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Overcoming Challenges in Claiming the Employee Retention Credit

In the maze of pandemic-related financial relief options, the Employee Retention Credit (ERC) stands out as a beacon for businesses seeking support, much like Stentam’s guide on ERC. However, the journey of claiming ERC can be fraught with complexities and challenges. Designed to provide significant tax relief for employers who retain their employees during these unprecedented times, the ERC, while beneficial, requires careful navigation to ensure compliance and maximization of benefits. In this blog, we delve into the common hurdles businesses encounter in the process of claiming ERC and provide strategic insights to overcome them effectively, echoing Stentam’s commitment to clarity and strategic guidance. Our goal is to demystify the ERC claim process, making it more accessible and manageable for businesses in need of this critical support.

Understanding the ERC and Its Importance

The Employee Retention Credit (ERC) is a lifeline for businesses, offering significant tax relief to those that have faced financial hardships during the COVID-19 pandemic. But why is this credit so crucial?

At its core, the ERC is designed to incentivize businesses to retain their employees, even in the face of economic uncertainty. It provides a refundable tax credit that can help offset the costs of retaining staff, making it an invaluable resource for businesses of all sizes.

The importance of the ERC becomes even more evident when we consider the broader economic impact. By helping businesses keep their workforce intact, the ERC contributes to economic stability and recovery. It supports employees by preserving jobs and income, ensuring financial security during uncertain times.

For businesses, the ERC can be a game-changer, helping them weather the storm and emerge stronger on the other side. It’s not just a tax credit; it’s a lifeline that can make the difference between survival and succumbing to financial pressures. In the sections that follow, we’ll explore the challenges that businesses often face when claiming the ERC and how to overcome them to harness the full potential of this critical resource.

Challenge 1: Navigating Eligibility Criteria

One of the initial hurdles that businesses encounter when claiming the Employee Retention Credit (ERC) is understanding and navigating the eligibility criteria. The ERC is designed to assist businesses that have faced hardships during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the criteria can be intricate.

To be eligible for the ERC, businesses must meet specific requirements related to operational impact and financial decline. They must have either experienced a full or partial suspension of operations due to government-imposed COVID-19 restrictions or a significant decline in gross receipts compared to a specified reference period.

For startups and businesses with limited operating history, assessing the financial impact accurately can be challenging. Additionally, there are alternative methods for measuring the decline in gross receipts for businesses that were not in operation for the entirety of the comparative quarter in 2019.

To overcome this challenge, businesses must carefully review the ERC guidelines or seek advice from tax professionals who can provide tailored guidance. Accurately determining eligibility is the crucial first step in successfully claiming the ERC.

Challenge 2: Calculating the Credit Correctly

Once a business has navigated the eligibility criteria for the Employee Retention Credit (ERC), the next challenge is accurately calculating the credit amount. This step can be complex, particularly for businesses with varying payroll expenses.

The ERC is calculated based on qualifying wages paid to employees during eligible quarters, including certain health insurance costs. The credit allows a percentage of these wages up to a specific limit per employee. For startups and businesses with small workforces, the accuracy of this calculation is pivotal, as it directly impacts the final credit amount.

Inaccurate calculations can lead to either underutilization of the credit, resulting in missed financial relief, or overstatement, potentially leading to compliance issues. To address this challenge, businesses should carefully review payroll records, ensuring they identify all qualifying expenses within the eligible period and accurately calculate the credit. Seeking guidance from financial experts or tax professionals can be invaluable in this regard, helping businesses make the most of this critical tax incentive.

Challenge 3: Dealing with Documentation and Compliance

Maintaining proper documentation and ensuring compliance with the Employee Retention Credit (ERC) guidelines is another significant challenge businesses face. The ERC requires businesses to maintain detailed records to support their claims, and any lapses in documentation can result in compliance issues.

Businesses need to keep records of eligible wages, health insurance costs, and any government orders that impacted their operations. These records should be well-organized and easily accessible, as they may be required for potential audits or verifications.

Compliance with ERC guidelines is essential to avoid penalties and ensure that businesses receive the full benefits they are entitled to. This includes adhering to eligibility criteria, accurately calculating the credit, and submitting timely claims.

To overcome this challenge, businesses should establish robust record-keeping practices and consider consulting with tax professionals or financial advisors who can provide guidance on compliance. Proper documentation not only ensures a smooth ERC claim process but also provides peace of mind in the face of potential audits.

Challenge 4: Integrating ERC with Other Relief Measures

One of the complexities businesses encounter when claiming the Employee Retention Credit (ERC) is effectively integrating it with other COVID-19 relief measures, such as Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. While these relief options aim to support businesses, their interactions can be intricate.

It’s essential to understand that wages used for PPP loan forgiveness cannot be used for the ERC. This requires careful tracking and allocation of funds to ensure compliance with both programs.

Navigating these interactions effectively is crucial to optimize financial relief while adhering to regulations. Startups and businesses need to develop a clear strategy for coordinating ERC claims with other relief measures, taking into account the unique aspects of their financial situation.

Consulting with financial experts or tax professionals can provide invaluable insights into how to navigate these interactions successfully. By addressing this challenge head-on, businesses can maximize the benefits of the ERC without compromising their eligibility for other forms of relief.


While claiming the Employee Retention Credit (ERC) may present challenges, it’s a financial resource that can make a significant difference for businesses facing the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Understanding and overcoming these challenges is key to unlocking the full potential of the ERC.

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