Tax Credit for Hiring Veterans

Many employers have come to learn that veterans make excellent employees. They usually are easily trainable and possess desirable characteristics, such as honesty, loyalty, and responsibility. If these attributes were not enough to induce employers to hire veterans, the tax law offers even more. The tax law encourages employers to hire certain targeted groups of workers by offering a tax credit tied to the wages of these new employees, and certain veterans are treated as a targeted group. Here are the special rules to know when hiring so that you may take credit where credit is due.

Which veterans qualify?

As a small business owner, you qualify for the work opportunity tax credit (WOTC) if you hire a veteran who falls into any of the following categories:

  • Having a service-related disability
  • Unemployed for a specified period
  • Receiving SNAP (food stamp) benefits

However, even if a veteran does not fall within any of these categories, he or she may still be a member of another targeted group. This would still allow you to take a tax credit. For example, a veteran who has been a member of a family that received TANF payments for at least 18 consecutive months is treated as a member of a targeted group for long-term family assistance recipients.

What is the tax credit amount?

The tax credit reduces your tax bill dollar-for-dollar, so each $1 of WOTC saves you $1 in taxes. The credit is based on the amount of wages paid to an eligible veteran in the first year of employment. The maximum tax credit is based on a set percentage of maximum first-year wages, which is fixed by law, and the number of hours worked. For example, for veterans, the basic percentage of first-year wages is 25% for those who worked at least 120 hours but fewer than 400 hours; it is 40% for those who worked at least 400 hours.

The maximum credit for a veteran working at least 400 hours is:

  • Service-related disability and unemployed at least 6 months in the year ending in the hiring year: $9, 600 ($24, 000 in wages x 40%).
  • Service-related disability and hired within 1 year of discharge or release from active duty: $4, 800 ($12, 000 in wages x 40%)
  • Unemployed at least 6 months: $5, 600 ($14, 000 in wages x 40%)
  • Unemployed at least 4 weeks: $2, 400 ($6, 000 in wages x 40%)
  • Receiving SNAP benefits: $2, 400 ($6, 000 in wages x 40%)

There is no limit on the number of eligible employees you can hire for the credit. For example, if you hire 3 veterans with service-related disabilities who are unemployed at least 6 months, your credit is $28, 800 ($9, 600 x 3).

The WOTC is set to run through 2019, and you can take the credit year after year as you expand the size of your staff. Thus, even if you take a tax credit for hiring a veteran in 2016, you can do so again next year.

Other rules

Being eligible for the credit isn’t enough to claim it on your return. To take the tax credit, you must submit IRS Form 8850 to your state workforce agency within 28 days of the first day of employment. Also submit ETA Form 9061, or ETA Form 9062 if the employee has already been conditionally certified as belonging to a targeted group at the same time. The purpose of these submissions is to confirm that your new employee is indeed a member of a targeted group.

The credit is claimed on IRS Form 5884, which is attached to the employer’s income tax return.


When hiring, keep the WOTC in the back of your mind. While it may not be a primary factor in making a hiring decision, it may just be the tipping point in favor of one applicant over another.

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