Thursday, September 18, 2014

How will Obamacare affect businesses in 2015?

One of the challenges in writing about the Affordable Care Act is that the law still is fluid, changing as the president and lawmakers in Washington weigh the consequences of some of its requirements.
For example, 2014 was to be the year in which employers with 50 or more employees would be required to offer health insurance or pay a penalty. That changed to 2015, and then it changed yet again. Now, businesses with 100 or more employees face the 2015 deadline. Those with 50 to 99 employees have until 2016 to comply.
The law ultimately will affect the taxes and operation of any business with the equivalent of 50 or more full-time employees. It will require those businesses to offer coverage that is affordable and of minimum value, or to pay a fine.
Affordable coverage, according to the law, should cost employees no more than 9.5 percent of their W-2 income. For coverage to meet minimum value standards, it must pay at least 60 percent of costs.
Employers who do offer insurance must report the cost of their employee health care premiums on their employees’ W-2 forms. They will also have to include health care costs on their business income taxes.
Those who do not offer insurance may face fines. Fines are levied if at least one worker uses the health insurance marketplace and that worker qualifies for a tax credit. The fine: $2,000 per employee, after the first 30 employees.
You may think it’s simple for an employer to determine if his or her business hires 50 or more full-time employees, but for some, that figure fluctuates.
Full-time employees are those who work 30 hours or more. That’s easy enough, but businesses with seasonal or part-time employees must calculate those hours, too. Each batch of 30 hours is equivalent to a full-time position. If those hours bring an employer’s full-time equivalents to 50 or more, the business faces the mandate.
Fortunately, employers with 50 to 99 employees have 2015 to pay close attention to their payroll, talk with their tax adviser and make necessary adjustments before the 2016 calendar year.
Those businesses with 100 or more employees also have 2015 to talk with the tax adviser and make adjustments. Although they are subject to the employer mandate in 2015, they are required to cover up to 70 percent of their employees, not the 95 percent that was the original target. Those businesses will have to cover up to 95 percent of their employees starting in 2016.
As for businesses with fewer than 50 employees, they will find little change in 2015. Those business owners are not required to offer health care coverage, but they may be eligible for a health care credit if they use the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) and offer insurance to their employees. Employers can claim the credit on their business income tax returns. They can go into the marketplace at any time to make changes.
The upcoming year will force business owners to grapple with the Affordable Care Act, but they need to continue to give voice to ways to improve the law and its implementation. Employer concerns helped push back the employer mandate deadlines, and their input can continue to shape the law.