health care

Take small-business tax credits where credits are due

Tax credits reduce tax liability dollar-for-dollar, making them particularly valuable. Two available credits are especially for small businesses that provide certain employee benefits. And one of them might not be available after 2017.
1. Small-business health care credit
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) offers a credit to certain small employers that provide employees with health coverage. The maximum credit is 50% of group health coverage premiums paid by the employer, provided it contributes at least 50% of the total premium or of a benchmark premium.
For 2016, the full credit is available for employers with 10 or fewer full-time equivalent employees (FTEs) and average annual wages of $25,000 or less per employee. Partial credits are available on a sliding scale to businesses with fewer than 25 FTEs and average annual wages of less than $52,000.
To qualify for the credit, online enrollment in the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) generally is required. In addition, the credit can be claimed for only two years, and they must be consecutive. (Credits claimed before 2014 don’t count, however.)
If you meet the eligibility requirements but have been waiting to claim the credit until a future year when you think it might provide more savings, claiming the credit for 2016 may be a good idea. Why? It’s possible the credit will go away for 2018 because lawmakers in Washington are starting to take steps to repeal or replace the ACA.
Most likely any ACA repeal or replacement wouldn’t go into effect until 2018 (or possibly later). So if you claim the credit for 2016, you may also be able to claim it on your 2017 return next year (provided you again meet the eligibility requirements). That way, you could take full advantage of the credit while it’s available.
2. Retirement plan credit 
Small employers (generally those with 100 or fewer employees) that create a retirement plan may be eligible for a $500 credit per year for three years. The credit is limited to 50% of qualified start-up costs.
Of course, you generally can deduct contributions you make to your employees’ accounts under the plan. And your employees enjoy the benefit of tax-advantaged retirement saving.
If you didn’t create a retirement plan in 2016, it might not be too late. Simplified Employee Pensions (SEPs) can be set up as late as the due date of your tax return, including extensions.
Maximize tax savings
Be aware that additional rules apply beyond what we’ve discussed here. We can help you determine whether you’re eligible for these credits. We can also advise you on what other credits you might be eligible for when you file your 2016 return so that you can maximize your tax savings.
© 2017

New HRA offers small employers an attractive, tax-advantaged health care option

In December, Congress passed the 21st Century Cures Act. The long and complex bill covers a broad range of health care topics, but of particular interest to some businesses should be the Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA) provision. Specifically, qualified small employers can now use HRAs to reimburse employees who purchase individual insurance coverage, rather than providing employees with costly group health plans.

The need for HRA relief

Employers can use HRAs to reimburse their workers’ medical expenses, including health insurance premiums, up to a certain amount each year. The reimbursements are excludable from employees’ taxable income, and untapped amounts can be rolled over to future years. HRAs generally have been considered to be group health plans for tax purposes.

But the Affordable Care Act (ACA) prohibits group health plans from imposing annual or lifetime benefits limits and requires such plans to provide certain preventive services without any cost-sharing by employees. And according to previous IRS guidance, “standalone HRAs” — those not tied to an existing group health plan — didn’t comply with these rules, even if the HRAs were used to purchase health insurance coverage that did comply. Businesses that provided the HRAs were subject to fines of $100 per day for each affected employee.

The IRS position was troublesome for smaller businesses that struggled to pay for traditional group health plans or to administer their own self-insurance plans. The changes in the Cures Act give these employers a third option for providing one of the benefits most valued by today’s employees.

The QSEHRA

Under the Cures Act, certain small employers can maintain general purpose, standalone HRAs that aren’t “group health plans” for most purposes under the Internal Revenue Code, Employee Retirement Income Security Act and Public Health Service Act.

More specifically, the legislation allows employers that aren’t “applicable large employers” under the ACA to provide a Qualified Small Employer HRA (QSEHRA) if they don’t offer a group health plan to any of their employees. Annual benefits under a QSEHRA:

  • Can’t exceed an indexed maximum of $4,950 per year ($10,000 if family members are covered),
  • Must be employer-funded (no salary reductions), and
  • Can be used for only IRC Section 213(d) medical care.

