Ultimate Guide to the 2021 Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) (2024 updates)

Ultimate Guide to the 2021 Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC)

The Employee Retention Credit (ERC) is a refundable payroll tax credit designed in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic and economic shutdown that provides a refundable tax credit to enterprises and small businesses that keep their payroll running in 2020 and 2021.

This article covers everything from eligibility to eligible salaries to how the 2021 Employee Retention Credit operates. It is also distinguished by legislation and date since various conditions apply based on whether you obtained a loan as well as when you collect the credit.

Key ERC Credit Takeaways You Will Learn:

  • Understanding ERC: Grasp the core concept and benefits of the Employee Retention Credit (ERC) and its role in 2021.
  • Qualification Criteria: Learn the qualifications for the ERC 2021, including eligible wages and employee healthcare costs.
  • Calculating the Credit: Discover how to calculate the ERC for one or several employees, and understand the amount of credit available.
  • Claiming and Timing: Understand the process for claiming the ERC and the key deadlines and start dates to keep in mind.
  • Tax Implications: Explore the effects of the ERC on tax returns and how to accurately report it.

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

What Exactly is Employee Retention Credit?

The Employee Retention Credit is established by Congress there in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES), which incentivizes businesses to keep their workers on the payroll during the coronavirus pandemic seasons of 2020.

This tax credit was originally worth 50% of eligible employee salaries, but it was capped to $10,000 per employee, with a maximum credit of $5,000 for wages earned between March 13, 2020, and December 31, 2021.

It has now been modified, with the percentage of eligible earnings climbing to 70% by 2021. The maximum compensation per employee has been raised from $10,000 per year to $10,000 per quarter.

The credit is available to all eligible businesses of any size that provide qualified salaries to workers; nevertheless, businesses with less staff and less than 500 staff must meet additional conditions in various sections of 2020 and 2021. Read full erc for restaurants details here.

Learn more about Employee Retention Credits – A Detailed FAQ Guide.

2021 Employee Retention Credit

As a consequence of the passing of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the Employee Retention Credit will be tapered down with most businesses on September 30, 2021. The IRS also issued instructions on the retroactive cancellation of the program.

With the passing of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act on Nov 15, 2021, the Employees Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) project’s end date was retroactively changed to September 30, 2021. For receiving credit, a recovery startup business must pay qualifying salaries through December 31, 2021.

The closure of the program, however, has no impact on a company’s ability to claim ERTC retrospectively.

In reality, firms have up to three years from the program’s end date to undertake a look back to see if wages made after March 12, 2020, and before the program’s end date are eligible.

ERTC 2021 General Appropriations Act

Employers who satisfy the standards, including PPP members, are entitled to a 70 percent salary credit. In addition, for the first 2 quarters of 2021, this amount of salary that qualifies for the credit has indeed been raised to $10,000 per worker.

The credit stays at 70% of eligible salaries up to a maximum of $7,000 per employee per quarter, up to a $10,000 cap each quarter. After the enactment of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which delayed the program’s termination date for most firms to September 30, 2021, an employer may claim $7,000 every quarter per employee or up to $21,000 for 2021. 

However, till the conclusion of last year, recovering startup companies are still eligible for ERTC. A rehabilitation startup company is one that started operations after February 15, 2020, and has typical total revenue of $1 million or less. They could be eligible for a credit of up to $50,000 in the final three months of 2021.

Employers who qualify can claim a refundable payroll tax credit equivalent to a percentage of eligible earnings paid to each employee businesses that meet the requirements can claim a nonrefundable payroll tax credit equal to a proportion of each company’s qualified wages. The credit is available in 2020 for salaries earned by qualified companies between March 13, 2020, and December 31, 2020. Employers qualified for the credit in 2021 can claim it for salaries paid from January 1, 2021, to December 31, 2021.

The credit is reclaimed against the employer part of the Social Security tax from March 13, 2020, to June 30, 2021. The credit is sought against the employer component of Medicare tax from July 1 to December 31, 2021.

Any company, including a tax-exempt organization, that operated a trade or business hours in the calendar year 2020 and met one of the following economic hardship requirements during the calendar quarter is an eligible employer:

  • The company is closed entirely or partially as a result of COVID-19-related directives from a competent governmental body restricting trade, travel, or group gatherings.

