Why Haven’t More Small Businesses Claimed the Health Care Tax Credit?

Attention small business employers, a few questions:

  • Do you have fewer than 25 full-time equivalent employees?
  • Do those employees’ wages average less than $50,000 per year?
  • Do you pay for at least 50 percent of the cost of each employee’s single health care premiums?
  • Did you claim your small business health care tax credit for 2011?

If you answered “yes” to the first three questions, but answered “no” to the last question, you are one of millions of small businesses that was entitled to claim the small business health care credit provided under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) (P.L. 111-148) but failed to do so.

A study conducted by Families USA and Small Business Majority concluded that over three million small businesses met the criteria necessary to claim the credit last year; however, only 360,000 actually took advantage of the credit, according to White House estimates. Companies can save up to 35 percent of their health care costs by claiming the tax credit, which would significantly ease the pain of providing health insurance coverage to their employees. Under PPACA, in 2014, the maximum credit is scheduled to rise to 50 percent for plans bought in the state-run health care exchanges; however it will disappear after two years.

So why aren’t small businesses taking advantage?

They may have not had enough time to make the needed adjustments to their health care plan structure, according to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). These businesses, which may have been committed to remain with their current plan structure and contribution level, would be unable to claim the credit if that structure did not meet credit criteria.

Critics of the tax credit argue that the savings will not be significant enough for most small businesses to hassle with the large amounts of paperwork necessary to claim the credit. Families USA and the Small Business Majority estimate that only 30% of qualified small business would even be eligible for the full tax credit, with only a minimal number of companies qualifying for the maximum amount of 35 percent.

PPACA opponent the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) even set up a tax credit calculator on its website to assist small business owners in calculating how much of a credit they would receive, if any, by taking advantage. NFIB maintains that the credit is not substantial enough to fight against the increasing costs of providing health care to employers. Randy Johnson, a member of the United States Chamber of Commerce, called the tax credit “extremely small” and “more of a fig leaf than any help at all.”

What about your small business? Please tell us why you have decided to take advantage or not take advantage of the health care tax credit.