On Dec. 22, 2017, President Donald Trump signed into law the tax reform bill, called the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, after it passed both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives.
This tax reform bill makes significant changes to the federal tax code. The bill does not impact the majority of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) tax provisions. However, it does reduce the ACA’s individual shared responsibility (or individual mandate) penalty to zero, effective beginning in 2019.
As a result, beginning in 2019, individuals will no longer be penalized for failing to obtain acceptable health insurance coverage.
?The ACA’s individual mandate penalty no longer applies, beginning in 2019. However, individuals will still need to certify on their 2018 tax return (filed in early 2019) whether they complied with the individual mandate for 2018.
In addition, a failure to obtain acceptable health coverage for 2018 may still result in a penalty for the individual for that year on their 2018 tax return (filed in early 2019).
The Individual Mandate
The ACA’s individual mandate, which took effect in 2014, requires most individuals to obtain acceptable health insurance coverage for themselves and their family members or pay a penalty. The mandate is enforced each year on individual federal tax returns. Starting in 2015, individuals filing a tax return for the previous tax year indicate, by checking a box on their returns, which members of their family (including themselves) had health insurance coverage for the year (or qualified for an exemption from the individual mandate). Based on this information, the IRS then assesses a penalty for each nonexempt family member without coverage.
Effect of the Tax Reform Bill
The tax reform bill reduces the ACA’s individual mandate penalty to zero, effective beginning with the 2019 tax year. This effectively eliminates the individual mandate penalty for the 2019 tax year and beyond. As a result, beginning with the 2019 tax year, individuals will no longer be penalized for failing to obtain acceptable health insurance coverage for themselves and their family members.
Impact on Years Prior to 2019
Although the tax reform bill eliminates the ACA’s individual mandate penalty, this repeal did not take effect until 2019. As a result, individuals were still required to comply with the mandate (or pay a penalty) for 2018. This means that individuals must still certify on their 2018 tax return (filed in early 2019) whether they complied with the individual mandate for 2018. Therefore, taxpayers should indicate on their 2018 tax returns whether they (and everyone in their family):
- Had health coverage for the year;
- Qualified for an exemption from the individual mandate; or
- Will pay an individual mandate penalty.
In addition, a failure to obtain acceptable health coverage for 2018 may still result in a penalty for the individual for that year. Individuals who are liable for a penalty for failing to obtain acceptable health coverage in 2018 will be required to pay that penalty when they file their federal income taxes in 2019. As a result, some individuals may be required to pay the individual mandate penalty in early 2019, based on their noncompliance for the 2018 tax year.
Effect on Other ACA Provisions
Despite the repeal of the individual mandate penalty, employers and individuals must continue to comply with all other ACA provisions. The tax reform bill does not impact any other ACA provisions, including the Cadillac tax on high-cost group health coverage, the PCORI fees and the health insurance providers fee. In addition, the employer shared responsibility (pay or play) rules and related Section 6055 and Section 6056 reporting requirements are still in place.
Over 700,000 people were estimated to have been admitted to the hospital during the 2017-18 flu season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Influenza Hospitalization Surveillance Network. What’s even more alarming is the fact that epidemic levels of influenza or pneumonia persisted for 16 consecutive weeks. Using the CDC’s new methodology, the 2017-18 flu season was the first flu season to be classified as high severity across all age groups.
Due to last year’s deadly consequences and prevalence, the CDC is urging everyone to take extra precautions for the upcoming flu season, including getting vaccinated against the flu by the end of October.
When is flu season?
Flu season typically runs from October to May. However, most flu cases occur between December and February. The vast majority of those who were hospitalized for the seasonal influenza last season weren’t vaccinated. That’s why the CDC is strongly recommending that you get vaccinated as early as possible.
What vaccinations are available?
Each year, the Food and Drug Administration works with the World Health Organization to create a vaccination that contains three or four different strains of the flu. Most of the shots available this year provide protection against four different flu strains. For the 2018-19 season, the nasal vaccination, FluMist, will be available again after not being recommended for use for the previous two flu seasons.
Who should get vaccinated?
The CDC recommends that everyone older than 6 months should get the flu vaccine.
Where can you get vaccinated?
You can get vaccinated against the flu at your doctor’s office, in a clinic or pharmacy, and sometimes, at your employer. Some urgent care clinics or local health departments will provide flu vaccines as well. Visit the HealthMap Vaccine Finder to locate where you can get a flu vaccine.
According to a recent study, the average person checks their cellphone 100 times a day. While there is a time and a place for cellphones, using it at the job site can be extremely dangerous.
If you’re distracted for just a second while operating a power tool, working on a roof or driving a forklift, you can injure yourself or a co-worker. You can also face civil or criminal liability for damages you cause by operating a motorized vehicle while using a cellphone.
It isn’t only operators of machinery who need to be mindful of the dangers of cellphone use on the job site. Simply looking down at your cellphone and not paying attention to your surroundings could put your life in danger.
Cellphone Safety Tips When On-site
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) prohibits cellphone use by operators of cranes and similar equipment. Most organizations prohibit any kind of cellphone use on the job site—not just for crane operators. It is your responsibility to know how your company’s rules apply to you and follow them accordingly.
