Wednesday, August 21, 2013

How the Affordable Care Act Could Affect Small-Business Taxes

Small-business taxes are about to become significantly more complicated thanks to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). Understanding and planning for these changes now instead of later will give your small business a competitive edge in the coming tax years. 

Because of PPACA, small-business owners need qualified accountants more than ever before. If a career in accounting interests you, then now is a good time to find out more about available online graduate tax programs. The IRS has a good resource center for more in-depth exploration, but it's no replacement for a qualified accountant.

The PPACA Contains No Mandate for Small Businesses

All small businesses with fewer than 50 employees are exempt from any employer responsibility requirements. They can take advantage of tax credits and health insurance exchanges if they want to offer coverage.

Starting in 2015, businesses with over 50 employees that either do not offer coverage or do not offer “affordable” coverage will have to pay a fine.

· In businesses with more than 50 workers, the employee's share of the premium for his or her own policy should cost no more than 9.5 percent of his or her wages. If the employee's share of premiums exceeds 9.5 percent of wages, then the coverage is not considered “affordable.” Businesses can offer insurance for family members, but employee contributions toward those policies are not subject to the 9.5 percent premium cap.

· Businesses with more than 50 employees that offer no health insurance will pay a $2,000 fine for each employee after the first 30. For example, if you have 53 employees, you will pay $2,000 x 23, or $46,000, if one of your employees receives a tax credit for buying insurance through an exchange.

· Businesses with more than 50 employees that do not meet the 9.5 percent requirement will also pay a penalty. These companies will pay $3,000 for every employee that purchases individual coverage through a health insurance exchange and receives either a premium tax credit or a cost-sharing reduction.

Tax Credits Small Businesses Can Get for Offering Health Insurance

Small businesses meeting the following requirements are eligible for a tax credit to offset the cost of purchasing health insurance for employees:

  • Employ fewer than 25 full-time employees. Workers count as full-time if they work 30 or more hours per week. Two part-time workers is the equivalent of one full-time worker under the law. Seasonal employees can work no more than 120 days per year or else they will count as part-time workers.
  • Pay average annual wages of $50,000 or less
  • Contribute 50 percent of total premium cost for employees

Currently, small businesses are eligible for a tax credit of up to 35 percent of their contributions toward employee premiums. In 2014, the credit rises to 50 percent of contributions as long as insurance is purchased through state insurance exchanges. The 50 percent credit is offered for two years.

Tax Planning Issues to Talk Over With Your Accountant

When you're deciding what you want to do about offering health insurance, these are some questions that you should address with your accountant:

  • How many employees should I hire? If you're near the 50-employee cutoff, then you may want to make sure that you have no more than 50 employees to avoid penalties. Also, you may want to be careful to limit your seasonal employees to 120 days. 
  • Will I benefit from purchasing employee coverage from state health insurance exchanges? Combining the tax credit with potentially lower premiums from the state health insurance exchange may lower your overall costs. Alternatively, a private insurance option may be more affordable. 
  • Should I offer coverage if I have more than 50 employees? Your accountant can calculate whether coverage would cost more than the penalty for not having it. You'll also need to weigh whether insurance is an important benefit for hiring and retaining employees.
  • What procedures should I change? Work with your accountant to adjust your HR and payroll procedures to meet the new reporting requirements.

Finally, tell your accountant that you expect to be kept informed about changes in the health care laws. In all likelihood, the law will undergo changes and modifications as it rolls out. Working closely with your accountant to navigate the changes could save your small business a significant amount of money.

About the Author: Gary Robertson, M.A., C.P.A., provides tax planning services for small businesses.

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