Does the Employee Retention Credit Reduce Wages on Tax Returns?

Employee Retention Credit (ERC) is a tax credit for employers that can reduce wages depending on the value of the credit under Section 280C of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC). This reduction occurs throughout the year in which the profits were paid. An employer that receives a tax credit for qualified wages, including the attributable expenses of the qualified health plan, does not include the credit in gross income for federal income tax purposes. Neither the part of the credit that reduces employment taxes applicable to the employer nor the refundable part of the credit are included in the employer's gross income.

The client employer is responsible for avoiding a “double benefit” with respect to the employee retention credit and the credit under section 45S of the Internal Revenue Code. The client employer cannot use the wages that were used to claim the employee retention credit and declared by the third-party payer on behalf of the client employer to request the $45 credit on their income tax return. Any eligible employer can choose not to apply the employee retention credit for any calendar quarter by not requesting the credit on the employer's payroll tax return. The notice confirmed that tips received by employees counted as “qualified salaries” for employers to calculate credit amounts and that employers could request a tip credit from both the ERC and FICA for the same tips. Yes, if a common law employer is eligible to receive the employee retention credit, they are entitled to the credit regardless of whether they use a third-party payer (such as a reporting agent, payroll service provider, PEO, CPEO, or agent) to declare and pay your federal payroll taxes.

If an eligible employer decides not to apply for the employee retention credit in one calendar quarter, they are not prohibited from requesting it in a later calendar quarter for qualifying wages paid in that next quarter, as long as it meets all requirements. The customer, employer and third party payer will each be responsible for payroll taxes due as a result of any improper request for employee retention credits that are unduly requested in accordance with their liability under the Internal Revenue Code and regulations applicable to payroll taxes declared in the payroll tax return filed by the third party payer in which the credit was requested. Consequently, a similar denial of deduction would apply under employee retention credit, so that total deductions would be reduced by amount of credit as a result of this denial rule. The notice confirmed that tips received by employees are counted as “qualifying salaries” for employers to calculate credit amounts. If an eligible employer uses an uncertified PEO to declare and pay its federal payroll taxes, they must declare employee retention credit on an aggregated Form 941 and separately declare employee retention credit attributable to employers for whom it submits added Form 941 in attached Annex R.Employers with 500 or fewer employees can apply for credit based on salaries of all employees, regardless of whether they worked or not. Employers with 100 or more employees could only include wages paid during periods when employees were not working.

Although ERC is not considered taxable income, under Section 280C of IRC, tax credits for employers create reduction in wages in amount of credit. The third party payer is not entitled to employee retention credit with respect to wages that it remits on behalf of employer (regardless of whether third party is considered an employer for purposes of Internal Revenue Code (the Code)).Many taxpayers spent past year reviewing eligibility and submitting reimbursement requests for Employee Retention Credit (“ERC”). If an eligible employer uses CPEO or 3504 agent to declare their federal payroll taxes on an aggregated Form 941, CPEO agent or 3504 will declare employee retention credit on their aggregated Form 941 and in Annex R, Assignment Program for those who file Aggregate Form 941, which you have already filed.

Zachary Kadner
Zachary Kadner

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