Supreme Court Obamacare Ruling Provides Religious Exemption To For-Profit Companies

Joe Popp | June 30th, 2014

Obamacare is back in the news as a top story! Why? Because the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that closely held, for-profit companies can claim religious exemption to avoid providing health insurance coverage for contraceptives.

An Obamacare provision stated that businesses with more than 50 employees must cover preventive care services, including birth control and morning-after pills to female employees. Today’s Supreme Court ruling provides relief for many U.S. for-profit companies by giving way to this religious exemption. Now companies that feel offering health insurance the covers contraceptives goes against their religious beliefs can opt out of providing this kind of coverage. Check out this New York Times article which provides a more in-depth look at the today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling.  Of course, its too early to tell the practical impact of this decision – insurance companies are free to choose which kind of coverage is covered by their insurance plans, and the relative pricing of those plans, after all.

Obamacare Help

Do you feel like today’s Supreme Court ruling could impact your business and the health insurance coverage you offer to your employees? If it does, and you need help, contact Rea & Associates. Our health care reform tax experts can help you determine how it affects you and your business.

Author: Joe Popp, JD, LLM (Dublin office)

 

Interested in other Obamacare-related blog posts? Check these out:

What You Need To Know About Obamacare Employee Dumping 

Health Insurance Options: SHOP, Drop, Roll, or Self-insure?

How Will ACA Federal Exchange Premiums Affect Ohio Small Businesses and Consumers?

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How Far Back Can The IRS Go For Tax Auditing?

Matt Pottmeyer | June 20th, 2014

As a CPA I am frequently asked, “How far back can the IRS look to audit my tax return?” That’s a great question. Can the IRS go back and audit your tax return from five years ago? 10 years ago? 25 years ago? Before you start to panic, rest assured that the IRS has a statute of limitations in place that generally puts a limit on the time allowed to audit you and assess additional tax.

Typically, the statute of limitations is three years for the IRS to include a tax return in an audit. This means the statute of limitations likely ran out on the majority of 2010 returns. The 2010 returns would have been due on April 15, 2011 … three years from that date was April 15, 2014. So most taxpayers are out of the woods for 2010 tax returns and all prior years. This same statute of limitations applies to the taxpayer when they would request a tax refund – you can only go back three years’ worth of returns to request a tax refund.

IRS Statute of Limitations Can Be Extended

But wait, before you start high-fiving everyone around you … that statute of limitations can be stretched out to six years if a substantial error is identified. A substantial error is defined as an omission of 25 percent or more of gross income. This may also apply to basis overstatements whenever property is sold.  Basis generally means the amount of capital investment in a property for tax purposes.

The U.S. Tax Court has given mixed results on whether or not basis overstatements constitute understatements of gross income. The Federal, Washington D.C., 7th  and 10th circuits have ruled in favor of the IRS, supporting the concept that basis overstatements open up the six-year statute. However, the 4th, 5th, and 9th circuits have ruled in favor of the taxpayer, holding that basis overstatements do not constitute substantial understatements of gross income.

When The IRS Statute of Limitations Doesn’t Expire

There are situations when the statute of limitations never expires. The most common is when a return never is filed. The other situation is when the IRS sues for civil tax fraud. Civil tax fraud cases are extremely rare because the burden of proof is so high for the IRS. The older the fraud, the colder the trail gets.

The IRS has stated that it tries to audit tax returns as soon as possible after they are filed. But in my professional experience, most audits are typically of returns filed within the last two years.

If an audit is not finished, the taxpayer may be asked to extend the statute of limitations for assessment of his or her tax return. Extending the statute will allow additional time to provide additional documentation to support a position, request an appeal if there is a disagreement with the audit results, or to claim a tax refund or credit. The extension will also allow the IRS time to complete the audit and provide additional time to process the audit results. It’s not mandatory to agree to extend the statute of limitations date. However, if the taxpayer does not agree, the auditor will be forced to make a determination based upon the information on hand at the time, which may not be favorable.

Tax Audit Help

If you’re concerned you’re at risk of an IRS audit or are looking for some clarity on the IRS statute of limitation for tax auditing, contact Rea & Associates. Our team of Ohio tax professionals can help you determine if you could be facing an audit, and can walk you through the process.

