IRS contacting small businesses about health care tax credit

The Internal Revenue Service this week began mailing postcards to more than 4 million small businesses and tax-exempt organizations to make them aware of the benefits of the recently-enacted small business health care tax credit.

Included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act approved by Congress last month and signed into law by President Obama, the credit is one of the first health care reform provisions to go into effect. The credit, which takes effect this year, is designed to encourage small employers to offer health insurance coverage for the first time or maintain coverage they already have.

“We want to make sure small employers across the nation realize that — effective this tax year — they may be eligible for a valuable new tax credit. Our postcard mailing — which is targeted at small employers — is intended to get the attention of small employers and encourage them to find out more," IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman said. “We urge every small employer to take advantage of this credit if they qualify.”

In general, the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit is available to small employers that pay at least half the cost of single coverage for their employees in 2010. The credit is specifically targeted to help small businesses and tax-exempt organizations that primarily employ low- and moderate-income workers.

For tax years 2010 to 2013, the maximum credit is 35 percent of premiums paid by eligible small business employers and 25 percent of premiums paid by eligible employers that are tax-exempt organizations. The maximum credit goes to smaller employers — those with 10 or fewer full-time equivalent (FTE) employees — paying annual average wages of $25,000 or less. Because the eligibility rules are based in part on the number of FTEs, not the number of employees, businesses that use part-time help may qualify even if they employ more than 25 individuals. The credit is completely phased out for employers that have 25 FTEs or more or that pay average wages of $50,000 per year or more.

Eligible small businesses can claim the credit as part of the general business credit starting with the 2010 income tax return they file in 2011. For tax-exempt organizations, the IRS will provide further information on how to claim the credit.

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