Small Business Majority Blog

Small Business Matters

Steve Katsaros has always been an innovator. He began inventing products for the ski industry in his late teens, and went on to earn a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering (BSME) from Purdue University so he could follow his dream of creating new technologies to improve the world. In the early 2000s, Katsaros came up with his first big invention: the RevoPower, an efficient motorized wheel designed to travel up to 20 miles per hour at over 100 miles per gallon.

In 2010, different wheels started turning in Katsaros’ mind when he thought of a portable solar light bulb that could be used to provide light in developing countries. Katsaros soon launched his Denver-based business Nokero, short for “no kerosene,” and set out on a journey towards brightening the lives of people without electricity.

“I think small businesses can play a really important role in innovating to solve long-standing problems,” said Katsaros. “That’s what I wanted to do with Nokero. I believe in the power of entrepreneurship to addressing our world’s challenges.”

Around 1.3 billion people live without electricity, and in many developing countries, productivity comes to a halt at nightfall. But because Nokero bulbs use solar power to charge during the day, they can provide light to homes and workplaces throughout the night in areas that don’t have access to reliable electricity grids.

“It’s incredibly rewarding to invent products that can improve the quality of life for people around the world,” said Katsaros. “At the same time, I’m also able to create jobs right here in Colorado. That shows how broad the reach of a small business can be.”

Katsaros’ innovation is one more example of how small businesses are reliable drivers of new ideas that can improve the world. During National Small Business Week, it’s time for us to focus on ways we can foster entrepreneurship so more small businesses are able to thrive and create economic growth.

This post originally appeared on the IRS website.

The health care law includes the employer shared responsibility provisions, which require applicable large employers to offer health coverage to full-time employees and their dependents. Those that do not offer coverage might be subject to the employer shared responsibility payment.

Here are six facts about these provisions.

  1. These provisions apply to applicable large employers, which includes tax-exempt and federal, state, local and Indian tribal government employers. You’re an applicable large employer if you have 50 or more full-time employees, including full-time equivalents.
  2. If you have fewer than 50 full-time employees, including full-time equivalents, you are not an applicable large employer and are generally not subject to these provisions. However, you are subject to the rules for large employers if you have fewer than 50 employees, but are a member of an ownership group that has 50 or more full-time equivalent employees.
  3. Under certain conditions relating to the employer’s maintenance of workforce and pre-existing health coverage, an employer won’t be assessed a payment for 2015. This transition relief is available for tax year 2015 for certain ALEs who have fewer than 100 full-time employees, including full-time equivalents.
  4. You are subject to the payment if any employee receives the premium tax credit and any one these conditions apply. Your organization:
  • failed to offer coverage to full-time employees and their dependents
  • offered coverage that was not affordable
  • offered coverage that did not provide a minimum level of coverage
  1. You do not report or include an employer shared responsibility payment with any information return you file.
  2. The IRS will contact you about your potential shared responsibility payment amount. You’ll have an opportunity to respond before the IRS assesses any liability or issues a notice and demand for payment.

This is a guest blog from Geraldine Aglipay, Midwest Outreach Manager for Small Business Majority. This post originally appeared on Patch.com.

For small business owners, setting up an employer-sponsored retirement plan can be complicated and expensive. Too many small businesses don’t have the resources to create a formal retirement plan, which means entrepreneurs and their employees frequently struggle to plan for retirement. Nearly 80 percent of employees who work for a small business don’t have access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan. Thankfully, the Illinois Secure Choice Savings Program offers a great retirement solution for small businesses and small business employees.

As most employers know, retirement benefits are important to attracting and retaining talented employees. In fact, a Towers Watson survey found 63 percent of workers younger than 40 agreed their retirement program was an important factor in accepting their job in 2011. Small business owners who can’t afford to offer retirement plans often find themselves at a disadvantage when it comes to competing with bigger businesses for talented employees and keeping up employee morale.

The Illinois Secure Choice Savings Program, which will go into effect on June 1, 2017, offers an easy and smart solution to this problem for small business owners. The legislation will create a state retirement plan that will be privately managed. Employees in companies with 25 or more employees will be automatically enrolled in the program, although they may opt out at any time; companies with fewer than 25 employees may opt in. Self-employed individuals may opt in to the program as well. Employees will contribute to the plan through payroll deductions and can choose how much to contribute, and the program won’t impact companies that already have retirement plans. Additionally, the program places no administrative or liability burdens on small businesses, as employers will not contribute to funds, manage funds or have any responsibility for financial advice with the program.

Considering the benefits of this program, it’s no surprise Small Business Majority’s polling found a majority of small business owners in Illinois supported legislation establishing the Illinois Secure Choice Savings Program. Additionally, 63 percent of small businesses agree Illinois should do more to help small businesses prepare for retirement.

To learn more about the Illinois Secure Choice Savings Program, small business owners can visit our FAQ page.

The Illinois Secure Choice Savings Program is an opportunity to level the playing field for small businesses that can’t afford to offer retirement benefits and help more entrepreneurs and their employees save for the future. It’s important for small business owners to be aware of this new program so they can take full advantage of it next year.

Rhett HeadshotThis post originally appeared on Medium.com.

While LGBT individuals won the right to marry last June, battles are still being fought in state legislatures around the country about a different right for LGBT people — particularly, their right to work and patronize businesses without facing legalized discrimination. Many states are considering or have passed broad religious exemption measures, also known as Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRA), which allow businesses, like bakeries, florists or wedding photographers, to deny service to individuals based on the owner’s religious beliefs. While these bills have ignited a firestorm of media attention, what many don’t realize is that RFRA laws aren’t just about ideology — they have serious economic consequences. If states continue to embrace legal discrimination by passing RFRA legislation, their small businesses will struggle to compete and thrive.

