Understanding the CARES Act Employee Retention Credit: A Lifeline for Businesses During the Pandemic

Jun 10, 2023 | Affiliates


The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, enacted in 2020, brought forth several initiatives to support businesses and individuals impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. One critical provision of the CARES Act is the Employee Retention Credit (ERC). Designed to help businesses retain employees and navigate the economic challenges posed by the pandemic, the ERC has provided much-needed financial relief to eligible employers. In this article, we will delve into the details of the CARES Act Employee Retention Credit, and its purpose and guide business owners on how to file for this credit effectively.

What is the Employee Retention Credit (ERC)

The Employee Retention Credit, also known as ERTC, is a refundable tax credit that eligible employers can claim against certain employment taxes. It aims to encourage businesses to retain employees and keep them on the payroll during times of significant economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The ERC serves as a lifeline for businesses by providing financial assistance to help cover employee wages and maintain business operations.

Why was the ERC Established

The ERC offers relief to businesses that faced hardships due to government-mandated shutdowns or experienced substantial revenue decline during the pandemic. By providing financial support, the credit aimed to prevent mass layoffs and promote continuity in the workforce. By retaining employees, businesses could recover faster once the economy stabilizes.

Eligibility Criteria: To qualify for the ERC, businesses must meet certain criteria, including but not limited to:

  1. Operational status: The business operates during the period for which you claim the credit.
  2. Business impact: The business must have experienced either a full or partial suspension of operations due to a government-ordered shutdown or a significant decline in gross receipts.
  3. Employee count: Employers with 100 or fewer full-time employees can claim the credit for all wages paid to employees, while employers with more than 100 employees can only claim the credit for wages paid to employees who were not working due to qualifying reasons.

How to File for the Employee Retention Credit

Filing for the ERC requires careful attention to detail and adherence to the following steps:

  1. Review eligibility: Determine if your business meets the eligibility criteria for the ERC. Assess whether you experienced a government-ordered shutdown or faced a significant decline in gross receipts during the eligible periods.
  2. Calculate eligible wages: Determine the qualified wages for each eligible employee. Qualified wages include certain health plan expenses and employer-paid retirement plan contributions.
  3. File amended payroll tax returns: If you did not claim the ERC on your original payroll tax returns, file amended returns to claim the credit retroactively. For most employers, this involves filing Form 941-X, Adjusted Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return.
  4. Gather necessary documentation: Collect and organize the required documentation, including payroll records, documentation of the government shutdown order, and evidence of the decline in gross receipts.
  5. Consult tax professionals: Given the complexities of tax laws and regulations, consulting with tax professionals or experienced accountants is advisable. They can provide guidance, assist with calculations, and ensure accurate filing for the ERC.

Conclusion: The CARES Act Employee Retention Credit has been instrumental in providing financial support to businesses during the unprecedented challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

By understanding the purpose, eligibility criteria, and the process to file for credit, business owners can take advantage of this crucial relief measure. By leveraging the Employee Retention Credit, businesses can navigate the stormy waters of the pandemic with greater resilience and emerge stronger on the other side. To maximize the benefits and ensure compliance, seeking professional advice is highly recommended. Click here to apply now or fill out the form to speak with one of our ERC Specialists. 

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