If the end of the year is starting to feel like déjà vu all over again for business owners, that’s because it is. The biggest tax issues facing employers in 2016 are similar to those of 2015 -- the Affordable Care Act and the tax extenders. In addition, there are a few other tax and wage legislation changes that business owners should keep in mind when preparing for the 2016 tax season.
1. ACA (Obamacare) and new data requirements
In 2016, the health-care law expands to include businesses that had 51 to 99 prior-year employees. The requirement may challenge the bottom line for small businesses. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that it would cost about $5,800 a year in 2016 to provide an individual the health-care coverage required by Obamacare. That equals an additional $3 per hour in “minimum health wage,” says the National Center for Policy Analysis.
The health care law also requires business owners to keep track of all kinds of disparate data, including: hours employees’ work, benefits offered to individual employees and the number of full-time equivalent employees. The reporting requirements are time consuming, especially for businesses that hire a larger share of part-timers and seasonal employees -- and they can be costly. Many have purchased software or hired employees to help them keep track of the data. Employers must report this information to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and to their employees. Businesses that do not comply could find themselves paying a penalty of $2,000 per employee after the first 30.
2. New tax extenders
Business owners are stuck in limbo once again as they wait for Congress to act on tax extender legislation. It wasn’t until Dec. 19 that the president signed the tax extender bill into law last year. The last-minute, one-year extension of more than 50 tax-related credits and deductions sent business owners scrambling to take advantage of the $500,000 Section 179 deduction and 50 percent bonus depreciation, which had been set to expire.
The bonus depreciation allowed businesses to deduct half the cost of new capital purchases in the first year. The $500,000 in Section 179 expensing with a $2.5 million investment ceiling allowed a business to deduct the cost of a small capital purchase immediately, instead of writing it off over time.
Without an extension this year, bonus depreciation will be gone, and the Section 179 deduction will be $25,000, a fraction of what it had been. The late date with tax law has made tax planning difficult for businesses. If Congress chooses again for a temporary fix, 2016 tax planning will be challenging, as well.
3. Business identity theft
Consumers aren’t the only ones who fall victim to identity theft. Business identity theft has risen over the past few years, and it increasingly threatens small businesses across the U.S. One reason for the increase: Fraudsters have realized that they can generate larger refunds when they steal a business’s identity and claim business deductions and credits. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) estimates that over the next five years, the IRS could issue nearly $11.4 billion fraudulent tax refunds based on falsely-obtained Employer Identification Numbers (EIN).
Unfortunately, business owners, like individual taxpayers, often are unaware that their identity has been compromised until they receive a letter or notice from the IRS or another federal or state agency. Beyond financial loss and the substantial time and resources spent to correct resulting tax and financial issues, business owners must also deal with a damaged business reputation and heightened concern from employees and clients.
Knowing what’s ahead, preparing to file as soon as possible and even speaking with a professional will set business owners up for a (relatively) pain-free tax submissions season.
Related: 5 Smart Ways to Deter Identity Theft