Wednesday, October 13, 2010

No tax on health care benefits - until 2018

There have apparently been concerns among many employees that passage of health care reform would mean that they would have to pay tax on the value of health benefits they receive from their employers. One source of this rumor was probably the fact that there is now a space for employers to include, if they wish, the cost of health benefits on the 2011 W-2 Form, which the IRS has just released. Inclusion of the information will be mandatory starting in 2012.

One example, from charlestonteaparty.org, states "Starting in 2011, (next year folks), your W-2 tax form sent by your Employer will be increased to show the value of whatever health insurance you are given by the company. It does not matter if that’s a private concern or governmental body of some sort. If you’re retired? So what; your gross will go up by the amount of insurance you get."

The entry goes on to state that: "You will be required to pay taxes on a large sum of money that you have never seen. Take your tax form you just finished and see what $15,000 or $20,000 additional gross does to your tax debt. That’s what you’ll pay next year. For many, it also puts you into a new higher bracket so it’s even worse. This is how the government is going to buy insurance for the 15% that don’t have insurance and it’s only part of the tax increases."

However, in a blog on the White House website, http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/10/12/putting-old-rumor-rest, Stephanie Cutter, Assistant to the President for Special Projects, has pointed out that the amount definitely will not be taxed. The reason for the new reporting requirement in Box 12 of the W-2 Form is, according to Cutter, writing to consumers, “so you can know more about your benefits and you are an empowered consumer.”

This is not entirely true either, however. While the White House is busy crowing over the fact that it has, at least in this sense, proven the health care reform naysayers wrong, it should be pointed out that there will be a tax on the cost of some health benefits, just not until 2018.

A 40-percent excise tax will be imposed on health coverage providers starting in 2018, to the extent that the aggregate value of employer-sponsored health coverage for an employee exceeds a threshold amount (Code Sec. 4980I, as added by Act Sec 9001(a) of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (P.L. 111-148), and amended by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-152).

This is the tax on so-called "Cadillac" health plans. The dollar limits for determining the tax thresholds will generally be $10,200 multiplied by a health cost adjustment percentage for an employee with self-only coverage, and $27,500 multiplied by a health cost adjustment percentage for an employee with coverage other than self-only coverage.

The good news for employees is that the insurance companies, not consumers, will be responsible for paying the tax, and the vast majority of plans are not likely to reach the threshold.

For more information. For a comprehensive analysis of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and additional information on health reform and other developments in employee benefits, just click here.

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