Alumni Spotlight: Dan Chodan and the ERC

MBU alumnus Dan Chodan (’13) appeared in the news recently regarding his work with Employee Retention Credit (ERC), a Covid relief program designed to help small businesses recover from the financial blow they received in 2020. Although ERC was meant to be helpful, in recent years scammers have widely abused the system by filing fake claims, seeking percentage cuts, and falsely advertising to small business owners in hopes of making money off them. As an accountant, Chodan is serving on the front lines to protect people from falling for these scams, in addition to processing their legitimate claims for the real ERC.

Chodan has spent the past decade working for Trout CPA, the top accounting firm in Pennsylvania. Trout provides accounting, audit, tax, and business advisory services, and Chodan works often with small business owners, doing compliance work and advising on transitions, mergers, and acquisitions. Currently, he serves on Trout’s Auto Dealerships and Manufacturing Practice Groups.

ERC and the Fight against Fraud

When Covid hit in 2020, many small businesses struggled financially as much of their clientele were advised to stay home. ERC was developed to provide help for these businesses, and, according to Chodan, it was hugely successful at first. “It’s only been here for a few years, but it’s grown into a bigger program and massively helped clients,” Chodan states. “It was meant to be helpful, but now it’s widely abused and claimed by scammers.” On top of managing Covid relief services, filing eligible claims, and advising businesses, Trout CPA has had to switch gears, sifting through ineligible claims and helping small businesses owners avoid falling for false advertisements.

Within the last few years, the IRS began cracking down on ERC, issuing warnings and slowing down refund payments to process claims properly. Near the end of September, the IRS stopped processing new claims. “Fraud is too high,” Chodan states. “They [the IRS] must make a lot of noise to disrupt the mills and promoters charging major fees and marketing with fraud or stretching rules and filing for ineligible businesses.” According to Chodan, around 95% of new claims are ineligible.

Chodan has spoken out against the problems of ERC, and, as a result, has become an authority on the subject. “Other CPAs will come to me for technical issues and problem filings,” he says. “I’m helping other people help others now.” This reputation has landed him in the news; the Wall Street Journal cited him in their recent article on ERC.

On September 7, Chodan was invited to the AICPA Town Hall as a guest speaker. The Town Hall is a livestreamed forum attended by thousands of accounting professionals biweekly. Chodan spoke on the ERC, and a recording of his speech is available online.

“It was a lot more enjoyable when we were getting people money rather than talking people out of it,” Chodan admits. “Professionally, we have to do the right things and provide our opinion, whether it’s a fun conversation or not.” Chodan’s passion for righting the wrongs of ERC is personal as well as corporate. “You hold yourself to a standard of excellence and get the best benefit, and you’re devoted to that, and then others come along and do horrible work the same way,” Chodan says. “It makes you angry to see someone misuse what you saw as good. And it’s painful to see others get taken advantage of.” Thankfully, Chodan and the others at Trout CPA are doing their best in spreading the truth and helping others avoid being scammed.

Time at MBU

Chodan graduated magna cum laude from MBU in 2013 with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting. He chose MBU for a number of reasons. “I wanted to get a conservative education at a Christian college, but wanted to get solid academics and good accreditation,” Chodan says. “That was the main draw, both of those things – Bible core, Christian education, while still pursuing a business degree.” Upon graduation, Chodan went to work for Trout CPA and has been there ever since.

Personal Family Time

Outside of the office, Chodan enjoys spending time with his wife and two kids. The Chodans often travel and explore and can usually be found at the beach or a local amusement park; they love seafood and being outside. Every so often, Chodan will take a three-day weekend to go on an adventure with his family, catching up on some time lost during the busyness of tax season and ERC.

“If I’m not working, I’m spending time with my family,” Chodan says. He refuses to let his passion for ERC and devotion to his clients outweigh his devotion to his family. As he pours his heart into everything he does, Chodan demonstrates what God says in Micah 6:8 in his dealings with those He’s placed in his life: “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”