Is Employee Retention Credit (ERC) Taxable Income? (updated March 2024)

Income tax is payable on taxable income earned by an individual, business, or professional entity. The amount of taxable income that is subject to tax is determined by subtracting allowable deductions from the total income. A significant deduction that can be taken is that of employee retention credit.

Applicants still keep asking questions like are ERC funds taxable and how the whole process of tax is around the Employee Retention Tax Credit. Here is the detailed guide on Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) taxable income.

Key ERC Credit Takeaways You Will Learn:

  • ERC Taxable Income: Discover how Employee Retention Credit affects taxable income in 2021.
  • ERC Reporting: Learn the process of reporting ERC on tax returns.
  • ERC & Tax Returns: Understand the impact of ERC on tax returns and deductions.
  • Qualified Wages: Get insights on what constitutes qualified wages for ERC in 2021.
  • Payroll Tax Expense: Find out if the Employee Retention Credit reduces payroll tax expense.

See Important 2024 Employee Retention Tax Credit Deadline Information at the Bottom of This Article.

Employee Retention Credit Taxable Income

With ERC, employer tax credits reduce pay by the value of the credit under IRC Section 280C. This decrease occurs throughout the year in which the earnings were paid. As a result, even if the refund has not yet been received, a 2021 credit must be shown on the 2022 tax return. Many states follow the federal approach, with the exception of New York, which enables the deduction.

ERC is a tax credit that is 100% refundable for eligible businesses that can keep employees on the payroll. As a result of the amended and revised Infrastructure Bill, the ERC has been updated and many rules have changed as well.

If a common employee is somewhat eligible for the ERC, it is entitled to it regardless of whether it reports and pays its federal employment taxes through a third-party payer. The refundable element of the credit, as well as the amount of the credit that decreases the employer’s relevant employment taxes, are not included in the gross income of the employer. With respect to the salaries it remits on behalf of the employer, the third-party payer is not entitled to the ERC.

Employee Retention Credit Taxable Income in 2021

Although the ERC is not taxable, it is subject to cost disallowance laws that essentially render it taxable. IRS Notice 2021-49 clarified a few more points that had been causing confusion among taxpayers wanting to claim the ERC. Worker tips are considered “qualified wages” for measuring and checking their credit, by which businesses can claim both an ERC and a FICA tip credit for the same tips.

The announcement also explains a timing problem involving ERC labor expenditure adjustments. Employers are not allowed to deduct salaries utilized in the ERC assessment from taxable income up to the ERC amount during the calendar quarter. As a result, even if an employer filed an ERC refund claim for a quarter in 2020, the modification to tax liability equal to the ERC was included on the employer’s 2020 federal income tax report, even if the refund claim is made in 2021 or later on wages for purposes.

Businesses that did not include modifications on their 2020 taxes needed to file amended returns. 

Expense impermissibility, which was neither an item of revenue nor a deduction, does not fit nicely into these principles. Taxpayers who acquired a PPP loan in 2020 and became eligible for the 2020 ERC following the enactment of the CAA met all of the ERC’s 2020 conditions. Even if the actual computation of the credit was not completed until later, such taxpayers had previously paid any ERC-eligible salaries by the end of 2020, and the amount of the ERC could have been established with acceptable precision. 

Expense disallowance for refundable payroll tax credits happened in 2020, regardless of whether the ERC was claimed in 2020 or 2021, and should be shown on the 2022 federal income tax return. Nothing prevents ERC-related income from being deferred beyond 2022 for any type of loan forgiveness or paycheck protection program.

Now that the tax filing season for 2022 is among us, firms must assess if they qualify for ERC status. If the company qualifies, it should apply for the credit as soon as feasible to start the refund process. While a payroll tax provider can file a Form 941-X on behalf of a business, it is not required.

Even when the employer has provided precise information for the revision, some payroll agencies are taking a long time to write Form 941-X with special rules for a safe harbor. This is sadly wasted time for a company that already faces IRS return processing delays for maximum credit on eligible wages. Check out more about What are the Owner Wages For Employee Retention Credit.

How to Report ERC on Tax Return 1120s?

