Employee Retention Credit Now Available to PPP Recipients

Under the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA), 2021, the Employee Retention Credit (ERC) received an update and is now available through June 30, 2021 to eligible employers who retained employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. Its main target is to help ventures and businesses offset the financial turmoil caused by the pandemic. Along with this update, a change to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was also rolled out, allowing businesses that took a loan under it, to now be eligible for the ERC as well.

The CAA includes the following retroactive changes to the ERC. These changes apply to the period from March 13 through Dec. 31, 2020.

  • If you received a PPP loan, you may still qualify for the ERC for any wages not paid with proceeds from the forgiven portion of your PPP loan.
  • The Consolidated Appropriations Act clarifies how qualifying tax-exempt organizations determine “gross receipts.”
  • Group healthcare expenses are considered “qualified wages.” This is true even if no other wages are paid to that employee.

This update means that for employers who qualify, including borrowers who took a loan under the initial PPP, the credit can be claimed against 50% of qualified wages paid, up to $10,000 per employee annually, for wages paid between March 13 and Dec. 31, 2020.

For those who qualify in 2021, including PPP recipients, the new law expands the credit and allows them to claim a credit against 70% of qualified wages paid. In addition, the amount of wages that qualifies for the credit is now $10,000 per employee per quarter for the first two quarters of 2021. So, an employer could claim $7,000 per quarter per employee or $14,000 for 2021.

Who qualifies for the ERC?

Most employers can qualify for the credit, largely determined by two main factors, and at least one of these factors must apply in the calendar quarter the employer intends to use the credit:

  • A trade or business that was fully or partially suspended or had to reduce business hours due to a government order. The credit applies only for the portion of the quarter the business is suspended, not the entire quarter.
  • An employer that has seen considerable decline in gross receipts. With the updated law, beginning in 2021, businesses must be affected by forced closures or quarantines and have seen more than 20% drop in gross receipts in the quarter compared to the same quarter in 2019.

Note: New ventures are allowed by the IRS to use gross receipts for the quarter in which they began business as a reference for any quarter in which they do not have 2019 figures since they were not yet in business.

What wages qualify for the calculation?

For 2020, if you averaged more than 100 full-time employees, only wages for those you retained who are not working can be claimed. If you employed 100 or fewer workers, you can claim wages for all employees whether or not they are working.

For 2021, the threshold is raised to 500 full-time employees, meaning if you employ more than 500 people, you can only claim the ERC for those who are not providing services. If you have 500 or fewer employees, you can claim the ERC for all of them, working or not.

How do the credits work?
The Employee Retention Credit is taken off the employer’s share of Social Security taxes. However, the credit is fully refundable. So, if the credit were to exceed the employer’s total amount owed of Social Security in any calendar quarter, the excess is refunded to the employer.

At the end of the quarter, the amounts of these credits will be reconciled on the employer’s Form 941.

Talley’s professionals have spent literally hundreds of hours reviewing the law, regulations, and FAQs issued on an almost daily basis regarding the ERC and PPP, and we are happy to assist you in the process. We are available to simply answer a quick question or assist in the application and/or refund process.