On March 18, 2010, President Barack Obama signed into law the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment ("HIRE") Act (H.R. 2847).  The HIRE Act amends the Internal Revenue Code ("IRC") to provide certain tax incentives for employers to hire unemployed workers.  Specifically, the HIRE Act creates two new tax benefits for eligible employers: a payroll tax exemption for certain new hires, and a tax credit for retaining the qualified new hires. 

First, the HIRE Act provides eligible employers with a payroll tax exemption for qualified employees hired between February 3, 2010, and January 11, 2011.  This tax benefit is an exemption from having to pay the employer’s 6.2% share of social security tax on the wages paid to the qualified employee from March 19, 2010, through December 31, 2010.  Employers may claim this tax exemption on their quarterly tax returns, starting with the second quarter of 2010. 

Second, the HIRE Act also provides eligible employers with a business tax credit for each qualified employee that is retained for at least one year, or 52 consecutive weeks.  The employer may claim a credit of up to 6.2% of the wages paid to the retained employee over the one-year period, or a maximum of $1,000 per qualified employee, on its 2011 tax return.  Continue Reading HIRE Act Provides Employers with Tax Incentives for Hiring and Retaining Qualified Employees

On February 17, 2009, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), which expanded health care insurance benefits under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). The ARRA granted individuals involuntarily terminated from employment between September 1, 2008 and December 31, 2009, a subsidy to cover 65 percent of their monthly COBRA premiums for up to nine months. The subsidy is available for individuals with an annual income of less than $125,000 (single) or $250,000 (joint filers). Individuals earning between $125,000 ($250,000 joint) and $145,000 ($290,000 joint) are eligible for "phased-in" assistance.

Under the ARRA, plan administrators are not only responsible for providing notice of the subsidy to eligible individuals, they must also pay the cost of the subsidy up front. The plan administrator may then file IRS Form 941 to claim a payroll tax credit in the amount of subsidies paid. In other words, employers must front 65 percent of eligible individuals’ COBRA premiums in exchange for a credit against their payroll taxes.

UPDATE! On December 19, 2009, President Obama signed the 2010 Department of Defense Appropriations Act (Act), which extends the COBRA premium subsidy provisions and places additional notification requirements on plan administrators. The Act provides eligible individuals with an additional six months of subsidized coverage, extending the availability of the COBRA premium subsidy from nine to 15 months. The Act also allows individuals involuntarily terminated on or before February 28, 2010 to receive the subsidy, extending the original eligibility deadline of December 31, 2009, by two months. Employees involuntarily terminated in January and February 2010 will now be eligible for the subsidy.

Furthermore, if an individual was eligible for the COBRA premium assistance under the original ARRA, and that eligibility already expired, then that individual may receive the continued premium subsidy retroactively. In order to take advantage of the retroactive coverage, the individual must pay 35 percent of the premium by February 17, 2010, or within 30 days of receipt of the extension notice described below, whichever is later. If eligible individuals already have paid the full COBRA premium, then the plan administrator must either refund the over payments or credit future premium payments.

The Act also contains additional notification requirements that require plan administrators to provide eligible individuals with information regarding the extended subsidy.Continue Reading COBRA SUBSIDY EXTENDED AND NEW COBRA NOTICES REQUIRED

On March 10, 2009, Representative George Miller introduced the Employee Free Choice Act of 2009 (H.R. 1409) The Bill has 222 cosponsors from the House of Representatives comprised of 435 members. The Bill has been referred to the House Committee on Education and Labor. You can keep track of its progress through an RSS Feed.