Nov 15, 2021
Don’t leave ERTC money on the table!
The Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) is a provision established under the CARES Act which has been enhanced by additional legislation and could provide an immense amount of capital to employers. Unfortunately, statistics are showing the credit is being underutilized. The good news is with year-end planning on the horizon, now is the perfect time to leverage the ERTC.
What is the ERTC?
This is a refundable tax credit employers can claim against certain employment taxes, equal to a percentage of qualified wages and health insurance premiums paid after March 12, 2020, and before September 30, 2021.
For 2020, the credit is 50% of qualified payments, up to $10,000 per employee. Simply put, an eligible business has the potential to request refunds of up to $5,000 per employee for the year.
For 2021, the credit increases to 70% of qualified payments, up to $10,000 per employee per quarter. The credit was intended to run through December 31, 2021, but the passing of the recent Infrastructure Bill put an end to it after September 30. Nevertheless, the credit is still fair game for the first three quarters of 2021. With a maximum credit of $7,000 per employee, per quarter, a business eligible for all three quarters of 2021, could receive refunds of $21,000 per employee. Without question, the ERTC can provide much-needed dollars for eligible employers.
How do I know if my business is eligible?
For most businesses, eligibility is determined by meeting one of two tests; with a third test available for quarters 3 and 4 of 2021, which will be outlined later.
- TEST #1 – A measure of decline in gross receipts. If an employer experiences a significant decline in gross receipts for any calendar quarter, as compared to the same calendar quarter in 2019, they will be eligible for the credit in that quarter. For 2020, this is defined as gross receipts that are less than 50% of gross receipts for the same quarter in 2019, and for 2021, this is gross receipts being less than 80% of gross receipts for the same quarter in 2019.
- TEST #2 – A full or partial suspension of operations. If an employer was subject to any full or partial suspension of operations because of government orders related to COVID-19 they could be eligible. These orders could be Federal, State, county, and/or municipality. Even if your business was deemed essential and was not directly affected by such orders, there still could be avenues to be eligible for the credit.
- TEST #3 – Under a third test, if a business can meet the definition of a recovery startup business, they can claim the credits for the 3rd and 4th quarters of 2021 only (not exceeding $50,000 per quarter). A recovery startup business is any employer that began a trade or business after February 15, 2020, and has average annual gross receipts of less than $1,000,000.
What are some important details to keep in mind?
- First, gross receipts are determined based on the method used for the employer’s tax return. Meaning, if your business uses the cash method for tax purposes, then gross receipts for Test #1 should be calculated using the cash method, even if your financial statements use the accrual method. This could be beneficial for businesses, especially during times when the pandemic was hitting the hardest and collections slowed.
- Another important item to keep in mind is that, for this credit, employers are considered either small or large. For 2020, a small employer is one that, based on 2019 counts, averaged 100 or fewer full-time employees. For 2021, this number increases to an average of 500 or fewer full-time employees, still based on 2019 counts. If a business is above these amounts, they are considered large. Small employer status is more advantageous because it allows qualified wages to include all wages paid. If a business is considered a large employer, qualified wages are limited to wages paid to an employee only for the time that employee was not providing services. For example, if your business is a large employer and operations were partially suspended, but all your employees continued working during that time, your business may not be able to claim any credits on the wages paid during that suspension period. For this purpose, a full-time employee is an employee that, in 2019, averaged at least 30 hours per week or 130 hours per month. As an example, an employer in 2019 who had 5 employees that worked 25 hours per week and 5 employees that worked 30 hours a week, would only be considered to have 5 full-time employees. Early on, a common misconception was that full-time employees were equal to full-time equivalents, which may have caused some businesses to think they were large employers, when in fact that may not be the case.
- Finally, there are several different paths a business could take to qualify for the ERTC based on a full or partial suspension of operations due to governmental orders. As previously mentioned, even if your business was not directly affected by the orders, there still could be ways to qualify for the credit. We encourage you not to overlook this test as it could be very beneficial to revisit.
What are my next steps?
With year-end planning season looming, your William Vaughan Company advisor will surely be discussing this topic with you in the coming weeks. If you are not currently a client, but this topic has piqued your interest and you would like us to look at how this credit might benefit your business, please do not hesitate to reach out to us. As mentioned, the credit has been generally underutilized, so we would love to help your business realize the greatest benefits it can.
