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Welcome to the Illinois Health Matters Blog. Our blog discusses various topics around how health care reform is affecting the people of Illinois. We present a variety of different perspectives from health care experts, both from our state, and nationally. For more information please visit IllinoisHealthMatters.org.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Healthcare Tax Credits: A Boon To Small Business, Yet Spin-Doctors Oppose

Ever since the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010, opponents have thrown every attack they can think of against the wall, hoping something will stick. As attempts to repeal the law have failed, some of their arguments have become increasing laughable and, unfortunately, unconscionably reckless. For instance, these opponents now want you to believe that, in essence, small business owners do not want free money -- a mindboggling claim in these economic times.

Opponents, including groups that claim to represent small business, are taking aim at the small business tax credit in the ACA -- a provision allowing businesses with fewer than 25 employees that have average annual wages under $50,000 to get a tax credit of up to 35% of their health insurance costs beginning in tax year 2010. They say small businesses aren't using the credits because they don't provide enough of a benefit.

Poppycock.

I'm a small business owner. I founded ACI Interactive, an award-winning international e-commerce company that, after 10 years, I sold to the nation's leading retirement products company. My current company, Small Business Majority, is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that focuses on advocating for small business-friendly policies at the national and state levels. And small business owners like myself have a special name for tax credits: free money.

Politicians and spin-doctors with an ax to grind about healthcare reform argue that my small business colleagues don't like free money. They say these tax credits, which are available until 2017, have no practical utility. That's like claiming that people wouldn't pick up $100 they find on the sidewalk because it's not enough to cover their rent that month. The argument is simply ridiculous, but even more astounding is that some people, likely far removed from the day-to-day reality of running a small business, seem to think it's a valid point.

Let me set the record straight. Small businesses like free money, even if it's available for only a few years or if it comes from a president they don't agree with. And they especially like it when times are tough.

There is a problem, however: small businesses haven't been taking advantage of the tax credits -- not because they're turning their noses up at free money, but because they don't know the credits exist. We polled more than 600 small business owners nationwide and found that 57% weren't aware the credits were available. After learning of the credits, one-third of small business owners who don't currently offer insurance to their employees said they'd be more likely to do so because of them.

The IRS sent postcards to the 4 million small businesses eligible for a credit on their 2010 taxes; according to a report we released last year with Families USA, nearly 84% of all small business in the country would be eligible for a credit. But small business people work 80-hour weeks so it's understandable that they might not know all the details of the healthcare law, especially when those shouting the loudest and purporting to have small businesses' best interests at heart are actively advocating against the credits. That's a disgrace and a disservice to our nation's entrepreneurs who bust their hump every day to make ends meet, pay their employees and turn a profit in their chosen endeavor.

It's clear partisans in Washington care more about scoring political points than helping small business owners. The fact that they're waging their ideological war at the expense of our nation's chief job creators is shameful. Small businesses will help dig us out of this recession. We should be doing everything in our power to help them, no matter what end of the political spectrum we fall on.

John Arensmeyer
Founder and CEO, Small Business Majority
(This post originally appeared on June 8, 2011 in the Huffington Post Small Business America)

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