Vernoia, Enterline + Brewer, CPA LLC

Posts tagged ‘Tax credit’

Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit

Reduce Certain Summertime Costs with the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit

Many parents send their children to summer day camps while they work or look for work. The IRS urges those who do to save their paperwork for the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit. Eligible taxpayers may be able claim it on their taxes in 2018 if they paid for day camp or for someone to care for a child, dependent or spouse during 2017. (more…)

Final employer mandate regulations include transition relief for mid-size employers

Mid-size employers may be eligible for recently announced transition relief from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s employer shared responsibility requirements. Final regulations issued by the IRS in late January include transition relief for mid-size employers for 2015. Mid-size employers for this relief are defined generally as businesses employing at least 50 but fewer than 100 full-time employees. Exceptions and complicated measurement rules continue to apply. The final regulations also describe the treatment of seasonal employees, volunteer workers, student employees, the calculation of the employer shared responsibility payment, and much more.

Delayed implementation

As enacted in 2010, the Affordable Care Act required applicable large employers (ALEs) to make an assessable payment if any full-time employee is certified to receive a health insurance premium tax credit or cost-sharing reduction, and either:

  • The employer does not offer to its full-time employees and their dependents the opportunity to enroll in minimum essential coverage (MEC) under an eligible employer-sponsored plan; or
  • The employer offers its full-time employees and their dependents the opportunity to enroll in MEC under an employer-sponsored plan, but the coverage is either unaffordable or does not provide minimum value.

The employer shared responsibility requirement was scheduled to apply January 1, 2014, the same effective date for the individual mandate and the health insurance premium assistance tax credit. In July 2013, the Obama administration announced that employer shared responsibility requirements would not apply for 2014.

The final regulations make further changes. Under the final regulations, the employer mandate will generally apply to large employers (employers with 100 or more employees) starting in 2015 and to qualified mid-size employers (employers with 50 to 99 employees) starting in 2016. Employers that employ fewer than 50 full-time employees (including full-time equivalents (FTEs)) are not subject to the employer mandate.

Caution. Determining the number of employees for purposes of the employer shared responsibility requirement is a complex calculation for many employers that is beyond the scope of this article. The Affordable Care Act and the final regulations describe how to calculate full-time employees (including FTEs) and also which employees are excluded from that calculation. Please contact our office for details about the Affordable Care Act and your business.

Transition relief for mid-size employers

Qualified employers are not subject to the employer mandate until 2016 if they satisfy certain conditions. Among other requirements, the employer must employ on average at least 50 full-time employees (including FTEs) but fewer than 100 full-time employees (including FTEs) on business days during 2014. Additionally, the final regulations impose a broad maintenance of previously offered heath coverage requirement.

The final regulations do not allow an employer to reduce the size of its workforce or the overall hours of service of its employees in order to satisfy the workforce size condition and thus be eligible for the transition relief. A reduction in workforce size or overall hours of service for bona fide business reasons, however, will not be considered to have been made in order to satisfy the workforce size condition. This provision is certainly one that is expected to generate many questions. The IRS may provide additional guidance and/or clarification in 2014 and our office will keep you posted of developments.

Additionally, the final regulations also modify the extent of required coverage. Proposed regulations required that the employer provide coverage to 95 percent of its full-time employees. The final regulations delay the 95 percent requirement until 2016 for larger employers. For 2015, larger employers need only provide coverage to 70 percent of their full-time employees.

Special types of employees

Since passage of the Affordable Care Act, questions have arisen about the treatment of certain types of employees. These include seasonal employees, short-term employees, volunteer workers, and student employees. The final regulations clarify some of the issues surrounding these employees.

Many industries employ seasonal workers. The final regulations describe who may qualify as a seasonal worker. The retail industry, which employs many workers for the holiday season, asked the IRS to specify which events or periods of time that would be treated as holiday seasons. The final regulations, however, do not indicate specific holidays or the length of any holiday season as these will differ for different employers, the IRS explained.

For volunteer workers, such as volunteer fire fighters and first responders, the final regulations provide that an individual’s hours of service do not include hours worked as a “bona fide volunteer.” This definition, the IRS explained, encompasses any volunteer who is an employee of a government entity or a Code Sec. 501(c)(3) organization whose compensation is limited to reimbursement of certain expenses or other forms of compensation.

Many college, university and vocational students are engaged in federal and state work-study programs. The final regulations provide that hours of service for purposes of the employer mandate do not include hours of service performed by students in federal or other governmental work-study programs. The IRS noted the potential for abuse by labeling individuals who receive compensation as “interns” to avoid the employer mandate. Therefore, the IRS did not adopt a special rule for student employees working as interns for an outside employer, and the general rules apply.

