Claim Your ERC with The Fraud Firewall™
Proving Transparency at Every Step of the Process
What Every Business Owner Must Know About ERC
The government has authorized billions in economic stimulus through the Employee Retention Tax Credit program, but don't be fooled by the so-called "ERC Experts" you see on TV, hear on the radio, and whose flyers stuff your mailbox.
As a registered CPA Firm who specializes in ERC, we are your safe harbor from these other "ERC Experts" who have popped up in the past year.
We have helped thousands of employers claim over $600 million in refunds - legitimate, legal, audit-defensible tax credits!
But actions speak louder than words . . .
The IRS Warns of ERC Promoters Misleading Business Owners
The IRS recently spotlighted ERTC Promoters at the top of their list for the 2023 Dirty Dozen list of tax scams.
How Can You (Without Being An ERC Expert) Differentiate the "Good Guys" from the "Bad Guys?
You rely on tax professionals for expert advice, but how do you know when a firm is truly a tax expert versus an expert marketer who says all the right things? As the first (and only) registered CPA Firm in the country focused solely on ERC, we've been on the frontlines as Sales & Marketing companies have positioned themselves as "ERC Experts".
We admit . . . they do a great job of marketing.
They say all the right things. In fact, they say many of the things we've been saying since March 2021.
But Actions Speak Louder Than Words -And We Finally Caught Them!
Over the last six months we secret-shopped most of the ERC "experts" that you see on TV. We gave them bogus company information and watched as the lies, deception and misinformation runneth over . . .
So how do we PROVE ourselves in a sea of "ERC experts"?
The Ironclad Integrity Initiative™
Integrity is an often over-used term: "Doing the right thing when no one is looking."
But in this case . . . that's quite appropriate. Because unless you get audited by the IRS, no one is looking at your ERC claims. It is easy enough for an ERC Firm to tell you what you want to hear and you'll be none the wiser unless and until you get audited . . . and then it's too late.
For that reason, we invite you to explore the three core pillars of The Ironclad Integrity Initiative that sets us apart.
ERC Fraud takes shape in three forms that we address with The Fraud Firewall:
- ERC Promoters will require that you sign a Power of Attorney so that they can sign your tax returns for you. They do this under the guise of "simplicity" for you. But in reality, they have complete control to sign your tax returns even though you must defend your eligibility in an IRS audit.
- ERC Promoters are usually marketing companies that make you sign their contract, and then they subcontract your files to a third-party CPA or attorney. The salesperson you speak with will make big promises, but their contracts are written to offer no guarantees and limit their liability in the event of an audit. The subcontractors are highly incentivized to approve your eligibility because if they disqualify clients, the ERC promoter will stop sending them new files. Their interests do not align with yours and you had better believe that their contracts are written in such a way that neither party will take responsibility for determining your eligibility during an IRS audit. (From our secret-shopping, we have recorded calls of the signing attorney telling us the exact opposite of what the salesperson told us.)
- The really nefarious ERC promoters may take your original Form 941's, prepare amendments without you knowing and have checks mailed to them. This is not just defrauding you, but defrauding the US Government. We've only heard of this happening one time in the last two years, but surely there are more crooks out there.
Steps to protect yourself when hiring an ERC Firm:
- Confirm that they are a registered CPA Firm (find out what state they are registered), and not just a company with licensed CPA's on staff.
- Confirm that the person who signs the Services Contract (or Engagement Letter) is the same person who is signing as a "Paid Preparer" on your amended Form 941's.
- Confirm that you will be signing and mailing the amended Form 941's yourself, and you are not required to sign a Power of Attorney so they can sign for you.
The SmartStart Onboarding Process seems rather obvious . . .
- Determine your qualifying dates based your Intake Form, Survey, and discussion with management (as needed)
- Then ask for your confidential tax and payroll records, calculate your tax credits by quarter and prepare the Form 941-X's
You would be surprised by how many ERC Firms ask for your quarterly payroll tax returns and confidential payroll records upfront . . . without ever knowing if you qualify or not.
