IRS Confirms Tips are Eligible Wages for ERTC

Source:  Aaron Frazier, National Restaurant Association

IRS Confirms Tips are Eligible Wages for ERTC

In positive news for restaurants accessing the employee retention tax credit (ERTC), the IRS has confirmed that tips are eligible for wages:

  1. Businesses can claim tips paid by customers in excess of $20 per month as eligible wages for ERTC. 
  2. Businesses can receive both the ERTC and the section 45B credit for the same wages.


Eligible businesses can access 50% of up to $10,000 in eligible wages for ERTC in 2020, for a total of $5,000. In 2021, that percentage rises to 70% of up to $10,000 in eligible wages during each calendar quarter, for a total of $7,000 each quarter. Be advised: a prominent infrastructure proposal in the U.S. Senate would end ERTC by September 30, 2021

This is welcome guidance after the National Restaurant Association worked with Congress and the Administration to clarify eligible wages and tips. We thank the restaurants and other hospitality businesses who illustrated this issue and helped identify the need to update ERTC guidance.
 
IRS Guidance: Pages 20-24

Key sections include:

B. Treatment of Tips and the Section 45B Credit

The Treasury Department and the IRS have been asked whether tips are qualified wages. In general, qualified wages are limited to wages as defined in section 3121(a) of the Code and compensation as defined in section 3231(e) of the Code, with certain modifications relating to the inclusion of qualified health plan expenses and, for calendar quarters in 2021, remuneration paid for services to certain governmental employers. In addition, under section 2301(c)(6) of the CARES Act and section 3134(c)(6) of the Code, any term used in section 2301 or section 3134, respectively, has the same meaning as when used in chapter 21 or chapter 22 of the Code. Section 3121(a)(12) of the Code excludes from the definition of “wages” tips paid in any medium other than cash and cash tips received by an employee in any calendar month in the course of employment by an employer unless the amount of the cash tips is $20 or more. Accordingly, if cash tips received by an employee in a calendar month amount to $20 or more, all of the cash tips received by the employee in that calendar month are included in wages. Similarly, section 3231(e)(3) of the Code provides that the term “compensation” includes cash tips received by an employee in any calendar month in the course of employment by an employer unless the amount of such cash tips is less than $20. Under section 3121(q), tips received by an employee in the course of the employee’s employment are considered remuneration for that employment (i.e., wages) and are deemed to have been paid by the employer for purposes of the taxes imposed by section 3111(a) and (b) of the Code. Thus, for purposes of chapters 21 and 22 of the Code, cash tips of $20 or more in a month are treated as wages paid by the employer. Therefore, any cash tips treated as wages within the definition of section 3121(a) of the Code or compensation within the definition of section 3231(e)(3) of the Code are treated as qualified wages if all other requirements to treat the amounts as qualified wages are satisfied.

The Treasury Department and the IRS have also been asked whether an eligible employer may claim both the employee retention credit and the credit available under section 45B of the Code on the same wages.  Section 45B(a) provides that, for purposes of the general business credit under section 38 of the Code, the credit for employer social security and Medicare taxes paid on certain employee tips is an amount equal to the “excess employer social security tax” paid or incurred by the employer. The term “excess employer social security tax” means any tax paid by an employer under section 3111 of the Code (both social security tax and Medicare tax) on its employees' tip income without regard to whether the employees reported the tips to the employer pursuant to section 6053(a) of the Code. Consequently, the section 45B credit is available with respect to unreported tips in an amount equal to the “excess employer social security tax” paid or incurred by the employer. No credit, however, is allowed to the extent tips are used to meet the federal minimum wage rate. For purposes of this limitation, the federal minimum wage rate is the rate that was in effect on January 1, 2007. The credit is available with respect to Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes paid on tips received from customers in connection with the providing, delivering, or serving of food or beverages for consumption, if it is customary for customers to tip the employees. Section 2301 of the CARES Act and section 3134 of the Code cross-reference specific provisions in the Code, the CARES Act, the FFCRA, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, and the ARP that prevent the receipt of a double benefit with respect to wages for which the employee retention credit is claimed. Neither section 2301 nor section 3134 cross-references section 45B of the Code. Section 45B(c) denies a deduction under chapter 1 of the Code for any amount taken into account in determining the credit under section 45B; however, this provision does not prevent the receipt of both the employee retention credit and the section 45B credit for the same wages. Therefore, eligible employers are not prevented from receiving both the employee retention credit and the section 45B credit for the same wages.


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