Category Archives: 2015 Tax Changes

2015 Tax Changes for Massachusetts

Here are four 2015 tax changes. Have your filed your income tax return yet in Massachusetts?

2016_04_13 2015 Tax Changes graphicIf not, you may want to get your tax information together today before your run the risk of being late. If you can’t get your information together, at the very least, consider filing an extension. The Massachusetts tax filing extension allows for an automatic six months. Note this is also the case for the IRS. Before you do that, take a few minutes to read about these income tax changes that took place on or before January 1, 2015 for the State of Massachusetts:

Filing Due Date for 2015 Income Tax Returns

If you are not aware, you should be that the filing of tax returns that include Forms 1, 1NR/PY and extensions are due on or before April 19, 2016. Please make a note of it. That is one week away!

Tax Rates

Personal income tax rates are applied against different classes of Massachusetts taxable income. The tax rate on most classes of income is scheduled to decrease in years where the state achieves revenue growth benchmarks set forth by the formula in M.G.L. Chapter 62, Section 4(b).

As of January 1, 2015, the 5.2% tax rate on most taxable income has been reduced to 5.15%. If you sell or exchange capital assets, let it be known that the short-term gains remains at 12%. Also, long-term gains from the sale or exchange of collectibles (after a 50% deduction) conitnues to be at 12%.

Gambling Loss Deduction

Did you take a gamble this year and lose? For the Massachusetts taxpayer, you should note that the new gambling loss deduction is the only deduction for gambling losses permitted. Massachusetts does not take up with the federal deduction under IRC § 165(d) for gambling losses.

A deduction  from Part B income for gambling losses experienced at certain Massachusetts licensed (under General Laws chapter 23K) gaming establishments, this includes racing meeting licensee or simulcasting licensee establishments. However, this is only limited to winnings from such Massachusetts establishments. This includes gross income for the calendar year and the deduction is claimed on Schedule Y.

Health Insurance, Penalty for Failure to Purchase – Tax Year 2015

Individuals who can afford health insurance in accordance with the law but do not act on it are subject to penalties for each month of non-compliance in the tax year. The exception is the provision for no penalty in the case of a gap in coverage of 63 consecutive days or less. The penalty will not be more than 50% of the minimum monthly insurance premium the individual would have been eligible for had they participated in the Connector, and will be enforced through the individual’s personal income tax return upon filing.

The Massachusetts Health Care Reform Act insists that an adult 18 and over who has access to affordable health insurance to purchase it. In 2015, individuals had to be enrolled in health insurance policies that meet minimum approved coverage standards according to the guidelines approved by the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority (the Health Connector).

These penalties apply only to adults who are considered able to afford health insurance according to Massachusetts guidelines. Annually, the Health Connector sets up individual criteria that decides if individuals, married couples and families can afford health insurance This is according to their incomes and affordable health insurance premiums. Those who are not deemed able to afford health insurance according to the Massachusetts benchmarks will not be penalized. An appeal process is available to file with the Connector stating any hardship that may inhibit them from buying health insurance. If that is the case, they may have to pay a tax penalty).

Real Estate Tax Credit for Persons Age 65 and Older (Circuit Breaker)

Certain taxpayers age 65 or older may be eligible to claim a refundable credit on their state income taxes for the real estate taxes or rent paid during the tax year on the residential property they own or rent in Massachusetts that is used as their principal residence. If the credit due the taxpayer exceeds the amount of the total income tax payable for the year by the taxpayer, the excess amount of the credit will be refunded to the taxpayer without interest. For tax year 2015, the maximum credit allowed for both renters and homeowners is $1,070.
To be eligible for the credit for the 2015 tax year: the taxpayer or spouse, if married filing jointly, must be 65 years of age or older at the close of the 2015 tax year; the taxpayer must own or rent residential property in Massachusetts and occupy the property as his or her principal residence; the taxpayer’s “total income” cannot exceed $57,000 for a single filer who is not the head of a household, $71,000 for a head of household, or $85,000 for taxpayers filing jointly; and for homeowners, the assessed valuation as of January 1, 2015, before residential exemptions but after abatements, of the homeowner’s personal residence cannot exceed  $693,000.

