Are Churches and Nonprofits Eligible for the Employee Retention Credit?

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, governments around the world implemented several financial aid packages to support organizations in various sectors. One such intervention in the U.S. is the Employee Retention Credit (ERC), a facility designed to support businesses in retaining their employees during the challenging economic climate. But where do churches and nonprofits stand in this scenario? Let’s delve deep to understand whether these organizations are eligible for the ERC and how they can avail themselves of this credit.

Non-profit organizations, including religious institutions such as churches, often function as the backbone of many communities, offering support and guidance, especially during hard times. The advent of the ERC brought forward a series of questions, one of the primary being the eligibility criteria for churches and nonprofits. To shed light on this, we will be exploring the avenues open for these entities in leveraging the ERC.

Understanding the Employee Retention Credit

Before we deep dive into the specifics, it is essential to grasp what ERC entails. Instituted to encourage businesses to keep their employees on payroll, the ERC is a refundable tax credit against certain employment taxes. Knowing the intricate details will aid in understanding how churches and nonprofits can benefit from this program.

Eligibility Criteria for Churches and Nonprofits

When it comes to eligibility, the ERC is fairly inclusive, extending its provisions to cover a wide array of organizations, including tax-exempt organizations under section 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code. This section broadly encapsulates churches and various nonprofit organizations. Below, we delve into the specific parameters that these institutions need to meet to qualify for the ERC.

  1. Operational Impact
    Organizations are eligible if their operations were fully or partially suspended due to governmental orders related to COVID-19.
  2. A decline in Gross Receipts
    Another eligibility criterion is witnessing a significant decline in gross receipts, wherein the receipts of a quarter in 2020 or 2021 are less than 50% of that in the same quarter in 2019.
  3. Established After 2019
    New organizations established after 2019 can also qualify by meeting different sets of criteria related to operational impact and gross receipts.

Understanding these criteria is pivotal in assessing whether a church or nonprofit can claim the ERC.

Application Process for Churches and Nonprofits

If a church or a nonprofit finds themselves meeting the eligibility criteria, the next step is to understand the application process meticulously. The IRS has laid out detailed guidelines on how organizations can claim the ERC, often through their quarterly employment tax returns. Here we demystify the process step-by-step:

  1. Identifying Qualified Wages
    Start by identifying the qualified wages paid to employees during the eligibility period.
  2. Calculating the Credit
    Once the wages are identified, calculate the credit that can be claimed, which was originally 50% of the qualified wages (up to a certain limit) but saw revisions in the later stages.
  3. Reporting to IRS
    After the calculations, the next step involves reporting the total qualified wages and associated health insurance costs in the respective quarterly employment tax returns, commonly via Form 941.

Understanding and following this procedure accurately is a crucial aspect of claiming the ERC.

Avoiding Pitfalls in ERC Claims

While the ERC comes as a relief, it also brings along a set of challenges, especially in terms of compliance and correct filing. Churches and nonprofits need to be aware of the common pitfalls and how to avoid them:

  1. Double-Dipping
    Ensure not to “double-dip” by utilizing the same wages for both PPP loan forgiveness and ERC claims.
  2. Correct Documentation
    Maintaining correct and robust documentation of all transactions is a must to avoid any repercussions during an audit.

Being cognizant of these potential challenges and preparing in advance can help in navigating the process smoothly.

Case Studies: Successful ERC Claims by Churches and Nonprofits

To underline the impact of ERC, let us focus on a few instances where churches and nonprofits successfully leveraged the credit to bolster their financial stability:

  1. Community Outreach Programs
    A church engaged in community outreach could maintain its staff through the financial assistance received from the ERC, ensuring uninterrupted services to the community.
  2. Nonprofits Serving the Underprivileged
    Several nonprofits serving underprivileged sections of society could retain their employees, ensuring the continuation of their noble services.

These real-life instances underscore the critical support the ERC has extended to churches and nonprofits, helping them continue their selfless services to the community.


The Employee Retention Credit stands as a testament to the government’s initiative to cushion organizations, including churches and nonprofits, from the financial hardships exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. These institutions not only qualify for the ERC but can utilize this benefit to continue their philanthropic missions with uninterrupted fervor.

Through understanding the eligibility criteria detailed, the meticulous process of application, and insights into successful claims, churches, and nonprofits can navigate their way in leveraging this credit efficiently.


As we reach the end of this exploration, it is evident that the ERC opens a vista of opportunities for churches and nonprofits, enabling them to steer through the turbulent economic waters with resilience and determination. Let’s embrace this provision, ensuring a secure financial footing for these organizations, and fostering a society grounded in care, community, and collaboration.

Q1. Are churches and nonprofits eligible for the Employee Retention Credit (ERC)?
A1. Yes, churches and nonprofit organizations that satisfy the criteria set forth by the IRS are eligible to apply for the ERC.

Q2. How do organizations determine their eligibility for the ERC?
A2. Eligibility is generally determined based on the operational impact due to governmental orders related to COVID-19, a significant decline in gross receipts compared to the same quarter in 2019, or, in the case of new organizations, other sets of criteria related to operational impact and gross receipts.

Q3. How do organizations claim the Employee Retention Credit?
A3. Organizations can claim the ERC through their quarterly employment tax returns, typically using IRS Form 941, where they report the total qualified wages and the associated health insurance costs.

Q4. Can organizations that have taken a PPP loan still claim the ERC?
A4. Yes, organizations that have taken a PPP loan can still claim the ERC, but they must be cautious not to “double dip” by claiming the credit on the same wages used for PPP loan forgiveness.

Q5. What are the qualified wages that can be considered for the ERC?
A5. Qualified wages are wages paid to employees during periods of business suspension or significant decline in gross receipts. The definition of qualified wages can vary based on the size of the organization, and it encompasses health benefits provided to employees.


  1. IRS Official Website – Find detailed guidelines, FAQs, and updates on the ERC on the official IRS website.
  2. Guidance from Accounting Firms – Many accounting firms offer guidance and consultancy services to help organizations successfully apply for the ERC. Consider reaching out to local accounting firms for personalized assistance.
  3. Webinars and Workshops – Look for webinars and workshops conducted by financial institutions and tax bodies to get a deeper understanding of the ERC application process.
  4. Community Forums – Nonprofits and churches can benefit from community forums where they can connect with similar organizations and share experiences and tips on claiming the ERC.
  5. Tax Software – Leveraging tax software that offers features to help in calculating and claiming the ERC can be a valuable resource for organizations.
  6. Legal Advisors – Seek counsel from legal advisors to ensure compliance with all the regulations and to avoid pitfalls during the ERC claim process.
  7. Online Courses – Consider enrolling in online courses that offer training on financial management and tax credits to get a nuanced understanding of the ERC.

Utilizing these resources and FAQs can significantly aid churches and nonprofits in navigating the complexities of the ERC, ensuring a smoother and more successful claiming process.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top