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Don't Forget About the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit

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With tax day rapidly approaching, small business owners still have a chance to cash in on a health care reform provision reserved just for them: health care tax credits. The Affordable Care Act was designed to address one of small business owners' most serious problems -- a lack of access to affordable coverage. Since its enactment, employers across the country have been able to claim the credit and reinvest in their business. Nan Warshaw, owner of Bloodshoot Records in Chicago, Illinois, is one of them.

Nan was able to save nearly $6,000 with the Affordable Care Act's small business tax credit in 2010, helping offset her group coverage cost. "We're still filing our 2011 returns, but we anticipate saving nearly that amount again," she said. "With us paying the full contributions for our employees' insurance, it really is a relief to get some help with those costs -- and this is certainly the first time we've been financially rewarded for looking out for their wellbeing."

Nan is one of hundreds of thousands of employers already seeing her health care costs decrease with the help of the tax credits. According to national opinion polling we released in 2011, one-third of small business owners who currently don't offer health coverage are more likely to start doing so because of them, and 33 percent of employers already offering it said they're more likely to continue doing so.

Currently, businesses with fewer than 25 full-time employees who pay at least 50 percent of total premiums are eligible for a credit of up to 35 percent of their premium contribution. In 2014, that will jump to 50 percent. For a rough estimate of how much your business could save, check out Small Business Majority's tax credit calculator.

In this tough economy small business owners are struggling to compete, and in some cases, just keep their doors open. Like some of the law's other key components, the tax credits are intended to boost entrepreneurs' bottom lines, bettering their chances of offering quality coverage. Some use it to become more competitive by bulking up benefits packages, while others purchase new equipment. Still others put it toward their employees' share of premiums.

For Ron Nelsen, owner of Pioneer Overhead Door in Las Vegas, Nevada, the credit eased worries that group costs might spiral so far out of control that he'd be robbed of his commitment to offering insurance. "When I heard about the new health care law, I was relieved something was finally being done to help entrepreneurs like me," he said. "In 2010, I got back $2,235 just for offering insurance to deserving employees. And this year, I received even more. Most importantly, I'm not thinking about having to tell the guys they're on their own when it comes to health insurance."

Nationally, 309,000 small businesses saved money through this provision in 2010. An even larger number should benefit this year. And research shows the uptake could be even greater. Our opinion poll found 57 percent of small business owners do not know about the tax credits. It's time to change that. To help them, we must get the word out and do everything we can to make sure this important provision is taken advantage of. In this economy, every little bit helps.

John Arensmeyer is the founder & CEO of Small Business Majority