Opinion

A whole lotta coal

And they say I have trouble with deadlines…

Christmas is now only two weeks away with the new year lurking in the shadows a week later. Maybe it’s all this talk of the cliff—and the impending doom it implies—but flipping the calendar this year just doesn’t seem to harbor the same batch of hope and jubilation.

Or maybe it’s just the weather, the lingering flu symptoms or the fact it still feels like we’re in election season.

Either way, not only is time running out for Washington to fix this mess—talk about your post-holiday hangover—but it’s running out for you to talk to your own employees (and clients) about what the new year means in a more practical, less talking head sense.

For starters, the payroll tax holiday (which has already lasted longer than a European vacation) comes to a screeching halt Jan. 1. I’d bet that first week’s 20 bucks (based an annual $50k salary) that most of your employees have is long since forgotten as part of the president’s stimulus plan. It might be worth bringing up, since it hits everyone right away right in the wallet. (It’s also worth noting that most experts expect that this tax break has the smallest chance of surviving whatever deal emerges out of the Beltway.)

Your higher-paid employees—or maybe even you—face an additional tax bump in January either way thanks to Obamacare. Individuals making more than $200,000 a year (or couples making more than $250,000 a year) face a Medicare tax increase of .9 percent. This, of course, is in addition to another 3.8 percent in taxes on investment income. Funny that these two little items represent the single biggest tax hikes courtesy of the health reform law, but it’s earned almost no coverage from the press despite all their hand wringing about the so-called cliff.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has another little hidden gem waiting for employees. Starting next year, contributions to flexible spending accounts are capped at $2,500, a first for these consumer-friendly plans.

Finally, some employer tax breaks run out of life in the new year. The tax deduction for employer adoption assistance expires in January as well, leaving adoption-eager employees out in the cold, and on their own, while some reimbursements for employer-paid educational assistance runs out, as well.

And I haven’t even touched on the Bush-era tax cuts, whose future remains as shaky as our country’s credit rating.

Happy new year…don't wake me ’til spring.

About the Author
Denis Storey

Denis Storey

Denis Storey is editor for BenefitsPro.com and Benefits Selling magazine. He can be reached at dstorey@benefitspro.com.

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