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  • Writer's pictureSandra Lea

Employee Retention Credit Debacle

Updated: Jan 12, 2023

What is the “Employee Retention Credit” also referred to at ERC? This was a plan that was established in March of 2020 by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and was intended to help eligible businesses retain their workforce during the economic downturn due to the worldwide pandemic. To help avoid layoffs the ERC provided these businesses up to a $5,000 credit per employee, understanding at the time that businesses could not receive ERC if they received the Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP) Loan. Sounds like a good plan doesn’t it? But as with all government run programs, what sounds good usually has a hole in the silver lining, so let’s take a closer look.

In December of 2020 the Consolidated Appropriations Act retroactively removed the restriction between PPP and ERC, allowing businesses who had received the PPP Loan to now apply for and receive the ERC. Additionally, in April of 2021 The American Rescue Plan Act extended the ERC program through December of 2021, as well as increased the credit up to $7,000 per employee for each quarter in 2021 with a maximum of $28,000 for each employee for the calendar year 2021. Both good moves and good news for struggling businesses trying to stay afloat.

Still waiting for that Government mismanagement and complete breakdown? Enter in November 2021; at this time Biden’s Infrastructure and Jobs Act not only ends the ERC for most employers, but retroactively sets the effective date 2 months prior as of September 2021 instead of December 2021, even though, as one would expect, most of these credits have already been received and reinvested into employer personnel costs.

Since the provision ending the ERC early is retroactive, everyone is still awaiting guidance from the IRS to explain how the changes will affect employers who reduced their employment tax deposits in anticipation of the ERC for the 4th quarter. Most payroll companies are advising that the credits be paid back by the end of this month so they will remain in compliance with their Quarterly Payroll Filings.

As if small businesses haven’t been suffering enough during economic fallout caused by government restrictions and fear instilled in people due to the Covid19 virus, as usual the government has made the situation worse under the guise of helping, ultimately costing small businesses. As businesses struggled to make ends meet and keep their staff employed, they paid additional accounting fees to help them take advantage of the Covid relief programs to ensure they would have enough cash flow to keep their employee on the payroll. The fact that after businesses extended these expenditures, then the government decides to retroactively take these credits back post being consumed by employers to keep people staffed is ludicrous and completely unacceptable! To make matters worse, these businesses are now paying accountants, bookkeepers, and payroll companies to calculate their ERC refunds and are learning just before Christmas that they must now pay back significantly large sums of money for these credits by year end to stay in compliance with Federal Quarterly Payroll Tax Filings.

Year-end is always a busy and stressful time for accountants and bookkeepers, preparing to close the books for the year and get ready for tax season. To add to this stress, this year many of us also received the job of making hard phone calls to clients telling them the credits they relied on to keep their employees staffed must now be paid back. Trust us when we tell you, these are not the calls we want to be making to our clients the week of Christmas.

In conclusion, as typical with the government, not only do they not care and have no clue what people are going thru, but they have no forethought of what the implications of their actions will be once their laws are passed. They continue to smile while giving out a dollar with one hand, while the other hand takes away five dollars on top of making compliance with their new rules even more difficult and costly to follow. The last two years have been such a struggle for many business owners, we can only hope these businesses can afford to payback their Q4 2021 ERC credits without shutting their doors and hope that 2022 will bring less government interference and a more favorable environment for small businesses to thrive in.


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