QSEHRA benefits must be offered on the same terms to all “eligible employees” (certain individuals can be disregarded) and may be excluded from income only if the recipient has minimum essential coverage. There is a notice requirement and employees’ permitted benefits must be reported on Form W-2.

If you’re interested in exploring the QSEHRA option for your business, contact us for further details.

© 2017

Affordable Care Act Compliance for Small Business: Two Pitfalls to Avoid

by John Bolyard, CPA

Tax Senior at Atchley & Associates, LLP

Many small business owners may not be aware that effective June 30, 2015, small businesses, defined as having 50 or fewer full-time equivalent employees (FTEs), can face severe penalties for continuing to have stand-alone health reimbursement arrangements (HRA) or Employer Payment Plans (EPP).  The penalty for having these types of plans in place after June 30th can be up to $100 per day, per employee.  That calculates to a penalty of $36,500 per year, per employee!  Although, under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), small businesses are not required to offer group health plans to their employees, if they do offer health plans, they must be compliant with the ACAs market reforms.  I will briefly describe these types of plans and conclude with some suggestions as to what can be done if your business currently has one of these plans in place.

Stand-Alone HRAs have been used by small businesses for decades because they have been both tax deductible to the employer and are not included in the employee’s gross income.  It is labeled “Stand-Alone” to distinguish it from other HRAs which are accompanied by qualified group plans.  The HRA is funded entirely by the employer and not through employee salary deductions.  The funds can be used to reimburse employees for qualifying medical expenses such as out-of-pocket medical costs or for individual medical insurance premiums.  The employer has more control over the cost because they can determine the amount to fund the HRA.  Because there is a cap on the amount which can be paid, it is regarded as being out of compliance with the ACA market reforms and is subject to the punitive tax.

EPPs are another alternative which small business owners have commonly used in the past.  Under an EPP, the employer will reimburse the employee for the amount they paid for insurance premiums.  Similar to the HRA, the payments would be tax deductible to the employer and excluded from gross income for the employee.   Because the reimbursement amount is limited to a specific sum determined by the employer, it is also considered to not be ACA compliant.

An exception to the excise fees imposed for these two plans exists when the plan has fewer than two participants who are current employees on the first day of the year (IRS Notice 2015-17).  This also applies to more than 2% owners of S Corporations as long as there is only one current employee enrolled in the plan.  Furthermore, as is commonly the case, if both a husband and wife are owners of the S Corporation, the plan is considered to cover only one employee even if they are being reimbursed for a medical plan that covers the entire family.  So if you are a small business owner and you are the only one covered in your plan, then you would not face the $100 per day penalty.

For small business owners that do have a stand-alone HRA or an EPP as described above which covers two or more employees, then there are some options to consider.  Form 8929 allows for the reporting of the excise tax and the amount which attributable to a reasonable cause.  To qualify for a reasonable cause exception, the non compliant plan should be terminated within 30 days of the date you became aware that it was in violation of the ACA.  In the event that you are audited by the IRS, it is strongly recommended that documentation be maintained to substantiate the date which you learned that the plan was not allowed.

Once action has been taken to terminate the plan, then there are three other important decisions to make. The small business can replace the plan with one that is ACA compliant, discontinue offering any health plan at all, or discontinue offering a health plan and increase employee’s wages.  If you decide to increase the employees’ wages, then it is important that restrictions not be placed on how the employee spends the money (i.e. the employee cannot be required to use the money to buy health insurance).

If you would like to do further reading on this topic, I have listed some helpful links below to the IRS and US Department of Labor websites which address this subject.

www.irs.gov/irb/2015-14_IRB/ar07.html

www.dol.gov/ebsa/newsroom/tr13-03.html

www.irs.gov/Affordable-Care-Act/Employers/Affordable-Care-Act-Tax-Provisions-for-Small-Employers

If you have questions or concerns that the type of plan you have is one of those described above, please feel free to give us a call to discuss.  While we are not ACA compliance experts, we do have a strong network of insurance specialists and we would be more than happy to direct you to someone who can answer your specific insurance questions.  Also, if you have other tax or business questions please feel free to reach out to us.  It is our privilege to be your trusted advisors.