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The Employee Retention Credit (ERC) program, intended to help businesses retain employees during pandemic-related shutdowns, has been plagued by fraud due to its complex eligibility rules. In an effort to recover funds that were improperly distributed, the IRS has implemented several programs.

One such program is a voluntary disclosure program that allowed small businesses who believed they received the credit in error to return the money. Over 500 taxpayers participated in this program, with 800 submissions still being processed. Additionally, an ongoing program allowing businesses to withdraw unprocessed claims has resulted in 1,800 businesses withdrawing $251 million.

The IRS has also conducted audits on over 12,000 businesses that filed more than 22,000 improper claims, resulting in $572 million being assessed. IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel expressed concern over the widespread abuse of these claims and emphasized the IRS’s efforts to assist misled businesses.

Although the IRS stopped processing new claims in September, they anticipate resuming processing in the spring. IRS Criminal Investigation is currently reviewing an additional $3 billion in claims. These initiatives are aimed at recovering funds that were fraudulently obtained and at preventing further abuse of the ERC program.

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