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Employee Retention Credit Applicability Within the Healthcare Industry

Healthcare industry organizations have an opportunity to file for the Employee Retention Credit depending on multiple criteria. Read on for details.
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The Employee Retention Credit (ERC) made available by the CARES Act in March 2020 has enabled qualifying organizations within the healthcare industry to access funds for costs not reimbursed through other pandemic assistance such as Paycheck Protection Program loans and Provider Relief Funds. This credit, available for 2020 and most of 2021, is still available for organizations that meet the eligibility criteria. Organizations that have not yet evaluated ERC applicability, and even some of those that have but originally thought it was not applicable to them, may want to consider the program. As guidance has been issued by the IRS and other relevant agencies, it has provided additional clarity on how the ERC interplays with other funding, as well as a deeper understanding of relevant government orders and how to assess and calculate qualifying wages.

The ERC is a refundable payroll tax credit that is available to for-profit and tax-exempt organizations. For 2020, a qualifying organization may receive up to a $5,000 maximum credit per employee based upon qualifying wages paid between March 31, 2020 and December 31, 2020. For 2021, a qualifying organization may receive up to a $7,000 maximum credit per employee, per quarter based upon qualifying wages paid January 1, 2021 through September 30, 2021 (through December 31, 2021 if a recovery startup business).

There are two hurdles an organization must meet to qualify for the credit: it must be an eligible employer and must have qualifying wages. An organization qualifies as an eligible employer by either meeting the gross receipts decline qualification or by experiencing a full or partial suspension of operations due to a COVID-19-related government order limiting commerce, travel, or group meetings. While many healthcare organizations may not have experienced a gross receipts decline of a magnitude that qualifies them as an eligible employer, we have seen relevant COVID-19 government orders that have significantly impacted many across the industry, including physician practices, hospitals, and long-term care facilities. In some instances, these government orders may have caused the healthcare business to experience a partial shutdown of its trade or business such that it qualifies as an eligible employer.

Qualifying wages are based on employer size. In general, all wages and healthcare costs for the eligible period are included in the credit calculation as qualified wages if the employer is “small.” In contrast, only eligible-period wages and healthcare benefits paid to employees while not working will be qualifying wages if the employer is “large.” Determination of whether an employer is large or small depends on which year the credit applies. If the ERC calculation is for 2020, more than 100 full-time employees is considered large; if the credit is for 2021, then more than 500 full-time employees is considered large.

The designation of being a small versus large employer is calculated based on the full-time employee count for the 2019 calendar year. The definition of a full-time employee for this purpose would include an employee who worked an average of at least 30 hours of service per week or 130 hours of service per month. The number of full-time employees determined under ERC guidelines can vary significantly from the number of W2s filed by an organization, so careful consideration and calculation of the number of employees used for the ERC is important.

While qualification for the ERC is based upon the specific facts and circumstances of each employer, there may be ERC opportunities for all types of healthcare organizations. Our team has experience assisting healthcare organizations with related analyses, and we stand ready to discuss your organization’s specific fact patterns. It is important to plan ahead and evaluate eligibility now, as adequate time will be needed to evaluate and document eligibility, calculate the credit, and file the amended Forms 941 before the refund statute of limitations expires.

If you have any questions or need assistance, please reach out to a professional at Forvis Mazars or submit the Contact Us form below.

See more 2022 Year-End Tax Planning articles.

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