It appears now that according to the most recent IRS guidelines, the employee retention credit claimed should be recorded on Form 1120-S, line 13g, Schedule K, and Form 5884. This results in a Tax credit on K-1 that may be utilized for 2022 federal return taxes. The ERC’s expiry date was pushed back from December 31, 2021, to September 30, 2021, thanks to the enactment of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

Until December 31, 2021, only recovery-starting enterprises were eligible for the ERC. This prevents a taxpayer from receiving eligible wages deduction and a wage credit for the same wage cost. A taxpayer’s portion of relevant Social Security and Medicare taxes can still be deducted from federal returns during the reference period. While the ERC refund is not taxable during the eligibility period when it is received, earnings equivalent to the ERC amount are subject to expenditure disallowance regulations with a sum of eligible wages for federal purposes.

Is ERC Refund Taxable?

Before the end of the fiscal year, a user has already provided or witnessed the earnings that will be used to claim any relevant ERC and consequently has enough information to calculate the ERC amount with adequate precision throughout the Paycheck Protection Program. A taxpayer may file an updated payroll tax return for the eligible earnings in a subsequent tax year, but the wage expenditure disallowance must be imposed in the year in which the ERC claim is filed, not when the payments are received.

The person should revise his prior-year income tax return to compensate for the wage deduction refusal in these circumstances. Given the current IRS processing period for updated payroll tax credits and eligible wages, a taxpayer may be required to pay taxes owing to the expenditure disallowance before receiving funds from the ERC refund. A taxpayer should budget for such taxes by having alternative funds accessible.

How Do I Account for Employee Retention Credit?

The ERCs for 2020 and 2021 are completely refundable credits against the employer component of Social Security taxes depending on the amount of qualifying wages incurred by an eligible employer. The maximum credit is determined by an employee’s qualified-wages cap. If your company is eligible for the ERC, you should think about which accounting standard determines revenue recognition.

The recording of this revenue is judged to be permissible under Contributions Received and Contributions Made and Accounting Standards Update (ASU) Subtopic 958-605. The ERC is considered a conditional grant since an entity can only transfer assets if it has overcome the qualifying barrier for qualified improvement property. Employer eligibility is usually established by one of two criteria, at least one of which must be satisfied during the calendar quarter in which the credit is requested.

  • The facility may be shuttered whole or partially due to a government order.

The ERC might be applicable if the business owners or the firm were forced to entirely or partially suspend operations or limit business hours. The businesses do not meet this description, according to the IRS, and hence are not eligible. Those regarded as critical until their supply of critical materials/goods is disturbed to the point of no longer being able to operate. Telework allowed businesses that had been forced to close by their owners to continue operating virtually as normal.

  • Gross receipts have dropped dramatically.

When comparing a quarter, the company’s gross receipts must have been reduced by half. Beginning in 2022, businesses must have seen a higher than 20% drop in gross revenues in Q1 and Q2 compared to the same time in the 2020 reference period. If the business is new, the IRS allows it to utilize gross revenues from the first quarter as a baseline for any quarter in which it does not have 2020 data for federal purposes.

Employee Retention Tax Credit Updates

Roughly 70%-80% of small and medium firms were expected to be ideal candidates for the ERC, according to IRS management. To date, the actual number of enterprises and organizations applying for the ERC has been significantly lower. Small and medium-sized firms are squandering billions of dollars for a partial shutdown.

The ERC is a misunderstood tax advantage for distressed employers, with small and medium business owners and charity administrators either unaware of it or incorrect (or, more often, obsolete) in their knowledge. Furthermore, employers frequently overlook the fact that you can qualify for the ERC in one of two ways: revenue decrease or if your business/charity has suffered a significant effect as a result of federal, state, or local government or regulatory Covid decreases.

For more details check out this Comprehensive Guide on Employee Retention Tax Credit Updates.

Finally, several business owners and charity executives incorrectly believe that the ERC is reserved for distressed businesses and also for qualified improvement property. Congress saw this provision as a method to encourage businesses and organizations to maintain and hire employees with good offers of wages per employee, so assisting them in weathering the economic problems and expenses posed by Covid.

In practice, the alliance group has discovered that a wide range of businesses are good candidates for the ERC to tackle payroll taxes, including manufacturing, healthcare, charities/tax-exempt organizations, construction, restaurants, the food industry, churches, museums, food kitchens, and schools to balance with credit per employee. The employer tax credit will be balanced through quarterly wages in terms of advance credit or income tax credit. Read full employee retention credit restaurants details here.

This video will show you if the employee retention credit is taxable income.

How Does Employee Retention Credit (ERC) Affect Tax Return?

