On Thursday, the IRS published to its Web site 22 questions and answers about the new health care small business credit.
The FAQs cover:
Eligibility for the credit;
Calculation of the credit;
Determining full-time employees and wages for purposes of the credit;
How to claim the credit; and
Transition relief for 2010.
The health care small business credit was created by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148). Small businesses—defined as businesses with 25 or fewer employees and average annual wages of less than $50,000—are eligible for a credit of up to 50% of nonelective contributions the business makes on behalf of its employees for insurance premiums (new IRC § 45R). Tax-exempt organizations would get a 35% credit against payroll taxes.
This credit is available for tax years beginning after Dec. 31, 2009, and is phased in during 2010–2013. In the phase-in years, the maximum credit is 35% of the employer’s eligible premium expense (25% for tax-exempt employers).
Employers with 10 or fewer employees and average wages of less than $25,000 will get 100% of the credit; for other eligible employers, the credit will be reduced based on the number of employees over 10 and the excess of the employees’ average wages over $25,000. The $25,000 average annual wages figure will be indexed for inflation after 2013.
The FAQs say that only premiums paid by the employer under a qualifying arrangement are counted in calculating the credit. To be a “qualifying arrangement,” the employer must pay premiums for each employee enrolled in health care coverage offered by the employer in an amount equal to a uniform percentage of the premium cost of the coverage. That uniform percentage must be not less than 50% of the premium cost. The amount of premiums counted in calculating the credit is only the portion paid by the employer.
The amount of an employer’s premium payments that counts for purposes of the credit is capped by the premium payments the employer would have made under the same arrangement if the average premium for the small group market in the state (or an area within the state) in which the employer offers coverage were substituted for the actual premium.
For 2010, the IRS says it intends to provide the following transition relief to the requirements for a qualifying arrangement:
(1) If an employer pays at least 50% of the premium for each enrolled employee and otherwise satisfies the requirements for the credit, it will qualify for the credit even though the percentage of the premium it pays is not uniform for all such employees.
(2) The requirement that the employer pay at least 50% of the premium for an employee applies to the premium for single (employee-only) coverage for the employee. If an employee is receiving more-expensive coverage (such as family coverage), the employer satisfies the 50% requirement if the employer pays at least 50% of the premium for single coverage for that employee (even if the amount paid is less than 50% of the premium for the coverage the employee is actually receiving).