If you struggle with the temptation to check your phone while working on a job site, consider the following safety tips:
- Get in the habit of sending and receiving text messages before or after your shift, or during one of your breaks.
- Remind family and friends that you may not be able to respond to their messages right away. Provide them with your workplace contact information in case of emergencies.
- Turn off push notifications so you’re not distracted by any apps.
- Don’t carry your cellphone on you if the temptation to check it is too much. Instead, leave it in a safe place where it won’t distract you from your job.
- Follow your workplace policy for cellphone use at work and on the job site. Be aware of any cellphone-free zones.
Besides creating enormous safety risks, employees who are texting at work are not doing what they are getting paid to do. For this reason, these workers may be subject to disciplinary action.
If you have questions about ’s workplace cellphone policy, or if you notice inappropriate cellphone use on the job site, don’t hesitate to discuss it with your supervisor or HR.
With some farmers struggling to find reliable farm labor, it is important to invest some thought in the hiring process. Here are some tips for finding the right help:
Examine your needs. You might have a general idea in your head of what work needs to be done, but it’s best to be specific. Narrow down broad processes into specific jobs so you can determine how much help you truly need.
Think about desired traits. Do you need someone to fill a temporary need, or are you hoping that person can go on to fill a managerial role? You’ll have to determine whether people skills are more important than manual labor or machinery skills, and list those traits in your job description.
Consider hiring for a trial period. If you’re hesitant about a candidate but need immediate help, consider hiring them for a short-term trial period. This saves you from high employee turnover while buying you time to recognize your needs. It allows both you and the worker to communicate any frustrations and expectations after the trial period before considering whether the working relationship is worth investing in long term.
An extensive survey of more than 4,000 low-wage workers in Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York City by the National Employment Law Project (NELP) reached these conclusions:
- More than one in four workers surveyed (26%) were paid less than minimum wage.
- Among these workers, 16% were underpaid by more than one dollar per hour.
- More than three in four (76%) workers who worked overtime were not paid for their time. The average worker had put in 11 hours that were either underpaid or not paid at all.
- Women and foreign-born workers were victimized more than anyone else.
- The average wage theft was 15% of earnings.
Additional violation categories included:
- Meal breaks
- Pay stubs
- Illegal deductions
- Illegal employer retaliation
- Workers Compensation violations
It is hard to balance this economic suffering with the fact some executives are making tens of millions of dollars during a failing economy. You don’t have to be of any political persuasion to realize that something’s out of whack. Not only do these employers deprive good people of a fair day’s pay, they’re also at war with companies who strive to grow their business the right way; perhaps even going above the call and actually empowering their workers rather than oppressing them. If we can fight overseas to assure basic human rights, we should be able to do the same here.
For more information on the survey, click here.
If you’ve ever shopped around for insurance, you’ve likely been asked if you want to bundle your policies—in other words, combine your home or renters, auto and life insurance policies with the same carrier. Although you have the option to shop around individually for each policy, it almost always makes sense to have the same carrier cover as many of your policies as possible.
Benefits of Bundling
- The discount—Most policyholders bundle their policies because of the promise of a discount. The amount varies by provider but can generally range between 5-25 percent.
- The option of a single deductible—With bundled policies, your deductible may be cheaper in the event of a claim that affects multiple policies. For example, if your home and auto policies are with two separate carriers, and a hailstorm damages your home and your car, you’re responsible for paying both your home and auto deductibles before receiving payment. But if you bundle your policies, your provider may offer you the option to pay only the higher of the two deductibles.
- Less chance of being dropped—If you’ve made claims or gotten tickets, having your policies bundled with one provider can decrease the chance of them dropping you.
When it Doesn’t Pay to Bundle
It isn’t always better to bundle your policies with one insurance carrier. Here’s when it may be better to split them up:
- If you have tickets or past claims that make your auto insurance expensive—In this case, it may be cheaper overall to buy each policy from separate providers.
- When premiums increase—Bundling discourages people from price shopping, which makes it easier for providers to increase their rates. Most assume that you won’t go through the effort of shopping around when your policies renew.
- If policies aren’t technically bundled—Some carriers may insure you with an affiliated company. Although you may get a discount with that company, you’ll lose the convenience of paying your premium with one familiar provider.
A Few Tips to Consider
Although discounts are the main reason people bundle their insurance policies, never assume that bundling is the cheapest option. Your needs and circumstances will dictate whether you should combine your policies with one carrier. Consider the following tips:
- Shop for new coverage when your policies renew, and ask for the price of the individual premiums as well as the price of the bundled premium so you can decide whether it is worth it. Just make sure you compare the same coverage when shopping for quotes from each carrier.
- Ask if the provider uses a third-party insurance company. Remember that you may save money but lose the convenience of dealing with one provider and a combined bill.
- Ask an independent insurance agent to get prices from multiple companies so you don’t have to do the legwork. An agent that is loyal to a particular carrier may be able to offer discounts that you can’t get alone.
With multiple factors contributing to the price of your insurance premiums, it is important to shop around in order to get the best rate for your insurance needs. Feel free to contact Scurich Insurance to determine if bundling is right for you and help you take advantage of all available discounts.