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.
Cyber security threats and trends can change year over year as technology continues to advance at alarming speeds. As such, it’s critical for organizations to reassess their data protection practices at the start of each new year and make achievable cyber security resolutions to help protect themselves from costly breaches.
The following are resolutions your company can implement to ensure you don’t become the victim of a cyber crime:
- Provide security training—Employees are your first line of defense when it comes to cyber threats. Even the most robust and expensive data protection solutions can be compromised should an employee click a malicious link or download fraudulent software. As such, it’s critical for organizations to thoroughly train personnel on common cyber threats and how to respond. Employees should understand the dangers of visiting harmful websites, leaving their devices unattended and oversharing personal information on social media. Your employees should also know your cyber security policies and know how to report suspicious activity.
- Install strong anti-virus software and keep it updated—Outside of training your employees on the dangers of poor cyber security practices, strong anti-virus software is one of the best ways to protect your data. Organizations should conduct thorough research to choose software that’s best for their needs. Once installed, anti-virus programs should be kept up to date.
- Instill safe web browsing practices—Deceptive and malicious websites can easily infect your network, often leading to more serious cyber attacks. To protect your organization, employees should be trained on proper web usage and instructed to only interact with secured websites. For further protection, companies should consider blocking known threats and potentially malicious webpages outright.
- Create strong password policies—Ongoing password management can help prevent unauthorized attackers from compromising your organization’s password-protected information. Effective password management protects the integrity, availability and confidentiality of an organization’s passwords. Above all, you’ll want to create a password policy that specifies all of the organization’s requirements related to password management. This policy should require employees to change their password on a regular basis, avoid using the same password for multiple accounts and use special characters in their password.
- Use multi-factor authentication—While complex passwords can help deter cyber criminals, they can still be cracked. To further prevent cyber criminals from gaining access to employee accounts, multi-factor authentication is key. Multi-factor authentication adds a layer of security that allows companies to protect against compromised credentials. Through this method, users must confirm their identity by providing extra information (e.g., a phone number, unique security code) when attempting to access corporate applications, networks and servers.
- Get vulnerability assessments—The best way to evaluate your company’s data exposures is through a vulnerability assessment. Using a system of simulated attacks and stress tests, vulnerability assessments can help you uncover entry points into your system. Following these tests, security experts compile their findings and provide recommendations for improving network and data safety.
- Patch systems regularly and keep them updated—A common way cyber criminals gain entry into your system is by exploiting software vulnerabilities. To prevent this, it’s critical that you update applications, operating systems, security software and firmware on a regular basis.
- Back up your data—In the event that your system is compromised, it’s important to keep backup files. Failing to do so can result in the loss of critical business or proprietary data.
- Understand phishing threats and how to respond—In broad terms, phishing is a method cyber criminals use to gather personal information. In these scams, phishers send an email or direct users to fraudulent websites, asking victims to provide sensitive information. These emails and websites are designed to look legitimate and trick individuals into providing credit card numbers, account numbers, passwords, usernames or other sensitive information. Phishing is becoming more sophisticated by the day, and it’s more important than ever to understand the different types of attacks, how to identify them and preventive measures you can implement to keep your organization safe. As such, it’s critical to train employees on common phishing scams and other cyber security concerns. Provide real-world examples during training to help them better understand what to look for.
- Create an incident response plan—Most organizations have some form of data protection in place. While these protections are critical for minimizing the damages caused by a breach, they don’t provide clear action steps following an attack. That’s where cyber incident response plans can help. While cyber security programs help secure an organization’s digital assets, cyber incident response plans provide clear steps for companies to follow when a cyber event occurs. Response plans allow organizations to notify impacted customers and partners quickly and efficiently, limiting financial and reputational damages.
Starting a business is rewarding, but it’s also expensive. In your haste to pursue your passion or make a profit, you may decide to forgo insurance. However, you need at least basic coverage as you protect your assets and help your new company succeed. Purchase the right insurance products for your startup, and invest in your business and yourself.
General Liability Insurance
Although your business is brand new, you could be sued. Someone may suffer an injury while visiting your property or while using a product you sell. Or you could be sued for libel or slander. General liability covers your financial responsibility from a lawsuit, claim or settlement. This protective coverage is one of the most important insurance policies you can buy.
Commercial Property Insurance
Protect your physical assets with property insurance. It insures your building, inventory, office equipment, and other assets. This insurance product also protects your business from vandalism, theft, fire, and storms. You can purchase property insurance for the items you own, rent or lease, and you can alter coverage limits as your company grows and expands.
Business Owner’s Policy
A business owner’s policy (BOP) combines your general liability and commercial property insurance policies. With a BOP, you can save money while ensuring your business remains protected from theft, fire, lawsuits, and other risks. While all startup businesses do not qualify for a BOP, you can talk to your insurance agent to confirm your options and find the right coverage for your needs.
Commercial Auto Insurance
With your fleet of automobiles, you and your employees can visit clients, make deliveries and perform other company tasks. Your personal car insurance won’t extend to company vehicles, so purchase a commercial auto insurance policy. Otherwise, you risk losing important assets if your company cars are involved in an accident, cause property damage, injure someone, or are damaged due to a theft or vandalism.
Protect employees with Workers’ Compensation insurance. It pays for medical treatment, short-term disability, lost wages, and other expenses employees incur after they suffer a work-related illness or injury. You’ll only need this coverage if you hire employees, but it’s essential coverage in this situation.
Whether your business sits in a known flood zone or at the top of a hill, you could lose valuable assets during a flood. In most cases, your commercial property insurance policy won’t cover flood-related claims. Purchase flood insurance to protect your company.