The really shady firms will also require that you sign a Power of Attorney (giving them authority to sign your tax returns) before they will explain why you qualified.
These are YOUR tax returns.
You have every right to understand how you are qualifying before handing over confidential records (and never signing a Power of Attorney).
Steps to protect yourself when hiring an ERC Firm:
- Do not provide Form 941's or Payroll Records until the ERC Firm has explained how you qualify.
- Confirm that you can back out of the agreement and choose note to file the amendments if you do not agree with their assessment of your eligibility.
The DirectCheck Express means that your refund checks will be mailed directly from the US Treasury to your business.
Most ERC Firms are requiring their clients to direct the checks to a lockbox so that the Firm can take out their fees before paying you (unless you want to pay all their fees upfront).
However, in our experience, this is causing clients to wait 1-2 more months at a minimum because of other unintended consequences.
Common problems include payroll companies changing the official address on record, lockboxes being slow to process the checks, and checks being returned as undeliverable to the IRS because the lockbox loses authorization to receive your mail.
Plus, ALL your mail from the IRS goes to the lockbox - creating one more layer of complexity when you receive notices.
Steps to protect yourself when hiring an ERC Firm:
- Confirm that your refund checks will come directly to you and not a lockbox.
- Do not sign a Services Agreement requiring you to open a lockbox, especially if you pay their fee upfront.
Download our Newest eBook
Pre-Qualify Yourself Anonymously
Other online ERTC "calculators" are nothing more than lead generation forms disguised as a calculator. Classic bait-and-switch to get you on their list.
(Pro Tip: These other "calculators" are simply multiplying your # of employees by $26,000 and trimming a bit off to account for PPP. This information for you is entirely unhelpful and just puts you in the crosshairs of their sales team for the next two years.)
Our ERTC Qualification Tool:
Questions That Should Be Asked
But they aren't because . . . how would you know to ask?
While technically "true", this should come with a HUGE warning label.
There are a ton of ERTC companies (some are just marketing outfits) telling business owners they will qualify if they have any supply chain issues. Frankly, they are telling people that they qualify for almost anything pandemic related.
I've even had a prospect tell us they were qualified by another firm because they had trouble hiring people due to all the unemployment checks.
Bottom Line: the partial suspension of operations (even due to supply chain constraints) must be as the result of a government mandate. There are plenty of businesses where a case can be made, but that is exactly what needs to occur . . . a case must be made.
This is where we lean on tax attorneys to assess all the federal, state and local mandates to determine how those mandates results in a "more than nominal" impact which resulted in a partial suspension of operations.
Even if you did not have supply chain issues, you may still qualify based on the reduction of revenue.
And we are definitely not saying that "Supply Chain" cannot be a valid reason. All I'm saying is that you had better be prepared with contemporaneous documentation to support that determination because this will be a point of emphasis when the IRS audits these refunds.
Not to brag, but we pioneered this industry. When others were figuring out how the credits were calculated at their most basic level . . . we were already writing the algorithms to optimize these credits by employee . . . by day.
If you received PPP funds, the precision with which we allocate these funds is critical to ensure there is no "double-dipping" while also maximizing every dollar that is legally owed to you.
Here's an example of why this matters:
Since we allocated wages by employee by day, we may use PPP funds to pay an employee in the morning, and use their afternoon pay as qualifying wages for ERTC. This means that for many clients, we allocate 100% of their PPP funds without having to reduce the maximum allowable credits for each employee (that's up to $5,000 per employee in 2020 or $7,000 per employee per quarter in 2021).
So if you want to know whether the ERTC firm pitching you is truly maximizing your refund, that is the question you need to press them on.
If they are asking for a quarterly summary of payroll . . . then there is no way they can allocate this precisely by day by employee.
