Ensuring Compliance: A Guide to Surviving an ERC Audit

The ERC is a refundable tax credit designed to encourage businesses to retain employees during challenging economic times. Eligible employers can claim a percentage of qualified wages paid to employees, with specific criteria and limitations. Understanding these criteria and maintaining accurate records is essential to avoid issues during an audit.

Documentation and Record-Keeping

Proper documentation is the cornerstone of surviving an ERC audit. The IRS will scrutinize your records to ensure your claims are legitimate and accurately calculated. Here are the key documents you should maintain:

  1. Payroll Records: Detailed records of all wages paid to employees, including regular and qualified wages, are essential. This includes pay stubs, payroll summaries, and timesheets.
  2. Eligibility Documentation: Documentation supporting your eligibility for the ERC is crucial. This includes financial statements showing a significant decline in gross receipts or evidence of a full or partial suspension of operations due to government orders.
  3. Health Plan Expenses: If you included health plan expenses in your ERC calculation, maintain records of these expenses, including invoices and payment records.
  4. Employment Tax Filings: Copies of all employment tax filings (e.g., Form 941) where the ERC was claimed should be readily available.
  5. Other Supporting Documents: Any other documentation that supports your ERC claims, such as correspondence with your accountant or tax advisor, should be kept.

Accurate Calculation

Errors in the calculation of the ERC can trigger an audit. Ensure that you have accurately calculated the credit by following these steps:

  1. Verify Eligibility: Double-check that your business meets the eligibility criteria for each calendar quarter you claimed the ERC. This includes verifying the decline in gross receipts or the impact of government orders on your operations.
  2. Correct Wage Allocation: Ensure that you have correctly allocated qualified wages, including excluding any wages used for other credits (e.g., PPP loan forgiveness).
  3. Review Health Plan Costs: Verify that health plan costs included in the ERC calculation are accurate and appropriately documented.

Professional Assistance

Navigating the complexities of the ERC and ensuring compliance can be challenging. Consider seeking assistance from a tax professional or advisor with expertise in the ERC. They can help you:

  1. Review Eligibility: A tax professional can provide an independent review of your eligibility and ensure all criteria are met.
  2. Verify Calculations: They can assist in verifying your calculations and ensure no errors that could trigger an audit.
  3. Audit Preparation: If selected for an audit, a tax professional can help you prepare and represent your interests during the audit process.

Responding to an Audit Notice

If you receive an ERC audit notice from the IRS, prompt and organized response is critical. Here’s how to handle it:

  1. Review the Notice: Carefully read the audit notice to understand what information the IRS is requesting.
  2. Gather Documentation: Collect all relevant documentation, including payroll records, eligibility documentation, and employment tax filings.
  3. Consult a Professional: Engage a tax professional to review your documentation and help you prepare a response.
  4. Communicate Promptly: Respond to the IRS promptly and professionally, providing all requested information in an organized manner.


Ensuring compliance with the ERC is essential for businesses that have benefited from this valuable credit. By maintaining thorough documentation, accurately calculating the credit, and seeking professional assistance when needed, you can navigate the complexities of the ERC and be well-prepared for an audit. Surviving an ERC audit requires diligence and preparation, but with the right approach, you can successfully demonstrate compliance and continue to benefit from this crucial support.