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Washington Watch - March 31, 2010

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

President Obama Signs Health Reform Changes Into Law

Fixes made to the health reform law and passed by Congress were signed into law this week by President Obama. Congress added measures to extend health coverage to additional uninsured Americans, address the Medicaid "doughnut hole," and made other regulatory and revenue changes. The next step for health reform is the implementation phase in which federal agencies such as the Department of Health & Human Services, the Department of Labor and the Internal Revenue Service begin the process of issuing regulations and putting the new law into action.

Read about the particulars of the reconciliation package at Library of Congress (THOMAS).

Find more information on how health care will affect you by visiting the Frequently Asked Questions section on WhiteHouse.gov.


Small Business And Retirement Reports

Workers in small firms with fewer than 100 employees are much less likely than larger businesses to have a retirement plan available to them, according to a study released by the SBA Office of Advocacy. A related working paper analyzes the retirement savings behavior of business owners, and finds that retirement account ownership, contribution, and participation rates for all business owners are low; this is especially true of micro-business owners. Both studies use nationally representative data from the Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation.

Small Business Retirement Plan Availability and Worker Participation, by Kathryn Kobe of Economic Consulting Services, finds that the number of companies offering traditional defined benefit pension plans has been declining steadily, and almost half of the workforce—about 58 million workers— do not have access to any type of retirement plan through their place of work. Moreover, another 20 million workers do not participate in the plans their employers offer. Nearly 72 percent of workers in small companies have no retirement plan available. One reason smaller firms may not offer the benefit is the cost of setting up and running a retirement plan.

In Saving for Retirement: A Look at Small Business Owners, Advocacy Economist Jules Lichtenstein offers further evidence for concern that business owners are not saving enough for retirement. This working paper shows that 38.5 percent of owners of businesses with 10 or more employees participated in a 401(k)/Thrift plan, compared with only 16.1 percent of business owners with fewer than 10 employees. These micro-business owners represent 91 percent of the owners in the sample. The most significant factors affecting participation in individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and 401(k)/Thrift plans are homeownership and other retirement plan savings.

For more information on NASE's research regarding retirement savings amongst micro-businesses, please visit our NASE Research Web page.

For more information and a complete copy of the reports, visit the Office of Advocacy website at www.sba.gov/advo.


IRS Releases 2009 Activity And Data Log

The Internal Revenue Service announced the release of the 2009 IRS Data Book, an annual snapshot of agency activities for the fiscal year.

The report describes activities conducted by the IRS from Oct. 1, 2008, to Sept. 30, 2009, and includes information about returns filed, tax collections, enforcement and taxpayer assistance, as well as the IRS budget and workforce.

During fiscal year 2009, the IRS collected more than $1.9 trillion in taxes, net of refunds, and processed more than 236 million returns. Nearly 110 million returns, including 66 percent of individual income tax returns, were filed electronically. Nearly 124 million individual income tax return filers received a tax refund and/or economic stimulus payment during the fiscal year. Individual income tax refunds totaled $321.3 billion, and economic stimulus payments totaled over $11.5 billion. In fiscal year 2009, IRS spent an average of 50 cents to collect each $100 of tax revenue.

IRS examined more than 1.4 million individual income tax returns and about 28,000 returns filed by corporations, excluding S corporations. IRS personnel answered nearly 68 million toll-free calls from taxpayers during the fiscal year, and the IRS Web site received more than 296 million visits.

An electronic version of the 2009 IRS Data Book can be found on the agency's Tax Stats page.


Tell Us Your Story

The NASE realizes that the most important aspect of advocating on behalf of the self-employed is listening to true-life experiences. Visit our Tell Your Story section to tell us how you feel about the obstacles you face as you run your business. Sound off about high health care costs, complex tax regulation, minimal access to loans and financing, and much more.

Click here to go to the Tell Your Story page.


Washington Watch Online

Visit NASE Advocacy to view archived editions of Washington Watch. While you’re there, read the latest updates from the Washington, D.C. office, write your Congressperson, and find out how you can join the fight for micro-business.