Woman Filing Taxes for Employee Retention Credit

Navigating the Employee Retention Credit: Avoiding Common Pitfalls

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Employee Retention Credit (ERC) emerged as a lifeline for many businesses, offering financial support to retain employees during challenging times. However, as the IRS deadline approaches, small businesses must tread carefully and ensure their ERC claims are accurate and compliant. Here, we’ll explore common pitfalls and guide how to navigate the ERC landscape effectively.

Understanding the ERC: A Brief Overview

The ERC, also known as the Employee Retention Tax Credit or ERTC, was introduced to provide financial relief to eligible employers who retained employees during economic hardship caused by the pandemic. Eligible employers could claim a refundable tax credit against certain employment taxes, offering much-needed assistance to sustain their workforce.

Beware of Red Flags: Signs of Questionable Claims

The IRS has flagged several warning signs that may indicate problematic ERC claims. These include:

  • Overclaiming Quarters: Claiming the ERC for all available quarters without proper eligibility assessment could raise red flags.
  • Misinterpreting Government Orders: Misunderstanding the criteria for government orders related to COVID-19 could lead to incorrect claims. Employers must ensure such orders genuinely impact their operations.
  • Misrepresentation of OSHA Communications: Some promoters may need to more accurately cite OSHA communications as qualifiers for the ERC. However, this is generally not the case.
  • Inaccurate Calculations: Incorrectly calculating wages or including ineligible employees in the claim could result in overclaimed credits.
  • Supply Chain Issues: Claiming the ERC based on supply chain disruptions requires scrutiny. Businesses must meet specific criteria to qualify under these circumstances.
  • Claiming for Entire Tax Periods: Claiming the ERC for entire tax periods rather than the periods of actual suspension could lead to an overstatement of qualifying wages.
  • Non-Existent Wages or Businesses: Making claims for periods when no wages were paid or when the business did not exist could result in disallowed claims.

Navigating the Path Forward: Ensuring Compliance

To avoid potential IRS scrutiny and penalties, businesses must take proactive steps to ensure ERC claims are accurate and compliant:

Consult Reputable Tax Professionals

Seek guidance from trusted tax professionals who can advise on ERC eligibility and compliance.

Thoroughly Review Eligibility Criteria

Understand the specific requirements for claiming the ERC, including government orders, wage calculations, and eligibility periods.

Utilize IRS Resources

To clarify any uncertainties, take advantage of the IRS’s resources, including FAQs, eligibility checklists, and comparison charts.

Participate in the Voluntary Disclosure Program

If an ERC claim is incorrect, consider participating in the IRS’s Voluntary Disclosure Program to rectify the error and avoid penalties.

Act Before the Deadline

With the March deadline looming, businesses must act swiftly to review and rectify any questionable ERC claims to mitigate potential risks.


As the deadline for ERC claims approaches, small businesses must exercise caution to avoid common pitfalls and ensure compliance with IRS regulations. By staying informed, consulting experts, and taking proactive steps to review and rectify claims, businesses can navigate the ERC landscape effectively and secure the financial assistance they need to weather uncertain times.

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