The CARES Act's new Employee Retention Credit is an alternative to receiving a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Businesses may choose the credit or PPP loan, if available. Unlike the PPP, the tax credit does not have a limit on the size of your business, making it an option for larger companies that don't qualify for the PPP.
The Employee Retention Credit helps businesses to retain employees during the current economic crisis. The credit equals 50% of qualified wages and qualified allocable health care expenses paid to staff members between March 12, 2020 and December 31, 2020. The maximum credit per employee is $5,000 per quarter during that period.
In order to be eligible for this credit, however, the IRS states you must meet one of two qualifying factors. The first is if your operations have been suspended in any way because of the government's restrictions on commerce, travel, or group meetings due to COVID-19. The other eligibility factor is if you experience a "significant decline" in gross receipts for the quarter. The IRS defines a significant decline as gross receipts totaling less than 50% than what they were in the same quarter for 2019. Once gross receipts reach 80% of the previous year's quarterly numbers eligibility for any credit ends.
The employer is not required to pay qualified wages if they qualify for the program, and can choose to opt out of claiming the Employee Retention Credit.