How to qualify as a recovery startup business to claim the employee retention credit
By: Andrew Seifert, Senior Manager, Wipfli LLP
The CARES Act provided for an employee retention credit (ERTC) for eligible employers that pay qualified wages to some or all employees after March 12, 2020, and before January 1, 2021. Subsequent legislation modified and extended the credit to last through December 31, 2021. One of the modifications made was to create recovery startup businesses (RSBs), which is another way businesses can qualify for the ERTC.
Most recently, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act limited the availability of the ERTC in the fourth quarter of 2021 to only taxpayers that are RSBs. Consequently, taxpayers that may have experienced a full or partial suspension of operations or a decline in gross receipts in the fourth quarter of 2021 are not eligible for the ERTC for wages paid after September 30, 2021.
The limitation of the fourth quarter for claiming ERTC makes it even more important that taxpayers determine whether they qualify as an RSB.
How to qualify as a recovery startup business
In order to qualify as an RSB, there is a separate set of criteria from the regular ERTC rules that a business must meet:
- It began carrying on a trade or business after February 15, 2020
- Its average annual gross receipts for the three-tax-year period ending with the tax year that precedes the calendar quarter for which the ERTC is determined do not exceed $1,000,000
- It is not otherwise an eligible employer due to a full or partial suspension of operations or a decline in gross receipts (As discussed later in section “Not otherwise eligible,” this requirement is obsolete for fourth quarter of 2021.)
In the case of an eligible employer that is an RSB, the amount of the credit allowed for any calendar quarter shall not exceed $50,000. The credit for RSBs may be claimed for wages paid after June 30, 2021, and before January 1, 2022.
Carrying on a trade or business
The determination of when an employer “began carrying on a trade or business” is made in the same manner as IRC Section 162. In general, a taxpayer has not begun carrying on a trade or business until the business has begun to function as a going concern and performed the activities for which it was organized. An activity is recognized as a trade or business, and the expenses are deductible under IRC Section 162, if there is some regular activity directed toward making a profit.
When a taxpayer is only in the initial or preparatory stages, before beginning to undertake profit-making activity, that taxpayer cannot deduct expenses incurred and has not begun carrying on a trade or business.
By measuring when an employer “began carrying on a trade or business” through applying the rules of IRC Section 162, the date that an entity was formed and when that entity “began carrying on a trade or business” could be different dates. An entity performing startup activities has not “began carrying on a trade or business” until they have conducted a regular activity toward making a profit.
Average annual gross receipts
A taxpayer uses the rules found under IRC 448(c)(3) to determine an entity’s average annual gross receipts. To qualify as an RSB, the taxpayer’s average annual gross receipts for the three-tax-year period ending with the tax year that precedes the calendar quarter for which the ERTC is determined must not exceed $1,000,000.
Gross receipts for any taxable year of less than 12 months shall be annualized by multiplying the gross receipts for the short period by 12 and dividing the result by the number of months in the short period. Since RSBs must have begun carrying on a trade or business after February 15, 2020, RSBs will not have gross receipts for a three-tax-year period. In fact, RSBs with calendar year-ends will not even have one full tax-year because the three-tax-year period ending with the tax year (2020) that precedes the calendar quarter (Q3 and Q4, 2021) for which the ERTC is determined would be limited to February 16, 2020-December 31, 2020.
For example, after beginning to carry on a trade or business on July 1, 2020, an entity had gross receipts through December 31, 2020, of $475,000. Applying this short taxable year rule to the gross receipts in this scenario results in the following calculation: ($475,000*12 months)/6 months = $950,000.
Not otherwise eligible
A taxpayer cannot be an RSB if they are already an ERTC-eligible employer due to a full or partial suspension of operations or a decline in gross receipts. This requirement effectively limits a taxpayer from claiming the ERTC twice on the same wages.
This requirement is not an issue for RSBs in the fourth quarter of 2021. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act eliminated the ability for taxpayers to qualify for the ERTC in the fourth quarter of 2021 through both full or partial suspension of operations and a decline in gross receipts. The only way a taxpayer can qualify for the ERTC in the fourth quarter of 2021 is through qualification as an RSB.
Taxpayers must be aware of the not otherwise eligible rule for the third quarter of 2021. It’s still possible to qualify under the government suspension or decline in gross receipts rules. If a taxpayer meets the qualifications for ERTC in the third quarter due to a government suspension or decline in gross receipts, they will not qualify as an RSB; however, they may still qualify as an RSB for the fourth quarter of 2021.
How Wipfli can help: ERC for recovery startup businesses
We recommend a taxpayer who began carrying on a trade or business after February 15, 2020, examine their gross receipts to see if they meet the requirements to be considered an RSB. The credit available for those that qualify as an RSB can be significant. If you need assistance making this determination, contact Wipfli for help.
Sign up to receive additional tax content and information in your inbox, or continue reading on: