IRS expands work on aggressive Employee Retention Credit claims

IR-2023-230, Dec. 6, 2023

The IRS warns taxpayers to use extreme caution before applying for the ERC as aggressive maneuvers continue by marketers and scammers, and urges taxpayers who submitted claims to review the ERC requirements and talk to a trusted tax professional about their eligibility amid misleading marketing around the credit.

When properly claimed, the ERC is a refundable tax credit designed for businesses that continued paying employees during the COVID-19 pandemic while their business operations were either fully or partially suspended due to a government order or had a significant decline in gross receipts during the eligibility periods.

In July, the IRS said it was shifting its focus to review ERC claims for compliance concerns, including intensifying audit work and criminal investigations on promoters and businesses filing dubious claims. The IRS has hundreds of criminal cases being worked, and thousands of ERC claims have been referred for audit.

Following concerns about aggressive ERC marketing from tax professionals and others, the IRS announced Sept. 14 a moratorium on processing new ERC claims through at least the end of 2023. The IRS noted that enhanced compliance reviews of existing claims submitted before the moratorium is critical to protect against fraud and also to protect businesses and organizations from facing penalties or interest payments stemming from bad claims pushed by promoters.

After an initial review in fall 2023, the IRS determined that a large block of taxpayers did not meet basic criteria for the credit. Starting this week, the IRS is in the process of mailing out 20,000 disallowance letters (Letter 105 C, Claim Disallowed) to taxpayers who are ineligible for the credit either because:

  • The entity was not in existence during period of eligibility: The ERC applies to qualified wages for periods between March 13, 2020, and Dec. 31, 2021. Entities established after Dec. 31, 2021, are not entitled to the ERC under the law passed by Congress.
  • There are no paid employees during the period of eligibility: The ERC is intended as a credit against qualified wages paid. Entities that did not pay any wages are not eligible for ERC.

More actions and the voluntary disclosure program are coming,

The IRS says there is still time to withdraw pending ERC claims

The IRS is also continuing to accept and process requests to withdraw a taxpayer’s full ERC claim under the special withdrawal process. Taxpayers have until at least the end of the year to request a withdrawal.

This withdrawal option allows certain employers that filed an ERC claim but have not yet received a refund to withdraw their submission and avoid future repayment, interest and penalties. Employers that submitted an ERC claim that has not yet been paid can withdraw their claim and avoid the possibility of getting a refund for which they’re ineligible. They can also withdraw their claim if they’ve received a check but have not yet deposited or cashed it.

For more information on ERC eligibility, see the ERC frequently asked questions and the ERC Eligibility Checklist, which is available as an interactive tool or as a printable guide.