David Kirkpatrick

June 1, 2010

New legislation offers small business tax incentives

News straight from the source

The release:

Recent Legislation Offers Special Tax Incentives for Small Businesses to Provide Health Care, Hire New Workers

HIRE Act: English
Small Business Health Care Tax Credit: English

IR-2010-69, May 28, 2010

WASHINGTON — In recognition of National Small Business Week, the Internal Revenue Service encourages small businesses to take advantage of tax-saving opportunities included in recently enacted federal legislation.

A variety of business tax deductions and credits were created, extended and expanded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), this year’s Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act and the Affordable Care Act. Because some of these changes are only available this year, eligible businesses only have a few months to take action and save on their taxes. Here is a rundown of some of the key provisions.

New Health Care Tax Credit Helps Small Employers

The small business health care tax credit, created under the Affordable Care Act, is designed to encourage small employers to offer health insurance coverage for the first time or maintain coverage they already have.

The credit takes effect this year and is generally 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 employers 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. 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. The credit is completely phased out for employers with more than 25 FTEs or with average wages of more than $50,000.

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. More information about the credit, including a step-by-step guide and answers to frequently asked questions, is available on the IRS website.

Two New Benefits for Employers that Hire and Retain Recently Unemployed

Employers who hire unemployed workers this year (after Feb. 3, 2010, and before Jan. 1, 2011) may qualify for a 6.2-percent payroll tax incentive, in effect exempting them from the employer’s share of Social Security tax on wages paid to these workers after March 18. In addition, for each qualified employee retained for at least a year whose wages did not significantly decrease in the second half of the year, businesses may claim a new hire retention credit of up to $1,000 per worker on their income tax return.

These tax benefits are especially helpful to employers who are adding positions to their payrolls. New hires filling existing positions also qualify but only if the workers they are replacing left voluntarily or for cause. Family members and other relatives generally do not qualify.

Employers must get a signed statement from each eligible new hire, certifying under penalties of perjury, that he or she was not employed for more than 40 hours during the 60 days before beginning employment with that employer. IRS Form W-11 can be used to meet this requirement. Further details, including answers to frequently asked questions, are posted on IRS.gov.

Work Opportunity Tax Credit Aids Employers That Hire Certain Workers

The work opportunity tax credit (WOTC) offers tax savings to businesses that hire employees belonging to various targeted groups. These groups include people ages 18 to 39 living in designated communities in 43 states and the District of Columbia, recipients of various types of public assistance, certain veterans, ex-felons and certain youth workers. The instructions for Form 8850 detail the requirements for each of these groups.

Certification by the state workforce agency is generally required. Normally, a business must file Form 8850 with the state workforce agency within 28 days after the eligible worker begins work.

An eligible employer can claim both the WOTC and the new hire retention credit for the same employee. However, an employer may not claim both the payroll tax exemption and the WOTC for the same employee. Therefore, any employer that chooses to apply the exemption to wages paid to a qualified employee may not receive the WOTC on any wages paid to that employee during the one-year period beginning on the employee’s hiring date.

Exclusion of Gain on the Sale of Certain Small Business Stock

An extra incentive is now available to individuals who invest in small businesses. Investors in qualified small business stock can exclude 75 percent of the gain upon sale of the stock. This increased exclusion applies only if the qualified small business stock is acquired after Feb. 17, 2009, and before Jan. 1, 2011, and held for more than five years. For previously-acquired stock, the exclusion rate remains at 50 percent in most cases.

COBRA Credit

Employers that provide the 65 percent COBRA premium subsidy to eligible former employees can claim credit for this subsidy on their quarterly or annual payroll tax returns. To help avoid imposing an unnecessary cash-flow burden, affected employers can reduce their payroll tax deposits by the amount of the credit. For details, see the instructions for Form 941.

Small business owners can find a variety of helpful on-line resources in the Small Business and Self-Employed Tax Center on IRS.gov.

January 21, 2010

COBRA subsidy extended

Good news for the unemployed who qualify.

