Work Opportunity Tax Credit WOTC: What Business Owners Need to Know

Kirsch CPA Group

Oct 12, 2017

The Work Opportunity tax credit (WOTC) is a federal income tax credit that’s available to businesses that hire members of certain “targeted” groups. Here’s how your business may be able to benefit from this potentially lucrative tax break.

The Basics
The WOTC encourages businesses to hire from certain categories of workers who face significant barriers to employment. The allowable credit amount is based on a portion of wages paid to an eligible worker during the first year of employment or, in some cases, during the first two years.

Businesses can claim the credit for eligible workers whose employment begins before January 1, 2020. But there are numerous rules and restrictions, including the following provisions:

  • Minimum hours of work. No credit is available unless the worker completes at least 120 hours of work. The credit is reduced if the individual works at least 120 hours but less than 400 hours.
  • Rehired workers. The credit is available only for new hires. Wages paid to an individual who was previously employed by your business and is rehired don’t qualify.
  • Related parties. Wages paid to certain individuals who are related to the employer or business owner don’t qualify.

In addition, a business can’t claim a compensation deduction for any portion of wages claimed as a WOTC. For instance, if the allowable credit for an employee is $2,400, you can’t deduct that amount of wages as a business expense. Wages above $2,400 can be deducted as employee compensation expense, however.

10 Targeted Groups
Current law provides the following categories of WOTC-eligible workers:
1. Qualified IV-A Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients,
2. Unemployed veterans, including disabled veterans,
3. Ex-felons,
4. Designated community residents living in empowerment zones or rural renewal counties,
5. Vocational rehabilitation referrals,
6. Summer youth employees living in empowerment zones,
7. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients,
8. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients,
9. Long-term family assistance recipients, and
10. Qualified long-term unemployment recipients.

The last targeted group was added to the list under the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015. Since January 1, 2016, the WOTC has been available for hiring long-term unemployment recipients, defined as those who have been unemployed for a period of at least 27 weeks and who received state or federal unemployment benefits during all or part of that time.

Certifying Eligible Employees
Individuals who are members of a targeted group generally must be certified by a designated local agency by the day the individual begins work or shortly thereafter. In addition, employers should complete a pre-screening notice with the applicable local agency on or before the day an individual is offered employment to maintain eligibility for the WOTC if a new hire isn’t certified on or before the day he or she begins work.

The employer also must submit additional forms to the Department of Labor. The paperwork can be a little overwhelming, if you are not sure what to do, contact Kirsch CPA Group at 513-858-6040 and we can guide you through the process.

Calculating the Credit
How much can you save with the WOTC? In most cases, the credit equals 40% of eligible wages paid to an employee during the first year of employment, up to a maximum of $6,000 of wages. That translates into a maximum credit of $2,400 per employee. However, there are several exceptions to this general rule.

Kirsch CPA Group

About The Author

Kirsch CPA Group provides accounting, tax and business consulting to small and medium enterprises.

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