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IRS Tax TipsNovember 9, 2023

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Issue Number: Tax Tip 2023-121


Employers should certify employees before claiming the Work Opportunity Tax Credit

Employers who hire people from certain groups can reduce the tax they owe when they claim the Work Opportunity Tax Credit on their federal tax return. This credit encourages employers to hire workers certified as members of any of ten groups facing barriers to employment. When hiring, employers may want to take a moment to review eligibility requirements for the Work Opportunity Tax Credit.

Pre-screening and certification requirement
To claim the credit, an employer must first get certification that an individual is a member of one of the specified groups. They do so by submitting IRS Form 8850, Pre-screening Notice and Certification Request for the Work Opportunity Credit, to their state workforce agency within 28 days after the eligible worker begins work. Employers should not submit this form to the IRS. They should contact their state workforce agency with any questions about the processing of Form 8850.

Figuring and claiming the credit
Eligible employers claim the Work Opportunity Tax Credit on their federal income tax return. It is generally based on wages paid to eligible workers during the first year of employment. After the employer receives Form 8850 certification, they figure the credit on Form 5884, Work Opportunity Credit, and then claim the credit on Form 3800, General Business Credit.

Special rule for tax-exempt organizations
A special rule allows tax-exempt organizations to claim the credit only for hiring qualified veterans who began work for the organization before 2026. After the employer receives the Form 8850 certification, these organizations claim the credit against payroll taxes on Form 5884-C, Work Opportunity Credit for Qualified Tax Exempt Organizations.

Credit limitations
For a taxable business, the credit value is limited to the business’ income tax liability.

For qualified tax-exempt organizations, the credit is limited to the amount of employer Social Security tax owed on wages paid to qualifying employees.

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