The IRS release:

COBRA Subsidy Eligibility Period Extended Through February; 15-Months Subsidy Now Available to Those Who Qualify

Revised Jan. 21, 2010, to add HCTC information

WASHINGTON — Workers who lose their jobs during January and February may qualify for a 65-percent subsidy on their COBRA health insurance premiums, and these newly-eligible individuals, along with those already receiving the subsidy, can now receive it for up to 15 months, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

Created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the COBRA subsidy eligibility period was originally scheduled to expire at the end of 2009, and eligible individuals only qualified for the subsidy for nine months. But the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2010, enacted on Dec. 19, extended the eligibility period and the maximum duration of COBRA premium assistance.

As a result, workers who are involuntarily terminated from employment between Sept. 1, 2008, and Feb. 28, 2010, may be eligible for a 65-percent subsidy of their COBRA premiums for a period of up to 15 months. Involuntarily terminated employees who meet certain other requirements, and certain family members of those individuals, are referred to as “assistance-eligible individuals.”

Employers must provide COBRA coverage to assistance-eligible individuals who pay 35 percent of the COBRA premium. Employers are reimbursed for the other 65 percent by claiming a credit for the subsidy on their payroll tax returns: Form 941, Employers QUARTERLY Federal Tax Return, Form 944, Employer’s ANNUAL Federal Tax Return, or Form 943, Employer’s Annual Federal Tax Return for Agricultural Employees. Employers must maintain supporting documentation for the claimed credit.

The administrator of a group health plan or other entity must notify certain assistance-eligible individuals of the extension by Feb. 17, 2010. For assistance-eligible individuals whose nine months of subsidy had already ended, the new law also provides an extended period for the retroactive payment of their 35 percent share during a transition period.

There is much more information about the COBRA subsidy, including questions and answers for employers, and for employees or former employees, on the COBRA pages of IRS.gov.

Some people who are eligible for the COBRA subsidy also qualify for the health coverage tax credit (HCTC) and may want to choose this more generous benefit, instead. The HCTC pays 80 percent of health insurance premiums for those who qualify. Eligible individuals must be receiving Trade Adjustment Assistance benefits or be between the ages fo 55 and 65 and receiving pension payments from the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. Individuals must also be enrolled in a qualified health plan. See more at HCTC: Eligibility Requirements and How to Receive the HCTC.

Related Items:

July 7, 2009

New America Foundation and the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program

Hot from the inbox.

The release:

For Immediate Release

July 7, 2009


New America Foundation’s Open Technology Initiative Offers Recommendations for the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program

NAF’s Open Technology Initiative, in partnership with the Columbia Telecommunications Corporation, has released a memorandum with analysis, strategic guidance, policy concerns, and recommendations on the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), a part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).
The memorandum includes the latest developments in the BTOP and how they will impact applicants. It also gives strategic recommendations on activities to undertake to maximize the chances of being funded and precautionary steps to take during the application process.

The memorandum also discusses policy concerns surrounding how the BTOP is being implemented and why it does not, in many ways, live up to promises established by the ARRA.
Click here for full text of the memorandum.
About the Open Technology Initiative
The Open Technology Initiative (OTI) formulates policy and regulatory reforms to support open architectures and open source innovations and facilitates the development and implementation of open technologies and communications networks.
About the New America Foundation
The New America Foundation is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy institute that invests in new thinkers and new ideas to address the next generation of challenges facing the United States.

April 13, 2009

The Stimulus Plan of 2009 and COBRA

Good news for the recently unemployed. I have heard actually collecting on this isn’t so easy so far.

From the link:

The world’s economy is in a global recession and many Americans are finding themselves out of work. For those who are out of work and were part of an employer-based health insurance plan, this means either losing health insurance coverage – not a good option in any circumstance – or participating in the government’s Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, also known as COBRA.

A problem with COBRA is although you can keep your health insurance for a limited time while out of work, you do end up paying the entire premium. A health insurance premium that your employer most likely contributed to as part of your compensation. Under these conditions COBRA is a less than ideal solution because not only are you out of work, but your health insurance premiums under COBRA most likely just went way up in cost each month.

