7 warning signs Employee Retention Credit claims may be incorrect; urges businesses to revisit eligibility, resolve issues now before March 22

WASHINGTON – With a key March deadline quickly approaching, the Internal Revenue Service today highlighted special warning signs that an Employee Retention Credit (ERC) claim may be questionable to help small businesses that may need to resolve incorrect claims. The agency alerted businesses about seven suspicious warning signs that could signal future IRS problems involving ERC claims. The indicators, built on feedback from the tax professional community and IRS compliance personnel, center on misinformation some unscrupulous ERC promoters used. Many of these groups urged taxpayers to ignore advice from trusted tax professionals and claim the pandemic-era credit even though they may not qualify. “IRS compliance activity continues increasing involving Employee Retention Credit claims, and those claiming this pandemic-era credit need to quickly review their situation to avoid future problems,” said IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel. “Many businesses were wildly misled about the qualifications, and the IRS is taking a special step to highlight common problems being seen about these claims. The IRS urges ERC claimants to get with a trusted tax professional and review their qualifications before time runs out on IRS disclosure and withdrawal programs. The ‘suspicious seven’ signs released today are clear red flags that ERC claimants should carefully review.” The alert comes as a March 22, 2024, deadline approaches for the ERC Voluntary Disclosure Program for anyone that filed a claim in error and received a payment; the disclosure program allows businesses to repay just 80% of the claim. Taxpayers who filed a claim previously that hasn’t been processed should also review the guidelines and quickly pursue the claim withdrawal process if they now see their claim is ineligible. The IRS took steps on the ERC program after the well-intentioned pandemic-era program came under aggressive, misleading marketing that oversimplified or misrepresented eligibility rules. Promoters pushed more applicants into the program, frequently by taking a percentage of the payout. The IRS wants businesses to know about these warning signs, revisit their claim if there are questions and act quickly before the special disclosure and withdrawal programs end. Resolving an incorrect claim through the IRS’s special programs will avoid penalties and interest. “We’ve heard from the tax pro community and others that sharing more warning signs can help point wellintentioned people in the right direction,” Werfel said. “Many of these taxpayers were misled by overzealous and unscrupulous promoters taking advantage of honest taxpayers. The most beneficial time to resolve any incorrect claims is now before this special window closes.” The ERC, sometimes called the Employee Retention Tax Credit or ERTC, is complex, and the IRS urged claimants to talk to a reputable tax professional for help with an ERC claim. Taxpayers should avoid working with anyone who doesn’t ask for details or business records, such as payroll records.