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7 Actions Small Businesses Can Start Now to Make 2016 Tax Season Simple
07/28/2015

With tax season over, your first impulse may be to sit back and relax until next year. However, there are things you can do right now to make next year’s tax season simpler, easier, and less stressful. Here are seven stress-free things you can do to make your 2016 taxes easy as pie:


#1. Start a file. You will need receipts, mileage logs, and invoices to hand over when you are ready for tax time. Don’t let them scatter to the four corners of your office. Get them filed so you have them available when you’re ready for tax time.


#2. Log your receipts. Probably one of the most frustrating parts of taxes is figuring out what you spent deductible money on in the previous year. By the time next April comes around, your receipts may be faded - along with your memory. Create a log and be sure to update it every time you file a receipt.


#3. Interview CPAs now. During tax season, CPAs are incredibly busy. Instead of waiting until the last minute to get help, gather recommendations from fellow business owners or friends and interview your potential CPA now. You’ll get more of their attention and they will likely be more excited about gaining your business when they aren’t completely swamped.


#4. Consider what you did wrong with last year’s taxes. Perhaps something made you panicky at the last minute or there was information you needed to gather the day before your appointment with the CPA. Think about what stressed you out this year and make sure you correct it for next year.


#5. Give a list of things to keep track of to your accountant or accounting department. It’s your job as the business owner to think ahead. Help your accounting department keep tax season in mind by giving them a list of what you will need. That way they can start filing and logging now instead of going into overtime in March or April.


#6. Take advantage of tax breaks all year long. Many businesses forget there are tax breaks they can take advantage of until December. Instead of rushing around trying to figure out how to cram in business improvements right when everyone is trying to take time off, plan your tax write-offs now and implement them all year long.


#7. Get tax projections for 2015. Ask your CPA or accountant to work up your projected taxes for this year. If you are doing significantly more business, this will help you avoid the shock of higher tax costs when you start to do your taxes in 2016.


It is never too early to get ready for tax season. By planning ahead, you can take advantage of more tax deductions and tax write offs so your tax season next year is as stress-free as possible.
How Does COBRA Work?
07/21/2015

COBRA is not nearly as scary as the snake it might make you think of. COBRA stands for Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. It is a federal law designed to help workers keep their health insurance. It allows individuals to continue to use their group plan coverage in a variety of situations, including if an individual:


  • quits work, is laid off, or is fired (not for gross misconduct)

  • has his or her hours reduced so the worker no longer qualifies for the group plan

  • becomes legally separated or divorced

  • has a child who no longer qualifies as a dependent under the plan

  • becomes disabled

  • dies

  • becomes eligible for or enrolled in Medicare.


These life events are covered by COBRA for a specific amount of time, depending upon the circumstance.


How to Get COBRA Health Insurance


Employees hoping to receive COBRA benefits need to tell Human Resources or their insurance administrator within thirty days of one of the above events. Beneficiaries of the employee have up to 60 days to elect COBRA after one of the qualifying situations listed above.


Once you have let the appropriate person at your former place of employment know that you wish to elect COBRA, they must send you a notice within 14 days. After the notice is received, you and your beneficiaries have up to 60 days to decide whether or not to claim coverage. After that 60-day period, the right to those benefits are lost.


COBRA lasts for a maximum of 18 months in most situations, but can end earlier under specific circumstances.


COBRA Insurance Costs


There are additional costs associated with getting COBRA insurance, so it is important to determine whether another insurance option is better or more affordable. Your employer can charge you the entire premium plus an extra 2% administrative cost. As insurance costs increase, the premium you pay will also increase. However, you will receive the same benefits you received when working under your employer.


Disadvantages of COBRA


While COBRA can be a great option if you have excellent insurance and have been laid off or need some extra time to sign up for new benefits, it may not be the right fit for every worker. There are drawbacks to COBRA benefits, including the additional fees one incurs when utilizing this service.


Be sure to research all of your insurance options before deciding upon COBRA - and make sure to get new coverage before your COBRA coverage expires.

Common Flexible Spending Account Questions
07/14/2015

We have a number of insurance options available here at IBG. One such option an employer can choose to provide to employees is a Flexible Spending Account (FSA).


What is an FSA?


A Flexible Spending Account is an account that can be used to pay specific out-of-pocket healthcare costs. While this is a great program, there are certain eligibility requirements necessary for a person to enroll in an FSA. For example, this type of account is only available with job-based health plans.


Why is it a good idea to have an FSA?


Money placed in an FSA is tax free. This means you not only have money to spend on health concerns, you can spend this money tax-free.


FSA’s can be used to pay for things like medication, medical equipment, medical supplies, and copayments. This can be extremely helpful if you have an insurance plan that has a high deductible or a plan that doesn’t cover things like medicine or crutches.


Are there rules connected with an FSA?


Because an FSA is tax free, there are several rules connected with it. For example, the maximum allowed deduction for an FSA is $2,550 for many 2015 plans. Additionally, you are required to re-enroll in your FSA every year during the open enrollment period, 31 days within your date of hire, or at a qualifying life event.


Can I spend money from my FSA after the 12 month expiration date?


