The Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) is a part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. This credit is aimed at encouraging businesses to keep employees on their payroll, even if they are not working due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The math behind ERTC might look complex initially, but once broken down, it becomes easily comprehendible.

Qualifying for Employee Retention Tax Credit

Before delving into the math, let’s understand the qualifications for claiming ERTC. There are two key scenarios that qualify a business for the tax credit:

  1. The business had to suspend operations completely or partially due to government limitations related to COVID-19.
  2. The business experienced a significant decline in gross receipts. This is generally defined as a drop of 50% or more compared to the same quarter in the previous year.

Calculating your Employee Retention Tax Credit

Now, coming to the main question, how to calculate the Employee Retention Tax Credit? It is crucial to note that the IRS has laid out a specific formula for this.

The credit is 50% of up to $10,000 in qualified wages paid to an employee. This effectively caps out the credit at $5,000 per employee. For example, if an employee was paid $8,000 in qualified wages, the credit would be $4,000. If another employee was paid $12,000 in qualified wages, the credit would be $5,000, and not $6,000, as the credit is capped at $5,000.

Qualified Wages

To calculate the credit properly, it is also important to understand what all comprises qualified wages. Qualified wages include:

  • Wages and comparable amounts paid to employees.
  • Cost of providing health care to the employees.


A deep understanding of the ERTC can greatly ease the financial burden of businesses amidst the pandemic and lead to considerable savings. While the math might initially seem challenging, once decoded, it makes for a vital financial instrument for businesses during these unprecedented times.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is eligible for the Employee Retention Tax Credit?

Any business that has been financially affected by COVID-19 and meets the qualifications laid down by the IRS is eligible for the ERTC.

How do I claim the Employee Retention Tax Credit?

To claim the ERTC, you should consult with a tax professional and submit the required forms and documentation to the IRS.

Are qualified health plan expenses part of the $10,000 qualified wage cap?

Yes, qualified health plan expenses are considered as part of the $10,000 eligible wages per employee.