Yesterday, the White House announced that the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate would be delayed for one year, until 2015. As a result, employers with 50 or more employees will have an additional year before they are required to provide their staff with healthcare, or risk a penalty.
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The government’s announcement on the decision read, “We have heard concerns about the complexity of the requirements and the need for more time to implement them effectively.” And while it’s true that many, especially in the small business community, have expressed concerns over the law’s complexity, the one-year delay does not do much to assuage fears.
Rep. Sam Graves, the chairman of the House Small Business Committee, says. “Instead of providing relief for businesses, this simply kicks the can down the road.” And the National Federation of Independent Business, the nation’s largest small business organization, agrees with Rep. Graves that temporary relief is inadequate.
Bruce Phillips, a CPA with Harshman Phillips and a Gold Xero Partner, says the delay doesn’t do much in terms of clearing up the confusion facing small business owners.
“They would rather have certainty than more delayed uncertainty,” says Phillips. He says without a professional’s help, understanding the law’s implications for most small businesses is simply impossible, as the rules around what qualifies as an employee for the 50-employee mandate are unclear.
“For businesses with over 50 employees, they’re looking at how many people they have, and trying to figure out how much it will cost them to provide healthcare versus what it will cost them to pay the fine,” says Phillips. Fines may run as high as $3,000 per employee.
For growing businesses with less than 50 employees, Phillips says his best advice from an accounting standpoint is to try to figure out how to grow the business without adding more staffers.
One potential strategy some might consider is working around the 50-employee cutoff by using contractors and freelancers, but Phillips says this opens up another can of worms from a legal standpoint. “The IRS is pushing back on contractors versus employees, so while you might have avoided one issue, you may create another,” says Phillips.