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Mike Hanf, CPA, CGMA
Categories: Tax Planning
Dec 28, 2020
The recent bill passed by Congress (Consolidated Appropriations Act [CAA]) finally became law after being signed by President Trump on Sunday, December 27th. It was feared disagreements over individual stimulus amounts and other various provisions deemed “wasteful spending” by the President would lead to a stalemate and ultimately to a pocket veto and subsequent death of the bill. Cooler heads prevailed, however, with businesses and individuals getting another financial shot in the arm. Below is a summary of the major highlights from the 5,600+ page law and the tax implications therein.
Individual Taxpayer Provisions
First and foremost, on the mind of most individuals impacted by COVID-19 are the second wave of stimulus payments and the unemployment benefits extension. Individuals will each be receiving a stimulus check in the amount of $600* ($1,200 per couple) as well as $600 per dependent child, e.g., a family of four will receive $2,400. These benefits will begin to phase-out when AGI reaches $75,000 ($150,000 for couples filing jointly) at a rate of $5 per $100 in excess of AGI thresholds. As with the first round of stimulus, these checks will be tax-free and will likely be reported as advance payment of credits on each taxpayer’s 1040.
*President Trump pushed back on this bill and advocated for stimulus checks of $2,000 per individual but staunch opposition from the Senate tabled these suggestions for what could be yet another stimulus under the next administration.
In addition to the $600 stimulus checks, Congress voted to extend the federal unemployment supplement albeit at a reduced rate of $300 per week (down from $600 under the CARES Act) through March 14, 2021. Along with the unemployment subsidy comes extensions of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) programs as well.
Further notable tax provisions as they relate to individuals are as follows:
- Special charitable contribution deductions for non-itemizers of $300 ($600 for married filing joint returns) for the 2021 tax year
- Extended suspension of the 60% charitable contribution limitation through 2021
- Extended deferral period for employee’s share of Social Security tax to December 31, 2021
- Permanent extension of the reduced medical expense deduction floor (7.5% of AGI)
- Ability for lower-income individuals to use 2019 earned income to calculate earned income tax credit and a refundable portion of the child tax credit (helps those who had lower earned income in 2020 due to COVID-19 receive potentially larger refunds)
- Permits rollover of unused amounts in health and dependent care flexible spending arrangements
Business Taxpayer Provisions
The biggest provision of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 in the business arena was the decision to reverse the IRS position regarding the deductibility of expenses used for PPP loan forgiveness as well as a second wave of PPP loans. Details of these provisions can be found in our recent blog post here. For the purpose of this post, we will address the other main tax provisions for businesses found in the CAA.
The existing Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) was modified retroactive to the beginning of the CARES Act. Before the passage of the CAA, businesses had to choose whether they would take advantage of PPP loan forgiveness OR claim the ERTC. Now, for 2020, businesses can request forgiveness of their PPP loans AND claim the ERTC. Provisions in the law state wages paid for with PPP loan proceeds cannot be used in calculating the ERTC in order to prevent double-dipping but for businesses with enough wages and other expenses to qualify for both, that option now exists. For 2020, the ERTC calculation is the same. The credit is capped at 50% of $10,000 of wages per employee for the year.
The law also provides for an extension of the ERTC into 2021 which increases the credit available to 70% of wages up to $10,000 per employee per calendar quarter. In addition, it raises the number of employees counted when determining relevant qualified wages from 100 to 500, reduces required year-over-year decrease in gross receipts from 50% to 20%, and clarifies that group health plan costs can be considered qualified wages EVEN WHEN no other wages are paid.
Other notable business provisions include:
- Extension of Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) paid sick leave and expanded FMLA sick leave tax credits through March 31, 2021
- Full expensing of “restaurant” meals purchased in 2021 and 2022 provided other requirements for deductibility are met
- Five-year extension of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC)
- Five-year extension of the employer credit for paid family and medical leave
- Extended suspension of the corporate 60% charitable contribution limitation through 2021
Due to the sheer volume of text in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, it is impossible to capture everything in this post. As always, please contact your William Vaughan adviser to discuss how we can help you navigate the myriad of provisions provided for by this law to best serve you and your business.
By: Jon Floering, CPA