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Small Business Health Care Tax Credit: What Employers Need to Know

Small Business Health Care Tax Credit: What Employers Need to Know

As a small business owner, you’re in charge of making many critical decisions that impact your employees. Determining which benefits and employee perks you offer is one choice that plays a direct role in attracting top talent and retaining key members of your company.

These days, health insurance is a major sticking point for new and current workers. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that nearly half of employees 'said health insurance was either the deciding factor or a positive influence in choosing their current job.' That willingness to choose jobs based on health insurance makes a competitive benefits package even more important for a growing business.

Of course, offering health insurance is also a notable expense for a small business trying to grow. Fortunately, the small business health care tax credit allows qualifying organizations to offset some of those costs and provide quality health insurance for their employees. Here’s what you need to know about this tax credit and whether it can help your business.

Which Small Businesses Qualify for the Health Care Tax Credit

While any business that offers health coverage would love to save money, the IRS does set some stipulations for which organizations will benefit from the tax credit. Your business will need to meet the following criteria to be eligible for the small business health care tax credit. 

Your business must have fewer than 25 full-time equivalent employees

Full-time equivalent (FTE) employees are typically counted as those who meet “an average of 30 hours of service per week for a calendar month or at least 130 hours of service in a month.” Any employee that performs services for your business would normally be counted, but the IRS requires employers to alter this calculation for the tax credit.

Instead of counting 30 hours per week as one FTE employee, the health care tax reviews hours from an annual perspective. One FTE employee for the tax credits equals approximately 2,080 hours per year. Any part-time employees who combine to equal more than 2,080 hours would count as one FTE employee in these calculations.

The IRS asks employers to not include the wages and hours worked by certain types of employees toward their 25 FTE employee limit. These individuals include:

  • The owner of a sole proprietorship
  • Any partner in a partnership
  • Shareholders of S Corporation owning more than 2%
  • Owners of more than 5% of the business or other businesses
  • Family members of the above
  • Seasonal employees who work 120 or fewer days per year

Your business’s average wages must be lower than $56,000 per full-time equivalent

In addition to meeting FTE requirements, your business must also meet certain wage thresholds. The IRS set the average annual wages at $50,000 back in 2014 and have adjusted the amount each year for inflation. As of the 2020 tax year, businesses must pay average wages of less than $56,000 to FTE employees to qualify for the tax credit. 

Your business must offer a qualified health plan

Any organization that wants to be eligible for the small business health care tax credit is required to offer a qualified health plan through a Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) marketplace. There are also certain areas where a qualified health plan may not be available through SHOP. In those cases, an eligible business may still be able to claim the credit.

Your business must pay health insurance premiums through a “qualified arrangement”

According to the IRS, a qualified arrangement means that employers pay at least 50% of any premium costs for enrolled employee's health insurance coverage. This arrangement only extends to costs incurred by those employees, meaning that any costs incurred by family or dependents do not affect the 50% threshold.

How Much Can Organizations Receive from the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit?

The exact amount of credit your organization receives depends on two main factors:

  • Whether your organization is tax-exempt or not
  • The size of your organization

Eligible smaller businesses can receive a tax credit that covers up to 50% of the premiums paid for by the employers. Meanwhile, eligible employers who are tax-exempt can max out a 35% tax credit. This credit is available to both types of employers for two consecutive taxable years. Small business employers are able to carry that credit either forward or back as well.

Of course, those numbers represent the maximum tax credit for your business. The exact amount your business can receive is based on a sliding scale where smaller employers will receive larger credits. According to the IRS, your maximum allowed credit will be reduced if you employ more than 10 FTE employees or have average wages of more than $25,000 (subject to change due to inflation).

How to Claim the Tax Credit

If your small business is eligible for the tax credit, you should fill out Form 8941 to calculate that credit. The IRS provides a detailed PDF with instructions on how to list your employees, their total hours, and how much you paid them. Meanwhile, tax-exempt organizations can file Form 990-T for their credits.

How to Invest in the Right Benefits Package for Your Small Business

Whether you qualify for a tax credit or not, it’s difficult to balance rising premiums and providing quality health care coverage that helps you attract and retain top talent. Fortunately, Professional Employer Organizations (PEO) like GMS make it possible for you to provide top-tier coverage at affordable prices.

As a PEO, GMS is a natural fit for health insurance administration. We represent hundreds of businesses and can leverage our greater buying power to keep premiums down and give you access to quality plans at cost-effective prices. GMS also gives you and your employees access to experts who can help you stay on top of regulatory changes and educate group members about how to best use your plans.

Let’s face it, benefits administration is confusing and time consuming. GMS helps you invest in quality, cost-effective coverage and allows you to reclaim your valuable time. Contact GMS today about group health insurance and ancillary benefits that makes sense for your small business.

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