The 2020 ERC is equivalent to 50% of qualifying salaries for all calendar months, limited to a total of $10,000 in eligible wages per employee. The ERC for 2021 is 70% of eligible salaries, up to a total of $10,000 in eligible compensation per employee every fiscal year.

Employee Retention Credit Benefits

The Employee Retention Credit is a tax rebate intended to increase businesses to keep their workers on the payroll and reduce jobless claims. For 2020 as well as 2021, the credit is determined by calculating the difference:

The tax credit will be equivalent to half of the qualified salary paid to eligible workers in a calendar quarter in 2020, up to $5,000 each worker.

The tax credit is equal to 70% of qualified salaries given to employees by qualified employers in the fiscal year 2021, with a maximum return of $7,000 per worker each quarter.

Unlike Payroll tax Security Fund loans and other small business relief options, the ERC is open to businesses of all sizes. Recipients would never have to pay back the money or ask for redemption because the ERC is not a mortgage.

If the corporation is in recovery, the Capital Spending and Jobs Act of 2021 changed section 3134 of the Tax Code to restrict the Employee Retention Credit to wages earned from October 1, 2021.

For further information, see the IRS announcements on the retroactive termination of the Employee Retention Credit.

The Employee Retention Credit is a tax subsidy worth 50% of the qualifying salary provided to workers by an eligible company from March 12, 2020, through January 1, 2021. Employers who are eligible for the credit might obtain it right now by lowering the amount of employment tax payments they must make. 

Additionally, if the employer’s employment tax payments are insufficient to meet the credit, the IRS may make an advance payment to the company.

What is Employee Retention Credit 2021?

After Congress passed the CARES Act in March 2020, most businesses took full advantage of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) financing. A second alternative available to firms is a completely refundable employee retention credit against payroll tax bills.

Many organizations passed on the employee retention credit since they could only perform one of the two.

Therefore, under the revised COVID-19 compensation legislation, a business that does and has had the PPP in its hands can do both PPP credit as well as the retaining employees benefit, retrospective to March 2020, when the CARES Act was passed.

Looking ahead to 2021, Congress made it easier to claim employee retention credit and boosted the monetary amount of your benefit payments.

Since the coronavirus is wreaking havoc on companies around the country, there are a variety of coronavirus payroll tax credits available to assist employers. The Employee Retention Credit is one alternative for firms (ERC).

It’s a completely refundable tax credit available to qualifying firms that can keep employees on the payroll.

The Retaining Employees Benefit was also renewed by the General Appropriations Act for the calendar end of Dec 2020. On Sept 30, 2021, the Capital Spending and Jobs Act retrospectively eliminated the ERC with most businesses.

COVID Employee Retention Credit 2021

The CARES Act also provides you with a tax rebate equal to 50% of wages paid to your workers on or after March 13, 2020, until December 31, 2020, against the company’s part of the Social Security tax if you qualify.

This credit is available to you if:

  • Owing to COVID-19, a government order that completely or partially halted your activities for a calendar quarter.
  • Your credit will terminate in the quarter when gross receipts surpass 80% of gross receipts for the prior year.

Your credit-qualifying salaries are determined by the size of your company:

  • If you had more than 100 full-time workers in 2019, you could deduct the salaries paid to them while they are not delivering services owing to a suspension or decline in business.
  • If you had 100 or fewer full-time workers in 2019, all of their earnings are eligible for the credit during the suspending notice period or for the whole quarter if you use the gross receipts test.

The maximum creditable salary sum per worker for all calendar quarters in 2020 remains $10,000, and profits have included the number of health advantages you provide on behalf of the worker.

Employee Retention Credit 2021 Payment

If the expected credit is more than the reduced payroll tax payments, the company may seek an advance payment of COVID-19 employer credits by filing Form 7200 (no more available to fill).

In 2020, Form 7200 was released, and it was just modified for 2021. The following are some of the rules that apply to this form:

  • Companies with more than 500 employees, such as new firms, are not eligible.
  • The advance amount cannot be more than 70% of the quarterly salaries received in the calendar year 2019.
  • The form can be submitted for qualifying wages earned during the current quarter.
  • The document may not have been filed again for the quarter following the filing of the company’s Form 941x.
  • The deadline for submitting an advance payment request for the second quarter of 2021 was August 2, 2021.
  • For the speeding process, the form must be sent to the IRS at 855-248-0552.

