By R.J. DeLuke
Businesses taking a look at tax issues in 2014 should keep an eye on what is ostensibly a health care issue, local consultants say.
The Affordable Health Care Act, commonly known as Obama Care, is something that affects the purse strings for businesses. With many questions still unanswered as the process rolls out, advisers are urging caution.
Rich Fuller CPA of Glens Falls said on of the problems, from a tax point of view, is that it is still not known whether premiums an employer might pay under certain scenarios are tax deductible. “I haven’t found anybody who has provided any clarity yet” about the Affordable Health Care Act and it various ramifications for business owners.
Businesses with 50 or more employees either have to provide insurance plans for workers or go into he market for coverages, which is a proviso of Obama Care. Fuller said employers, in concert with their tax and/or financial advisers, will need to keep a eye on developments and make a decision to let the employees use the federal act or come up with a plan for them.
The fine that was to be imposed in 2014 for people who don’t sign up for coverage has been postponed until 2015, he said, leaving some time to figure things out and hopefully make a sound decision. But more clarity from the government is needed.
Allen B. Powers CPA in Glens Falls said people should be aware that the $95 fine people mention most in regard to the health care act can in some cases be 1 percent of a person’s household income, which can be more expensive.
He said the fine for businesses with 50-plus employees under the federal act is $2,000 per employee above 35. For large companies that can add up to a significant sum, so decision making on health care should be approached with a good deal of seriousness.
Also, he noted, even if employees opt into the make lace and don’t have insurance through a company, businesses will have to collect nine-tenths of 1 percent from employees paychecks to submit to the government for the Affordable Health Care Act. It’s a extra record-keeping task for a business.
Fuller said there is a tax credit for businesses who pay more than 50 percent of employee health care costs. That has to be taken into consideration when decisions are made.
“Employers have to explore their options. It’s more important now than ever,” Fuller said. Fuller noted that the 2014 tax season for business opens on Jan. 31, 10 days later than normal. That is due to the 16-day government shutdown that took place in 2013. No returns, paper or electronic, will be processed by the IRS before this date.
He advised that businesses shouldn’t relax, but should still get materials to their tax preparers as soon as possible so they can do the best possible job for their clients.
Among law changes to consider, Fuller said is Section 179 regarding business expenses. The maximum expense deduction for equipment purchases this year is $25,000, down from $200,000 if it is placed in service during 2014.
“That’s a big deal for a lot of companies,” he said.
Powers said there is a change in the rate for the amount that can be claimed for business miles driven. It will be 56 cents per mile for 2014, down from 56.5 cents per mile in 2013.
If a business provide transportation fringe benefits to employees, in 2014 the maximum monthly limitation for transportation in a commuter highway vehicle as well as any transit pass is $130, down from $245 in 2013. The monthly limitation for qualified parking is $250, said Powers.
Powers said businesses need to make numerous adjustments during the course of a year — decisions about pricing, hiring, investments, and so on. Cost accounting is part of that.
Cost accounting reports and determines the various costs associated with running a business. With cost accounting, businesses track the cost of all business functions – raw materials, labor, inventory, and overhead, among others. It differs from financial accounting because it’s only used internally, for decision making.
Both advisers said there could be significant changes in the laws this year once Congress gets to examining taxation issues. Predicting what the outcome will be is impossible. So it would be wise of businessmen to keep in touch with their advisers and talk to their peers as the discussions in Congress go on.