Tax Credits

Employee Retention Credit & PPP (2023)

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The Employee Retention Credit (ERC) and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) have been critical lifelines for businesses navigating the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. These two programs were designed to provide financial assistance and support to employers and help them retain their employees during these unprecedented times.

In this article, we discuss these programs and how they interact in supporting businesses and their employees. This should provide valuable insights for businesses seeking financial relief and stability through the tough challenges posed by the pandemic.

Employee Retention Credit (ERC)

The ERC is a federal tax credit aimed at incentivizing businesses to keep their employees on payroll, even if their operations were partially or fully suspended due to the pandemic. It allows eligible employers to claim a refundable tax credit against certain employment taxes, providing them with much-needed financial relief.

To qualify for the ERC, businesses must meet specific criteria, including:

  1. Experiencing full or partial suspension of operations due to government orders or a significant decline in gross receipts compared to a prior period.
  2. Having an average of 100 or fewer full-time employees in 2019, or 500 or fewer employees in 2019 for eligible employers in certain severely impacted industries.

The ERC is calculated based on eligible wages paid to qualified employees during the eligible period. The credit amount is equal to a percentage (generally 70% or 50%) of qualified wages, up to a certain limit per employee per quarter. The maximum credit per employee can vary depending on the time period and eligibility requirements.

Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)

The PPP is a loan program designed to help small businesses cover their payroll costs and other eligible expenses. Administered by the Small Business Administration (SBA), the PPP offers forgivable loans, meaning that businesses can have the loans forgiven if they meet specific criteria, such as using the funds for eligible purposes and maintaining employee headcount.

To be eligible for a PPP loan, businesses must meet certain criteria, including:

  1. Qualifying as a small business or nonprofit organization according to the SBA’s size standards.
  2. Being adversely affected by the pandemic, such as experiencing a decline in revenue or disruptions to operations.
  3. Meeting specific employee retention and payroll expenditure requirements.

PPP funds can be used for various eligible expenses, including:

  1. Payroll costs, including salaries, wages, and benefits.
  2. Rent or mortgage payments.
  3. Utilities and other operational expenses.

Businesses that use the funds for qualifying expenses within a designated period may be eligible for loan forgiveness, meaning the loan amount can be forgiven, and the business is not required to repay it. Loan forgiveness is subject to meeting specific criteria, such as maintaining employee headcount and wage levels.

Interaction between ERC and PPP

Businesses have the opportunity to leverage both the Employee Retention Credit (ERC) and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) simultaneously, as long as they meet the eligibility requirements for each program. By strategically combining these programs, businesses can maximize their financial support and enhance their ability to retain employees and cover essential expenses.

While businesses can benefit from utilizing both the ERC and PPP, it’s important to be aware of potential overlaps and conflicts between the two programs. For example, the same wages used to claim the ERC may not be eligible for PPP loan forgiveness.

To maximize the benefits of both programs, businesses can employ various strategies. These may include:

  1. Carefully analyzing the timing of wages and expenses to ensure they align with program requirements.
  2. Allocating different wages and expenses to each program to avoid overlapping claims.
  3. Strategically utilizing PPP funds for non-payroll expenses to preserve eligible wages for the ERC.
  4. Seeking guidance from tax professionals or advisors well-versed in both the ERC and PPP to ensure compliance and optimize benefits.

Although the ERC can reduce federal income tax liability, consider other factors that may influence an employer’s tax situation, including the employer’s overall financial situation, other eligible tax credits or deductions, and any limitations or restrictions imposed by the tax code.

Examples of Utilizing ERC & PPP

Providing examples and scenarios can help illustrate how businesses can effectively coordinate the ERC and PPP. Here are a few examples and scenarios illustrating the interaction between the Employee Retention Credit (ERC) and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP):

1. Coordinating timing of wages

Scenario: Company A has a PPP loan and is also eligible for the ERC. They want to strategically allocate wages to optimize benefits from both programs.

Strategy: Company A analyzes their payroll schedule and decides to claim the ERC for qualified wages in the first quarter of the year, which aligns with their eligibility period. They use the PPP funds for payroll expenses in the subsequent quarters. By doing so, Company A can maximize their ERC benefit for the eligible period and utilize the PPP funds for payroll costs outside the ERC-eligible timeframe, thus avoiding overlapping claims.

2. Maximizing payroll coverage

Scenario: Company B is eligible for both the ERC and PPP. They have a significant decline in gross receipts and qualify for the ERC based on this criterion. However, they also want to apply for a PPP loan to cover additional expenses.

Strategy: Company B decides to use the PPP funds primarily for non-payroll expenses, such as rent, utilities, and other eligible expenses. By doing so, they preserve the eligible wages for the ERC, ensuring they can claim the maximum credit amount based on those wages. This strategy helps ABC Company maximize both the ERC and PPP benefits without overlapping claims on payroll expenses.

3. Adjusting staffing levels

Scenario: Company C received a PPP loan and initially reduced their workforce due to the pandemic. However, as the business recovers, they want to rehire employees while still utilizing the benefits of the PPP and ERC.

Strategy: Company C evaluates the conditions for PPP loan forgiveness and ERC eligibility. They strategically plan to rehire employees during the PPP’s covered period, ensuring they meet the employee retention requirements for loan forgiveness. Simultaneously, they allocate qualified wages for the ERC to maximize the credit amount based on eligible employees. This strategy allows DEF Industries to benefit from both programs by maintaining staffing levels and maximizing their financial relief.


The Employee Retention Credit (ERC) and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) have been crucial sources of financial support for businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. While the ERC focuses on providing a tax credit to employers, the PPP offers forgivable loans. Understanding the eligibility criteria, application processes, and updates to these programs is vital for businesses seeking financial relief.

Furthermore, by coordinating and strategically utilizing both the ERC and PPP, businesses can optimize their benefits, retain employees, and cover essential expenses effectively. However, it is essential for businesses to carefully navigate potential overlaps and conflicts between the two programs. It is recommended that businesses consult with ERC companies for specific guidance tailored to their circumstances.