The recent stimulus package passed by Congress, known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) created a premium reduction and additional election opportunities under COBRA for the recently unemployed.

About this provision of ARRA, Alan D. Lebowitz, deputy assistant secretary of labor for the department’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) says, “Our action today gives workers and their families useful information on their right to receive the COBRA subsidy and makes it easier for employers and plans to meet their notice obligations. Given the current economic situation facing dislocated workers and their families, it is very important that individuals do not lose their group health coverage.”

You can find out more about ARRA and COBRA at the Department of Labor’s website.

The following information is taken from the DOL’s news release on ARRA, COBRA and health insurance for the recently unemployed:

The department has developed four notice packages tailored to fit different types of plans and individuals:

  1. A general notice to be given to qualified beneficiaries covered by plans subject to the federal COBRA at the initial COBRA election opportunity.
  2. An abbreviated general notice, which may be furnished to individuals who elected and are still covered by COBRA.
  3. An alternative notice to be sent by issuers of group health insurance coverage subject to state continuation coverage laws.
  4. A notice of extended election periods for eligible individuals who declined or discontinued COBRA coverage.

Each package contains a summary of the premium reduction provisions, questions and answers, and forms to use in requesting the premium reduction (and COBRA coverage, if not already enrolled).

Under COBRA, most group health plans must give employees and their families the opportunity to temporarily continue their group health coverage when coverage would otherwise be lost for reasons such as termination of employment, divorce or death.

The four model notice packages are available for download from EBSA’s dedicated Web page at http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/cobra.html. The Web page also contains additional frequently asked questions to help dislocated workers, their families and their employers understand the requirements.

April 2, 2009

IRS website gets traffic spike

No surprise IRS.gov’s traffic is up here on the homestretch to tax day, but almost 25% over last year? That’s a significant uptick.

The IRS release:

Visits to IRS.gov Up Sharply as Taxpayers Go Online to Get Tax Information

IR-2009-31, March 31, 2009 WASHINGTON — The number of visitors to IRS.gov is up more than 24 percent compared with last year, and more taxpayers rely on the Internal Revenue Service’s online resources to get answers to tax questions on the economic recovery legislation and to prepare and file tax returns accurately and timely.More than 138 million taxpayers already visited the IRS Web site this year, up from about 111 million from the same period last year.

Taxpayers can find the latest information about the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, including details on extending health insurance for people who lost their jobs and tax breaks for first-time homebuyers. IRS also has developed “What if” scenarios and the possible tax implications for people who may be facing financially difficult times. Taxpayers periodically should check for updates to these pages.

Some IRS online publications contain hyperlinks allowing users to get the answers they need quickly. The links allow users to jump immediately to other parts of publications and external Web sites, reducing the time it takes to access information.

A total of 14 publications contain tailored hyperlinks that provide easier access, including Publication 3, Armed Forces’ Tax Guide, Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education, and Publication 936, Home Mortgage Interest Deduction. Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax, was issued for the first time with hyperlinks last year, and the new version now has more links than ever before. Publication 17 also is available online in Spanish for the first time.

Available on IRS.gov this year is a new on-line tool that allows taxpayers to complete tax forms, perform basic mathematical calculations and e-file their federal income tax returns free of charge. Free File Fillable Forms is most suited for those who prepare their own paper returns without the assistance of a tax return preparer or tax preparation software. There are no income limitations to use Free File Fillable Forms, and the most commonly-used federal tax forms are available.

Also available to taxpayers is Free File, which provides taxpayers with an adjusted gross income of $56,000 or less in 2008 with free federal income tax preparation and electronic filing. Free File is free, fast and accurate.

Taxpayers also can download IRS audio podcasts on a variety of topics in English and Spanish. Video tax tips are also available.