The final regulations also describe how the employer mandate may or may not apply to adjunct faculty, members of religious orders, airline industry employees, employees who must work “on-call” hours, short-term employees and others. Special rules may apply to these employees in some cases.

Waiting period limitation

The Affordable Care Act generally requires that an employee (or dependent) cannot wait more than 90 days before employer-provided coverage becomes effective. The IRS issued final regulations in February on the 90-day waiting period limitation. The IRS also issued proposed regulations generally allowing employers to require new employees to complete a reasonable orientation period. The proposed regulations set forth one month as the maximum length of any orientation period.

If you have any questions about the final regulations for the employer mandate, the transition relief, the 90-day waiting period, or any aspects of the Affordable Care Act, please contact our office at (908) 725-4414.

ACA impact SHOP, tax credits, Marketplaces, and more

Despite the 16-day government shutdown in October, a number of important developments took place impacting the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, especially for individuals and businesses. The Small Business Health Option Program (SHOP) was temporarily delayed, Congress took a closer look at income verification for the Code Sec. 36B premium assistance tax credit, and held a hearing on the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate. Individuals trying to enroll in coverage through HealthCare.gov also experienced some technical problems in October.

SHOP

The Affordable Care Act created two vehicles to deliver health insurance: Marketplaces for individuals and the SHOP for small businesses. Marketplaces launched as scheduled on October 1 in every state and the District of Columbia. Qualified individuals can enroll in a Marketplace to obtain health insurance. Coverage through a Marketplace will begin January 1, 2014.

The October 1 start of SHOP, however, was delayed. Small employers may start the application process on October 1, 2013 but all functions of SHOP will not be available until November, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reported. If employers and employees enroll by December 15, 2013, coverage will begin January 1, 2014, HHS explained.

SHOP is closely related to the Code Sec. 45R small employer health insurance tax credit. This tax credit is designed to help small employers offset the cost of providing health insurance to their employees. After 2013, small employers must participate in SHOP to take advantage of the Code Sec. 45R tax credit. For tax years beginning during or after 2014, the maximum Code Sec. 45R credit for an eligible small employer (other than a tax-exempt employer) is 50 percent of the employer’s premium payments made on behalf of its employees under a qualifying arrangement for QHPs offered through a SHOP Marketplace. The maximum credit for tax-exempt employers for those years is 35 percent. Maximum and minimum credits are based upon the level of employee wages. If you have any questions about SHOP and the Code Sec. 45R credit, please contact our office.

Code Sec. 36B tax credit

Effective January 1, 2014, qualified individuals may be eligible for the Code Sec. 36B premium assistance tax credit to help pay for health coverage through a Marketplace. The credit is linked to household income in relation to the federal poverty line (FPL). Generally, taxpayers whose household income for the year is between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty line for their family size may be eligible for the credit.

When taxpayers apply for coverage in a Marketplace, the Marketplace will estimate the amount of the Code Sec. 36B credit that the taxpayer may be able to claim for the tax year. Based upon the estimate made by the Marketplace, the individual can decide if he or she wants to have all, some, or none of the estimated credit paid in advance directly to the insurance company to be applied to monthly premiums. Taxpayers who do not opt for advance payment may claim the credit when they file their federal income tax return for the year.

The October 16 agreement to reopen the federal government directed HHS to certify to Congress that Marketplaces verify eligibility for the Code Sec. 36B credit. HHS must submit a report to Congress by January 1, 2014 on the procedures for verifying eligibility for the credit and follow-up with a report by July 1, 2014 on the effectiveness of its income verification procedures.

Employer mandate

The Affordable Care Act generally requires an applicable large employer to make an assessable payment (a penalty) if the employer fails to offer minimum essential health coverage and a number of other requirements are not met. The employer mandate was scheduled to take effect January 1, 2014. However, the Obama administration delayed it for an additional year, to 2015.

In October, the House Small Business Committee heard testimony on the definition of full-time employee status for purposes of the employer mandate. An applicable large employer for purposes of the employer mandate is an employer that employs at least 50 full-time employees or a combination of full-time and part-time employees that equals at least 50. A full-time employee with respect to any month is an employee who is employed on average at least 30 hours of service per week.

Employers testifying before the GOP-chaired committee urged an increase in the 30-hour threshold. “Many small businesses simply cannot afford to provide coverage to employees who average 30 hours per week,” the owner of a supermarket told the committee. “Business owners will have to make tough choices and many part-time employees will face reduced hours,” he added. “Many franchise businesses are being turned upside down by the new costs, complexities and requirements of the law,” another business owner told the committee.

Legislation (HR 2575) has been introduced in the House to repeal the 30-hour threshold for classification as a full-time equivalent employee for purposes of the employer mandate and to replace it with 40 hours. The bill has been referred to the House Ways and Means Committee.

