Six states now require residents to have health insurance coverage in 2020 or they may pay an increased state tax penalty. California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington DC have laws similar to the Affordable Care Act health insurance requirement that expired last year. Other states are expected to follow this trend if the federal government does not set a national standard. (At Freedom Benefits we have long advocated that this should be a state-controlled and not federal legal issue).
Most types of insurance including Medicare, Medicaid and employer-sponsored coverage satisfy the coverage requirement. Many exceptions to the penalty are built into the law for people with lower income, where insurance is too expensive, or who otherwise cannot be covered by insurance.
If you live in one of these states and aren’t covered in 2020, the possible penalty is calculated when you file your 2020 tax return in 2021. The penalty is $695 for an adult and half that much for dependent children. Some people with higher incomes have to pay 2.5% of their income. Health insurance generally costs 5% to 10% of income so some people still prefer the less expensive option of paying the penalty.
Freedom Benefits works with individuals to find affordable coverage or find a way to avoid the penalty, including filing the tax return with the proper notations to avoid the extra tax.
A range of new federal regulations open the door for resurgence of small business Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs) for 2020. These low cost, high efficiency health plans have been mostly dormant since the passage of the Affordable Care Act. The new plans offer the potential of lower costs, lower taxes and increased employee satisfaction. But they also bring legal risks and privacy concerns for the employees of small businesses.
HRAs vary from one employer to the next and are highly customizable. That makes it difficult to make blanket statements about their effectiveness in all small business situations. It is best to consider the options and benefits on a case by case basis. Freedom Benefits founder Tony Novak CPA explains more in this short video:
A free no-obligation consultation is available to discuss the options for your business. Please use the chat link on the bottom right corner to request follow-up or click here to schedule a call.
This blog title is a slogan used by the world’s most popular personal and small business software maker. For my purposes as an adviser, I’m using it here to refer to the accounting for essential financial transactions between an employer and employee: payroll, taxes and employee benefits.
Small businesses have wide latitude in some areas of their financial operations (offering employee health insurance, for example) and little margin for variance in others (like employee wage taxes) . Yet the goal is the same for all: accomplish these transactions and reporting requirements timely and accurately at minimal time and expense.
The best practice
Today’s small businesses have enormously powerful tools available at minimal cost. To make the most of these technologies it almost always makes sense to integrate the small business banking, payroll, taxes and employee benefits under one platform with one internal person (often the small business owner) and one outside person (usually the accountant) in charge of these systems. Have a clear written agreement on who is responsible for specific tasks, a timeline and provisions to handle unexpected events. (A copy of my small business engagement agreements are available at tonynovak.com). Integration of services using the latest AI driven technology almost always saves time and money.
What can go wrong?
Of course, very few small business owners deliberately choose to fail on these essential accounting areas. Yet available data indicates that a high percentage have run into trouble in the past. Limited data using newer technology is far more favorable. As an anecdotal observation, the percentage of employers with a wage tax violation is somewhere around 25%. The percentage of clients with a violation using current wage tax platform is 0%. The technology works! The most common problem issue is lack of appropriate budget to accounting functions. A typical small business devotes 2% to 4% of its gross revenues on these requirements. These are benchmarks and certainly some fall outside that range. But businesses that go much below are typically the ones that run into tax, accounting or financial management trouble.
How to look for savings
The easiest way to is to request an initial analysis of your current financial accounting operations. An experienced adviser can compare this to the norms among similar small businesses and recommend approaches that are working better lately. This service is available for a small fee that is likely only pennies on the dollar of savings available. The analysis process from beginning to end likely takes a few discussions totaling an hour or two. When I handle these engagements I prepare a one page report for the business owner in checklist format so that we can discuss and easily prioritize the areas of potential gains. In today’s rapidly evolving technology environment, it makes sense to re-evaluate every two years or so. In most cases, business owners tell me they were not even aware of the existence of the most common cost-saving and time-saving tools.
My question to other small business owners: How do you plan to simplify the business of life? I would be pleased to hear your thoughts. Reach me online or call/text 302-404-3263.