Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) enacted in March 2010, small employers may be eligible to claim a tax credit of 35 percent of qualified health insurance premium costs paid by a taxable employer (25 percent for tax-exempt employers). The credit is designed to encourage small employers to offer health-insurance to their employees.

Employees and wages
An employer can claim the maximum 35 percent credit if it has no more than 10 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees receiving average annual wages of $25,000 or less. The credit is phased out as the number of FTEs increases to 25 and as average annual wages increase to $50,000. An employer with 25 or more employees, or paying average annual wages of $50,000 or more per employee, will not receive a credit.

In counting FTEs, the employer should not include owners and family members. Seasonal employees are not counted unless they work at least 120 days during the year. In determining average annual wages, employers must count all wages, bonuses, commissions or other compensation, including sick leave and vacation leave.

Applicable years
The credit took effect in 2010. It did not expire at the end of 2010 but can be claimed from year to year. The credit applies at the 35/25 percent levels for four years, through 2013. After 2013, the maximum credit increases to 50 percent for for-profit employers and 35 percent for tax-exempt employers, but only for two years. Thus, the credit can be claimed every year for the six years from 2010 and 2015. The credit is recalculated every year based on the total health insurance premiums paid. Only non-elective employer premiums are counted; salary reduction contributions paid through a cafeteria plan or other arrangement are not counted.

Premiums
An employer must pay at least 50 percent of the premium cost of health insurance coverage, and must pay the same uniform percentage of costs for each employee who obtains health insurance through the employer. A transition rule for 2010 treats an employer as satisfying the uniformity rule as long as the employer pays at least 50 percent of the coverage costs of each employee, based on the cost of employee-only (single) coverage, even if the employer does not pay the same percentage of costs for each employee.

The premiums must be paid for qualified health insurance, such as a hospital or medical service plan or health maintenance organization. It includes coverage for dental, vision, long-term care, nursing home care, and coverage for a specified disease or illness. Coverage does not accident insurance, disability income insurance, and workers’ compensation.

Claiming the credit
The credit is determined on Form 8941, Credit for Small Employer Health Insurance Premiums. For-profit employers report the amount of the credit on Form 3800, General Business Credit, and attach the forms to their income tax return. As a general business credit, any unused credit (in excess of taxable income) can be carried back one year (except for a credit arising in 2010, the first year) or carried forward 20 years. For-profit employers deduct the credit from the premiums paid for health insurance, when computing the deduction for health insurance premiums.

Tax-exempt employers report the credit on Form 990-T, Exempt Organization Business Income Tax Return, regardless of whether the organization is subject to tax on unrelated business income. The credit is refundable for tax-exempt employers, provided it does not exceed the employer’s income tax withholding and Medicare taxes. The credit is not refundable if the employer does not claim the credit on Form 990-T.

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