HealthCare.gov

As has been widely reported, the individuals seeking to enroll in Marketplace coverage through HealthCare.gov experienced some online problems in October. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has undertaken a comprehensive review of HealthCare.gov. In the meantime, HHS reminded individuals that in-person assistance centers are open as are customer call centers.

Enrollment

The Affordable Care Act generally requires individuals to carry health insurance after 2013 or make a shared responsibility payment (also known as a penalty). For 2014, the penalty is $95 or the flat fee of one percent of taxable income, $325 in 2015 or the flat fee of two percent of taxable income, $695 in 2016 or 2.5 percent of taxable income (the $695 amount is indexed for inflation after 2016).

Open enrollment in the Affordable Care Act’s Marketplaces began October 1, 2013 and runs through March 31, 2014. The enrollment period overlaps with the January 1, 2014 requirement to carry health insurance or make a shared responsibility payment. On social media, the Obama administration clarified that individuals who enroll in coverage through a Marketplace at anytime during the enrollment period will not be responsible for a penalty.

If you have any questions about these developments or the Affordable Care Act in general, please contact our office at (908) 725-4414.

FAQs-Important provisions to Affordable Care Act?

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA)-the Obama administration’s health care reform law-was enacted in 2010 and many of its provisions have taken effect. But other important provisions will first take effect in 2014 and 2015. These provisions of the law will require affected parties to take action-or at least to be aware of the law’s impact-in 2013 and 2014. These provisions affect individuals, families, employers, and health insurers, among others.

Individual mandate

The individual mandate will apply beginning in 2014. The mandate applies separately for each month. Individuals and their dependents must either carry health insurance or pay a penalty, known as the individual shared responsibility payment. The health insurance must qualify as minimum essential coverage (MEC). Most employer-offered plans, as well as Medicare and Medicaid, qualify as MEC. Certain groups are exempt from the individual mandate, including members of a health sharing ministry, taxpayers without an income tax filing requirement, members of federally-recognized Indian tribes, and persons for whom coverage is unaffordable (more than eight percent of the individual’s household income).

Exchanges

Affordable health insurance marketplaces (exchanges) are ramping up and will be open for business October 1, 2013. Exchanges will provide an open enrollment season during which individuals and families without health insurance can sign up for an insurance policy offered through the exchange, effective January 1, 2014. Anyone needing insurance, or looking for cheaper insurance, can use an exchange. Persons who obtain coverage through an exchange will avoid owing a penalty under the individual mandate. Employers have to start notifying existing employees about the existence of exchanges by October 1, 2013, and must notify new employees when hired.

Low-income individuals and families who purchase insurance through an exchange may qualify for the health insurance premium tax credit for 2014 if their household income falls between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level for 2013. Individuals who do not have a filing requirement for 2013 do not need to file a return to qualify for the credit. Individuals will generally self-certify as to their eligibility for the credit. Based on this information, the exchange will determine whether the insured person qualifies for the credit. Taxpayers may qualify for an advanced credit; in this case, the exchange will pay the credit directly to the insurer during 2014 to offset a portion of the health insurance premium.

Small employer credit

Small employers may be able to claim the maximum small employer health insurance credit, if the employer has 10 or fewer employees and average wages per employee of $25,000 or less. While the credit has been around since 2010, the amount of the credit increases for 2014 and 2015 to 50 percent of premiums paid for taxable employers, and 35 percent for nonprofit employers.

Employer mandate

The employer mandate (the employer shared responsibility payment) was scheduled to take effect in 2014, but the IRS postponed it until 2015. Nevertheless, during 2014 employers will want to start paying attention to whether they would qualify as an “applicable large employer” (ALE), since status as an ALE for 2015 depends on 2014 employees. An employer who has 50 or more full-time equivalent employees is an ALE. New employers will be treated as an ALE if they “reasonable expect” to have 50 employees. Employers that are members of an affiliated group of companies under Code Sec. 414 must determine their status as ALEs based on the number of employees in the group.

Employers will also want to look at their health insurance offerings. Once the employer mandate applies, employers must offer MEC to 95 percent of their full-time employees. The coverage must also be affordable and must provide minimum value. Employers should look at whether they need to redesign their plan offerings or change the employees’ share of the cost to comply with these requirements. If the employer’s coverage does not satisfy these requirements, if the employee purchases insurance through an exchange, and if an employee qualifies for the insurance premium tax credit, the employer may be responsible for the employer mandate and owe a penalty.

Employer reporting. The requirements for employers and insurers to report health insurance coverage provided to employees and others were also postponed until 2015. Nevertheless, the IRS is encouraging health insurer issuers to experiment with the requirements by filing the necessary reports for 2014. Larger employers also have to report the value of their health insurance coverage on the employee’s Form W-2. The amount reported is not taxable.

