October 28, 2021 | BY admin
When choosing health care benefits, many businesses opt for a self-insured (self-funded) plan rather than a fully insured one. Why? Among various reasons, self-insured plans tend to offer greater flexibility and potentially lower fixed costs.
When implementing a self-insured plan, stop-loss insurance is typically recommended. Although buying such a policy isn’t required, many small to midsize companies find it a beneficial risk-management tool.
Purpose of coverage
Specifically, stop-loss insurance protects the business against the risk that health care plan claims greatly exceed the amount budgeted to cover costs. Plan administration costs generally are fixed in advance, and an actuary can estimate claims costs. This information allows a company to budget for the estimated overall plan cost. However, exceptionally large — that is, catastrophic — claims can bust the budget.
To be clear, stop-loss insurance doesn’t pay participants’ health care benefits. Rather, it reimburses the business for certain claims properly paid by the plan above a stated amount. A less common approach for single-employer plans is to buy a stop-loss policy as a plan asset, in which case the coverage reimburses the plan, rather than the employer.
The threshold for stop-loss insurance is referred to as the “stop-loss attachment point.” A policy may have a specific attachment point (which applies to claims for individual participants or beneficiaries), an aggregate attachment point (which applies to total covered claims for participants and beneficiaries) or both.
Aligning plan and coverage terms
If you choose to buy stop-loss insurance, it’s critical to line up the terms of the coverage with the terms of your health care plan. Otherwise, some claims paid by the plan that you might expect to be reimbursed by the insurance might not be — and would instead remain your responsibility.
Properly lining up coverage terms isn’t always straightforward, so consider having legal counsel familiar with the terms of your health care plan review any proposed or existing stop-loss policy. In particular, watch out for discrepancies between the eligibility provisions, definitions, limits and exclusions of your plan and those same elements of the stop-loss policy.
Because stop-loss insurance isn’t health care coverage, insurers may impose limits and exclusions that are impermissible for group health plans. For example, a stop-loss policy can exclude coverage of specified individuals or services. Or it can impose an annual or lifetime dollar limit per individual.
You’ll also need to look carefully at the stop-loss policy’s coverage period. This is the period during which claims must be incurred by individuals or paid by the health care plan to be covered by the insurance. Specifically, determine whether it lines up with your plan year.
After buying stop-loss insurance, be extra sure to administer your health care plan in accordance with its written plan document. Any departures from the plan document could render the stop-loss coverage inapplicable. We can help you determine whether stop-loss insurance is right for your business or whether your current coverage is cost-effective.
October 26, 2021 | BY admin
Events of the last decade have taught us that tax law is anything but certain. So how can young, affluent people plan their estates when the tax landscape may look dramatically different 20, 30 or 40 years from now — or even a few months from now? The answer is by taking a flexible approach that allows you to hedge your bets.
Many traditional estate planning techniques evolved during a time when the gift and estate tax exemption was relatively low and the top estate tax rate was substantially higher than the top income tax rate. Under those circumstances, it usually made sense to remove assets from the estate early to shield future asset appreciation from estate taxes.
Today, the exemption has climbed to $10 million, indexed annually for inflation ($11.7 million for 2021) and the top gift and estate tax rate (40%) is roughly the same as the top income tax rate (37%). If the gift and estate tax regime remains the same and your estate’s worth is within the exemption amount, estate tax isn’t a concern and there’s no gift and estate tax benefit to making lifetime gifts.
But there may be a big income tax advantage to keeping assets in your estate: Under current law, the basis of assets transferred at death is stepped up to their current fair market value, so beneficiaries can turn around and sell them without generating capital gains tax liability.
For young and affluent people, designing an estate plan is a challenge because it’s difficult to predict what the estate and income tax laws will look like — and what their own net worth will be — decades from now. If you believe that the value of your estate will remain lower than the exemption amount, then it may make sense to hold on to your assets and transfer them at death so your children can potentially enjoy the income tax benefits of a stepped-up basis.
But what if your wealth grows beyond the exemption amount so that estate taxes become a concern again? Or what if the exemption goes down? Indeed, Congress is currently considering legislation that would halve the gift and estate tax exemption to $5 million, indexed annually for inflation (which likely would be somewhere around $6 million for 2022). If that happens, you may have to remove assets from your estate to ease estate tax liability.
Or what if the step-up in basis rules change, reducing or eliminating the income tax benefits of holding assets until death? Major changes to the rules had been proposed earlier this year. These changes aren’t included in the latest version of the legislation, but they could be proposed again in the future.
Building flexibility into your plan
A carefully designed trust can make it possible to remove assets from your estate now, while giving the trustee the authority to force the assets back into your estate if that turns out to be the better strategy. This allows you to shield decades of appreciation from estate tax while retaining the option to include the assets in your estate should income tax savings become a priority.
For the technique to work, the trust must be irrevocable, the grantor (you) must retain no control over the trust assets (including the ability to remove and replace the trustee), and the trustee should have absolute discretion over distributions.
This trust type offers welcome flexibility, but it’s not risk-free. Contact us for more information.