An FSA often requires that the money placed in it must be used within the plan year, but employers may also offer one of the following two options:


  • You may be allowed to carry up to $500 per year over for use in the following year.

  • You may have a grace period of up to 2 ½ months in your FSA - making the spending period up to 14 ½ months instead of one year.


Can I use my FSA to cover my child’s medical expenses?


An FSA can be utilized for children under 13 years old who are claimed as a dependent for tax purposes. Additionally, it can be used in the care of a disabled spouse or disabled dependent of any age.


Because a Flexible Spending Account is only available through insurance provided by an employer, be sure to see if this is an option provided to you. It can help you save a lot of money and take care of your family, tax free.
Five Simple Ways to Improve the Health of Your Employees
07/07/2015

Working at an office often requires intense concentration while one sits at a computer as they talk on the phone or while typing. Unfortunately, activities like holding the phone with your shoulder, getting stressed, and doing repetitive motions on the keyboard can all be hard on the health of your employees and on you.

Share these five tips with your employees to help boost their health and counteract bad physical habits at work.

 

#1. Try to avoid using the mouse as much as you can. This may sound like a tough task, but there are tools that can help you. There are keyboard shortcuts like using ctrl+P to print instead of clicking over to the printer. You can also often use the arrow keys on your keyboard’s number pad to navigate around the screen.

 

#2. Reduce stress in the workplace by doing one task at a time. The American Institute of Stress has done a number of studies which show conclusively that job stress is the major source of stress for American adults. While there are many sources of workplace stress, one is constant interruption of work which turns short tasks into long, all-day or all-week challenges. This can be partially solved by doing one task at a time. While multi-tasking may seem faster, giving actions deep, undisturbed attention will make them less stressful, increase work quality, and help the individual complete his or her work faster.

 

#3. Take breaks. Every workplace has a break policy. Here in Oregon, many employees working 8 hours a day have the right to at least one 30-minute unpaid meal break and two 10-minute paid rest breaks. Even as an employer, you should take advantage of these breaks. Use these breaks wisely by getting up and walking around or stretching.

 

#4. Try standing or walking while working. Many jobs create an opportunity for at least some mobile work. Perhaps you can walk to the copier, stand up while opening the mail, or take the stairs to the next floor.

 

#5. Adjust how you sit in your chair. There are many comfortable sitting positions, but the best is the one which supports your back. Back support isn’t just the duty of your chair. It also depends on how you sit. Try sitting with your feet flat on the floor or on a foot rest. Your thighs should be at right angles to your body or sloping slightly down. The idea is to be seated in a way in which your legs and feet help to support your back.


It is important to consider what actions will help you work more efficiently and effectively in the long run. Little things like keeping one’s feet flat on the floor may not seem like a huge step toward health, but in the long run it will help you avoid back problems and have a healthier, happier, workday.

Healthcare Basics for Employers with Fewer Than 25 Employees
06/24/2015


 

Health care in the workplace continues to be an important issue for small businesses. Taking this into consideration, the Small Business Administration outlines the provisions that may impact employers with less than 25 employees to help navigate the changes in healthcare.


Small Business Health Care Tax Credit

The Small Business Tax Credit helps small businesses get affordable coverage for their employees especially for those businesses with low to moderate income workers.  As of 2014, this credit is available to qualified small businesses that purchase coverage through the SHOP Marketplace and may be worth up to 50% of the employer’s premium costs (35% for tax-exempt employers). The Tax Estimator Tool from Healthcare.gov helps you determine if you are eligible.


Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP)

If you are looking to provide coverage for your employees, you can do so through the Small Business Health Options Program. The SHOP is open to employers with up to 50 FTE employees and allows them to obtain a better choice of health plans. Moreover, if you meet the eligibility requirement and offer your employees coverage through the SHOP, you may qualify for the Small Business Tax Credit worth up to 50%.  To find out if you meet the size requirements for SHOP, use the SHOP FTE Calculator .


Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBCs) Disclosure Rules

The Summary of Benefits and Coverage form explains what the plan covers and the costs. Employers are required to provide this to employees to help them better understand and evaluate the options available.


Flexible Spending Account Contributions

For a plan beginning on or after January 2013, the maximum amount an employee can contribute to health care flexible spending arrangements for any year is capped at $2,500. It is important to note that the limit only applies to elective employee contributions and does not extend to employer contributions.


Additional Medicare Withholding on Wages

Effective January 1, 2013, ACA increased the employee portion of the Medicare Part A Hospital Insurance (HI) withholdings by .9% (from 1.45% to 2.35%) on employees with incomes of over $200,000 for single filers and $250,000 for married joint filers.  It is the responsibility of employers to withhold this additional tax, which applies only to wages in excess of these thresholds. The employer portion of the tax remains unchanged at 1.45%.


New Medicare Assessment on Net Investment Income

A 3.8% tax will be assessed on net investment income including taxable capital gains, dividends, interest, rents, and royalties for taxpayers with Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) over $200,000 for single filers and $250,000 for married joint filers.


Workplace Wellness Programs

To encourage employers in promoting wellness in the workplace, the Affordable Care Act creates new incentives. Wellness programs require individuals to meet a specific health objective to reap rewards. For more information visit DOL.gov.



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