Wellness programs. Beginning in 2014, employers may offer wellness programs as part of their health care benefits offered to employees. Employers may offer benefits, such as premium reductions, to employees who satisfy certain health-related requirements.

IRS issues new rules on small employer health insurance credit

Small employers will be able to purchase health insurance for their employees for 2014 and subsequent years through Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) Marketplaces. Many of these small employers may also be eligible for the Code Sec. 45R tax credit that helps to offset the cost of insurance. In August, the IRS issued new rules on the Code Sec. 45R small employer health insurance credit in the form of proposed regulations. The regulations describe in detail how employers can claim the credit, especially for years after 2013.

Tax credit

The Code Sec. 45R credit was created by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Affordable Care Act) to encourage small employers to offer health insurance coverage to their employees. A small employer is eligible for the credit if it has fewer than 25 full-time employees (FTEs); the average annual wages of employees are less than $50,000 (adjusted for inflation after 2013), and the employer pays at least 50 percent of the cost of premiums. The Code Sec. 45R credit phases-out for employers if the number of FTEs exceeds 10, or if the average annual wages for FTEs exceed $25,000 (adjusted for inflation after 2013). The phaseout of the credit operates in such a way that an employer with exactly 25 FTEs, or with average annual wages exactly equal to $50,000 (adjusted for inflation after 2013), is not eligible for the credit.

SHOP Marketplaces

When Congress passed the Affordable Care Act in 2010 there was no requirement that employers obtain insurance through a SHOP Marketplace (because they did not exist). The requirement to offer insurance through a SHOP Marketplace starts after 2013. SHOP Marketplaces are scheduled to open on October 1, 2013, with coverage starting January 1, 2014.

Employees and hours of service

Determining who is an “employee” requires a complex calculation. Critics of the credit have said this complexity has discouraged small employers from taking advantage of the credit. For example, the Affordable Care Act and the regulations exclude certain employees from being counted as FTEs because of their status. These include sole proprietors, partners, and their family members (spouses, children, step-children, parents, and other family members). There are also special rules for seasonal workers, part-time workers and leased employees.

Employers must also calculate how many hours service each employee performs. Hours of service include vacation, holiday, illness, incapacity (including disability), layoff, jury duty, military duty, or leave of absence, but hours in excess of 2,080 for a single employer are excluded. The IRS allows employers to calculate hours of service using any of three methods: actual hours worked; days-worked equivalency; or weeks-worked equivalency.

Let’s look at an example from the IRS:

ABC Co. pays five employees wages for 2,080 hours each, three employees wages for 1,040 hours each, and one employee wages for 2,300 hours. The employer uses the actual hours worked method to calculate hours of service. The employer’s FTEs would be calculated as follows:

10,400 hours for the five employees paid for 2,080 hours (5 x 2,080)
3,120 hours for the three employees paid for 1,040 hours (3 x 1,040)
2,080 hours for the one employee paid for 2,300 hours (lesser of 2,300 and 2,080)

The total hours counted is 15,600 hours. The employer has seven FTEs (15,600 divided by 2,080 = 7.5, rounded to the next lowest whole number).

Maximum credit

For tax years beginning during or after 2014, the maximum Code Sec. 45R credit is 50 percent. The maximum credit for tax-exempt employers for tax years beginning during or after 2014 is 35 percent.  These percentages were lower before 2014 (35 percent for for-profit employers and 25 percent for tax-exempt employers).

The IRS explained in the proposed regulations that an employer may claim the credit for two-consecutive tax years, beginning with the first tax year in or after 2014 in which the eligible small employer attaches a Form 8941, Credit for Small Employer Health Insurance Premiums, to its income tax return, or in the case of a tax-exempt eligible small employer, attaches a Form 8941 to the Form 990-T, Exempt Organization Business Income Tax Return.

Transition rules

Through the proposed regulations, the IRS has provided employers some relief pending the transition into the 2014 tax year. For example, an eligible small employer does not need to switch plans mid-year to comply with the requirement that an employer offer coverage to its employees through a SHOP Exchange. An employer that has a plan year that begins after the start of its tax year may count premiums paid for the entire 2014 taxable year if the employer begins offering coverage through a SHOP Exchange on the first day of the 2014 health plan year; and the employer offers coverage during the period before the first day of the 2014 health plan year that would have qualified the employer for the credit under the rules applicable to years before 2014.

Reliance regulations

The proposed regs won’t be officially effective until finalized. Taxpayers, however, may rely on the proposed regs for tax years beginning after December 31, 2013, and before December 31, 2014. If future guidance is more restrictive, the IRS explained that future guidance would be applied without retroactive effect and employers will be given time to come into compliance.

If you have any questions about the Code Sec. 45R credit, please contact our office at (908) 725-4414.