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|Whether you’re a new client or a familiar face, feel free to use our handy Tax Organizer to get you ready for the season. Available in both Word.doc or PDF format.|
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If you are an employer, the number of employees in your business will affect what you need to know about the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Employers with 50 or more full-time and full-time-equivalent employees are generally considered to be “applicable large employers” (ALEs) under the employer shared responsibility provisions of the ACA. Applicable large employers are subject to the employer shared responsibility provisions. However, more than 95 percent of employers are not ALEs and are not subject to these provisions because they have fewer than 50 full-time and full-time-equivalent employees.
Whether an employer is an ALE is determined each calendar year based on employment and hours of service data from the prior calendar year. An employer can find information about determining the size of its workforce in the employer shared responsibility provision questions and answers section of the IRS.gov/aca website and in the related final regulations.
In general, beginning January 1, 2015, ALEs with at least 100 full-time and full-time equivalent employees must offer affordable health coverage that provides minimum value to their full-time employees and their dependents or they may be subject to an employer shared responsibility payment. This payment would apply only if at least one of its full-time employees receives a premium tax credit through enrollment in a state based Marketplace or a federally facilitated or Marketplace. Also, starting in 2016 ALEs must report to the IRS information about the health care coverage, if any, they offered to their full-time employees for calendar year 2015, and must also furnish related statements to their full-time employees.
For 2014, the IRS will not assess employer shared responsibility payments and the information reporting related to the employer shared responsibility provisions is voluntary. In addition, the employer shared responsibility provisions will be phased in for smaller ALEs from 2015 to 2016. Specifically, ALEs that meet certain conditions regarding maintenance of workforce size and coverage in 2014 are not subject to the employer shared responsibility provision for 2015. For these employers, no employer shared responsibility payment will apply for any calendar month during 2015 (including, for an employer with a non-calendar year plan, the months in 2016 that are part of the 2015 plan year). However these employers are required to meet the information reporting requirements for 2015. The employer shared responsibility provision questions and answers section of the IRS.gov/aca website and the preamble to the employer shared responsibility final regulations describe the requirements for this relief in more detail. Both resources also describe additional forms of transition relief that apply for 2015.
Small employers, specifically those with fewer than 25 full-time equivalent employees, may be eligible for the small business health care tax credit.
Regardless of the number of employees, if an employer sponsors a self-insured health plan, it must report to the IRS certain information about its health insurance coverage plan for each covered employee.
Find out more about the small business health care tax credit, applicable large employers, the employer shared responsibility provision, information reporting requirements and the premium tax credit at IRS.gov/aca.
New and existing small employers who do not yet benefit from the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit should look into whether the credit can help them provide insurance to their employees.
For tax years beginning in 2014 and after, the maximum credit is 50 percent of premiums paid for small business employers, and 35 percent of premiums paid for tax-exempt small employers, such as charities.
Beginning in 2014, a small employer may qualify for the credit if:
- It has fewer than 25 employees who work full-time, or a combination of full-time and part-time. For example, two half-time employees equal one full-time employee for purposes of the credit.
- It pays premiums on behalf of employees enrolled in a qualified health plan offered through a Small Business Health Options Program Marketplace or qualifies for an exception to this requirement.
- The average annual wages of full-time equivalent employees are less than $51,000. The annual average wages will be adjusted annually for inflation.
- It pays a uniform percentage for all employees that is equal to at least 50 percent of the premium cost of the insurance coverage.
The credit is available to eligible employers for two consecutive taxable years.
A small business employer who did not owe tax during the year can carry the credit back or forward to other tax years. Also, since the amount of the health insurance premium payments is greater than the total credit claimed, eligible small employers can still claim a business expense deduction for premiums in excess of the credit.
For tax-exempt small employers, the credit is refundable. Even if the tax-exempt small employer has no taxable income, it may be eligible to receive the credit as a refund so long as it does not exceed its income tax withholding and Medicare tax liability.
More information about the Small Business Health Options Program Marketplace – better known as the SHOP Marketplace – including the Federally Facilitated Marketplace, is available at HealthCare.gov .
New IRS Publication Helps You Find out if You Qualify for a Health Coverage Exemption
Taxpayers who might qualify for an exemption from having qualifying health coverage and making a payment should review a new IRS publication for information about these exemptions. Publication 5172, Health Coverage Exemptions, which includes information about how you get an exemption, is available on IRS.gov/aca.
The Affordable Care Act calls for each individual to have qualifying health insurance coverage for each month of the year, have an exemption, or make an individual shared responsibility payment when filing his or her federal income tax return.
You may be exempt if you:
- Have no affordable coverage options because the minimum amount you must pay for the annual premiums is more than eight percent of your household income,
- Have a gap in coverage for less than three consecutive months, or
- Qualify for an exemption for one of several other reasons, including having a hardship that prevents you from obtaining coverage or belonging to a group explicitly exempt from the requirement.
On IRS.gov/ACA, you can find a comprehensive list of the coverage exemptions.
How you get an exemption depends upon the type of exemption. You can obtain some exemptions only from the Marketplace in the area where you live, others only from the IRS when you file your income tax return, and others from either the Marketplace or the IRS.
