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Washington Watch - October 7, 2009

 


Allowing Tax Incentives To Expire Will Hurt Small Firms

Although originally enacted to prevent those Americans with the most resources at their disposal from avoiding taxes, the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) did not take into account the effects of inflation, the growth of earnings and expenses. Congress has adjusted the exemption amount over time to keep up with inflation, but that adjustment is now scheduled to end, which would result in an increased tax burden for many small business owners and families.

The NASE’s National Tax Advisor, Keith Hall, testified before the House Committee on Small Business last week about how allowing the AMT and other tax incentives to expire would cause a direct and unintended tax increase on the small business sector that many are relying on to continue the economic recovery. Hall suggested that at a minimum, the exemption amounts should not be allowed to decrease, but should be increased annually based on an inflation index in order to continue the recovery.

“Allowing the increase in the exemption amount to ‘sunset’ would directly increase the tax burden for many Americans past their ‘fair share’ simply because they may live in a state with a higher than average state income tax. Others would pay more than their fair share simply because they have a larger than average family. Others would pay more than their fair share simply because they have higher mortgage interest due to a second lien necessary to fund their business or a child’s education. Clearly, none of these scenarios was the intent of the AMT from so many years ago,” noted Hall.

The NASE supports the extension of expiring tax incentives including the AMT exemption, accelerated depreciation, sales tax deductions, first time home owner buyer credit and others. The rationale for supporting the extension of tax incentives is to further assist in our nation's economic recovery. The NASE believes in the long term impact that small business will have on the overall economy. Promoting investment, encouraging new job development and keeping the playing field level for all taxpayers is essential to long term recovery.

Read the full text of Keith Hall's testimony here.
Watch highlights from Keith Hall's testimony on
YouTube.

Track the progress of current legislation that would help micro-businesses and the self-employed by visiting
advocacy.NASE.org


New Web Portal To Allow Docs Easier Access To Health Records

Health plans today launched a landmark initiative to make delivering and getting health care easier for patients and their physicians by reducing the time, effort, and expense for the “paperwork” required for each patient office visit. The initiative, which will simplify information flow between health plans and doctors’ offices, and later between health plans and hospitals, is comparable to what ATMs did for banks and consumers.

Beginning in early November, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) and the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) will sponsor regional and statewide initiatives to assess how best to offer physicians access to multiple insurers through the same information channel (e.g., a web portal) in a given region of the country for the purpose of conducting key office tasks. Savings are estimated in the hundreds of billions of dollars as the entire health care system achieves efficiencies through similar moves to automation and consistent business practices.

This landmark initiative addresses the need for one-stop service in electronic transactions that physicians have advocated for strongly, and is a requirement to achieve the level of savings that is ultimately possibly. It replaces a cumbersome system in which physician office staff spend considerable time at considerable expense accessing multiple channels to get the information needed to complete basic requirements for confirming eligibility, billing, and referrals. The ultimate goal is to develop regional services that span the entire country.

The initiative announced today in Ohio already has strong support from local health plans representing greater than 91% of state residents with private health insurance, and major statewide physician organizations.

It offers opportunities to simplify the work associated with patient visits and achieve savings, including providing physicians with information in “real-time” that:

  • Allows office staff to quickly determine key eligibility and benefit information (e.g., co-pays, co-insurance, and deductibles, and differences in coverage for services provided in- versus out-of-network), minimizing  time and expense needed for such purposes;
  • Gives physicians access to current and accurate information on the status of claims submitted by physician offices for payment by insurers. This will minimize the need for follow up steps by office staff or submission of duplicate claims that delay rather than expedite payment in most systems;
  • Tests real-time referrals and timely pre-authorization of services; and
  • Provides for the online submission of healthcare claims.

For more information on the multi-payer portal project, please visit this Web site.


IRS Reports 1.4 Million Families Use First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit

With the deadline quickly approaching, the Internal Revenue Service today reminded potential homebuyers they must complete their first-time home purchases before Dec. 1 to qualify for the special first-time homebuyer credit. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act extended the tax credit, which has provided a tax benefit to more than 1.4 million taxpayers so far.

The credit of up to $8,000 is generally available to homebuyers with qualifying income levels who have never owned a home or have not owned one in the past three years. 

Because the credit is only in effect for a limited time, those considering buying a home must act soon to qualify for the credit. Under the Recovery Act, an eligible home purchase must be completed before Dec. 1, 2009. This means that the last day to close on a home is Nov. 30.

The credit cannot be claimed until after the purchase is completed. For purchases made this year before Dec. 1, taxpayers have the option of claiming the credit on their 2008 returns or waiting until next year and claiming it on their 2009 returns.

For details on claiming the credit, see Form 5405, First-Time Homebuyer Credit.


Small Biz Health Care Roundup

Here's a sampling of this week's top health care reform articles. If you find an article or blog that you think should be considered, drop us a line at media@nase.org

 



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