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IRS Issues Renewed Warning on Employee Retention Credit Claims

In Notice IR-2023-40, the IRS issued a renewed warning urging people to carefully review the Employee Retention Credit (ERC) guidelines before trying to claim the credit as promoters continue pushing ineligible people to file.

The IRS and tax professionals continue to see third parties aggressively promoting these ERC schemes on radio and online. These promoters charge large upfront fees or a fee that is contingent on the amount of the refund. Promoters may not inform taxpayers that wage deductions claimed on the business’ federal income tax return must be reduced by the amount of the credit.

“While this is a legitimate credit that has provided a financial lifeline to millions of businesses, there continue to be promoters who aggressively mislead people and businesses into thinking they can claim these credits,” said Acting IRS Commissioner Doug O’Donnell. “Anyone who is considering claiming this credit needs to carefully review the guidelines. If the tax professional they’re using raises questions about the ERC claim, people should listen to their advice. The IRS is actively auditing and conducting criminal investigations related to these false claims. People need to think twice before claiming this.”

The IRS has been warning about this scheme since last fall, but there continue to be attempts to claim the ERC during the 2023 tax filing season. Tax professionals note they continue to be pressured by people wanting to claim credits improperly. The IRS Office of Professional Responsibility is working on additional guidance for the tax professional community that will be available in the near future.

People and businesses can avoid this scheme by not filing improper claims in the first place. If the business filed an income tax return deducting qualified wages before it filed an employment tax return claiming the credit, the business should file an amended income tax return to correct any overstated wage deduction.

Businesses should be cautious of advertised schemes and direct solicitations promising tax savings that are too good to be true. Taxpayers are always responsible for the information reported on their tax returns. Improperly claiming the ERC could result in taxpayers being required to repay the credit along with penalties and interest.

What is the ERC?

The ERC is a refundable tax credit designed for businesses that continued paying employees while shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic or that had significant declines in gross receipts from March 13, 2020, to Dec. 31, 2021. Eligible taxpayers can claim the ERC on an original or amended employment tax return for a period within those dates.

To be eligible for the ERC, employers must have:

As a reminder, only recovery startup businesses are eligible for the ERC in the fourth quarter of 2021. Additionally, for any quarter, eligible employers cannot claim the ERC on wages that were reported as payroll costs in obtaining PPP loan forgiveness or that were used to claim certain other tax credits.

To report tax-related illegal activities relating to ERC claims, submit by fax or mail a completed Form 14242, Report Suspected Abusive Tax Promotions or Preparers and any supporting materials to the IRS Lead Development Center in the Office of Promoter Investigations. Mail to:               

Internal Revenue Service Lead Development Center
Stop MS5040
24000 Avila Rd
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677-3405
Fax 877-477-9135

Employers should also report instances of fraud and IRS-related phishing attempts to the IRS at [email protected] and Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484.

Go to IRS.gov to learn more about eligibility requirements and how to claim the ERC:

 Additional Information

Professional Responsibility and the Employee Retention Credit (govdelivery.com)

ERC claims on returns prepared by others raise questions for tax pros - Journal of Accountancy

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