Welcome to The CPA Journal Archives

Visit cpajournal.com to read the very latest from The CPA Journal


Rx for Healthcare Reform? CPA Translation

Joanne S. Barry

The public is just beginning to get up to speed on all the changes in store under the new healthcare reform law, a sweeping piece of federal legislation 2,200 pages long that will cost $940 billion to implement over the next 10 years. Much of it will be paid for through changes in the tax code.

Most members of the public don't understand what's in the new law, and some journalists blame themselves. In writing for the Columbia Journalism Review's March/April issue, the magazine's contributing editor, Trudy Lieberman, said that healthcare reform press coverage “failed to illuminate the crucial issues, [and] quoted special interest groups and politicians without giving consumers enough information to judge if their claims were fact or fiction.”

Perhaps taxpayers couldn't trust the press on this one, but soon both the press and the public—and that includes members of Congress—will be turning to CPAs to decipher the dozens of tax provisions that, according to a recently published CCH Tax Briefing, contain more than $400 billion in revenue enhancements and new taxes to cover the cost of this reform, not to mention tax credits to help offset those costs for individuals and small businesses.

It is the CPA profession that Americans will rely on to inform them just what it is our lawmakers voted for.

The law makes changes that will potentially affect every taxpayer. For example, taxpayers who itemize their deductions will need to be aware that eligible medical expenses must meet a higher income threshold beginning in 2013, as it rises from 7.5% of adjusted gross income to 10%. (Those 65 and older are exempted until 2016.)

CPAs working in industry, government, and the nonprofit sector will also be called upon to translate the new requirements that these entities must meet in order to comply with the healthcare reform law. For example, in 2011, employers must begin to disclose the value of each employee's health insurance coverage. In another far-reaching change, business payments of $600 or more must be reported to the federal government.

High earners will help pay for the new plan through taxes. CPAs will be advising high-income taxpayers to plan ahead for 2013, when an increase of 0.9% in the Medicare tax rate and a new tax on interest income are scheduled to take effect for individuals with incomes greater than $200,000 ($250,000 for married couples filing jointly), according to congressional figures.

Incentives for businesses to provide healthcare coverage are also put into play through the tax code. CPAs are already advising small businesses to take advantage of the credits that took effect January 1, 2010, which provide a maximum tax credit of 35% of annual insurance premiums for employees until 2014, when changes are expected to be up and running, providing—you guessed it—yet another tax credit. A new refundable tax credit will help low-income individuals purchase coverage.

It will not only be taxpayers who look to their CPAs for answers. The press may have admittedly dropped the ball in reporting on what was in the healthcare bill, but now that the proposed changes to the tax code are actually law, journalists will be calling on their local CPAs to translate it. If members of the public don't learn about these tax changes from a CPA directly, they'll be reading about them in the press.

CPAs may not have been at the table when politicians drafted the new healthcare reform law—hopefully, the solution to the healthcare crisis in this country—but it is the CPA profession that Americans will rely on to inform them just what it is our lawmakers voted for.

Joanne S. Barry. Publisher. The CPA Journal, Executive Director, NYSSCPA, jbarry@nysscpa.org.

Search for archived articles, authors, and topics below:


Login or create a new account