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Who Benefits from Health Care Reform?
There's plenty of debate about whether the new health care reform bill is good for America. Whatever your views, it looks like the Affordable Care Act - a massive piece of legislation passed by Congress in March - is here to stay.
The majority of Americans without health insurance are the owners or employees of small businesses. For many of these individuals, health insurance has been unaffordable for themselves, their families, and their employees.
But the new legislation is set to change that. It makes it less expensive to purchase insurance - and it provides tax credits for small business owners who do.
And, because the aim of the bill is to get the vast majority of Americans at least minimally covered, the Act imposes tax penalties on those who don't purchase insurance.
If you own a small business or are a sole proprietor, read on for an overview of how the bill affects you.
What Do Small Businesses Get?
Cheaper Insurance through Health Exchanges. The Affordable Care Act sets up state-run Health Insurance Exchanges that allow individuals and small business owners to get the same discounted insurance rates larger corporations have been enjoying for years. This makes coverage much more affordable for these folks.
Tax Credits. The Act comes with $40 billion in tax credits for small businesses who offer health insurance coverage to their employees. The federal government expects that more than 60% of small employers - or 4 million firms - will be eligible for these incentives. These are meant to recover some of the companies' cost of offering coverage.
Effective now, if your business employs 25 or fewer people who are making $50,000/year or less on average, you get up to 35% credit on health insurance premiums. The credit is based on a sliding scale, with smaller companies that have lower-paid workers receiving the largest credit.
In 2014, if you buy that insurance through a Health Care Exchange, the maximum credit rises to 50% for 2 years.
What If You're Self-Employed?
Individuals who work for themselves can buy insurance on the health exchanges and also receive more affordable rates.
To help pay for the premiums, people whose annual income is up to four times the poverty level receive federal subsidies.
The Coverage Mandate - Are You Affected?
Small businesses with 50 or fewer employees are not required to provide insurance to their employees under the new health care law.
However, larger companies with more than 50 full-time employees do need to provide insurance, beginning in 2014, or face tax penalties of $2,000 annually per worker above 30 workers.
Everyone Must Participate - or Face a Fine
If you don't buy coverage, you're faced with a tax penalty to the federal government, beginning in 2014. This fine starts fairly small, but by 2016, when it's fully phased in, it's more substantial. An insurance-less person would have to pony up whichever is greater: $695 for each uninsured family member, up to a maximum of $2,085; or 2.5 percent of household income.
Special Attention for Three Industries
Employers in three industries - tanning salons, construction, and restaurants - see these specific changes under health care reform:
Tanning Salons. In July 2010, a 10% sales tax was instituted on individuals using tanning salons. The revenue raised by this measure is meant to help pay for the costs of the Act.
Construction. In the construction industry, a higher percentage of companies must comply with the 2014 coverage mandate - those with just 5 or more employees.
Restaurants. Under the mandated insurance provision that goes into effect in 2014, two part-time workers equal one full-time worker.
Want to Know More? Give Us a Call
There's a lot more to the Affordable Care Act than we've covered here - including the elimination of denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions and free preventive care. At a whopping 2,600 pages, this bill is complicated and far-reaching.
If you have any questions about how this bill affects your business and your tax obligations, please let us know. We're here to help.
How to Prepare for a Successful Retirement
As you approach retirement, it's vital that you pay attention to key financial questions. Here are some of the items you should check:
Health Insurance. Are you among the lucky few who will continue to be covered after retirement? If not, you'll need to replace the coverage. If you will be eligible for Medicare, you may want to start checking up on "Medigap" coverage.
Other Types of Insurance. Once you retire, you may need to replace employer-provided life insurance with extra coverage. You should also consider purchasing long-term health care insurance in case of a lengthy nursing home stay in the future.
Social Security. Decide whether you want to take early Social Security benefits if you're retiring before your full retirement age. You can get 80% of your benefits at age 62.
Company Plan Payout. You should plan well in advance how you'll take the payout from your pension plan or 401(k) plan. Will you transfer the funds to an IRA? How will the funds be invested?
Relocation. If you're planning a move to another state, explore the financial ramifications of living there before you move.
Let Us Help. Retirement is an exciting time - but a little advance planning makes for a much smoother transition. Use this checklist, and contact us for additional guidance.
Ensuring Your Family's Security with an Estate Plan
No matter what your net worth, you should have an estate plan in place. Such a plan ensures that your family is cared for and your assets maximized upon your death. An estate plan consists of your will, health care documents, powers of attorney, life insurance coverage, and post-mortem letters.
For those of you with an estate plan already, good for you! But we have additional advice: make it a priority to review the plan every two years to see whether it needs updating.
Here are the life events that necessitate an update to your plan:
Here are some of the action steps you may need to take when you update:
Because of the recent amendments to the estate tax laws, many estate plans may need to be revised. Give us a call for a review of your situation.
Financial Planning Dos & Don'ts
During these uncertain economic times, financial planning has become a challenge. Here are a few financial planning suggestions that can add to your peace of mind about financial matters and simplify your life:
Your Pension Plan - Small Changes for 2011
In 2011, dollar limitations for pension plans and other retirement-related items will either remain unchanged, or the inflation adjustments for 2011 will be small. Check out what to expect in the new year....
Should You File a Tax Return?
Do you ever wonder whether your income is high enough to warrant the filing of a tax return? Because the minimum income level varies depending on filing status, age, and the type of income you receive, it can be a bit complicated.
Use the following guide to determine whether you must file a federal income tax return for 2010.
Married Filing Jointly
If you are not living with your spouse at the end of the year or you weren't living with them on the day they passed away, the IRS requires you to file a return if your gross income is at least $3,650. Each personal exemption in 2010 is worth $3,650.
For married persons filing a separate return, no matter what age, you must file a return if gross income is at least $3,650.
Head of Household
Qualifying Widow or Widower
Other Situations That Require Filing
Other situations include:
You Owe Certain Taxes. If you owe FICA or Medicare taxes (also called payroll taxes) on unreported tips or other reported income that were not collected, you must file a return. You must also file a tax return if you are liable for any alternative minimum tax. Finally, you must file a return if you owe taxes on individual retirement accounts, Archer MSA accounts, or an employer-sponsored retirement plan.
Advance Earned Income Tax Credit Payments. The Earned Income Tax Credit is a federal income tax credit for eligible low-income workers. The credit reduces the amount of tax an individual owes, which may be returned in the form of a refund. If you receive advance payments for the earned income credit from your employer, you must file a return.
Self-Employment Earnings. If your net earnings from self-employment are $400 or more, you must file a return.
Church Income. If you earn employee income of at least $108.28 from either a church or a qualified church-controlled organization that is exempt from employer-paid FICA and Medicare taxes, you must file a return.
Filing Status - What You Need to Know
Your federal tax filing status is based on your marital and family situation. It is an important factor in determining your standard deduction and your correct amount of tax, and whether you must file a return.
Your marital status on the last day of the year determines your status for the entire year. If more than one filing status applies to you, you may choose the one that gives you the lowest tax obligation.
There are five filing status options:
We can definitely help you determine which filing status is best for your situation. Just call us up or send an email.
Make Charitable Contributions
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Evaluate Your Progress
Tax Due Dates for December 2010
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