The corporation should reconcile the advance payments received and the federal tax deposits made to the IRS when the credit is claimed on the payroll tax forms. The overpayment can be reimbursed or carried over to the next quarter if the return results in an overpayment.

Check out Employee Retention Credit: How to Calculate.

Employee Retention Credit 2021 Qualifications

Formerly, the General Appropriations Act broadened eligibility to include firms that obtained a loan under the Paycheck Protection Program, particularly debtors that were heretofore ineligible for the tax credit.

One of two factors determines whether or not an employer is qualified, and one of these features must exist in the quarter wherein the company wishes to use the loans:

A trade or business was completely or partially suspended or forced to reduce its hours due to a government edict. The credit is just for the period of the quarter wherein the business is interrupted, not for the entire quarter.

As per IRS advice, certain firms do not fulfill this factor test and hence do not qualify:

  • Those deemed vital, unless their supply of crucial materials/goods is disrupted in a way that makes it impossible for them to continue operating.
  • Businesses that were forced to close yet were able to keep their operations mostly intact because of telework as well as for employee wages.

The second-factor test, however, may still qualify any of these enterprises for loans and Advance payment for payroll taxes.

  • An employer whose gross earnings have dropped significantly.

On Tuesday, August 10, 2021, the IRS issued Income Operation 2021-33, which creates a safe refuge under which a company may exclude the amount of a PPP loan forgiveness and the amount of a Shuttered Event space Transportation companies Grant or an Eatery Urban renewal Financing bestow from gross revenue for the process of ascertaining whether or not to claim this same ERTC of Eligible Business owners. Employers must implement the safe harbor in all of their organizations uniformly.

This video will show you the ultimate guide to the 2021 employee retention tax credit.

Employee Retention Credit Plan

Employers that have been shorting payroll tax contributions in expectation of getting the ERC in the fourth quarter of 2021 should engage with their payroll service providers and/or payroll department to ensure that they start making full payroll tax deposits in the future.

The IRS is likely to give instructions on how to handle unpaid tax refunds, Health plan expenses, and other compliance concerns that may develop as a result of the ERC’s retroactive termination.

The loss of fourth-quarter pay for ERC may need further examination for PPP loan borrowers who cannot utilize income for both PPP debt forgiveness and ERC within the covered period. The ERC Resource Hub keeps you up to date on the newest ERC recommendations. Crisis Response Resource Center has further information on the ERC and other COVID-19-related rules and legislation.

Learn more about Everything To Know About Employee Retention Credit – ERC Example.

Employee Retention Credit Dates

It is intended to incentivize companies (including nonprofit organizations) to retain employees on payroll and provide health insurance as well as income tax return during the coronavirus epidemic.

The ERC was supposed to be accessible for the entire year of 2021 under the CAA and ARPA extensions. However, the IIJA eliminates the ERC for most companies on September 30, 2021, three months earlier than the original deadline of December 31, 2021, because they don’t provide eligibility requirements.

Employers would not be allowed to utilize any fourth quarter 2021 profits to fund the ERC because of the IIJA legislation, which would apply to calendar months commencing after September 30, 2021.

Employee Retention Credit Start Date

The ERC was implemented in 2020 by the CARES Act, then expanded & prolonged by the General Appropriations Act of 2021 (CAA) (ARPA). Its goal is to persuade companies (particularly tax-exempt corporations) to retain staff on the payroll and continue to provide health insurance throughout the coronavirus epidemic.

When Did Employee Retention Credit Start?

The ERC is a tax credit provided by the United States Treasury Administration. In 2020, Congress approved the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which allowed it.

Therefore, this regulation only applies to employees’ eligible pay until 2020. The ERC’s advantages get to be extended many times by Congress.

The Capital Spending, as well Jobs Act, is the most recent piece of legislation to maintain the ERC in operation.

Aiding firms in keeping their employees on the payroll has a positive impact on the labor market. The national unemployment rate has dropped to 4%, and most of the jobs that were lost during the epidemic have returned.

