Provisions Affecting Small Businesses
I’m sure all of you are wondering what impact the health care legislation will have for you as small business owners. Of course there are a variety of items in the bills that can affect employers, but the following are the key provisions that will affect us this year and in the near future. As usual these changes provide another opportunity to do some strategic tax planning in this area.
Tax credits to certain small employers that provide insurance. The new law provides small employers with a tax credit (i.e., a dollar-for-dollar reduction in tax) for nonelective contributions to purchase health insurance for their employees. The credit can offset an employer’s regular tax or its alternative minimum tax (AMT) liability.
Small business employers eligible for the credit. To qualify, a business must offer health insurance to its employees as part of their compensation and contribute at least half the total premium cost. The business must have no more than 25 full-time equivalent employees (“FTEs”), and the employees must have annual full-time equivalent wages that average no more than $50,000 (this does not include owner wages). However, the full amount of the credit is available only to an employer with 10 or fewer FTEs and whose employees have average annual full-time equivalent wages from the employer of less than $25,000. The credit is initially available for any tax year beginning in 2010, 2011, 2012, or 2013.
Most small businesses exempted from penalties for not offering coverage to their employees. Although the new law imposes penalties on certain businesses for not providing coverage to their employees (so-called “pay or play”), most small businesses won’t have to worry about this provision because employers with fewer than 50 employees aren’t subject to the “pay or play” penalty.
For businesses with at least 50 employees, the possible penalties vary depending on whether or not the employer offers health insurance to its employees. If it does not offer coverage and it has at least one full-time employee who receives a premium tax credit, the business will be assessed a fee of $2,000 per full-time employee, excluding the first 30 employees from the assessment. So, for example, an employer with 51 employees who doesn’t offer health insurance to his employees will be subject to a penalty of $42,000 ($2,000 multiplied by 21). Employers with at least 50 employees that offer coverage but have at least one full-time employee receiving a premium tax credit will pay $3,000 for each employee receiving a premium credit (capped at the amount of the penalty that the employer would have been assessed for a failure to provide coverage, or $2,000 multiplied by the number of its full-time employees in excess of 30). These provisions take effect Jan. 1, 2014.
The “Cadillac tax” on high-cost health plans. The new law places an excise tax on high-cost employer-sponsored health coverage (often referred to as “Cadillac” health plans). This is a 40% excise tax on insurance companies, based on premiums that exceed certain amounts. The tax is not on employers themselves unless they are self-funded (this typically occurs at larger firms). However, it is expected that employers and workers will ultimately bear this tax in the form of higher premiums passed on by insurers. Since this tax isn’t currently scheduled to apply until 2017, I’ll not go into the specifics as it will surely change. We will keep an eye on developments in this area in the coming years.
This is just a brief update of these provisions. I’ll be glad to talk with you more about the impact of these changes to your business. I’m also sending a brief outline of the provisions that affect individual taxpayers in a subsequent email.
Please call if you have any questions on this or want to schedule a time for more tax planning.
Provisions Affecting Individual Taxpayers
Higher Medicare taxes on high-income taxpayers. High-income taxpayers will be hit with a double whammy: a tax increase on wages and a new levy on investment income such as interest, dividends and net rental income.
Higher Medicare payroll tax on wages. The Medicare payroll tax is the primary source of financing for Medicare’s hospital insurance trust fund, which pays hospital bills for beneficiaries, who are 65 and older or disabled. Under current law, wages are subject to a 2.9% Medicare payroll tax. Workers and employers pay 1.45% each. Self-employed people pay both halves of the tax (but are allowed to deduct half of this amount for income tax purposes). Under the provisions of the new law, which take in 2013, most taxpayers will continue to pay the 1.45% Medicare hospital insurance tax, but single people earning more than $200,0000 and married couples earning more than $250,000 will be taxed at an additional 0.9% (2.35% in total) on the excess over those base amounts.
NOTE: This is a critical planning piece of the legislation. Since you as a taxpayer have some control over the investment income that you report, and those of you who are also business owners have control over salary amounts, you have the opportunity to impact the affect of this tax by changing your investment strategies. Planning for this over the next couple of years is critical.
Floor on medical expenses deduction raised from 7.5% of adjusted gross income (AGI) to 10%. Effective for tax years beginning after Dec. 31, 2012 The new law raises the floor beneath itemized medical expense deductions from 7.5% of AGI to 10%. Under current law, taxpayers can take an itemized deduction for unreimbursed medical expenses for regular income tax purposes only to the extent that those expenses exceed 7.5% of the taxpayer’s AGI. The AGI floor for individuals age 65 and older (and their spouses) will remain unchanged at 7.5% through 2016.
Limit reimbursement of over-the-counter medications from HSAs, FSAs, and MSAs. The new law excludes the costs for over-the-counter drugs not prescribed by a doctor from being reimbursed through a health reimbursement account (HRA) or health flexible savings accounts (FSAs) and from being reimbursed on a tax-free basis through a health savings account (HSA) or Archer Medical Savings Account (MSA), effective for tax years beginning after Dec. 31, 2010.
Increased penalties on nonqualified distributions from HSAs and Archer MSAs. The new law increases the tax on distributions from a health savings account or an Archer MSA that are not used for qualified medical expenses to 20% (from 10% for HSAs and from 15% for Archer MSAs) of the disbursed amount, effective for distributions made after Dec. 31, 2010.
Limit health flexible spending arrangements (FSAs) to $2,500. Under current law, there is no limit on the amount of contributions to an FSA. Under the new law, however, allowable contributions to health FSAs will capped at $2,500 per year, effective for tax years beginning after Dec. 31, 2012. The dollar amount will be indexed for inflation after 2013.
Dependent coverage in employer health plans. Effective on the enactment date, the new law extends the general exclusion for reimbursements for medical care expenses under an employer-provided accident or health plan to any child of an employee who has not attained age 27 as of the end of the tax year. This change is also intended to apply to the exclusion for employer-provided coverage under an accident or health plan for injuries or sickness for such a child. A parallel change is made for VEBAs and 401(h) accounts. Also, self-employed individuals are permitted to take a deduction for the health insurance costs of any child of the taxpayer who has not attained age 27 as of the end of the tax year.
Excise tax on indoor tanning services. The new law imposes a 10% excise tax on indoor tanning services. The tax, which will be paid by the individual on whom the tanning services are performed but collected and remitted by the person receiving payment for the tanning services, will take effect July 1, 2010.
Liberalized adoption credit and adoption assistance rules. For tax years beginning after Dec. 31, 2009, the adoption tax credit is increased by $1,000, made refundable, and extended through 2011 The adoption assistance exclusion is also increased by $1,000.
Again, this is a brief summary of the changes. If you’d like more information or have any concerns about your tax or financial situation, please call us at (916) 646-8180.