Employee Retention Credits for Supply Chain Disruptions: Navigating Financial Relief Programs

The Employee Retention Credit (ERC) was established to provide a lifeline to businesses navigating the choppy waters of economic uncertainty, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. As organizations grapple with the multifaceted challenges brought about by supply chain disruptions, the intersection of these operational obstacles with the ERC has become a focal point for many businesses. The ERC offers a refundable tax credit to eligible employers, incentivizing the retention of employees amidst significant declines in business and forced closures linked to government orders.

Eligibility for these credits can be complex, particularly when determining the effects of supply chain disruptions on business operations. Employers must demonstrate a significant disruption directly tied to government orders related to the pandemic, as broad supply chain issues alone do not automatically qualify for the credit. Tying such disruptions to quantifiable impacts on a company’s ability to operate remains critical when considering the ERC.

Businesses affected by supply chain issues may find relief through the ERC, provided they meet specific criteria. Understanding the legal framework and IRS guidance is crucial for any organization seeking to claim ERC credits under these circumstances. The IRS has issued clarifications, such as guidance cementing its stance on supply chain disruptions and the ERC, aimed at assisting employers in navigating these complex tax relief provisions.

Overview of Employee Retention Credit (ERC)

The Employee Retention Credit (ERC) is a refundable tax credit that was established by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. It is designed to encourage employers to keep employees on their payroll during the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The ERC grants eligible employers a percentage of the qualified wages and health plan expenses paid to employees.

Eligibility Criteria:

  • Must have operated a business or tax-exempt organization during calendar year 2020 or 2021.
  • Must have experienced a full or partial suspension of operations due to governmental orders or a significant decline in gross receipts during the specified periods.

Tax Credit Details:

  • For wages paid after March 12, 2020, and before January 1, 2022.
  • Initially, capped at $5,000 per employee for all quarters in 2020.
  • Under the American Rescue Plan Act, enhanced to a maximum of $7,000 per employee per quarter for the first three quarters in 2021.


  • Credit can be applied against the employer’s share of Social Security taxes.
  • Excess credit is refundable, meaning employers can receive a payment if the credit exceeds their applicable payroll taxes.

Documentation and Claims:

  • Employers must report their total qualified wages and the related health insurance costs for each quarter on their federal employment tax returns.

For detailed and updated requirements, including how supply chain disruptions affect eligibility, employers may refer to the IRS’s official page on the ERC.

Eligibility for ERC Amid Supply Chain Disruptions

The Employee Retention Credit (ERC) has provided a lifeline to businesses affected by COVID-19, but its applicability to supply chain disruptions requires careful consideration of IRS criteria.

Impact of Covid-19 on Supply Chain

Supply chain disruptions have significantly affected businesses since the outbreak of COVID-19. These disruptions often stem from governmental orders that led to a reduction in operations for many companies. Employers must have experienced disruptions that caused a full or partial suspension of their business operations due to such government mandates to be considered for ERC.

Criteria for ERC Eligibility

Eligibility for the ERC hinges on specific criteria set forth by the IRS. An employer must prove that the disruptions directly affected their business operations. The mere presence of supply chain issues does not automatically qualify a business for the credit. There must be a causal relationship between the disruption and a full or partial suspension of the business due to a governmental order.

Decline in Gross Receipts Test

The decline in gross receipts test is another essential eligibility aspect. To qualify, employers must demonstrate a significant decline in gross receipts during a calendar quarter in 2020 or 2021 as compared to the same quarter in 2019. Specifically, a decrease of more than 50% in 2020 or a decline of more than 20% in 2021 establishes the needed threshold for the ERC.

Eligible Employer Definition

To be deemed an eligible employer, an entity must fall under the standards set by the IRS. This includes having full-time employees and experiencing qualified disruptions or declines in gross receipts. Essential workers or businesses that maintained operations despite the pandemic-induced challenges might not meet the suspension criteria. Employers should thoroughly review guidance, such as the IRS’s clarifications on supply chain disruptions, to determine if their circumstances fit the eligibility requirements for the ERC.