Employee Retention Credit 2021 Deadline

On September 30, 2021, the ERC came to an end for the majority of employers. Recovery Startup Businesses gained benefits until the end of 2021. However, all businesses will have an opportunity to file an amendment to claim the ERC credits for up to three years from the original tax filing year. These tax credits and cash refunds can be claimed retroactively for up to three years. 4/15/24 is the deadline for the 2020 tax year and 4/15/25 is the deadline for the 2021 tax year.

How to Calculate Employee Retention Credit 2021?

Employers can get a maximum ERC of $7,000 per worker per quarter in 2021 as a warning. Employees are eligible for credits worth 70% of their qualifying salaries and related qualified health plan expenditures.

Learn more about 5 Ways to Calculate the Employee Retention Credit.

One Worker:

Assume you have one person who receives $10,000 in qualifying earnings in the first quarter of 2021. You would receive a $7,000 credit as an employer ($10,000 x 70%).

One Employee has Healthcare Costs:

Let’s imagine you pay your one employee $5,000 in qualifying earnings in one quarter, as well as $1,000 in qualified employee health insurance. Multiply the sum of your eligible salary and employee health insurance by 70 percent. ($5,000 + $1,000) X 70%, Your overall credit would be $4,200.

Several Employees:

Assume you have three workers. During the quarter, you pay two of your three workers $10,000 in qualifying compensation and the third employee $20,000 in qualified earnings.

The notification only covers the credit for eligible salaries earned between March 12, 2020, and September 30, 2021, which is the program’s revised termination date for most firms.

The ERTC Questions that were originally written on the IRS website are likewise repeated in the bulk of the notice. The letter also outlines how PPP loan recipients can apply for the staff retention tax credit retroactively.

Companies must complete Form 941-X, Modified Company’s Regular Federal Tax Report or Request for Reimbursement, for the applicable quarter(s) in which eligible wages were received to claim the credit for previous quarters. To demonstrate the method, the IRS provides three instances.

The IRS notice 2021-20 provides seven scenarios for how a PPP loaned company calculates whose earnings, if any, are qualified for the tax credit. The amount of eligible salaries is primarily determined by how qualifying wages were reported on the PPP debt forgiveness application.

In rare circumstances when more expenses than needed have been used to support debt forgiveness, qualified earnings included in reported payroll costs on the forgiveness application may be used.

The IRS will use the minimum wage cost along with other qualified costs to substantiate debt forgiveness in certain situations.

The IRS, on the other hand, makes it plain that costs qualified for PPP forgiveness that were not disclosed in the loan forgiveness application cannot be added in afterward. As a result, it’s critical to include all relevant expenses on PPP debt forgiveness requests, including non-payroll costs like utilities, rent, and operational expenses, to mention a few.

Check out a detailed guide on How to Claim the Employee Retention Credit (ERC)?

Employee Retention Tax Credit Updates

These credits reward qualified companies for qualifying wage payments, encouraging them to keep their workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

ERTCs reimburse qualifying companies for up to $10,000 per person each quarter in approved payroll expenditures. This implies you may claim up to $7,000 every quarter for each employee.

However, subsequent COVID-19-related legislation has altered some of the program’s specifics. ERTCs, in particular, will now terminate a quarter earlier than intended. ERTC expired on September 30, 2021, retrospectively. 

This implies that any salaries earned after October 1, 2021, will be ineligible for the Employee Retention Tax Credit. The maximum credit amount per employee has been reduced from $28,000 to $21,000 as a result of this modification.

Except for recovery starting enterprises and partial suspension cases, this new deadline applies to all qualified employers for qualified wages. If you’re a recovery starting firm, you have until December 31, 2021, to claim ERTCs for qualified salary payments.

Employee Retention Credit Example

Millions more small-business entrepreneurs like you though qualified for the retaining employee’s credit (ERC) thanks to three important developments in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021:

While not on the same wage, the ERC, as well as the Pay packet Security Plan loans, are already offered. For 2021, the new law includes an upgraded ERC.

The previously strengthened 2021 ERC is prolonged for another six months, to December 31, 2021, according to the most recent new law, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA).

The ERC is a significant event. It has the potential to put tens of thousands of dollars in your pocket to assist cover the expense of paying personnel during the COVID-19 epidemic. We’ll guide you through a small-business scenario in this post so you can understand how to assess eligibility, compute the credit amount, then claim your money.

Check out Everything To Know About Employee Retention Credit – ERC Example.