October 22, 2021 | BY admin
Have you heard of the “nanny tax?” Even if you don’t employ a nanny, it may apply to you. Hiring a house cleaner, gardener or other household employee (who isn’t an independent contractor) may make you liable for federal income and other taxes. You may also have state tax obligations.
If you employ a household worker, you aren’t required to withhold federal income taxes from pay. But you can choose to withhold if the worker requests it. In that case, ask the worker to fill out a Form W-4. However, you may be required to withhold Social Security and Medicare (FICA) taxes and to pay federal unemployment (FUTA) tax.
2021 and 2022 thresholds
In 2021, you must withhold and pay FICA taxes if your household worker earns cash wages of $2,300 or more (excluding the value of food and lodging). The Social Security Administration recently announced that this amount would increase to $2,400 in 2022. If you reach the threshold, all the wages (not just the excess) are subject to FICA.
However, if a nanny is under age 18 and childcare isn’t his or her principal occupation, you don’t have to withhold FICA taxes. So, if you have a part-time student babysitter, there’s no FICA tax liability.
Both an employer and a household worker may have FICA tax obligations. As an employer, you’re responsible for withholding your worker’s FICA share. In addition, you must pay a matching amount. FICA tax is divided between Social Security and Medicare. The Social Security tax rate is 6.2% for the employer and 6.2% for the worker (12.4% total). Medicare tax is 1.45% each for the employer and the worker (2.9% total).
If you want, you can pay your worker’s share of Social Security and Medicare taxes. If you do, your payments aren’t counted as additional cash wages for Social Security and Medicare purposes. However, your payments are treated as additional income to the worker for federal tax purposes, so you must include them as wages on the W-2 form that you must provide.
You also must pay FUTA tax if you pay $1,000 or more in cash wages (excluding food and lodging) to your worker in any calendar quarter. FUTA tax applies to the first $7,000 of wages paid and is only paid by the employer.
Paperwork and payments
You pay household worker obligations by increasing your quarterly estimated tax payments or increasing withholding from wages, rather than making an annual lump-sum payment.
As an employer of a household worker, you don’t have to file employment tax returns, even if you’re required to withhold or pay tax (unless you own your own business). Instead, employment taxes are reported on your tax return on Schedule H.
When you report the taxes on your return, include your employer identification number (not the same as your Social Security number). You must file Form SS-4 to get one.
However, if you own a business as a sole proprietor, you include the taxes for a household worker on the FUTA and FICA forms (940 and 941) that you file for the business. And you use your sole proprietorship EIN to report the taxes.
Recordkeeping is important
Keep related tax records for at least four years from the later of the due date of the return or the date the tax was paid. Records should include the worker’s name, address, Social Security number, employment dates, dates and amount of wages paid and taxes withheld, and copies of forms filed.
Contact us for assistance or questions about how to comply with these requirements.
October 20, 2021 | BY admin
When creating or updating your strategic plan, you might be tempted to focus on innovative products or services, new geographic locations, or technological upgrades. But, what about your customers? Particularly if you’re a small to midsize business, focusing your strategic planning efforts on them may be the most direct route to a better bottom line.
Do your ABCs
To get started, pick a period — perhaps one, three or five years — and calculate the profitability contribution level of each major customer or customer unit based on sales numbers and both direct and indirect costs. (We can help you choose the ideal metrics and run the numbers.)
Once you’ve determined the profitability contribution level of each customer or customer unit, divide them into three groups: 1) an A group consisting of highly profitable customers whose business you’d like to expand, 2) a B group comprising customers who aren’t extremely profitable, but still positively contribute to your bottom line, and 3) a C group that includes customers who are dragging down your profitability, perhaps because of constant late payments or unreasonably high-maintenance relationships. These are the ones you can’t afford to keep.
Your objective with A customers should be to strengthen your rapport with them. Identify what motivates them to buy, so you can continue to meet their needs. Is it something specific about your products or services? Is it your customer service? Developing a good understanding of this group will help you not only build your relationships with these critical customers, but also target sales and marketing efforts to attract other, similar ones.
As mentioned, Category B customers have some profit value. However, just by virtue of sitting in the middle, they can slide either way. There’s a good chance that, with the right mix of sales, marketing and customer service efforts, some of them can be turned into A customers. Determine which ones have the most in common with your best customers, then focus your efforts on them and track the results.
Finally, take a hard look at the C group. You could spend a nominal amount of time determining whether any of them might move up the ladder. It’s likely, though, that most of your C customers simply aren’t a good fit for your company. Fortunately, firing your least desirable customers won’t require much effort. Simply curtail your sales and marketing efforts, or stop them entirely, and most will wander off on their own.
Brighten your future
As the calendar year winds down, examine how your customer base has changed over the past months. Ask questions such as: Have the evolving economic changes triggered (at least in part) by the pandemic affected who buys from us and how much? Then tailor your strategic plan for 2022 accordingly.
Please contact our firm for help reviewing the pertinent data and developing a customer-focused strategic plan that brightens your company’s future.