States that passed religious exemption measures have seen disastrous economic results. For instance, major companies ceased expansion and entertainers canceled major events in Indiana after the state passed a RFRA law. This move cost Indiana at least $60 million in revenue. For small business owners, this impact led to a weaker local economy and fewer customers at their businesses. Georgia is considering a similar law, which business groups estimate will cost the state up to $2 billion.

The reality is that most small business owners are more focused on attracting business than turning away paying customers based on ideology, and they want policies in place to reflect that. In fact, Small Business Majority’s scientific opinion polling, conducted with the American Unity Fund and the Center for American Progress, found two-thirds of small businesses say business owners shouldn’t be able to deny goods or services to LGBT individuals based on the owner’s religious beliefs. Another 55 percent of small business owners say they do not believe a business owner should be allowed to deny wedding-related services to a same-sex couple based on the owner’s religious beliefs. Additionally, an overwhelming 8 in 10 entrepreneurs support a federal law to protect LGBT individuals against discrimination in public accommodations, such as restaurants, hotels and other businesses that are open to the public.

Small business owners are also aware that discriminatory policies make it harder for them to attract talented employees. It’s already difficult for small employers to compete for top-notch talent; they don’t need to be burdened with the task of recruiting employees to a state known for its discriminatory laws.

That helps explain why small business owners don’t just oppose RFRA laws, but also support laws protecting LGBT employees from discrimination in the workplace. Small Business Majority’s polling found more than two-thirds of entrepreneurs believe federal law should prohibit employment discrimination against gay and transgender people.

It’s clear that small business owners — our nation’s primary job creators — understand that discriminatory policies are bad for the economy. Yet, lawmakers in states around the country continue to put ideology before what’s best for small business. For instance, the Colorado legislature is currently considering a religious exemption bill that would legalize discrimination against LGBT individuals. Missouri is also weighing a proposal allowing businesses, like florists and bakeries, to refuse to provide services for same-sex weddings or receptions based on the business owner’s religious beliefs. And while the Charlotte City Council in North Carolina recently passed a bill protecting LGBT people from discrimination in public accommodations, North Carolina Governor McCrory and the state legislature are threatening to create legislation overriding the bill.

When states open the door to discrimination, they risk closing the doors of small businesses. If leaders want to make their states economically competitive, they need to put pragmatism ahead of ideology and stand up against discrimination.

Rhett Buttle is Small Business Majority’s President and Managing Director. Previously, Rhett served as Director of Private Sector Engagement and LGBT Liaison in the Office of the Secretary at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He also served as a member of the White House Business Council.

 This post is a guest blog from Covered California for Small Business.

OE3_CCSB_Digital-Banner_300x600-1This is an important year for small businesses looking to gain an edge on the competition by offering group health insurance to its employees through Covered California for Small Business (CCSB) and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

In 2016, businesses with up to 100 employees can apply for coverage for their workers. That is an increase from 2015, when only businesses with fewer than 50 workers could apply for coverage through the Covered California exchange.

According to Covered California, small businesses can get affordable, top quality, brand-named health insurance from six health and seven dental carriers. There are four tiers of plans – Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum – with dozens of plan options.

Expanded coverage includes Covered California’s new Dual Tier Choice program that allows employees to choose between health plans offered in different tiers as long as the tiers are adjoining. For example, employees may choose between plans offered in Bronze and Silver tiers.

“It’s a pivotal year for small business,” said Kirk Whelan, director of Covered California’s Individual and Small Business Sales Division. “A lot of employers will be rethinking their health insurance strategy.”

Whelan said sole proprietors who don’t have at least one full-time employee are no longer eligible for tax credits and must enroll themselves in the individual market. Sole proprietors who enroll with Covered California may be eligible for a subsidy.

Small businesses with 25 or fewer employees may qualify for federal tax credits, but only if they enroll through Covered California for Small Business.

Offering health insurance to employees is not mandatory for small businesses with less than 50 employees, but employers may find that offering health insurance allows their business to attract and retain employees and help their workforce stay healthy and productive. Enrollment in Covered California for Small Business is year-round.

As of December 2015, there were 3,354 groups totaling 24,344 members enrolled in private health plans offered through Covered California.

Whelan expects that number to increase as small businesses consider the new options available under the Affordable Care Act. About 64 percent of more than 684,000 small businesses in California employ between 1-to-4 employees.

Applying is easy

Through Covered California for Small Business, employers control how much they spend on health insurance, setting the amount it will contribute to their employees’ insurance. In turn, employees have multiple insurance plans to choose from.

There are changes at Covered California as well. The agency has renamed and refocused its Small Employer Health Options Program (SHOP) and it is now called Covered California for Small Business.

While the Covered California brand is well known, SHOP was not. Merging the two should help increase public awareness of the business program and show how Certified Insurance Agents can help individuals with the insurance option that works best for them.

It’s commonplace in business for a company to re-launch or rebrand itself or a product to better reflect the service it provides. Whelan said that is what Covered California decided to do with its small business services.

“Covered California for Small Business is a great solution for small businesses,” Whelan said. “Employers set the budget they can afford and their employees choose from a variety of health plans to find the one that’s right for them.”

Some 14,000 Certified Insurance Agents are on hand to help businesses with their health insurance options. About 85 percent of employers work with an agent to make the right decision for their business.

For more information about enrolling for coverage through Covered California for Small Business, call (844) 269-3761. To learn more, you can watch this video in English or Spanish.