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Sens. Franken, Begich, Hirono, Shaheen, Landrieu, Warner, Walsh Co-Sponsor Legislation to Expand Tax Credits to Small Businesses

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Continuing efforts to make the new health care law work better for small businesses, U.S. Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), John Walsh (D-Mont.) today introduced legislation to make purchasing health care more affordable for small businesses by expanding tax credits so they can continue to compete and grow in the economy.

The Small Business Tax Credits Accessibility Act improves access to Small Business Health Care Tax Credits. The senators believe this tax credit should be available for a longer period of time and accessible to more people.

"Right now, the process for small businesses in Minnesota and across the country to get tax credits through the health reform law is overly burdensome and complex," said Sen. Franken. "This bill would simplify it, while also making more Minnesota small businesses eligible for the support they need to provide coverage to their employees."

"Small businesses need less red tape and more common sense solutions that work for them," said Begich. "This is why I have introduced a bill to make it easier for small businesses to buy insurance for their employees. It goes without saying that small businesses are the backbone of our economy, making it that much more important that we help them thrive. My bill will do just that."

"While Chair of the Small Business Committee, I helped craft the ACA's health care tax credit to help those small businesses who were struggling to offer coverage and empower those small businesses who desperately wanted to provide quality, affordable coverage for their employees - many of whom are like family - but had been priced out of the market," said Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., "By expanding and making these improvements to the existing tax credit, more small businesses will benefit and have the opportunity to offer health benefits to recruit and retain top talent."

"This bill is a commonsense, practical fix that will allow more small businesses in Hawaii access to tax relief," said Hirono. "It also takes into account what the people of Hawaii know all too well - that the costs of living are higher in our state than on the mainland. Moving forward, I'll continue to work with my colleagues to craft solutions that help our families and our businesses access quality, affordable health care."

"The legislation provides a smart, targeted fix to help small businesses pool together in providing coverage options for their employees," Sen. Warner said. "This legislation also represents a commonsense effort to help our small business owners attract and keep talented workers."

"The Affordable Care Act does not go far enough to see that small business owners are able to afford health coverage for employees," said Walsh. "Small businesses drive economic growth and we need to make sure that costs are controlled so they can grow and compete in today's marketplace."

Highlights of the bill include:

Raising the maximum size of the business that is eligible to receive the tax credits from 25 employees to 50 employees;
Extending a 35% tax credit to small businesses purchasing coverage outside the SHOP exchange in 2014, while maintaining the tax credit of 50% for coverage purchased on the SHOP exchange;
Increasing the number of years for which a small business may receive the tax credit to any 3 consecutive years;
Extending the credit to firms with higher average wages. Instead of phasing out between $25,000 and $50,000, it would instead phase out between 110 percent and 220 percent of the federal poverty line for a family of four- taking into account regional salary differences;
Increasing the threshold for a firm to receive the biggest possible credit from 10 to 20 full-time employees;
Allowing some family members of small business owners to directly benefit from the tax credits;
Eliminating the requirement that employers claiming the credit contribute the same percentage of the cost of each employee's health insurance; and
Simplifying calculations by eliminating the cap that limits eligible employer contributions to average premiums in the state.

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