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Hot tax tips for 2011 (Proceedings)

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Aug 01, 2011

Tax laws are forever changing and this year is no exception. Since taxes can take a significant amount of our earnings, it pays to know and understand the tax laws that are important for you and your practice. This clear understanding can save you money and keep you out of tax trouble.

The new health care reform law is chock-full of new taxes and tax increases that will affect many individuals and businesses, but it will be years before most of these hikes take a bite out of your — or your company's — wallet. The law also has tax breaks to help both individuals and small businesses pay for insurance.

New health care tax provisions:

1. A new 10% excise tax exists on indoor tanning services on services provided after June 30, 2010.
2. The new law gives veterinary practices tax credits as incentives to provide coverage, started in 2010, employers with 10 or fewer workers and average annual wages of less than $25,000 can receive a credit of up to 35% of their health premium costs each year through 2013. The credit is phased out for practices larger than that and disappears completely if a company has more than 25 employees or average annual wages of $50,000 or more. Beginning in 2014, small veterinary practices that sign up with one of the health exchanges to be created can receive a credit of up to 50% of their costs.
3. A requirement that businesses include the value of the health care benefits they provide to employees on W-2s, beginning with W-2s for 2011.
4. Elimination of a deduction employers now take for providing Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage to their retirees to the extent that the federal government subsidizes the coverage. This will not take effect until 2013.
5. Doubling the penalty for nonqualified distributions from health savings accounts, to 20%, beginning in 2011.
6. A limit on the amount that employees can contribute to health care flexible spending accounts to $2,500 a year, but the cap won't take effect until 2013.
7. A ban on using funds from flexible spending accounts, health reimbursement arrangements or health savings accounts for the cost of over-the-counter medications, starting in 2011.
8. Starting in 2013, a 0.9% Medicare surtax will apply to wages in excess of $200,000 for single taxpayers and over $250,000 for married couples. Also, for the first time ever, a Medicare tax will apply to investment income of high earners. The 3.8% levy will hit the lesser of (1) their unearned income or (2) the amount by which their adjusted gross income exceeds the $200,000 or $250,000 threshold amounts. The new law defines unearned income as interest, dividends, capital gains, annuities, royalties, and rents. Tax-exempt interest won't be included, nor will income from retirement accounts.
9. A hike in the 7.5% floor on itemized deductions for medical expenses to 10%, beginning in 2013. But taxpayers age 65 and over are exempt from the cutback through 2016.
10. A new 40% excise tax, beginning in 2018, on high-cost health plans, levied on the portion that exceeds $10,200 for individuals and $27,500 for families.
11. A new tax on individuals who don't obtain adequate health coverage by 2014. The tax is be phased in over three years, starting at the greater of $95, or 1% of income, in 2014, and rising to the greater of $695, or 2.5% of income, in 2016.
12. Providing a refundable tax credit, once the individual mandate takes effect in 2014, to help low-income folks purchase coverage. To be eligible, a person's household income must be between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level, generally around $11,000 to $44,000 for singles and $22,000 to $88,000 for families.
13. A nondeductible fee charged to businesses with 50 or more employees if the firms fail to offer adequate coverage. The fee will equal $2,000 times the number of employees, though it won't count the first 30 workers in that calculation.