Author: Matt Pottmeyer, CPA (Marietta office)

 

Looking for additional articles about managing your taxes? Check these blog posts out:

What Tax Liabilities Accompany Inherited Real Estate?

What Should You Do After Tax Season?

How Can You Best Prepare For The Upcoming Tax Season?

 

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8 Tips For Crafting A Strong Password

Joe Welker | June 12th, 2014

eBay Inc. recently recommended its users to change their passwords. Why? If you guessed there was a cyberattack on one of eBay’s databases, you are correct! Cyberattacks have been in the news almost daily, and unfortunately they seem to be increasing in number. While companies are busy trying to stave off any attacks, there are ways you can protect yourself.

Treat Passwords With Care

Like with other items, you should consider your passwords to be sensitive material. Treat them no differently than you treat your credit cards. Make sure your passwords are secure and change them regularly – as often as four times a year, or sooner if you believe it has been compromised.

A standard eight-character password with moderate security can be hacked within two to four hours. In comparison, passwords or passphrases of 12 characters with high complexity would take 17,000 years to breach.

8 Tips To Keep Your Passwords Strong and Safe

Here are eight tips and best practices you can implement to help keep your passwords strong and safe:

  1. Use passphrases instead of passwords or a string of characters and digits. Passphrases can be easier to remember. For example: “Myd0gisSamm@”
  2. Use upper and lower case letters, numbers and special characters in passphrases.
  3. Never use complete words within a passphrase.
  4. Change passphrases routinely.
  5. Never share passphrases with others.
  6. Be cautious of shared computers that do not have current virus detection programs installed on them, such as hotel data centers, publicly used computer kiosks.
  7. Change passphrases after using a shared public access computer.
  8. Use two-step verifications when available.

Password and IT Audit Help

Need some additional advice on how to create strong passwords that will protect you and your business? Contact Rea & Associates. Our IT audit professionals can help you determine where you can strengthen your IT security.

Author: Joe Welker, CISA (New Philadelphia office)

 

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How Effective Is Your Nonprofit Organization?

Mark Van Benschoten | June 10th, 2014

You’re busy. Your staff is busy. Everyone is busy. It’s easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day tasks and responsibilities of your organization. Meeting with prospective donors, educating groups on the mission of your organization, and managing volunteers. But let me ask you, when did you last spend time evaluating the effectiveness of your nonprofit organization? Has your donor base increased? Are you seeing an increase in volunteers and people who want to support your organization? Are you truly living out your organization’s mission and vision?

Evaluate Your Not-For-Profit’s Effectiveness

Can’t remember the last time you considered the effectiveness of your organization? Now is probably a good time. If after evaluating you discover that your organization has some areas for improvement, considering asking yourself the five questions below. Addressing these questions and areas may help you create a more effective nonprofit organization.

  1. Are we communicating our organization’s accomplishments?

    Many organizations make a lot of effort to communicate how much money they’ve raised, and how they use their funds. The focus seems to mostly be on the money and percentages. And while it’s important to communicate this information, don’t forget to talk about what your organization is actually doing. How are you carrying out the mission of your organization? What key accomplishments has your organization achieved? Place a greater emphasis on communicating your organization’s accomplishments.

  2. Is our organization’s board of directors actively engaged in the organization?

    When you conduct board meetings, do you sense that your board in engaged in the meeting? Are your board members asking questions and providing insight on how to strengthen the organization? Are they participating in and attending organization activities and fundraisers? If you can’t provide answers to these questions or the answer is “no,” then maybe you need to evaluate how you’re communicating and interacting with your board. A strong, engaged board can help drive the effectiveness of your organization.

  3. Is our organization’s mission and vision statements clearly defined and communicated to our audiences?

    If you were to survey your donor base, prospective donors, volunteers and others throughout the communities you serve, would you find that people understand your organization and its mission? Not sure what kind of responses you would get? One reason that your organization may not be as effective as it could be is because your audiences may not fully understand the mission and vision of your organization. Take a look at your mission and vision statements and see if you need to make some revisions.

  4. Do we clearly and timely communicate to our board of directors?

    This question really ties into whether or not you feel like you have an engaged board. One of the reasons you may not have an engaged board is because you’re not clearly and timely communicating with them. If there are important decisions that need to be made, make sure that you providing them with the necessary information to make the decision within a timely manner.