Other electronic tools can be found on IRS.gov. Highlights include the following:

  • Where’s My Refund? — Whether taxpayers opted for direct deposit or asked the IRS to mail a check, they can track their refund through the Where’s My Refund? tool.
  • The Recovery Rebate Credit Calculator —The recovery rebate credit is a one-time benefit for people who didn’t receive the full economic stimulus payment last year and whose circumstances may have changed, making them eligible now for some or all of the unpaid portion of the credit. In most cases, taxpayers who received the full amount of the stimulus payment last year will not be eligible for it this year. The recovery rebate credit can be calculated using the online tool, Recovery Rebate Credit Calculator.
  • How Much Was My 2008 Stimulus Payment? — Taxpayers will need to know the amount of their 2008 economic stimulus payment to calculate the recovery rebate credit. Taxpayers can use the online tool, How Much Was My 2008 Stimulus Payment?, to check how much their payment was in 2008.Taxpayers don’t need to report the 2008 stimulus payment as income because it’s not taxable.
  • EITC Assistant — The earned income tax credit is a substantial credit for people who work but don’t earn a lot of money. Find out if you are eligible for the EITC by answering some questions and providing basic income information using the online EITC Assistant.


Taxpayers looking for the IRS online should type http://www.irs.gov into their Internet browser. Taxpayers should also beware of Web sites that may resemble IRS.gov but end in .com, .net, .org, .biz or any other domain name extension.


Also available isIRS.gov/Español, the IRS Web site offering tax forms, publications and information in Spanish. Interactive tools such as the following are available for individuals: EITC Assistant, (Asistente EITC); Free File(Presentacion FreeFile) Where’s My Refund? (¿Dónde Está Mi Reembolso?), How Much Was My 2008 Stimulus Payment (¿Cuánto fue mi Pago del Estímulo Económico?) and Recovery Rebate Credit (RRC) Calculator (Calculadora para el Crédito por Recuperación de la Devolución de Estímulo Económico.)

Go below the fold for 2009 filing season stats: (more…)

March 17, 2009

Need tax help?

The IRS is opening its doors this coming Saturday to offer advice and answer questions.

The release:

IRS, Partners Mark Super Saturday March 21 to Help Taxpayers

IR-2009-25, March 16, 2009

Audio Files for Podcasts: English Spanish

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service and scores of its community partners will open their doors on Saturday, March 21, to help people who need free tax preparation, a question answered or a payment schedule arranged.

The IRS will open more than 250 local offices from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Community partners will open approximately 1,000 sites on March 21. Tax return preparation is limited to people who earn $42,000 or less. There is no income limitation for people needing IRS assistance for other services at Taxpayer Assistance Centers.

“Because of the economic downturn, many financially distressed taxpayers may be in need of free services. Our Super Saturday service will make it a little easier for people to get that help. Although our Taxpayer Assistance Centers are not normally open on Saturdays, we’re trying to go the extra mile in these difficult times,” said Doug Shulman, IRS Commissioner. “Our Super Saturday service will help people get their refunds quickly. Also, if you think you owe taxes and can’t pay, please come in and talk to us about it. There are steps we can take to help.”

Locations and hours of operation of Super Saturday sites are available at IRS.gov, keyword Super Saturday.  People without computer access can call 1-800-906-9887 to find a nearby IRS or partner office. IRS customer service telephone lines, 1-800-829-1040, also will be available on Super Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. to answer tax questions.

People who earn $42,000 or less can have their tax return prepared by the IRS or a community volunteer at participating locations. Filing a tax return may also be the fastest way to get some extra money. More than 80 percent of all taxpayers receive a refund. IRS employees and the community volunteers can help people get all the tax credits and deductions for which they are eligible. Taxpayers who electronically file their tax returns and who use direct deposit can receive their refunds in as few as 10 days.

Because of lost jobs or reduced income, many people may be eligible for certain tax credits for the first time. For example, the Earned Income Tax Credit is for people who work but who do not earn a lot of money. The EITC adds an extra $2,000 benefit on average. It is the government’s largest anti-poverty program. The additional child tax credit and the first-time homebuyers’ credit are important benefits also affected by a taxpayer’s income.