Additional information about exemptions is available on the Individual Shared Responsibility Provision web page on IRS.gov. The page includes a link to a chart that shows the types of exemptions available and how to claim them. For additional information about how to get exemptions that may be granted by the Marketplace, visit HealthCare.gov/exemptions.
Back-to-School Reminder for Parents and Students: Check Out College Tax Credits for 2014 and Years Ahead
WASHINGTON ― With another school year now in full swing, the Internal Revenue Service today reminded parents and students that now is a good time to see if they will qualify for either of two college tax credits or any of several other education-related tax benefits when they file their 2014 federal income tax returns.
In general, the American opportunity tax credit and lifetime learning credit are available to taxpayers who pay qualifying expenses for an eligible student. Eligible students include the taxpayer and his or her spouse and dependents. The American opportunity tax credit provides a credit for each eligible student, while the lifetime learning credit provides a maximum credit per tax return. Though a taxpayer often qualifies for both of these credits, he or she can only claim one of them for a particular student in a particular year. Claimed on Form 8863, these credits are available to all taxpayers — both those who itemize their deductions on Schedule A and those who claim a standard deduction.
For those eligible, including most undergraduate students, the American opportunity tax credit will generally yield the greater tax savings. Alternatively, the lifetime learning credit should be considered by part-time students and those attending graduate school.
Both credits are available for students enrolled in an eligible college, university or vocational school, including both nonprofit and for-profit institutions. Neither credit can be claimed by a nonresident alien, a married person filing a separate return or someone claimed as a dependent on another person’s return.
Normally, a student will receive a Form 1098-T from their institution by the end of January of the following year (Jan. 31, 2015 for calendar year 2014). This form will show information about tuition paid or billed along with other information. However, amounts shown on this form may differ from amounts taxpayers are eligible to claim for these tax credits. Taxpayers should see the instructions to Form 8863 and Publication 970 for details on properly figuring allowable tax benefits.
Many of those eligible for the American opportunity tax credit qualify for the maximum annual credit of $2,500 per student. Students can claim this credit for qualified educational expenses paid during the entire tax year for a certain number of years:
- The credit is only available for 4 tax years per eligible student.
- The credit is available only if the student has not completed the first 4 years of postsecondary education before 2014.
Here are some more key features of the credit:
- Qualified education expenses are amounts paid for tuition, fees and other related expenses for an eligible student. Other expenses, such as room and board, are not qualified expenses.
- The credit equals 100 percent of the first $2,000 spent and 25 percent of the next $2,000. That means the full $2,500 credit may be available to a taxpayer who pays $4,000 or more in qualified expenses for an eligible student.
- The full credit can only be claimed by taxpayers whose modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is $80,000 or less. For married couples filing a joint return, the limit is $160,000. The credit is phased out for taxpayers with incomes above these levels. No credit can be claimed by joint filers whose MAGI is $180,000 or more and singles, heads of household and some widows and widowers whose MAGI is $90,000 or more.
- Forty percent of the American opportunity tax credit is refundable. This means that even people who owe no tax can get an annual payment of up to $1,000 for each eligible student.
The lifetime learning credit of up to $2,000 per tax return is available for both graduate and undergraduate students. Unlike the American opportunity tax credit, the limit on the lifetime learning credit applies to each tax return, rather than to each student. Also, the lifetime learning credit does not provide a benefit to people who owe no tax.
Though the half-time student requirement does not apply to the lifetime learning credit, the course of study must be either part of a post-secondary degree program or taken by the student to maintain or improve job skills. Other features of the credit include:
- Tuition and fees required for enrollment or attendance qualify as do other fees required for the course. Additional expenses do not.
- The credit equals 20 percent of the amount spent on eligible expenses across all students on the return. That means the full $2,000 credit is only available to a taxpayer who pays $10,000 or more in qualifying tuition and fees and has sufficient tax liability.
- Income limits are lower than under the American opportunity tax credit. For 2014, the full credit can be claimed by taxpayers whose MAGI is $54,000 or less. For married couples filing a joint return, the limit is $108,000. The credit is phased out for taxpayers with incomes above these levels. No credit can be claimed by joint filers whose MAGI is $128,000 or more and singles, heads of household and some widows and widowers whose MAGI is $64,000 or more.
You can use the IRS’s Interactive Tax Assistant tool to help determine if you are eligible for these benefits. The tool is available on IRS.gov. Eligible parents and students can get the benefit of these credits during the year by having less tax taken out of their paychecks. They can do this by filling out a new Form W-4, claiming additional withholding allowances, and giving it to their employer.
There are a variety of other education-related tax benefits that can help many taxpayers. They include:
- Scholarship and fellowship grants — generally tax-free if used to pay for tuition, required enrollment fees, books and other course materials, but taxable if used for room, board, research, travel or other expenses.
- Student loan interest deduction of up to $2,500 per year.
- Savings bonds used to pay for college — though income limits apply, interest is usually tax-free if bonds were purchased after 1989 by a taxpayer who, at time of purchase, was at least 24 years old.
- Qualified tuition programs, also called 529 plans, used by many families to prepay or save for a child’s college education.
Taxpayers with qualifying children who are students up to age 24 may be able to claim a dependent exemption and the earned income tax credit.