Bob Vineyard of InsureBlog calls our attention to a piece in the Kiplinger letters on “thirteen tax changes on the way” due to PPACA. Describing them as “changes” is charmingly sunny, given that only two of the changes are tax credits—a fancy term for subsidies—whereas ten are tax increases: levies intended to help raise the trillions of dollars necessary to fund these very tax credits, along with the law’s massive expansion of Medicaid. (One of the changes Kiplinger lists is technically neither a tax increase nor a credit, but is designed to enhance enforcement of the tax increases. More on that later.)
In keeping with the spirit with which PPACA was written, let’s focus first on dessert (the subsidies) and then the spinach (the increases). Employers with 25 or fewer employees and average annual wages less than $50,000 are eligible for tax credits for up to 35 percent of their health insurance costs through 2013; for 2014 and 2015, these firms can gain a credit of up to 50 percent of their insurance costs if they enroll in the PPACA-sponsored state-based exchanges. The other tax credit listed by Kiplinger is more directly a subsidy: available on a sliding scale to individuals with incomes between $11,000 and $44,000 ($22,000 and $88,000 for families), for purchasing health insurance.
Here are the ten tax increases:
Importantly, Kiplinger’s run-down overlooks PPACA’s numerous tax increases on health care businesses, as well as its thousands of mandates that will increase the cost of health care and labor, all of which will be passed down to consumers in the form of higher costs for everything from cancer drugs to Big Macs.
For example, the $2.5 billion excise tax on pharmaceutical companies will simply get passed onto consumers: companies will charge $7-8 billion more for their products, in order to recover the income lost to the excise tax. Similar taxes on medical devices and health insurance will be passed onto consumers. And whether your local McDonald’s franchise chooses to offer generous health insurance to all of its employees, or instead pays the new tax for failing to do so, the cost of your Happy Meal is going up.
Kiplinger’s 13th “change” is genuinely a change: employers will now be required to disclose on your W-2s the amount they spend on your health insurance, so as to ensure enforcement of the individual mandate, the employer mandate, and the Cadillac tax.
There’s another change that Kiplinger neglects to mention, but that Bob Vineyard does: the requirement that businesses fill out an IRS Form 1099 every time they spend more than $600 on a single vendor in a calendar year. The increased compliance burdens associated with this rule are staggering, and once again will drive up the cost of everything you buy. As Bob Vineyard puts it:
Business owners are required to generate a 1099 for any vendor where they purchase more than $600 in goods or services. That means if you own a business and buy more than $600 in gasoline, electricity, telephone, internet, cell phone, natural gas or water you must generate a 1099 for those businesses. Buy more than $600 from Office Depot or Staples?
Generate a 1099.
Do you pay a cleaning service to empty the trash in your business? Pay a landscaper? Provide a coffee service for employees and guests?
1099. 1099, 1099.
It will cost you money to generate those 1099′s. Money that could have been used to create jobs.
Advocates of PPACA truly believed that Obamacare would become more popular as people came to appreciate the ways in which the law directly benefited them. But P. J. O’Rourke’s immortal aphorism can’t be too often repeated: “If you think health care is expensive now, wait until it’s free.”