Unless they are getting a payroll report showing every employee and the breakout of every paycheck, then you're not working with an "expert".
Short answer: Affiliate partners.
Long Answer: From the beginning, our focus has been on (1) designing a client experience that is a joy for our clients and (2) designing an ERTC calculation/methodology that would legally maximize tax refunds.
It seems that everyone's else first priority was building marketing assets and signing on new clients . . . without a clue of how to serve them.
But that's okay.
Luckily for their clients, they found us and their clients are getting the same quality of service that we offer our own clients.
We've given permission for other "ERTC Experts" to utilize our FAQ's as long as we are the ones doing the work on the backend. I don't want my educational material to lead unsuspecting clients to another firm that isn't executing with the precision that we do.
So check out some of our General FAQ's. Do a Google search for them. You'll find them verbatim on over 1,000 websites.
And then come back here to get started and know you're getting the best fee by coming straight to the source.
We most certainly have our own tax attorneys to assist us, but this question comes up when a client wants to qualify based on a partial suspension of operations and they cannot provide us a clear understanding of which government mandates restricted their operations.
While some ERTC firms boast of having attorneys on staff to write memos for their clients, we are fundamentally opposed to that concept.
Instead, we recommend that you engage an attorney independently. We are happy to refer you to attorneys that we know who will do a fine job.
However, we believe there should be a clear separation between the attorney's opinion letter and our firm who is calculating your credits.
Since our fees are based on a percentage of the refunds that you receive . . . and since the size of those refunds are based on the time period that you qualify . . . we do not want there to be even an appearance of a conflict of interest.
If the IRS comes to audit, we want your truth to be that you engaged an independent, third party firm to assess your eligibility and provide an opinion letter . . . and you brought that letter to us, an independent CPA firm.
What more could the IRS expect of you as a taxpayer? With that level of diligence, we can all sleep easy at night.
And to be clear, we do not require (or even recommend) these letters for every client. Less than 2% of our clients have needed these letters and this is really just a function of us being very conservative in our own judgment.
When other firms talk about being "aggressive" with these refunds, that's a position we just won't tolerate.
There's no need for that. Just apply the facts to your situation, execute the math precisely, and sleep easy knowing everything is above board.
It was true when we started and as far as we know, we're still the only ones. (Although I'm happy to be proven wrong.)
Every other CPA firm offers other services like income taxes, audits, reviews, bookkeeping, and payroll. We've been lucky to form incredible partnerships with many CPA firms who send us their clients - not even wanting a referral fee. They just want to know their client is being taken care of by the best.
Other non-CPA firms are offering ERTC services but they have historically only worked with other tax credits like the R&D credits.
These firms don't answer to a State accounting board with ethics rules. And it is apparent in many of their marketing messages, automated text messages and pushy sales calls wanting a signed engagement letter before you've even talked to anyone.
(If you previously visited our website, this answer has been updated.)
Previously, we were working with an institutional hedge fund that was advancing cash for these credits.
However, as of December 2022, that all changed now that the IRS is doing one heck of a job of processing these returns.
Most clients see at least one refund check in 3-4 months, and many report receiving all checks by then. Since clients are now getting paid so quickly, their appetite for paying fees of 13-18% for their money just a few months quicker, is not appealling.
Easy to Start. Even Easier to Finish.
The tax code is complicated enough for CPA's - no need to complicate this process for you as well. That's why we've created The 15 Minute Refund™.
Simply register here and we'll shoot you an email on how you can move forward at your own pace. Either with a phone call to answer your questions, or a self-direct qualification path so you don't feel trapped by a phone call.
If you choose to move forward, every new engagement begins with a call with our Onboarding Team.
This is NOT a sales team. No one is commissioned. Their role is to help you pre-qualify before we begin collecting documents. (We hate asking for documents for periods that we don't need.)
We'll answer your questions, get you an engagement letter, and your role in this entire process is almost done . . . .