IRS Issues Guidance on Expanded Work Opportunity Tax Credit

by Michael W. Blitstein, CPA 

The IRS has released guidance and posted online Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for employers planning to claim the enhanced Work Opportunity Tax Credit (“WOTC”) for hiring qualified military veterans.  The guidance contains transition relief, describes electronic submission of the form used to claim the credit and describes the procedures for tax-exempt organizations to claim the credit.

The WOTC was enhanced as part of the VOW to Hire Heroes Act, passed by Congress at the end of November 2011. Employers who hire members of targeted groups, and who obtain a certification from an appropriate state agency as to each employee’s status as a member of the targeted group, are entitled to a tax credit.

For military veterans, the VOW to Hire Heroes Act expanded the WOTC, which rewards employers with a tax credit for hiring individuals from targeted groups. The “Returning Heroes Tax Credit” and the “Wounded Warriors Tax Credit” are intended to encourage employers to hire unemployed military veterans.

Employers that hire veterans who have been looking for employment for more than six months may be eligible for a maximum $5,600 credit per employee (Returning Heroes Tax Credit); employers that hire veterans who have been looking for employment for less than six months may be eligible for a credit of up to $2,400 per employee. Employers that hire veterans with service-connected disabilities who have been looking for employment for more than six months may be eligible for a credit of up to $9,600 per employee (Wounded Warriors Tax Credit).

Form 8850, Pre-Screening Notice and Certification Request for the Work Opportunity Credit, must be submitted to the state agency within 28 days of the employee beginning work for the employer. The credit applies in the case of qualified veterans who begin work prior to 2013.

The IRS guidance contains transition relief, providing that employers of veterans hired on or after November 22, 2011, and before May 22, 2012, have until June 19, 2012, to complete and submit the newly revised form to the state agency. The 28-day rule will apply to veterans hired after May 21, 2012. This transition relief also applies to qualified exempt organizations claiming the credit. Qualified tax-exempt organizations that employ veterans who are members of a targeted group also may take advantage of the credit.

The FAQs on the IRS website address topics such as how employers claim the enhanced WOTC for hiring qualified veterans, how a non-profit organization can claim the credit, and more.

In the case of exempt organizations, the credit is allowed against the employer’s Federal Insurance Contribution Act (FICA) tax obligation on wages paid to the veteran within one year of hiring. However, the liability on the organization’s employment tax return is not reduced by the credit; rather, the credit is processed separately and the amount properly claimed is refunded to the exempt organization. This is likely to occur after the filing of the return, so organizations are cautioned not to reduce their FICA obligation on their returns in anticipation of the refund.

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