  5. How strong are our organization’s internal controls?

    Unfortunately, internal fraud is a real concern within nonprofit organizations. Few nonprofits have strong internal controls. As organizations grow, the internal controls need changing. Make sure the controls are operating at a level that will deter and detect fraud. Establish a code of conduct that will create a clear understanding of what is expected of all employees. Even if your organization only has a few employees, it is still possible to implement a system of checks and balances. These controls should help safeguard assets, produce accurate reports and improve administrative effectiveness. 

Ohio Non-For-Profit Help

Effective nonprofit organizations are impacting the communities they serve. If you are questioning the effectiveness of your organization, contact Rea & Associates. Our Ohio non-for-profit team can help you evaluate your organization and where you can increase your efficiency and effectiveness.

Author: Mark Van Benschoten, CPA (Dublin office)

 

Looking for more nonprofit organization tips and best practices? Check these blog posts out:

Which 990 Policies Do Non-Profits Need?

How Do You Build a Strong Not-for-Profit Board?

How Do You Protect Your Non-profit’s Donations from Fraud?

 

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What You Need To Know About Obamacare Employee Dumping

Joe Popp | June 5th, 2014

You may have heard some buzz lately about the Obama administration and/or the IRS barring employers from “dumping” employees onto the health care exchanges – with some truly severe cash penalties for doing so. But is this really “new” news? What exactly does this mean? It might surprise you to know that employee dumping is not all it seems.

A recent New York Times article explains that “employee dumping” is the practice where an employer drops health insurance coverage to its employees, the employees go to the health care exchange to buy insurance, and then the employer on a pre-tax basis reimburses its employees for their premiums. This “have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too” approach (with various ways to accomplish it) was one of the leading responses to this legislation that Obamacare consultants developed. The administrating agencies (IRS, HHS, DOL) shut this option down when they issues guidance in September 2013. ANY attempt by an employer to pay an employee a pre-tax benefit for health insurance has since then been a very dangerous approach, although some exceptions exist (e.g. retirees only). This current “news” is simply a clarification that these things are indeed busted.

Can You Still Drop Health Care Insurance Coverage?

What if you want to drop your coverage, send employees to the exchange, and then increase their after-tax pay so that they can pay for exchange insurance? That’s OK, it doesn’t conflict with the rules. It’s only pre-tax benefits you should be concerned with.

What if you increase worker pay as I just described, and then the employee sinks that cash into an HSA that they get from a bank (for free)? That gets them a tax deduction (up to certain limits) … is that OK?  Yes! Remember that what the IRS is looking to prevent is employers trying to give pre-tax benefits without offering insurance – that is the “evil” that these regulations are designed to combat. Once the employer pays taxable wages to an employee, the employee is free to use whatever means they have available to be tax efficient.

A Pit Trap For The Unwary

So is “employee dumping” limited to the situation where employers are trying to push tax-free cash to employees? Actually no, and this is why I refer to this as “a pit trap for the unwary.” Dumping also refers to the practice of employers encouraging workers with high medical bills to go to the exchange.

What exactly does this mean? Think of it this way … As an employer, you have an insurance plan that still takes into account the health and claims of your workforce (they still exist). If you can get an employee to the exchange that has $400,000 of medical costs a year, you could potentially save a large sum of money and your employee is not harmed because they can get quality coverage on the exchange for no more than a healthy individual can.

Some companies throw a cash kicker on top for the employee to voluntarily drop coverage (what’s an extra $10,000 in cash if you are saving $100,000+). Everybody wins, right?  Well, not the Exchange. If it’s discovered that you – the employer – are doing this, there are administrative rules in place that can throw that cost back at you. Insurance companies have a duty to report suspected employee dumping, so be careful!

Obamacare Help

Have you considered “dumping” or are you unsure if you’re heading down this path? If so, contact Rea & Associates. Our team of Ohio tax professionals can help you determine what path is best for you to take, as well as help you stay in compliance with Obamacare rules and avoid any pitfalls along the way.

Author: Joe Popp, JD, LLM (Dublin office)

 

Interested in reading more on how Obamacare will impact you and your business? Check out these posts:

Peeling Back The Onion: Answering 3 Popular Obamacare Questions

Health Insurance Options: SHOP, Drop, Roll, or Self-insure?

How Will ACA Federal Exchange Premiums Affect Ohio Small Businesses and Consumers? 

 

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