To begin, establish if your first quarter qualifies for the employee retention credit by meeting either of the following criteria:

  • The test of stopped operations,
  • The test of gross receipts

Wages Paid that Qualify:

An eligible business can credit up to $10,000 in qualifying salaries per employee for each quarter in 2021.

Check out What Wages Qualify For The Employee Retention Credit.

Amount of Credit:

The credit rate for the quarters of 2021 is 70%. For the first quarters of 2021, your ERC is $28,000, or 70% of $40,000.

Making a Credit Claim:

Because your company had 500 or fewer full-time workers in 2019, you must pick one of the following choices to claim the credit for the 2021 quarters: Deduct the amount of your expected credit from your payroll tax contributions.

Effects of Tax Returns:

Taxable earnings You cannot deduct earnings equivalent to the ERC.15 amount. As a result of the credit, your gross profits income was raised by $28,000 in the tax year 2021.

This is not a financial concern. You get the tax incentive, which is a dollar-for-dollar decrease in your payroll, but you don’t get the tax exemption for the tax credit money you keep.

Employee Retention Credit 2020

The Catastrophe Tax Reduction Act of 2020, officially took effect on December 27, 2020, and extended and expanded the customer credit term through the 2nd period of 2021. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, or ARPA for short, was signed into law on March 11, 2021, and extended the credit reporting period to the fourth quarter of that year.

Despite expiring on October 1, 2021, the Retaining Employees Credit can still be claimed in 2022. Employers can claim pay retrospectively from March 13, 2020, until October 1, 2021. For many, the credit has grown frightening and complicated due to several modifications to initial principles and requirements.

Learn more about How To Apply For Employee Retention Credit.

Other FAQs Related to Employee Tax Credit

Is Employee Retention Credit Available in 2021?

Due to a clause in the Capital Spending as well as Jobs Act passed on November 15, 2021, the Employee Retention Credit will no longer be available to qualified companies for salaries given after September 20, 2021.

How Do I Claim Employee Retention Credit for 2021?

Starting in the 2nd period, qualified businesses will report their total eligible earnings and related health insurance costs on their quarterly payroll income taxes, and for most businesses will be Form 941. The credit is applied to the employer’s Social Security tax, although the excess is refundable under normal circumstances.

Employers can keep a corresponding amount of employment taxes that would have been deposited otherwise, including federal income tax, up to the account balance, without punishment, taking into consideration any decrease for deposits in expectation of the paid sick and family absences.

Does the Employee Retention Credit Apply to Q3 2021?

Yes, in Q3 and Q4 of 2021, the Employee Retention Credit follows substantially the same principles as in Q1 and Q2. When examining owner salaries for the ERC, spousal ownership must be taken into account for reasons of attribution.

Check out How Does Employee Retention Credit Work.

What is the Deadline to Claim Employee Retention Credit?

Even after terminating on October 1, 2021, the Employee Retention Credit (ERC) could still be used in 2022. Employers may claim compensation for the period beginning March 13, 2020, and ending October 1, 2021. The credit has grown scary and perplexing for many due to several modifications to initial standards and requirements.

What is the Gross Receipts Test?

The ERC gross receipts test can determine if eligible employers have seen a decline in gross receipts and is qualified to claim the credit. An increase in revenue during the eligible quarters will not disqualify eligible businesses, as ERC is determined on a quarterly basis.

Conclusion and Summary for 2021 Guide to Get the Employee Retention Credit (ERC)

After companies were destroyed by the Covid-19 outbreak, Congress offered the country a lifeline. This was accomplished by a tax credit that permitted firms to retain their employees on the books.

The ERC’s most recent edition is a generous program. It provides a refundable tax credit of 70% of eligible salaries to employees. This amount covers the employer’s share of healthcare expenses as well. It makes no difference whether your employees work full-time or not if your company has less than 100 employees.

ERC PDF Download of This News Article

Download a PDF version of Ultimate Guide to the 2021 Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC)

Help on How to Get Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERC / ERTC): Receive Up to $26,000 Per Employee for Your Business

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

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. 

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.

Schedule Your Free Employee Retention Credit Consultation to see how to claim the employee retention tax credit 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: 123RF.com / Pressmaster / Disaster Loan Advisors.

Mark Monroe