Employers can qualify for a tax credit known as the work opportunity credit that is worth as much as $2,400 for each eligible employee ($4,800, $5,600 and $9,600 for certain veterans and $9,000 for “long-term family assistance recipients”). The credit is generally limited to eligible employees who began work for the employer before Jan. 1, 2020.

The work opportunity tax credit is available on an elective basis for employers hiring individuals from one or more of 9 targeted groups.

Work Opportunity Tax Credit Targeted Groups

Generally, an employer is eligible for the work opportunity tax credit only for qualified wages paid to members of a targeted group, which are:

  1. Qualified members of families receiving assistance under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program
  2. Qualified veterans
  3. Qualified ex-felons
  4. Designated community residents
  5. Vocational rehabilitation referrals
  6. Qualified summer youth employees
  7. Qualified members of families in the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP)
  8. Qualified Supplemental Security Income recipients
  9. Long-term family assistance recipients
  10. Long-term unemployed individuals

For each employee, there is also a minimum requirement that the employee must have completed at least 120 hours of service for the employer.

Also, the credit is unavailable for certain employees who are related to the employer or work more than 50% of the time outside of a trade or business of the employer (e.g., working as a maid in the employer’s home). Additionally, the credit generally isn’t available for employees who have previously worked for the employer.

Work Opportunity Credit Calculation and Maximum Credits

For employees other than summer youth employees, the credit amount is calculated under the following rules:

  • The employer can take into account up to $6,000 of first-year wages per employee ($10,000 for “long-term family assistance recipients”; $12,000, $14,000 or $24,000 for certain veterans).
  • If the employee completed at least 120 hours but less than 400 hours of service for the employer, the wages taken into account are multiplied by 25%.
  • If the employee completed 400 or more hours, all of the wages taken into account are multiplied by 40%.

Under the above rules, the maximum credit available for the first-year wages is $2,400 ($6,000 × 40%) per employee ($4,000 [$10,000 × 40%] for “long-term family assistance recipients”; $4,800, $5,600 or $9,600 [$12,000, $14,000 or $24,000 × 40%] for certain veterans).

Additionally, for “long-term family assistance recipients,” there is available a 50% credit for up to $10,000 of second-year wages, resulting in a total maximum credit, over two years, of $9,000 [$10,000 × 40% plus $10,000 × 50%). The “first year” referred to above is the year-long period which begins with the employee’s first day of work, and the “second year” is the year that immediately follows.

Summer Youth Employee Rules for Work Opportunity Tax Credit

For summer youth employees, the rules above apply, except that the employer can only take into account up to $3,000 of wages, and the wages must be paid for services performed during any 90-day period between May 1 and Sept. 15. Thus, for summer youth employees, the maximum credit available is $1,200 ($3,000 × 40%) per employee.

Other Tax Considerations for Work Opportunity Tax Credit

You should be aware that:

  1. No deduction is allowed for the portion of wages equal to the amount of the work opportunity credit determined for the tax year
  2. Other employment-related credits are generally reduced with respect to an employee for whom a work opportunity credit is allowed
  3. The credit is subject to the overall limitations on the amount of business credits that can be taken in any tax year, but a 1-year carryback and 20-year carryforward of unused business credits is allowed.

Because of these three rules, there may be circumstances in which the employer might, under an available election, elect not to have the work opportunity credit apply.

Also important to note are some additional rules that exist which, in limited circumstances, prohibit the credit or require an allocation of the credit.

I welcome your questions about any of the above discussion, and, should you be interested, I would be pleased to work with you on the application of the credit to your situation.

For more information on the Work Opportunity Credit, or on the status of your other business tax credits, please feel free to contact us at 314-961-1600 or online.

About Smith Patrick CPA

Smith Patrick CPA is a St. Louis-based, family-owned CPA firm dedicated to providing personal guidance on taxes, investment advising and financial services to small businesses and financially active individuals. For over 30 years, our firm has focused on providing excellent service to businesses, non-profits, individuals and government agencies in St. Louis and the surrounding areas. Investment Advisory Services are offered through Wealth Management, LLC, a Registered Investment Advisor.