is like having a map – without it, employers risk getting lost in a sea of red tape and missing out on potential savings.