When properly claimed, the Employee Retention Credit (ERC) is a refundable tax credit designed for businesses and tax-exempt organizations that continued to pay their employees while experiencing workforce disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, the intricate filing process associated with this credit inadvertently created an opportunity for corrupt specialty firms to prey on small business owners, making deceptive claims about eligibility.
With the rise in fraudulent ERC claims, the IRS announced an immediate halt to processing new claims through at least the end of the year. IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel states, “The IRS is increasingly alarmed about honest small business owners being scammed by unscrupulous actors, and we could no longer tolerate growing evidence of questionable claims pouring in.”
Depending on your filing situation, we’re going to cover what to expect and what you should do next as a small business owner.
What if I have already filed an ERC claim?
If you have already filed an ERC claim, the IRS will continue to process your claim, but at a greatly reduced speed. The IRS will be reviewing more than 600,000 claims, so expect processing times to be 180 days (about 6 months) or longer. The IRS may even ask for more information, so be prepared to receive this request.
If you believe that your claim is fraudulent, the IRS is working on offering a withdrawal option for those who have filed an ERC claim but have not yet had it processed. As cited by the IRS, “This option, which can be used by taxpayers whose claim hasn’t yet been paid, will allow the taxpayers, many of them small businesses who were misled by promoters, to avoid possible repayment issues and paying promoters contingency fees.” However, if you have willfully filed a fraudulent claim, withdrawing it does not exempt you from potential criminal investigation.
In the event that your ERC claim has already been processed and you have received an improper ERC payment, you are required to pay it back with possible penalties and interest. Per the IRS, they are “developing new initiatives to help businesses who found themselves victims of aggressive promoters. This includes a settlement program for repayments for those who received an improper ERC payment.” Remember, this program is not finalized, but the IRS plans to release more information in the fall.
What if I am in the process of filing for the ERC?
The IRS encourages anyone being pressured by promoters to apply for the ERC “to immediately pause and review their situation while we (the IRS) look to add new protections and safeguards to stop bad claims from ever coming in.” Commissioner Werfel also states, “Businesses should seek out a trusted tax professional who actually understands the complex ERC rules.”
What are my next steps?
Considering the complexity of the ERC, it’s never been more important to partner with a trusted tax professional. As small business owners ourselves, we know how scary this situation can be, but you don’t have to face it alone. At Padgett, we prioritize our relationships with our clients and are here to help you every step of the way. With over 50 years of collective experience and expertise in filing ERC claims, we’re prepared to answer any questions you may have regarding your ERC filing status. Connect with us today for reliable guidance and advice.