The IRS has issued guidance for employers on the retroactive termination of the COVID-19 employee retention credit against the employer’s share of Medicare tax. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (P.L. 117-58) amended Code Sec. 3134 so that for most employers the credit applies only to wages paid before October 1, 2021. If the employer is a recovery startup business, the credit continues to apply to wages paid before January 1, 2022.

The guidance applies to employers that:

  • paid wages after September 30, 2021,
  • either received an advance payment of the credit for those wages, or reduced employment tax deposits in anticipation of the credit for the fourth quarter of 2021, but
  • are ineligible for the credit due to the change in the law.

Advance Payments

Employers that are not recovery startup businesses but received advance payments of the employee retention credit for fourth quarter wages of 2021 can avoid failure to pay penalties if they repay those amounts by the due date of their applicable employment tax returns. Failure to repay the advance payment by the due date may result in the IRS imposing failure to pay penalties.

Reduced Employment Tax Deposits

Employers that reduced deposits on or before December 20, 2021, for wages paid during the fourth calendar quarter of 2021 in anticipation of the employee retention credit but are not recovery startup businesses will not be subject to a failure to deposit penalty for the retained deposits if they:

  • reduced deposits in anticipation of the credit, consistent with the rules in Notice 2021-24;
  • deposit the amounts initially retained in anticipation of the credit on or before the relevant due date for wages paid on December 31, 2021, regardless of whether the employer actually pays wages on that date; and
  • report the tax liability resulting from the termination of the credit on the applicable employment tax return or schedule that includes the period from October 1, 2021, through December 31, 2021.

Failure to Deposit Penalty Waiver

Due to the termination of the employee retention credit for wages paid in the fourth quarter of 2021 for employers that are not recovery startup businesses, the IRS will not waive failure to deposit penalties for employers that reduce deposits in anticipation of the employee retention credit after December 20, 2021.

Reasonable Cause Relief

Employers that do not qualify for relief under this guidance can reply to an IRS penalty notice with an explanation. The IRS will consider reasonable cause relief.

Effect on Other Documents

This guidance modifies Notice 2021-49, IRB 2021-34, 316, and Notice 2021-24, IRB 2021-18, 1122.