On January 23, Senators Bill Cassidy, MD (R-LA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) released legislative text for the "Patient Freedom Act of 2017," a replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act (ACA, i.e., Obamacare). The bill would repeal the individual and employer mandate and other ACA provisions, but allow States to either (a) elect to retain ACA provisions (with federal assistance), or (b) chose one of two alternatives: either adopt a market-based health insurance system under which Roth Health Savings Accounts are created for residents enrolled in qualified health plans (with federal assistance), or design and regulate insurance markets for their specific needs (without any federal assistance). The lawmakers said this was not intended as a final bill, but rather a starting point for discussions around repealing the ACA.

We will keep you posted as things develop.

Under the 21st Century Cures Act enacted 12/13/16, certain small employers are allowed to offer Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs) to employees without also offering other health insurance coverage in 2017. The HRA must meet certain requirements and the amount the employer can contribute to the HRA is limited. Additionally, reimbursements to the employee for medical expenses are tax-free only if the employee is enrolled in other health coverage (e.g., individual coverage) that is minimum essential coverage. The HRAs also can affect an employee's eligibility for a premium tax credit, or the amount of premium tax credit that is available. The new law also provides that small employers who have reimbursed individual health insurance premiums from a standalone HRA before 1/1/17 will not be subject to the Section 4980D penalty.

The Social Security Administration has announced that the wage base for computing the Social Security tax (OASDI) in 2017 will increase to $127,200.

The Social Security Administration has announced that, for 2017, cash remuneration paid by an employer for domestic service in the employer's private home isn't FICA wages if the amount paid during the year is less than $2,000.

Recently, the IRS issued the annual inflation adjustments for 2017 for more than 50 tax provisions as well as the 2017 tax rate tables for individuals and estates and trusts (Rev. Proc. 2016-55). These provisions are used to file tax year 2017 returns in 2018.

office-paperworkThe deadlines for filing the Form W-2 with the Social Security Administration and the Form 1099-MISC with the Internal Revenue Service are changing next year.

Starting in 2017, for the 2016 reporting year, both the W-2 and 1099-MISC recipient copies need to be submitted by January 31, whether by paper or electronic filing. That is months earlier than previous years and promises to increase both workloads and stress levels for companies and their accountants alike.

Making matters even more complicated, the new filing deadline, as it relates to Form 1099-MISC, only affects filers that report nonemployee compensation payments in box 7. The overwhelming majority of 1099-MISC filers will report information in box 7, so there's sure to be plenty of confusion.

Historically, filers have been required to provide both W-2 and 1099-MISC forms to their recipients by January 31. However, in the past they were not required to submit the forms to the Social Security Administration or the IRS until February 28 for paper forms or March 31 for e-filing. With three months of work being condensed into 30 days, the change is likely to add plenty of work for filers next January. On top of that, the filing deadlines for Forms 1095-B and 1095-C also come on January 31 for recipient delivery, Greatland pointed out. This compressed schedule means businesses will face a time crunch when they need to do wage, income, and Affordable Care Act-related reporting for 2016.

Before the deadline change, businesses would be able to file W-2 and 1099-MISC recipient copies first and then wait to learn if any changes are needed before filing with the Social Security Administration or the IRS, which reduced the risk for possible corrections. Unfortunately, thanks to the advanced deadline next year, businesses might need to abandon that strategy and consider filing with the recipients and the SSA and IRS at the same time.

But that's not all. To further complicate the multiple filing deadlines in January, the IRS recently eliminated the automatic 30-day extension of time to file W-2 forms. Before that, filers could automatically get a 30-day extension by submitting Form 8809 to the IRS on or before January 31. Filers were also able to request an additional 30-day extension, so they could push their e-file deadline out to the end of May. Now those automatic extensions won't be available for business that need to file their W-2 forms for tax year 2016.