After receiving a deluge of improper claims, the IRS recently announced Employee Retention Tax Credit processing be stopped through at least December 31 on new claims for the pandemic relief program. The tax agency stated that the move was made “to protect honest small business owners from scams” and to safeguard the tax system from fraud.

Aggressive Marketing

IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel ordered the moratorium following growing concerns from inside the tax agency and from tax professionals that a substantial share of new claims from the program are ineligible. In addition, the IRS stated that businesses are increasingly being put “at financial risk by being pressured and scammed by aggressive promoters and marketing.”

You may have seen TV commercials and billboards encouraging businesses to claim the credit. Or you may have received unsolicited calls or text messages mentioning an “easy application process.” In some cases, promoters make statements that they can determine ERTC eligibility within minutes. These promoters may charge large upfront fees to claim the credit on amended returns or charge fees based on a percentage of the refund amount.

The IRS reminds anyone who improperly claims the ERTC that they must pay the money back, possibly with penalties and interest. “A business or tax-exempt group could find itself in a much worse financial position if it has to pay back the credit than if the credit was never claimed in the first place,” the tax agency stated.

IRS “Intensifying” Audits

The IRS continues to work on previously filed ERTC claims that it received prior to the moratorium, but renewed a reminder that increased fraud concerns means processing times will take longer. Previously, the IRS announced that it was “shifting its focus to review these claims for compliance concerns, including intensifying audit work and criminal investigations on promoters and businesses filing dubious claims.”

The tax agency added that hundreds of criminal cases are being investigated and thousands of claims have been referred for audit.

Possible Help for Victims

The IRS also announced it is developing new initiatives to help businesses who find themselves victims of aggressive promoters. For example, a business can withdraw an existing claim that has already been filed. There are also plans for a settlement program that involves repayments from those who received improper ERC payments. More details will be announced this fall.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with claiming legitimate credits to which you’re entitled. The continuing ERTC initiatives from the IRS are targeting unscrupulous promoters who are submitting questionable and fraudulent claims on behalf of businesses. For more information from the IRS, click here and here. If you have questions or concerns about the ERTC, contact us.