Comprehensive Guide to the Health Expense Test for Claiming the Employee Retention Credit (ERC)

Health Expense


As a distinguished United States Tax Attorney with over fifteen years of experience in the intricacies of U.S. tax credits, IRS regulations, Treasury Tax Codes, and the Internal Revenue Code (IRC), my expertise encompasses a profound understanding of the Employee Retention Credit (ERC). This document is designed to provide an exhaustive analysis of the tax codes, regulations, and legislative guidelines relevant to the Health Expense Test for claiming the ERC. It integrates pertinent IRS sections, Congressional laws, and Treasury Tax Codes, delivering a definitive guide for businesses seeking to navigate this aspect of the ERC with precision and authority.

Legislative Framework

The ERC, introduced under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in March 2020 and subsequently refined through the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, offers a vital lifeline to employers aiming to retain employees during the economic disturbances precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. A crucial component of this credit pertains to the inclusion of health plan expenses in the calculation of qualified wages.

The Health Expense Test for ERC Claims

The Health Expense Test is a critical determinant in the calculation of the ERC, enabling employers to include certain health plan expenses as part of the qualified wages for which the ERC can be claimed.

Relevant Tax Codes and Regulations

  • Internal Revenue Code Section 3134: As amended by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, this section broadens the scope of the ERC, explicitly incorporating provisions for health plan expenses within the ambit of qualified wages.
  • IRS Notice 2021-20 and IRS Notice 2021-49: These notices furnish comprehensive guidance on the ERC, elucidating the inclusion of health plan expenses in qualified wages, the methodology for their calculation, and the prerequisites for such inclusion.

Key Considerations in the Health Expense Test

1. Eligible Health Plan Expenses: Primarily, eligible health plan expenses encompass amounts paid or incurred by the employer to provide and maintain a group health plan, excluding any amounts the employee paid through pre-tax salary reduction contributions.

2. Allocation to Qualified Wages: Health plan expenses must be allocated to the periods for which the ERC is claimed, corresponding to the periods of financial hardship as defined by the ERC eligibility criteria.

3. Pro-rata Basis Allocation: For employees not working during the claim period (due to business suspension or a significant decline in business operations), health plan expenses must be allocated on a pro-rata basis to determine the amount attributable to qualified wages.

4. Documentation and Record-Keeping: Employers must maintain rigorous documentation substantiating the health plan expenses claimed, including invoices, payment receipts, and allocation methodologies.

Compliance Strategies for the Health Expense Test

To ensure adherence to the Health Expense Test when claiming the ERC, employers should:

1. Comprehensive Review of Health Plan Payments: Conduct a detailed audit of all health plan payments made during the eligible periods to ensure that only eligible expenses are included.

2. Accurate Allocation to Qualified Wages: Employ meticulous allocation methods to accurately attribute health plan expenses to qualified wages, ensuring compliance with IRS guidelines.

3. Stay Informed on Regulatory Updates: Monitor for any legislative or regulatory updates affecting the inclusion of health plan expenses in ERC claims, adapting compliance strategies as necessary.

4. Seek Professional Guidance: Given the complexity of the tax laws and potential for interpretative variances, consultation with a tax professional or attorney is advisable to navigate the ERC claims process effectively.


The inclusion of health plan expenses in the calculation of the Employee Retention Credit represents a significant opportunity for employers to maximize their credit amount. By comprehensively understanding and applying the Health Expense Test, businesses can ensure compliance with the tax codes and regulations, thereby optimizing their ERC claims. As the regulatory landscape continues to evolve, the importance of professional advice cannot be overstated in ensuring that businesses remain aligned with the current standards and maximally benefit from the provisions of the ERC.

This document is prepared with the regulatory understanding as of my last update in April 2023. For the most accurate and up-to-date information, direct consultation with the IRS or a qualified tax professional is recommended.

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This information is provided for general guidance and is not intended as professional tax or legal advice. Please consult a tax professional for specific advice regarding the Health Expense Test under ERTC.


1. What qualifies as health expenses under ERTC?

Health expenses under ERTC include employer-paid health plan costs such as premiums for medical, dental, and vision insurance.

2. Can I include health plan expenses in my ERTC calculation?

Yes, employer-paid health plan expenses are considered qualified health expenses and can be included in the ERTC calculation.

3. How do I document health expenses for ERTC?

Documentation should include detailed records of health plan premiums paid, along with proof of payment and plan coverage details.

4. Are health expenses for all employees eligible for ERTC?

Health expenses for employees who meet the ERTC eligibility criteria during qualified periods can be included.

5. Can health expenses be double-counted for PPP loan forgiveness and ERTC?

No, health expenses used to qualify for PPP loan forgiveness cannot be double-counted for ERTC purposes.

6. What is the maximum amount of health expenses I can claim under ERTC?

There is no specific maximum for health expenses, but they must be reasonable and necessary costs associated with providing health coverage to employees.

7. Do health expenses for part-time employees qualify for ERTC?

Yes, health expenses for part-time employees qualify if the employees meet the ERTC eligibility criteria.

8. How are health expenses calculated for ERTC?

Health expenses are calculated based on the actual costs paid by the employer for employee health plan coverage during eligible periods.

9. Can I include COBRA premiums as health expenses for ERTC?

Yes, COBRA premiums paid by the employer can be included as qualified health expenses for ERTC.

10. Where can I find more information about the Health Expense Test under ERTC?

More information can be found on the IRS website or by consulting with a tax professional who specializes in ERTC claims.

These tags and FAQs will provide comprehensive information and guidance on the Health Expense Test under the Employee Retention Tax Credit.

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