Employers should be wary of third parties advising them to claim the employee retention credit when they may not qualify. Some third parties are taking improper positions related to taxpayer eligibility for and computation of the credit.

These third parties often charge hefty upfront fees or a fee contingent on the refund. They may also fail to inform taxpayers that wage deductions claimed on the business’s federal income tax return must be reduced by the amount of the credit.

Suppose the business filed an income tax return deducting qualified wages before it filed an employment tax return claiming the credit. In that case, the business should file an amended income tax return to correct any overstated wage deduction.

Businesses should be cautious of schemes and direct solicitations promising tax savings that are too good to be true. Taxpayers are always responsible for the information reported on their tax returns. Improperly claiming the ERC could result in taxpayers being required to repay the credit along with penalties and interest.

What is the Employee Retention Credit?

The ERC is a refundable tax credit for businesses that continued paying employees while shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic or had significant declines in gross receipts from March 13, 2020–December 31, 2021. Eligible taxpayers can claim the ERC on an original or amended employment tax return for a period within those dates.

To be eligible for the ERC, employers must meet one of the following conditions:

Only recovery startup businesses are eligible for the employee retention credit in the fourth quarter of 2021.

Eligible employers cannot claim this credit on wages reported as payroll costs to get PPP loan forgiveness or that they used to claim certain other tax credits at any time.

To report tax-related illegal activities relating to ERC claims, taxpayers should submit Form 3949-A, Information Referral They should also report instances of fraud and IRS-related phishing attempts to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration by calling 800-366-4484.

Here are some resources to help employers understand eligibility requirements and how to claim this valuable credit:

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