This Month's Newsletter
Tax Implications of the Health Care Act
The July 2012 Supreme Court ruling upholding what's collectively referred to as the "Affordable Care Act" (ACA) or "Health Care Act" has resulted in a number of changes to the US tax code. As such there are a number of tax implications for individuals and businesses. With that in mind, let's take a closer look at what it might mean for you.
Starting in 2014, US citizens and legal residents not qualified for Medicare or Medicaid must obtain minimum essential health care coverage for themselves and their dependents or pay a tax penalty that varies based on income level. In 2014, the basic penalty for an individual (no dependents) is $95, with substantial increases in subsequent years--$325 in 2015 and $695 in 2016, indexed for inflation thereafter.
Refundable Tax Credit
Effective in 2014, certain taxpayers will be able to use a refundable tax credit to offset the cost of health insurance premiums so that their insurance premium payments do not exceed a specific percentage of their income. Qualified individuals are those with incomes between 133 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level. A sliding scale based on family size will be used to determine the amount of the credit. In addition, married taxpayers must file joint returns to qualify.
FSA (Flexible Spending Arrangements) contributions are limited to $2,500 per year starting in 2013 and indexed for inflation after that.
New Rules for HSAs and Archer MSAs
Tax on non-qualified distributions from HSAs and Archer MSAs that are used to cover the cost of over the counter medicine without a script will increase to 20 percent starting in 2011. Medical devices, eyeglasses, contact lenses, copays, and deductibles are not affected, nor is Insulin even if it is non-prescription.
Medicare Part D
Medicare Part D, the tax deduction for employer provided retirement prescription drug coverage, will be eliminated in 2013.
Increase in AGI Limit for Deductible Medical Expenses
The deduction is currently 7.5 percent of AGI, but next year, in 2013, that increases to 10 percent of AGI. The 7.5 percent threshold continues through 2016 for taxpayers aged 65 and older, including those turning 65 by December 31, 2016.
Health Coverage of Older Children
The cost of employer provided health care coverage for children (through age 26) on tax returns is excluded from gross income.
Medicare Tax Increases for High Income Earners
Starting in 2013, there will be an additional 0.9 percent Medicare tax on wages above $200,000 for individuals ($250,000 married filing jointly).
Also starting in 2013, there is a new Medicare tax of 3.8 percent on investment (unearned) income for single taxpayers with modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) over $200,000 ($250,00 joint filers). Investment income includes dividends, interest, rents, royalties, gains from the disposition of property, and certain passive activity income. Estates, trusts and self-employed individuals are all liable for the new tax.
Exemptions are available for business owners and income from certain retirement accounts, such as pensions, IRAs, 401(a), 403(b), and 457(b) plans, is exempt.
Small Business Health Care Tax Credit
Small businesses and tax-exempt organization that employ 25 or fewer workers with average incomes of $50,000 or less, and that pay at least half of the premiums for employee health insurance coverage are eligible for the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit. For tax years 2010 through 2013, the maximum credit is 35 percent for small business employers and 25 percent for small tax-exempt employers such as charities. An enhanced version of the credit will be effective beginning Jan. 1, 2014. In general, on Jan. 1, 2014, the rate will increase to 50 percent and 35 percent, respectively.
Additional Tax on Businesses Not Offering Minimum essential Coverage
Effective in 2014 an additional tax will be levied on businesses with 50 or more full-time equivalent (FTE) employees that do not offer minimum essential coverage. Employers with fewer than 50 FTE employees are exempt from the additional tax.
Excise Tax on High Cost Employer-Sponsored Insurance
Effective in 2018, a 40 percent excise tax indexed for inflation will be imposed on employers with insurance plans where the annual premium exceeds $10,200 (individual) or $27,500 (family). For retirees age 55 and older, the premium levels are higher, $11,850 for individuals and $30,950 for families.
Excise Tax on Medical Devices
Effective January 1, 2014, a 2.3 percent tax will be levied on manufacturers and importers on the sale of certain medical devices.
Indoor Tanning Services
A 10 percent excise tax on indoor tanning services went into effect on July 1, 2010. The tax doesn't apply to phototherapy services performed by a licensed medical professional on his or her premises. There's also an exception for certain physical fitness facilities that offer tanning as an incidental service to members without a separately identifiable fee.
If you need assistance navigating the complexities of the new health care act, don't hesitate to call us. We're here to help.
Paying Off Debt the Smart Way
Being in debt isn't necessarily a terrible thing. Between mortgages, car loans, credit cards, and student loans, most people are in debt. Being debt-free is a worthwhile goal, but most people need to focus on managing their debt first since it's likely to be there for most of your life.
Handled wisely, that debt won't be an albatross around your neck. You don't need to shell out your hard-earned money because of exorbitant interest rates or always feel like you're on the verge of bankruptcy. You can pay off debt the smart way, while at the same time saving money to pay it off faster.
Assess the Situation
First, assess the depth of your debt. Write it down, using pencil and paper, a spreadsheet like Microsoft Excel, or a bookkeeping program like Quicken. Include every financial situation where a company has given you something in advance of payment, including your mortgage, car payment(s), credit cards, tax liens, student loans, and payments on electronics or other household items through a store.
Record the day the debt began and when it will end (if possible), the interest rate you're paying, and what your payments typically are. Add it all up, painful as that might be. Try not to be discouraged! Remember, you're going to break this down into manageable chunks while finding extra money to help pay it down.
Identify High-Cost Debt
Yes, some debts are more expensive than others. Unless you're getting payday loans (which you shouldn't be), the worst offenders are probably your credit cards. Here's how to deal with them.
- Don't use them. Don't cut them up, but put them in a drawer and only access them in an emergency.
- Identify the card with the highest interest and pay off as much as you can every month. Pay minimums on the others. When that one's paid off, work on the card with the next highest rate.
- Don't close existing cards or open any new ones. It won't help your credit rating.
- Pay on time, absolutely every time. One late payment these days can lower your FICO score.
- Go over your credit-card statements with a fine-tooth comb. Are you still being charged for that travel club you've never used? Look for line items you don't need.
- Call your credit card companies and ask them nicely if they would lower your interest rates. It does work sometimes!
Save, Save, Save
Do whatever you can to retire debt. Consider taking a second job and using that income only for higher payments on your financial obligations. Substitute free family activities for high-cost ones. Sell high-value items that you can live without.
Do Away with Unnecessary Items to Reduce Debt Load
Do you really need the 800-channel cable option or that dish on your roof? You'll be surprised at what you don't miss. How about magazine subscriptions? They're not terribly expensive, but every penny counts. It's nice to have a library of books, but consider visiting the public library or half-price bookstores until your debt is under control.
Never, Ever Miss a Payment
Not only are you retiring debt, but you're also building a stellar credit rating. If you ever move or buy another car, you'll want to get the lowest rate possible. A blemish-free payment record will help with that. Besides, credit card companies can be quick to raise interest rates because of one late payment. A completely missed one is even more serious.
Pay With Cash
To avoid increasing debt load, make it a habit to pay with cash. If you don't have the cash for it, you probably don't need it. You'll feel better about what you do have if you know it's owned free and clear.
Shop Wisely, and Use the Savings to Pay Down Your Debt
If your family is large enough to warrant it, invest $30 or $40 and join a store like Sam's or Costco. And use it. Shop there first, then at the grocery store. Change brands if you have to and swallow your pride. Use coupons religiously. Calculate the money you're saving and slap it on your debt.
Each of these steps, taken alone, probably doesn't seem like much. But if you adopt as many as you can, you'll watch your debt decrease every month. If you need help managing debt give us a call. We can help.