Conclusion

Take these 2015 tax changes seriously, the State does. If your returns have not yet been completed, please all Alex Franch, BS EA at 781.849.7200 right away so that he can schedule an appointment and/or file an extension if necessary. You can also schedule an appointment at one of Worthtax’s locations in Quincy, Weymouth and Dedham.

Sources and Resources

Funny Money: Four Odd Types of Taxable Income
Itemized Deductions: Should I Itemize My Tax Deductions
Employer Relief: Affordable Care Act
2014 Income Tax Impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in a NutshellHealth Insurance: Ways to Deduct
Health Insurance Plans: Beware of Penalties
Tax Changes for 2015 – Commonwealth of Massachusetts

 

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Health Reimbursement Plans: Beware of Penalties

2015_08_20 Health Reimbursement Plans2m Health Reimbursement Plans, Healthcare, Health, Reimbursement PlansHealth reimbursement plans and rules have been very interesting these days. They can save you a lot of money, if used appropriately.

Beginning in 2015, large employers defined as those with 100 or more full-time employees must begin offering health insurance coverage to their employees. Then, in 2016, employers with 50 or more full-time employees must do the same or face penalties. These are called the “large employer health coverage excise tax.”

Employers with fewer than 50 full-time employees are never required to offer their employees an insurance plan. However, qualified small employers who do provide coverage may qualify for the small business health insurance credit.

In the past, many smaller employers have simply reimbursed their employees for the cost of insurance. They found it less expensive. And, they had fewer administrative costs than having a group insurance plan. However, under the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare for short), a group health plan that reimburses employees for the employees’ substantiated individual insurance policy premiums must satisfy the market reforms for group health plans. Most commentators believe an employer payment plan will fail to comply with the ACA annual dollar limit prohibition. This is because an employer payment plan is considered to impose an annual limit up to the cost of the individual market coverage purchased through the arrangement. Also, an employer payment plan cannot be integrated with any individual health insurance policy purchased under the arrangement. Thus, reimbursement plans may be subject to a very draconian penalty.

Small Business Employers, Did You Get the Notice?

Back in February, the IRS issued Notice 2015-17. This provides small employers limited relief from the stiff $100 per day, per participant, penalties under IRC §4980D for health insurance reimbursement plans that had been addressed in Notice 2013-54. In particular, that notice provided:

    • Transitional relief for employers that do not meet the definition of large employers (i.e., employers with 50 or more employees). This relief is granted for all of 2014 and for January 1 through June 30, 2015; and
  • Relief for S corporations that pay for or reimburse premiums for individual health insurance coverage for 2% shareholders, as previously addressed in Notice 2008-1. The relief period is indefinite, and the IRS states that taxpayers may continue to rely on Notice 2008-1 “unless and until additional guidance” is provided.

The Small Employer Health Reimbursement Relief is Expired

2015_08_20 Health Reimbursement Plans QuoteWell, June 30, 2015 has come and gone. So has the small employer relief. Therefore, employers who still reimburse employees for their medical expenses are in danger of being subject to the $100 per day ($36,500 a year) per employee penalty. Compared to the annual $2,000 penalty that large employers face for not providing insurance to their full-time employees, the penalties on small employers are substantial enough to bankrupt them. What does this mean? The large employer who fails to provide any insurance pays a penalty of only $2,000 per year per employee while the employer who helps employees by reimbursing them for the cost of insurance gets hit with an up to $36,500-per-employee penalty.

This is true even if the employer is a small employer (50 or fewer full-time employees) who is under no legal obligation to provide health insurance plans for its employees. They just want to offer reimbursements simply to help the employees. Does this seem fair? We will let you form your own opinion. You are welcome to leave a comment below to go over to our Facebook or Google+ pages to express your thoughts.

Will Congress step in to alleviate the problem? Maybe yes and maybe no. Employers must decide if it is worth the risk to depend on Congress to act.

There is one firm, Zane Benefits, which claims to have solved the problem with a reimbursement plan that complies with the code. Of course, there are others who argue that it does not.

Bottom Line: Understand your risks if your business has a medical reimbursement plans and consider other options.

If you have questions related to your business and employees or about the tax consequences or benefits regarding health reimbursement plans, please give Alex a call at 781-848-7200. He can help you sort through the tax treatments for you or your business large or small.

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