IRS Commissioner Signals New Phase of Employee Retention Credit Work

With the Internal Revenue Service making substantial progress in the ongoing effort related to the Employee Retention Credit (ERC) claims, Commissioner Danny Werfel said the agency has entered a new phase of increasing scrutiny on dubious submissions while renewing consumer warnings against aggressive marketing.

Speaking Tuesday at a special roundtable session of tax professionals in Atlanta, Werfel noted the IRS has shifted efforts after successfully clearing the backlog of valid Employee Retention Credits (ERC) claims. Now, the agency is intensifying compliance work and putting in place additional procedures to deal with fraud in the program.

Werfel told a group of tax professionals dealing with fall-out from aggressive ERC claims that the IRS has increased audit and criminal investigation work on these claims, both on the promoters as well as those businesses filing dubious claims.

“The further we get from the pandemic, we believe the percentage of legitimate claims coming in is declining,” Werfel told attendees at the IRS Nationwide Tax Forum in Atlanta. “Instead, we continue to see more and more questionable claims coming in following the onslaught of misleading marketing from promoters pushing businesses to apply. To address this, the IRS continues to intensify our compliance work in this area.”

The Employee Retention Credit, also sometimes called the Employee Retention Tax Credit or ERTC, is a tax credit enacted to help businesses during the pandemic that was subsequently amended three times by Congress. Many businesses legitimately apply for the credit, but aggressive marketing has overshadowed the program. The period of eligibility for the credit for affected businesses is very limited, covering only between March 13, 2020, and Dec. 31, 2021.

“Under the current law, businesses can typically continue to file claims for the credit until April 15, 2025. That raises future concerns,” Werfel said.

“The amount of misleading marketing around this credit is staggering, and it is creating an array of problems for tax professionals and the IRS while adding risk for businesses improperly claiming the credit,” Werfel said. “A terrible scenario is unfolding that hurts everyone involved — except the promoters.”

“This was not how the law was meant to work, and Congress can help with this situation,” Werfel added. “We will work with Treasury to explore legislative solutions we can share with Congress to help address fraud and error, including potentially putting an earlier ending date for businesses to claim the credit and increase IRS oversight of return preparers.”

The IRS continues to urge businesses, tax-exempt organizations and others considering applying for this credit to carefully review the official requirements for this limited program before applying. In the meantime, the IRS continues to intensify compliance activities involving ERC claims.