The ERC is a tax subsidy for qualifying salaries provided to employees by your company. The credit is applicable to employment taxes such as withholding, FICA, and Medicare. The credit was designed to encourage employers with deductible wage expenses to keep staff on the payroll even if they were unable to work due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

In March 2020, Congress established the ERC as part of the CARES Act. It was one of a number of policies designed to assist failing firms. The ERC was eventually enlarged by Congress as part of numerous COVID-19 relief bills. On their federal employment tax returns, employers can claim the ERC with excess wages. This is normally your Form 941, Quarterly Federal Tax Return.

If you didn’t claim the ERC but subsequently realized you did, you can modify your Form 941. If your benefit outweighs your tax due, you can ask the IRS for a pay decrease in advance. This law applies to businesses with 500 or fewer full-time workers in 2019. The advance will be requested using Form 7200. File Form 7200 before the end of the month following the quarter in which you paid the qualifying salary.

ERC & Gross Income Tax Return

If you received benefits from previous COVID-19 programs, you could apply for the ERC. Through the CAA law, Congress relaxed the limits. You can still claim the ERC if your company took out a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan. You cannot, however, claim the ERC using the same salaries that you used to qualify for PPP debt forgiveness. These terms apply to PPP loans taken out in 2021 or 2022, even with the retirement plans.

If your company qualifies, you can claim the FFCRA credit as well as the ERC credit for your retirement plans. However, you cannot claim both credits with the same earnings for a quarterly payroll tax credit in a covered period for a qualified business income such as hard-hit small businesses. It will take you and the other self-employed individuals to a separate qualified business income deduction phase.

What are Qualified Wages for the Employee Retention Credit?

The definition of qualifying earnings is determined by the number of employees employed by an eligible firm. Qualified wages are usually those earnings (up to $10k per employee) provided to employees who are not delivering services because operations have ceased or because gross revenues have decreased if a firm averaged more than 100 full-time employees in 2020.

These workers can only add earnings up to the value any worker would have been paid for working for a period of time in the 30 days of his period of economic hardship. If a business had 100 or fewer full-time workers on average in 2019, eligible wages are those payments (up to $10k per employee) paid to any employee during the period operations were ceased or gross revenues fell, regardless of whether or not those employees were delivering services.

To declare that for each quarter, a new ERC, qualifying salaries in total, and related health insurance expenses should be calculated and subtracted from the deposit made using Form 941. When you have already filed your tax return for 2020, you can claim some credit retroactively. To do so, fill out Form 941-X. People can obtain an initial tax deposit by using Form 7200, which is for Advance of Employer Credits.

It is offered to employees with loan forgiveness applications as a result of Covid-19, and it might benefit them if they qualify as a small company. Companies with more than 500 employees are not eligible for advance payments for a qualified property having several hours of service. Qualification is determined by two crucial variables, one of which must be utilized in the calendar quarter in which the amount is to be used. A trade or business with service per week was completely or partially suspended or forced to reduce its hours due to a government edict.

Certain businesses, according to IRS counsel, do not meet this factor and hence do not qualify. Those are regarded as important until their supply of critical materials/goods is disrupted to the point that they can no longer operate. Because of telework, businesses that were forced to close were able to maintain their operations essentially intact. The second-factor test, on the other hand, might still qualify any of these businesses for financing.

An employer whose gross earnings have drastically decreased is not eligible for social security benefits and health insurance benefits due to social security tax. In 2019, businesses with more than 500 full-time employees can only use the ERC to recover wages paid to employees during non-working times, such as a shutdown due to economic impact payments. Wages paid during working and non-working periods can be claimed by businesses with 500 or fewer full-time employees. Learn more about What are the Owner Wages For Employee Retention Credit.

What are the Qualified Wages for the Employee Retention Credit (ERC) in 2021?

For computing, the ERC, salaries, and wages are subject to FICA taxes as allowed for everyone. You must deposit the whole amount to be eligible for the calendar quarter credit. Keep in mind that the refundable credit may only be used for profits that haven’t been forgiven or aren’t likely to be forgiven under PPP. Depending on the circumstances, the IRS has a variety of methodologies for determining qualified health costs and partial suspension.

They normally include the employer’s and employee’s pretax wages but not any eligible after-tax compensation. A corporation must first assess the number of comprehensive workers before determining the permissible salaries that must be utilized prior to the partial suspension. According to the ACA‘s employer shared liability clause, a full-time contractor such as sewage disposal services in 2020 worked 30 hours per week or 130 hours in a month.

