As retailers know, the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way businesses operate. The early days of stay-at-home orders, occupancy limits, and hazard pay resulted in unexpected costs for many small business. Thankfully, independent grocers may be able to recoup some of those costs with the Employee Retention Credit (ERC).
Part of the CARES Act, the ERC rewards businesses that kept employees on payroll during the pandemic. The credit is worth up to $5,000 per employee in 2020 and up to $7,000 per employee per quarter in 2021 (for the first three quarters), resulting in a maximum credit of $26,000 per employee. It is a credit, not a loan, and therefore does not need to be paid back.
And while it may seem too good to be true, there are no restrictions on how retailers can spend their credit. However, IGA CEO John Ross advises independents to be cautious and responsible. "Make no mistake: there are lean times ahead," he says. "I encourage our retailers who apply for this credit to use any funds they get back to reinvest in their businesses, and more importantly their employees, to prepare for one to two years of heavy inflation."
Ready to see what your store can earn back? Retail accounting services firm FMS Solutions has partnered with SyncStream Solutions, a team of tax credit and compliance experts, to help independent retailers qualify and receive the Employee Retention Credits they deserve.
Who is eligible?
“We assist retailers to determine if they are eligible to apply for ERC,” says SyncStream's Vice President of Sales and Marketing Michelle Kershner. "Even if you sold your store in 2021, you can apply."
If your business experienced one of the following, SyncStream will assist you in qualifying:
- Interruptions to normal business
- Inventory price increases
- Lack of inventory from vendors
- Had operations partially or fully suspended due to government order
- Change in operating hours
SyncStream Chief Revenue Officer and Partner Kevin Anhalt notes that many of the 300+ retailers SyncStream has worked with incorrectly think they are disqualified from applying for the credit if they accepted a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan, took a Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC), made a profit in 2020 and/or 2021, or never closed their doors. "Those factors do not disqualify a retailer from receiving the ERC," he says.
These misconceptions about eligibility are a key reason FMS has partnered with SyncStream—and why independent retailers should work with the specialized team. "Few CPAs have the time and training required to master the intricacies of the CARES Act and the complex IRS guidance on this topic," Anhalt says. "Our team of tax credit experts know how the ERCs are appropriately applied to a grocery retailer’s circumstances, especially because of our long association with FMS.”
How will I receive my credit?
Kershner says the ERC is issued like a tax refund. "It's a paper check from the U.S. Treasury." She adds that the credit will be taxed in the tax year you receive it.
How does the submission process work?
To determine your eligibility, contact Kershner at 877-291-9256 ext. 151 or via email. She will send you dates and times for a quick Zoom call to answer general questions and explain the process to apply for credit in detail.
After that, SyncStream will handle the bulk of the work. Anhalt says the retailer only spends between two to four hours over the course of a month gathering the information that SyncStream needs to submit the claim. Once the claim is submitted, Kershner says retailers are currently waiting about six to nine months to receive their checks from the U.S. Treasury.
How much does it cost to apply?
There is no upfront cost for retailers to work with SyncStream to submit their claim. "If you don't qualify, you're out nothing," Kershner says. "If you do qualify, we'll wait until you get your check to get paid."
If you do receive the ERC, SyncStream’s success-based fees are calculated as a percentage of the credits received by the retailer. That percentage is on a sliding scale, with larger credits paying a smaller percentage.
How much can I expect to get back?
According to Kershner, their average retailer receives over $200,000 in credits, with one expected to receive over $3 million.
"With an audience of 21,000+ independent retailers, we’re facing a virtual tsunami of opportunity," says Anhalt, adding that there is a time limit to applying for ERC, as SyncStream’s expert staff can only assist 50 to 60 retailers a week. "If a retailer is interested in benefiting from an ERC, they should contact us within the next few months."
How do I find out more?
Due to the popularity of this program, FMS has requested to reserve ERC processing capacity for a minimum of 250 to 300 IGA retailers. To learn more about the tax credits and your eligibility, contact Michelle Kershner at 877-291-9256 ext. 151 or via email.
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