The IRS has released a draft version of Form 8941, which small businesses will use to calculate the small business health care tax credit when they file income tax returns next year. (The final version of the form and accompanying instructions will be available soon.) After using the form to calculate the credit, small firms will include the amount of the credit as part of the general business credit on their income tax returns.

How the Credit Works

The small business health care tax credit was included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act signed by the President in March and is effective this year. It is designed to encourage small employers to offer health insurance coverage for the first time or maintain coverage they already have.

In 2010, the credit is generally available to small employers that contribute an amount equivalent to at least half the cost of single coverage towards buying health insurance for their employees. The credit is specifically targeted to help small businesses that primarily employ moderate- and lower-income workers.

For tax years 2010 to 2013, the maximum credit is 35% of premiums paid by eligible small business employers. Beginning in 2014, the maximum tax credit will go up to 50% of premiums paid by eligible small business employers for two years. The maximum credit goes to smaller employers--those with 10 or fewer full-time equivalent (FTE) employees--paying annual average wages of $25,000 or less.

The credit is completely phased out for employers that have 25 FTEs or more or that pay average wages of $50,000 per year or more. Because the eligibility rules are based in part on the number of FTEs, and not simply the number of employees, businesses that use part-time help may qualify even if they employ more than 25 individuals.