People who owe taxes but who cannot pay should contact the IRS as soon as possible. Regardless of income, people who need payment options can get help at an IRS office. The IRS can help set up an installment payment plan or a deferred payment plan. It is important that people contact the agency so they can avoid penalties and interest that will make their tax bill even higher.

People who want their tax returns prepared should bring the following information:

  • Valid driver’s license or photo identification (self & spouse, if applicable)
  • Social Security cards for all persons listed on the return
  • Dates of birth for all persons listed on the return
  • All income statements: Forms W-2, 1099, Social Security, Unemployment, or other benefits statements, self-employment records and any documents showing taxes withheld
  • Dependent child care information: payee’s name, address and Social Security Number or Taxpayer Identification Number
  • Proof of account at financial institution for direct debit or deposit (i.e. cancelled/voided check or bank statement)
  • Prior year tax return (if available)
  • Any other pertinent documents or papers

For those who don’t want to make a trip, the IRS also offers other free services for tax preparation including the Free File program on IRS.gov.

For people with computer access, the IRS web site remains the best place to go for answers, access to forms and publications and other free services. For example, taxpayers will find the latest details on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 on the IRS.gov homepage.

People also can track their refunds through “Where’s My Refund?” – another free service offered by the agency. People without computer access can still use “Where’s My Refund?” by calling 1-800-829-1954. Taxpayers should have their tax return handy to use the “Where’s My Refund?” application.

February 23, 2009

IRS releases new tax withholding tables

A press release from the Internal Revenue Service:

New Withholding Tables Now Available on IRS.gov; Most Workers Will See Bigger Paychecks this Spring

IR-2009-13, Feb 21, 2009

WASHINGTON ― The Internal Revenue Service today released new withholding tables that will result in more take-home pay this spring for millions of American workers.

The new tables incorporate the new Making Work Pay credit, one of the key tax provisions included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 that became law earlier this week.

“For most taxpayers, the additional credit will automatically start showing up in their paychecks this spring,” said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman. “Since employers and payroll companies will handle this change, people typically won’t need to take any additional action. The IRS will continue working to implement this and other provisions of the new law as quickly as possible.”

The new withholding tables, along with other instructions related to the new tax law, will be incorporated in new Publication 15-T. This publication will be posted to this Web site next week and mailed to more than 9 million employers in mid-March. The IRS asks that employers start using these new tables as soon as possible but not later than April 1. Most workers will see a boost in their take-home pay soon thereafter.

Eligible workers will get the benefit of this change without any action on their part. This means that workers don’t need to fill out a new W-4 withholding form to get the Making Work Pay credit reflected in their take-home pay. A Form W-4 will not need to be submitted for the automatic withholding change. Individuals and couples with multiple jobs may want to submit revised Form W-4 forms to ensure enough withholding is held to cover the tax for the combined income. Publication 919 provides additional guidance for tax withholding.

Available for tax years 2009 and 2010, the Making Work Pay credit is 6.2 percent of a taxpayer’s earned income with a maximum credit of $800 for a married couple filing a joint return and $400 for other taxpayers, but it is phased out for higher income taxpayers. Most workers will qualify for the maximum credit. Because the credit is refundable (people can get it even if they owe no tax), most low-income workers will also qualify for the full credit.

Though all eligible taxpayers will need to claim the credit when they file their 2009 income tax return next year, the benefit will generally be spread out over the paychecks they receive beginning this spring and continue until the end of the year.

Many higher-income taxpayers will see little or no change in their take-home pay. That’s because the Making Work Pay credit is phased out for a married couple filing a joint return whose modified adjusted gross income (AGI) is between $150,000 and $190,000 and other taxpayers whose modified AGI is between $75,000 and $95,000.

Taxpayers will not get a separate, special check mailed to them from the IRS like last year’s economic stimulus payment.


Page Last Reviewed or Updated: February 21, 2009