Understanding Supply Chain Disruption

In this exploration of supply chain disruptions, the focus is on how the COVID-19 pandemic created significant challenges, the imperative of identifying critical goods amid bottlenecks, and the importance of evaluating the impacts on suppliers and various industry sectors.

Effects of Covid-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic served as a substantial disruptor to global supply chains. Industries faced unprecedented challenges as government orders forced widespread closures and operational reductions. The retention of staff became critical for retail businesses and others, leading to the implementation of incentives like the Employee Retention Credit to help employers maintain their workforce.

Identifying Critical Goods and Bottlenecks

Disruptions highlighted the essence of identifying critical goods—those essential for healthcare and daily living—and the emergence of bottlenecks in their delivery. Such goods often experienced delays due to the scarcity of raw materials or the inability of suppliers to meet surging demand. Retail businesses, forced to pivot, sought out alternate suppliers to mitigate the disruptions.

Assessing Supplier and Industry Impact

Analyzing the impact on suppliers and industries revealed varying degrees of distress. Some suppliers, particularly those involved in the distribution of critical goods, could not operate at full capacity, thereby affecting the entire supply chain. Industries were forced to re-evaluate their supply chain resilience, often relying on government directives regarding essential services as a guide. The IRS clarified the interplay of supply chain disruptions and eligibility for the Employee Retention Credit in this context, impacting business decisions.

Documentation and Substantiation of ERC Claims

When claiming the Employee Retention Credit (ERC), employers must meticulously document their eligibility and conform to IRS requirements to substantiate their claims. This includes adhering to the gross receipts test, demonstrating how a government order impacted operations, and aligning with IRS guidance like Notice 2021-20.

Records Required by IRS

Eligible employers must maintain accurate records to prove their ERC claim. These records should include:

  • Tax Forms: Filed tax returns with reported credit.
  • Financial Statements: Showing the impact of COVID-19 on business operations.
  • Government Orders: Documentation of the specific orders that led to business disruption.
  • Gross Receipts: Quarterly reports illustrating a decline in gross receipts about the gross receipts test.
  • Payroll Records: Detailed reports highlighting qualified wages paid to employees during eligible periods.

Documentation serves as evidence of compliance and justification for the credit claimed.

Preparation for Potential Audit

The IRS may audit ERC claims to ensure validity. Employers should consider the following steps to prepare:

  1. Organize Documents: Keep all relevant evidence easily accessible.
  2. Understand IRS Guidance: Familiarize oneself with the specific requirements of notices such as Notice 2021-20.
  3. Consult Professionals: Engage with knowledgeable accountants or attorneys who specialize in tax credit claims and can assist in an audit.

Preemptive preparation can simplify the audit process and increase the likelihood of a favorable outcome.

Best Practices for Substantiation

To best substantiate an ERC claim, employers should adopt these practices:

  • Clear Record-Keeping: Systematically document all pertinent information such as wages paid to employees and health plan expenses.
  • Regular Reviews: Periodically assess documentation to ensure ongoing compliance with IRS guidance.
  • Consistent Updates: Stay informed on any updates to IRS policies or interpretations regarding the ERC.

By maintaining clear and thorough records, employers position themselves to substantiate their ERC claims effectively.

Legal Guidance and Updates

As the regulatory landscape adjusts to the ongoing impact of supply chain disruptions on businesses, key legal documents have provided clarifications. These include the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) memoranda and Congressional actions addressing the nuances of Employee Retention Credits (ERC).

GLAM 2023-005 and IRS Notice 2021-20

The IRS Office of Chief Counsel issued GLAM 2023-005, offering clarity on the intersection of supply chain disruptions with ERC eligibility. This guidance complements IRS Notice 2021-20, which originally detailed the Employee Retention Credit under the CARES Act. It’s crucial for employers seeking the ERC to understand whether a full or partial suspension of their business due to supply chain issues qualifies under the current tax credits criteria.

