Comprehensive Analysis of the Employee Retention Credit: The Full or Partial Suspension Test

Financial Reporting Employee Retention Credit

Analysis of the Employee Retention Credit

In my capacity as a United States Tax Attorney with a profound specialization in tax credits, including the intricacies of IRS regulations, Treasury Tax Codes, and the Internal Revenue Code (IRC), I present an authoritative guide on the Full or Partial Suspension Test within the framework of the Employee Retention Credit (ERC). The ERC emerges as a cornerstone of the U.S. government’s fiscal response to the COVID-19 pandemic, offering substantial support to businesses committed to maintaining their workforce amidst unprecedented economic disruptions. This document aims to demystify the legal and regulatory underpinnings of the Full or Partial Suspension Test, thereby empowering businesses to adeptly navigate this critical eligibility criterion.

Legislative and Regulatory Genesis

The genesis of the ERC can be traced to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, enacted on March 27, 2020. It was further refined and expanded through subsequent legislative milestones, notably the Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act of 2020 and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. These legislative instruments collectively sculpt the statutory landscape of the ERC, encapsulating the criteria for the Full or Partial Suspension Test.

The Full or Partial Suspension Test Explicated

Central to determining ERC eligibility, the Full or Partial Suspension Test evaluates the extent of operational disruption a business encountered due to authoritative government orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This test delineates two distinct scenarios:

  • Full Suspension: Pertains to businesses mandated to completely halt operations at any of their premises by government orders.
  • Partial Suspension: Applies to businesses that sustained a substantial, though not complete, disruption in their operations due to government-imposed restrictions, such as curtailed operational hours, occupancy caps, or modifications to the service delivery model.

Key IRS Guidelines and Treasury Tax Provisions

  • IRS Notice 2021-20 and IRS Notice 2021-23: These pivotal notices offer exhaustive guidance on the ERC, particularly elucidating the application nuances of the Full or Partial Suspension Test. They delineate the scope of “governmental order” and provide a methodology for businesses to ascertain the substantiality of operational impacts.
  • Section 2301 of the CARES Act: This section lays the foundational legal basis for the ERC, detailing initial eligibility benchmarks, including those pertinent to the Full or Partial Suspension Test.
  • Treasury Regulation §1.280C-4: While primarily addressing the interplay between the ERC and other tax incentives, this regulation also sheds light on broader interpretative stances that influence the Full or Partial Suspension Test’s application.

Implementing the Full or Partial Suspension Test: A Step-by-Step Approach

To effectively implement the Full or Partial Suspension Test, businesses must undertake the following steps:

1. Identify Pertinent Governmental Directives: Ascertain the specific periods during which the business was under government mandates to either fully or partially suspend operations.

2. Evaluate Operational Impact: Conduct a thorough assessment of how these mandates influenced business functions, considering elements like diminished manufacturing capabilities, operational hour restrictions, and enforced modifications in customer engagement protocols.

3. Maintain Robust Documentation: Compile and organize detailed documentation encompassing governmental mandates and their operational repercussions. Essential documentation includes official directives, public notices, and comprehensive records cataloguing business activities and operational metrics pre-, during, and post-mandate enforcement.

4. Nominal Effect Determination: For instances of partial suspension, it is imperative to demonstrate that the imposed restrictions had a substantial (more than nominal) effect on business operations. The IRS employs a multifaceted analysis considering the impact’s magnitude on the business’s overall operations and the duration of the imposed restrictions.


Mastering the Full or Partial Suspension Test is indispensable for businesses aspiring to leverage the ERC as a financial bulwark during these challenging times. This intricate process demands a granular evaluation of the operational impacts stemming from COVID-19-related government orders. Businesses are strongly advised to seek the expertise of tax professionals to ensure comprehensive compliance with the evolving IRS regulations and to optimize their ERC claims.

This guide has endeavoured to illuminate the legislative, regulatory, and procedural aspects governing the Full or Partial Suspension Test. Businesses seeking to further explore this avenue or in need of tailored advice should consult with a qualified tax attorney or a professional well-versed in the dynamic landscape of tax regulations and IRS policies concerning the ERC.

Call to Action:

Need help navigating the ERTC eligibility criteria, including the Full or Partial Suspension Test? Email us at or visit for expert assistance and more information.


The information provided is for general guidance only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Businesses should consult a tax professional for specific advice regarding their eligibility for the ERTC based on the Full or Partial Suspension Test and Gross Receipts Test.


1. What is the Gross Receipts Test for ERTC eligibility?

The Gross Receipts Test determines eligibility for the ERTC by comparing the gross receipts of a business in a calendar quarter in 2020 or 2021 to the same quarter in 2019. A significant decline in gross receipts during these periods may qualify a business for the credit.

2. How much of a decline in gross receipts is needed to qualify for the ERTC?

To qualify, gross receipts for a given quarter in 2020 or 2021 must have declined by more than 50% when compared to the same quarter in 2019. For 2021, the required decline is more than 20%.

3. Are all types of receipts included in the Gross Receipts Test?

Yes, all sources of revenue, including sales of products or services, interest, dividends, rents, royalties, and annuities, regardless of whether they are related to the business’s primary operations, are included.

4. Does the Gross Receipts Test apply differently to different types of businesses?

The test applies uniformly across different types of businesses, but the specifics of what counts as gross receipts can vary based on the industry and the accounting principles employed.

5. What are the documentation requirements for proving eligibility via the Gross Receipts Test?

Businesses should maintain financial statements, sales records, and other relevant documentation that clearly show the required percentage decline in gross receipts.

6. Can a business that started after 2019 qualify for the ERTC through the Gross Receipts Test?

Yes, alternative methods for calculating the decline in gross receipts are available for businesses that started after 2019. These methods compare different periods to determine eligibility.

7. How often must a business pass the Gross Receipts Test to claim the ERTC?

A business needs to pass the test each time it files for the ERTC for a specific quarter. The test is not a one-time qualification.

8. What happens if a business’s gross receipts recover after initially passing the Gross Receipts Test?

If a business’s gross receipts recover in a subsequent quarter, it may affect their eligibility for the credit in that later quarter but does not retroactively impact credits already claimed.

9. Are there any exceptions or special considerations for non-profit organizations in the Gross Receipts Test?

Non-profit organizations follow the same general rules for the Gross Receipts Test, but they should consider all receipts, including donations and grants, when calculating gross receipts.

10. Can amendments to previously filed returns be made if a mistake was found in the gross receipt’s calculation?

Yes, if errors are found in previous calculations, businesses can amend their tax returns to correct the gross receipts figures and potentially claim additional credit.

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