Flooded barns and lost crops are just a couple of the emergencies farmers have to deal with after a natural disaster. Thankfully, there are federal programs and resources available to help with some of the costs, but seeking them out can be confusing and time consuming. The agency you contact will depend on the type of damage you have, so a farmer may have to go to three separate agencies for help.
Disaster Relief – Helpful Links
3 STEPS TO POST DISASTER RELIEF
It can be overwhelming trying to navigate the different programs available. Here, we break it down into three steps:
Step 1: Take pictures. Disaster programs need documented damage, so take pictures before you clean up, and take note of specific losses. Save receipts for any purchases you need to make during recovery.
Step 2: Know what programs for coverage are available. There are several different programs that address different needs of hurricane relief. For example, the Farm Service Agency (FSA) handles assistance specific to farms and farmland. The Small Business Administration handles disaster assistance for businesses. The Federal Emergency Management Agency handles household damages and reconstruction.
Step 3: Be aware of important deadlines. Each program has different application processes and different deadlines. Make sure you get your applications in on time.
- If seeking the help of an FSA program, be aware that most have an application deadline of 30 days after the damage or loss occurs.
- If damage prevents you from planting, complete a Notice of Loss form and submit it to your local FSA office within 15 days of the planned planting date to determine eligibility.
- If you participate in Risk Management Agency (RMA) federal crop insurance, report the damage within 72 hours of discovery, and follow up in writing within 15 days.
Builder’s Risk insurance, also known as Course of Construction insurance, covers property that’s under construction. As a contractor or construction professional, you must understand this important coverage.
What is Builder’s Risk Insurance?
A homeowner, general contractor or project manager can purchase a Builder’s Risk insurance policy during a home building project. The coverage protects the property from hazards and accidents that could occur.
What Does Builder’s Risk Insurance Cover?
The accidents and hazards a Builder’s Risk insurance policy covers include:
- Burglary and theft.
- Property loss during transport to the job site.
- Scaffolding, temporary structures and construction forms on the job site.
- Structure collapse.
- Sewer or drain backup.
- Site plans, blueprints and other valuable papers.
- Wind, hail or rain storms.
- Impact by aircraft or vehicles.
- Riot, vandalism and malicious acts.
- Debris removal after a covered accident or hazard.
Most Builder’s Risk insurance policies include several exclusions, so read the policy carefully. Your policy probably does not cover:
- Property others own.
- Subcontractor actions or materials.
- Professional liability.
- Water damage.
- Weather damage to property in the open.
- Mechanical breakdown.
- Employee theft.
- Contract penalty.
- Voluntary parting.
- Government action.
What is the Policy Length?
The typical Builder’s Risk insurance policy covers a construction project that lasts from six to 12 months. Coverage ends when the project is finished or the property is occupied.
While the policy may be extended due to construction delays, the insurance company may want proof that you are making progress. Also, only one extension is usually offered.
How Much Does Builder’s Risk Insurance Cost?
Expect to pay between one and four percent of the total construction budget for your Builder’s Risk insurance policy. The type of coverage and materials also factor into the cost. Your insurance agent will work with you to purchase adequate coverage you can afford.
Is Builder’s Risk Insurance a Requirement?
As a contractor, project manager or homeowner, Builder’s Risk insurance gives you peace of mind. However, it’s not usually a requirement. Read your project contract for details.
Purchase Adequate Insurance
As a construction professional, you should purchase the right insurance coverage for your business and projects. Insure the tools and equipment you own in case they’re stolen or vandalized. Also, purchase liability coverage that protects you if you damage the property or cause bodily injury. Be sure the finished project is covered, too, in case something goes wrong with the home you build. Provide copies of your insurance policies to homeowners, too. They need to know that you have the right insurance in case something goes wrong.
Builder’s Risk insurance protects a new home that’s under construction. Understand this coverage as you protect your assets and construction business.
Colorado State University’s Department of Atmospheric Science forecasts five hurricanes and 12 named storms for the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season. Natural disasters like hurricanes can wreak havoc on your company. Update your business insurance as you prepare for natural disasters.
Prepare for Wind and Hail Storms
Heavy storms that feature high winds or hail can damage your property or disrupt operations. Verify that your business insurance includes adequate commercial property and business interruption coverage.
You may also wish to check if your policy includes a separate property deductible that applies solely to wind or hail claims. Some insurance companies add a flat rate or percentage deductible to these policies, especially in areas that are susceptible to wind and hail storms.
Rising water can damage your buildings and property and affect business operations. While your mortgage lender or building manager may require you to purchase commercial flood insurance if your business operates in a flood zone, flood insurance is also important if you operate in a location that doesn’t traditionally flood. That’s because you still could experience high water due to heavy rains, storm surges, melting snow, or broken levees.
Talk to your insurance agent about purchasing flood insurance coverage through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Because this valuable coverage includes a 30-day waiting period, be sure to purchase flood insurance before you need it.
Purchase Adequate Coverage
If you purchased your business insurance longer than a year ago, schedule a checkup. Your company’s needs may change over time, and you want to update your business insurance coverage, too. For example, if you added expensive equipment to your operation or moved to a different location, verify that your current policy covers these changes.
Check the property value coverage on your policy also. When you purchased your business insurance policy, you may have chosen the cheaper actual cash value option that pays to replace covered property minus depreciation and wear and tear. However, replacement cost pays current market value rates and offers better protection, so consider this more expensive option now.
Finally, review your policy limits. Ensure you have enough coverage for your property, building contents, inventory, and business interruption needs.
Review your Policy Carefully
Insurance policies often include dry, boring language, but take time to review every word. You must know exactly what natural disasters your commercial policy covers. Also, be sure you understand details about the deductible and how to file a claim. Your insurance agent can answer any questions you have and help you purchase enough coverage for your specific needs.
Your business insurance gives your company valuable protection. Update your coverage today as you prepare for future natural disasters.