GLAM 2023-005 specifies that supply chain disruptions must be due to a governmental order to be considered for ERC. It refines the understanding of a ‘full or partial suspension’ of operations, reinforcing that merely experiencing general supply chain disruptions, without a corresponding government directive, does not qualify a business for the credit.

Recent Congressional Actions

Congress has periodically intervened to shape the scope of the ERC. They have done so by enacting various legislative pieces that refine eligibility criteria and set out specific qualifying conditions for businesses. Employers looking to claim the ERC should stay informed on any recent Congressional actions, as these could significantly influence their ability to claim the credit.

It’s important to note that while the IRS provides the legal framework for the ERC, it is Congress that has the authority to define and potentially expand the eligibility for this relief measure through new legislation. Therefore, tracking Congressional activity remains a vital aspect of staying compliant and maximizing potential tax benefits.

Operational Strategies for Combatting Supply Chain Disruptions

In response to supply chain disruptions, businesses need to employ strategic measures to maintain continuity and optimize operations. These measures include sourcing from alternate suppliers, diversifying their supply chain, and adapting business operations to mitigate risks associated with disruptions such as those experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Finding Alternate Suppliers

Identifying alternate suppliers is critical for businesses facing supply chain disruptions. They need to vet potential suppliers for critical goods or materials and assess them for quality, reliability, and capacity to meet demand. Establishing relationships with backup suppliers can help ensure a steady flow of essential inputs, even when primary suppliers are facing challenges.

Diversifying Supply Chain

A diversified supply chain is less vulnerable to region-specific events such as natural disasters or political unrest. Businesses should aim not only to diversify their suppliers but also consider varying transportation methods and routes. This approach reduces the reliance on a single source or pathway and thereby decreases the risk of supply chain bottlenecks.

Adapting Business Operations

To claim the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC), eligible employers must have experienced disruptions to their operations. A proactive step is to adapt business operations to the changing environment. This may involve shifting to online sales platforms, adjusting product offerings to reflect current demand, or reallocating qualifying wages in flexible ways that comply with the ERC stipulations while still maintaining productivity during challenging times.

Impact of Supply Chain Disruptions on Different Sectors

Supply chain disruptions have had a multifaceted impact on various sectors, with industries and locations experiencing unique challenges. These disruptions have led to significant delays, affecting retail and manufacturing supply chains and posing obstacles for the service industry.

Industries and Locations Affected

Industries across the board, from automotive to electronics, have endured disruptions due to factors like COVID-19, social media postings influencing demand patterns, and a truck driver shortage exacerbating delivery delays. Locations heavily reliant on just-in-time manufacturing have been particularly vulnerable. For instance, the port congestion in Asia has spilled over to North American and European markets, illustrating how disruptions are not localized but global.

Retail and Manufacturing Disruptions

In the retail sector, businesses have grappled with a mix of supply chain delays and fluctuating consumer demands. Disruptions have caused an inventory mismatch, where some items are in overabundance while others are scarce. On the manufacturing side, companies have faced parts shortages, often due to residual supply disruptions post-COVID-19, which have stalled production lines and pushed order fulfillment times.

Service Industry Challenges

The service industry, although less tangible in terms of goods, has not been immune to supply chain strife. Restaurants and hospitality services have struggled with inconsistent supply deliveries, which cascade into altered service offerings and guest experiences. They’ve had to adapt quickly, sometimes sourcing from alternative suppliers or revising menus to accommodate for the varying availability of ingredients and supplies.

Preventative Measures and Future Planning

When businesses anticipate supply chain disruptions, adopting a strategic approach is essential. Preventative measures should include comprehensive planning that considers potential impacts from various angles, such as Covid-19, residual delays, or policies from both foreign and local governments.