Add the number of full-time employees by the number of months the firm is open. An employer starting a firm in 2021, such as one of the recovery startup businesses, calculates the number of full-time workers by dividing the total number of full-time employees in each calendar month by the year’s length. Companies that carry on a commercial business during the calendar year 2020, including stamp duty organizations, are entitled to the ERC.

Learn more about 7 Ways to Determine Qualified Wages for the Employee Retention Credit.

Does Employee Retention Credit Reduce Deductible Wages?

A closer look at the IRC and regulations reveals that the Section 199A deduction may be limited for certain pass-through business owners, boosting their effective federal tax rate from 30% to 37%. The Section 199A deduction was introduced in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Acts (TCJA) as a compromise for pass-through firm owners in response to substantial public uproar about the anticipated drop of the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%.

While the government refused to lower pass-through firm owners’ tax rates directly, they did construct a fictional deduction of up to 20% for pass-through business revenue if certain circumstances were satisfied. The Section 199A deduction may enable pass-through firm owners to reduce their federal effective tax rate from 37% to around 30%.

Does the Employee Retention Credit Reduce Payroll Tax Expense?

Many taxpayers have spent most of the past year determining their eligibility for the ERC and filing refund applications. Many firms affected by COVID-19 were able to file payroll tax rebate claims because of the popular tax credit granted by the CARES Act in March 2020, which provided a much-needed flow of cash.

Section 2301(e) of the CARES Act says that restrictions similar to section 280C of the Code apply when applying for the ERC. Section 280C typically disallows a reduction for the portion of wages paid or incurred equal to the sum of specified credits computed for the taxable year. As a result, under section 2301(e) of the CARES Act, the Employee Retention Credit is subject to a similar deduction disallowance, including eligible health plan costs, by the amount of the Employee Retention Credit. Check out How To Apply For Employee Retention Credit.

The Employee Retention Credit was significantly altered by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. It eliminated the ERC for most firms retrospectively on September 30, 2021. Prior law set a deadline of December 31, 2021. For recovering starting firms, the ERC for the 4th quarter of 2022 is still available. Any Recovery Startup Business that began operations on or after February 15, 2020, may have annual gross sales under $1 million.

Conclusion and Summary Related to Employee Retention Credit Taxable Income

Employee Retention Credit itself does not have the tax but there are various steps that you need to take into consideration when you are paying taxes on your income and that’s the reason why you should look for the taxable income, especially in the period of time when the income was affected due to Covid-19.

Find out more about ERC and how to see whether your company qualifies for this IRS incentive. Obtaining the ERC can help your firm and give financial relief from COVID-19-related expenses.

ERC PDF Download of This News Article

Download a PDF version of Is Employee Retention Credit (ERC) Taxable Income?

Receive Up to $26,000 Per Employee for Your Business From the Employee Retention Credit (ERC)

Disaster Loan Advisors can assist your business with the complex and confusing Employee Retention Credit (ERC) and Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) program.

The ERC / ERTC Program is a valuable tax credit you can claim. This is money you have already paid to the IRS in payroll taxes for your W2 employees.

Depending on eligibility, business owners and companies can receive up to $26,000 per employee based on the number of W2 employees you had on the payroll in 2020 and 2021.

Schedule Your Free Employee Retention Credit (ERC) Consultation to see what amount your company qualifies for.

ERC Deadline Urgency in 2024

April 15, 2024 Deadline for the 2020 ERC Tax Year

The deadline is coming up for the final opportunity to retroactively claim your business Employee Retention Credit for the past 2020 tax year. With the April 15, 2024 deadline fast approaching, we urge you; don’t let this final chance pass!

While not all businesses will qualify, as it depends on multiple factors per IRS Rules and Guidelines, you might be leaving significant financial relief on the table from prior COVID impact to your business during the past 2020 and 2021 business operation years.

Last year, in September 2023, the IRS temporarily paused processing ERC Claims for the remainder of last year. We at Disaster Loan Advisors (DLA) predicted this over one year ago when we made this ERC video warning business owners. See the ten-minute mark of the video for details. 


Even though the IRS has temporarily paused processing, you will still want to check eligibility and file now (if you qualify) because once the IRS will resume processing, ERC tax credit claims are processed in the order they are received.

If you haven’t previously filed for the ERC Credit, it is worth scheduling a phone call to at least explore your possible eligibility from both the past 2020 and 2021 business tax years. Contact us today for a deep-dive analysis to determine if your business qualifies one or more quarters from the 2020 and / or 2021 tax years.

Cover Image Credit: / Antonioguillem / Disaster Loan Advisors.

Mark Monroe