Detailed Guide on the Employee Retention Credit: Navigating the Full-Time Employees Test

GAAP and Tax Hedge Fund Tax Gross Receipts Employee Retention Credit

Employee Retention Credit

In my capacity as a United States Tax Attorney with extensive expertise spanning over 15 years in U.S. tax credits, IRS regulations, Treasury Tax Codes, and the Internal Revenue Code (IRC), I present this thorough analysis aimed at demystifying the Full-Time Employees Test within the framework of the Employee Retention Credit (ERC). The ERC represents a critical financial support mechanism for businesses striving to maintain their workforce amidst the economic disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This document is meticulously prepared to expound upon the tax codes, legislative provisions, and IRS guidelines pertinent to this test, offering businesses a compass to navigate through the complexities of claiming the ERC.

Legislative and Regulatory Context

The ERC emerged under the auspices of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act on March 27, 2020. It was further refined and expanded by subsequent legislative enactments, including the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. These statutes collectively scaffold the ERC, articulating eligibility criteria, among which the Full-Time Employees Test is paramount for assessing a business’s qualification for the credit, predicated on employment metrics.

Elucidation of the Full-Time Employees Test

At the heart of the ERC eligibility criteria is the Full-Time Employees Test, a mechanism crafted to evaluate the business’s workforce composition during the 2019 calendar year. The essence of this test lies in its capacity to distinguish between small and large employers, thereby delineating the scope of wages eligible for the credit. It is a critical determinant in the calculus for the ERC, influencing both the quantum of the credit and the breadth of wages considered.

Pertinent IRS Sections and Treasury Tax Codes

  • IRS Notice 2021-20 and IRS Notice 2021-49: These pivotal documents elucidate the operational contours of the ERC, offering clarity on the implementation of the Full-Time Employees Test. They define the calculation methodology for determining the average number of full-time employees and explicate the consequential distinctions between small and large employers under the ERC.
  • Section 2301 of the CARES Act: This foundational section inaugurates the ERC, stipulating the eligibility benchmarks, including those predicated on employment considerations that inform the Full-Time Employees Test.
  • Section 3134 of the Internal Revenue Code (amended by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021): This amendment provides further refinement to the ERC eligibility and calculation criteria, underscoring the centrality of the Full-Time Employees Test in the determination of a business’s entitlement to the credit.

Application of the Full-Time Employees Test

The application of the Full-Time Employees Test necessitates a methodical approach:

1. Determination of the Average Number of Full-Time Employees: This calculation is foundational, requiring businesses to ascertain the average number of employees who were engaged for at least 30 hours per week (or 130 hours in a calendar month) throughout 2019. This figure is instrumental in classifying a business as either a small or large employer for the purposes of the ERC.

2. Implications for Small Versus Large Employers: The classification as a small or large employer has significant implications for the ERC claim. Small employers (generally those with 100 or fewer full-time employees in 2019 for claims in 2020 and 500 or fewer for claims in 2021) are eligible to claim the credit for wages paid to all employees, irrespective of work performed during the eligibility period. Conversely, large employers are restricted to claiming the credit only for wages paid to employees when they were not performing services due to COVID-19 related reasons.

3. Rigorous Documentation and Record-Keeping: It is imperative for businesses to maintain comprehensive records, including detailed employment and payroll data, to substantiate the computation of the average number of full-time employees. This documentation is vital for supporting the ERC claim and ensuring compliance with IRS requirements.


The Full-Time Employees Test is a linchpin in ascertaining eligibility for the Employee Retention Credit, necessitating an in-depth understanding and meticulous application. Businesses aiming to optimize their ERC claims must navigate this and other related tests with precision and informed judgment. Given the test’s complexity and the stakes involved, consultation with tax professionals, who are adept in current tax regulations and IRS procedures, is strongly recommended. This proactive step will ensure that businesses not only comply with the prevailing regulations but also maximize their financial recovery during these tumultuous economic times.

Call to Action:

Struggling to understand how the Full Time Employees Test impacts your ERTC eligibility? Contact us at or visit our website at for expert guidance and comprehensive support.


This content is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal or financial advice. Consult a tax professional for guidance specific to your business’s situation regarding the ERTC and Full Time Employees Test.


1. What is the Full Time Employees Test under the ERTC?

The Full Time Employees Test is used to determine a business’s eligibility for the ERTC based on the number of full-time employees, typically affecting the amount of credit that can be claimed.

2. How are full-time employees defined for the purposes of the ERTC?

Full-time employees are defined as those who work at least 30 hours per week or 130 hours in a calendar month, as per IRS guidelines.

3. Does the number of full-time employees affect eligibility for the ERTC?

Yes, businesses with 100 or fewer full-time employees in 2019 can claim the credit for all employee wages, whether working or not. Larger businesses can only claim for wages paid to employees not providing services.

4. Are part-time employees considered in the Full Time Employees Test?

Part-time employees are not counted as full-time employees but their wages can be eligible for credit under specific conditions, especially for smaller businesses.

5. What records should be kept to support the Full Time Employees Test?

Businesses should keep detailed payroll records, including hours worked, pay rates, and employment dates, to substantiate their ERTC claim.

6. How can businesses calculate full-time equivalents (FTEs) for ERTC?

FTEs are calculated by adding the total hours worked by part-time employees in a month and dividing by 120. This number is added to the count of full-time employees for some calculations.

7. Can seasonal workers affect the Full Time Employees Test for ERTC?

Seasonal workers can be excluded from the full-time employee count if they work for 120 or fewer days per year, which can benefit employers in qualifying for the credit.

8. What happens if a business’s employee count fluctuates throughout the year?

Businesses should use the average number of full-time employees during 2019 for determining their eligibility category under the ERTC.

9. Are family members of the business owner considered in the Full Time Employees Test?

Wages paid to family members of a business owner typically do not qualify for the ERTC, although they may be included in the employee count depending on specific circumstances.

10. Can a business reclassify contractors as employees to meet the Full Time Employees Test?

Misclassifying contractors as employees to meet eligibility criteria can lead to legal and tax consequences. Always follow proper labour and tax regulations when classifying workers.

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