Employee Retention Credit 2020 vs 2021
The federal government established the Employee Retention Credit (ERC) to provide a refundable employment tax credit to help businesses with the cost of keeping staff employed.
Eligible businesses that experienced a decline in gross receipts or were closed due to government order and didn't claim the credit when they filed their original return can take advantage by filing adjusted employment tax returns. For example, businesses that file quarterly employment tax returns can file Form 941-X, Adjusted Employer's Quarterly Federal Tax Return or Claim for Refund PDF, to claim the credit for prior 2020 and 2021 quarters.
With the exception of a recovery startup business , most taxpayers became ineligible to claim the ERC for wages paid after September 30, 2021. A recovery startup business can still claim the ERC for wages paid after June 30, 2021, and before January 1, 2022. Eligible employers may still claim the ERC for prior quarters by filing an applicable adjusted employment tax return within the deadline set forth in the corresponding form instructions. For example, if an employer files a Form 941, the employer still has time to file an adjusted return within the time set forth under the "Is There a Deadline for Filing Form 941-X?" section in Form 941-X, Adjusted Employer's Quarterly Federal Tax Return or Claim for Refund.
For more information, see Correcting Employment Taxes.
The ERC has been amended three separate times after it was originally enacted as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) in March of 2020 by the Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Relief Act of 2020 (Relief Act), the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act of 2021, and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).
|CARES Act of March 2020||Relief Act of 2021||American Rescue Plan Act of 2021||Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA)|
|Period for qualified wages paid||March 13 – December 31, 2020||Extended: January 1 – June 30, 2021||Extended: July 1, 2021 – December 31, 2021*
*IIJA retroactively amends section 3134 to limit availability in the fourth quarter of 2021 to a recovery startup business.
|October 1 – December 31, 2021 for wages paid only by a recovery start up business, as defined in section 3134(c)(5) of the Code.|
|Eligible employer||Any employer operating a trade, business, or a tax-exempt organization, but not governments, their agencies, and instrumentalities.||For calendar quarters in 2021, expanded to include certain governmental employers that are:
||No changes||No change|
|Employment tax offset||Employer's portion of Social Security tax||No change||Changed to employer's portion of Medicare tax||No change|
|Eligibility requirements||Employer must experience:
||For calendar quarters in 2021, amended decline in gross receipts to be defined as quarter where gross receipts are less than 80% of the same quarter in 2019.
For calendar quarters in 2021, added an alternative quarter election rule giving employers ability to look at prior calendar quarter and compare to the same calendar quarter in 2019 to determine whether there was a decline in gross receipts.
Provided a rule for employers not existence in 2019 to allow employers that were not in existence in 2019 to determine whether there was a decline in gross receipts by comparing the calendar quarter in 2021 to its gross receipts to the same calendar quarter in 2020.
|For third and fourth calendar quarters of 2021, amended to make the credit available to "recovery startup businesses," employers who otherwise do not meet eligibility criteria (full or partial suspension or decline in gross receipts)
"Recovery startup businesses" are employers:
|Limited availability for the fourth quarter of 2021 to a recovery startup business as defined in section 3134(c)(5) of the Code.
Removed requirement for fourth calendar quarter that a recovery startup business not otherwise be an eligible employer due to a full or partial suspension of operations or a decline in gross receipts.
|Percent of qualified wages eligible for credit||
|Credit maximums||Maximum credit of $5,000 per employee in 2020||Increased the maximum per employee to $7,000 per employee per quarter in 2021||