Short-Term Strategies:

  • Diversify Suppliers: Businesses should not rely on a single source for materials. Multiple suppliers can reduce risk if one link in the chain fails.
  • Inventory Management: Increased stock of critical components can act as a buffer during disruptions.
  • Communication Plans: Establish clear lines of communication with suppliers, customers, and employees.

Long-Term Strategies:

  • Supply Chain Audit: Regular reviews of supply chain processes can reveal vulnerabilities.
  • Investment in Technology: Advancements like AI and machine learning can forecast supply needs and identify potential delays.
  • Policy Review: Staying informed about changes in government policies can help businesses adapt quickly.

Table 1: Potential Government Impacts on the Supply Chain

Government LevelType of Impact
ForeignTrade regulation
LocalTransportation policy

Businesses should also consider the Employee Retention Credit as a financial strategy to mitigate the impact of disruptions. Understanding eligibility criteria and how to claim can provide critical support during challenging periods. Proactive measures combined with a clear understanding of supportive fiscal policies contribute significantly to the resilience and continuous operation of businesses in the face of unpredictable supply chain challenges.


Employee retention credit (ERC) presents opportunities for businesses affected by supply chain issues to potentially claim tax benefits. However, eligibility for ERC requires meeting specific criteria, notably the suspension test. Businesses must demonstrate a suspension of operations due to government orders related to COVID-19.

Eligibility Criteria:

  • Must show a direct connection between government orders and business operations.
  • Supply chain disruptions alone do not qualify for ERC unless tied to specific government orders.

Tax Implications:

  • Properly claimed ERC provides substantial tax relief.
  • Incorrect claims can lead to scrutiny under an IRS audit.

Considerations for Businesses:

  • Document all relevant government orders and their impact on operations.
  • Understand the risk of penalties for unsupported ERC claims.

Businesses should carefully evaluate their circumstances against the IRS guidelines. Claims must be substantiated with clear evidence that indicates how supply chain disruptions have caused a qualifying suspension of business operations. For companies navigating these complex considerations, consulting with tax professionals is strongly recommended.

Frequently Asked Questions

In addressing the complexities of Employee Retention Credits (ERC) about supply chain disruptions, businesses must understand specific eligibility criteria and documentation requirements. This section provides answers to common inquiries based on guidance and regulations provided by the government.

What criteria must a business meet to qualify for Employee Retention Credits in the context of supply chain disruptions?

A business needs to demonstrate that supply chain disruptions directly affected its operations, leading to a partial or full suspension of business activities or a significant decline in gross receipts to be eligible for Employee Retention Credits.

How does having a supply chain disruption in 2020 affect eligibility for the Employee Retention Credit?

For disruptions occurring in 2020, businesses must establish that the supply chain issues were a direct result of government orders related to COVID-19 and that they led to a tangible impact on business operations to qualify for the Employee Retention Credit.

Are there examples of how businesses handled Employee Retention Credits during supply chain disruptions in 2021?

Yes, there are instances where businesses claimed ERC due to supply chain challenges. For instance, if a critical supplier was shut down by a government order, leading to operational difficulties, a business could qualify for the credit.

What documentation is required to support a claim for Employee Retention Credits due to supply chain disruptions?

Businesses must maintain records that substantiate the supply chain disruptions and link them to a decline in operations or gross receipts. This includes correspondence with suppliers, internal reports, and in some cases, government orders influencing the supply chain.

How does the IRS’s guidance, including memorandums such as GLAM 2023-005, affect the interpretation of Employee Retention Credits for businesses impacted by supply chain issues?

IRS guidance, including memorandum GLAM 2023-005, provides detailed instructions on how businesses should interpret and apply the rules for claiming ERC in light of supply chain disruptions, emphasizing the importance of a connection to government orders.

In what situations can businesses that closed due to supply chain disruptions still claim the Employee Retention Credit?

Businesses that had to close or reduce their operational hours due to supply chain breakdowns can claim the Employee Retention Credit if the closure was a direct result of government orders tied to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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