The Employee Retention Credit (ERC) has emerged as a crucial lifeline for businesses navigating the financial tumult caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Designed to incentivize employers to retain their workforce during periods of economic disruption, the ERC provides significant financial relief. However, navigating the complexities of this credit, especially in the context of collections and interactions with the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA), can be challenging for many businesses.

What is the Employee Retention Credit?

The employee retention credit collections is a refundable tax credit for employers that keep employees on the payroll during the COVID-19 crisis. Initially introduced under the CARES Act in 2020, the credit was designed to encourage businesses to retain employees despite financial hardships. The ERC was extended and expanded under subsequent relief packages, making it an attractive option for businesses looking to mitigate the financial impact of the pandemic.

The ERC allows eligible employers to claim a credit against employment taxes equal to a percentage of the qualified wages they pay to employees. For instance, for 2021, the credit is 70% of qualified wages paid, up to a maximum of $10,000 per employee per quarter. This means businesses can potentially claim up to $7,000 per employee per quarter.

Collections and Compliance Challenges

While the ERC offers substantial financial benefits, it also presents significant compliance and collection challenges. The intricacies of eligibility criteria, calculation of qualified wages, and the interaction with other relief measures, such as the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), require meticulous attention.

One primary challenge in collections is ensuring that businesses accurately claim the credit and maintain proper documentation. Errors or discrepancies can lead to audits and potential penalties, complicating the financial relief process. This is where the role of tax authorities, like the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration, becomes pivotal.

The Role of the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration

The California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) plays a critical role in administering various tax and fee programs in the state, including those related to business taxes and employer tax credits. While the ERC itself is a federal program administered by the IRS, the CDTFA provides essential support and guidance to California businesses navigating the tax landscape.

The ca dept of tax and fee admin responsibilities include:

  1. Guidance and Education: Providing businesses with information and resources to understand the ERC, eligibility requirements, and application procedures.
  2. Compliance Assistance: Helping businesses comply with state tax obligations while integrating federal tax credits like the ERC into their tax strategy.
  3. Audit and Enforcement: Ensuring that businesses claiming the ERC adhere to the rules and regulations, thus maintaining the integrity of the tax system.
  4. Coordination with Federal Authorities: Collaborating with the IRS to streamline processes and address any discrepancies or issues that arise during the credit claiming process.

Maximizing Benefits and Ensuring Compliance

For businesses aiming to maximize the benefits of the ERC while ensuring compliance, a few best practices are essential:

  • Accurate Record-Keeping: Maintain detailed records of all payroll expenses and documentation supporting the eligibility and calculation of the ERC.
  • Stay Informed: Regularly consult with tax professionals and utilize resources provided by the CDTFA and the IRS to stay updated on any changes or updates to the ERC program.
  • Leverage Professional Assistance: Given the complexities involved, seeking professional assistance from accountants or tax advisors can help navigate the intricacies of the ERC and ensure compliance with both federal and state tax regulations.


The Employee Retention Credit is a valuable tool for businesses facing financial challenges due to the pandemic. By understanding the role of the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration and adhering to best practices in compliance and collections, businesses can effectively leverage this credit to support their workforce and sustain their operations through these challenging times.