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By Lukas Pleva June 4, 2010

Tax credit for companies differs in details

Talk about a legislative roller coaster.

In February 2010, we reported on the status of President Obama's efforts to provide a $3,000 refundable tax credit to businesses that hire new workers. At the time, we rated the promise In the Works, since the White House had released a detailed proposal on how the credit should work, with mechanisms in place make sure the tax breaks go to new jobs, and especially jobs created by small business. Congress was also considering a jobs bills that could include the proposal or one similar to it. This was a change from 2009, when we rated the promise Broken, since the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 did not include the measure and there was no indication that it might re-emerge.

On March 18, 2010, Obama finally signed the $17.5 billion jobs bill, officially known as the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act, into law. The bill permits businesses to write off investments in equipment during 2010 and maintains investments in roads and bridges through reforms in municipal bonds.

Most important, at least in terms of this promise, are the bill's business tax break provisions. There are two key benefits that businesses can take advantage of, according to the IRS.

First, from March 19, 2010, through December 31, 2010, employers are exempt from paying the 6.2 percent Social Security tax on wages paid to previously unemployed workers. This means that a business could potentially save a little over $6,600 if it paid the worker at least $106,800, since that's the maximum amount of wages subject to Social Security taxes in 2010.

Second, for each qualified employee retained for at least 52 consecutive weeks, employers will receive a non-refundable tax credit of 6.2 percent of wages paid to the qualified employee over the 52 week period, for a maximum credit of $1,000.

To be a "qualified employee," you must have been hired between February 3, 2010, and January 1, 2011, and you must have been unemployed during the 60 days prior to starting work, or worked fewer than 40 hours for someone else during the 60 day period. The law does not set a minimum number of hours that the employee must work.

To recap. Obama promised to give businesses a $3,000 refundable tax credit for each full-time employee hired. The final bill falls short of that promise. The tax credit is non-refundable, which means that while it reduces the employer's tax liability, he or she cannot get a refund--hence the name. On the other hand, the bill gives employers a tax exemption of up to $6,600, which is more than Obama promised.

In all, we rate this one a Compromise.

Our Sources

IRS, HIRE Act: Questions and Answers for Employers, May 24, 2010.

IRS, Press Release:Two New Tax Benefits Aid Employers Who Hire and Retain Unemployed Workers, March 18, 2010.

The White House, Blog Entry: Putting Americans Back to Work: Another Step Forward, by Jessee Lee on March 18, 2010.

CBS News, Jobs Bill Signed Into Law by Obama, by Brian Montopoli on March 18, 2010.

Social Security Administration, Contribution and Benefit Base, accessed June 2, 2010.

Dawn J. Jessee (CPA),The Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act of 2010, accessed June 2, 2010.

Simple Subjects LLC, Tax Exemptions, Deductions, and Credits page, accessed June 2, 2010.

Angie Drobnic Holan
By Angie Drobnic Holan February 4, 2010

Jobs tax credit promise gets new rating

With his first year in office under his belt and unemployment still high, President Barack Obama called for additional help for the economy through a tax credit for businesses that add jobs.

This was actually an idea from the 2008 campaign that didn't make it into the economic stimulus bill that Congress approved in February 2009. After the stimulus passed without it, we rated it Promise Broken.

But Obama has dusted off the idea and is promoting it again. The White House has released a detailed proposal on how it should work, with mechanisms in place make sure the tax breaks go to new jobs, and especially jobs created by small business. So that the deficit doesn't go up, the federal government would tap unused money for bank bailouts to pay for the tax credit, according to the White House.

The tax credit would be $5,000 for every new worker employed in 2010. It would be capped at $500,000 per firm.

Obama has been promoting this tax credit since first announcing it during his State of the Union speech on Jan. 27, 2010. Congress, meanwhile, is actively working on a jobs bill, and it seems likely this proposal or something like it could end up in a final bill.

Because of these new developments, the Obameter has sprung to life and moved from Promise Broken back to In the Works.

Our Sources

Angie Drobnic Holan
By Angie Drobnic Holan February 17, 2009

$3,000 tax credit not in stimulus bill, no future action seen

President Obama first proposed a $3,000 tax credit for businesses that add to their payroll when he was campaigning for president and the U.S. economy had taken a serious nosedive. After winning the election and taking office, he began working on a stimulus bill with Congress. But this idea soon stalled and appears to be dead.

It never got any significant support in Congress, even from Democrats. Lawmakers said they were concerned the credit wasn't enough of an incentive to get companies to hire additional workers. Tax policy analysts said the credit would be an administrative nightmare to implement. Companies might eliminate a job and then create it again later in hopes of getting the tax credit.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said at a news conference on Jan. 14, 2009, that both Democrats and Republicans had problems with the measure. 

"If you have a company and you're selling fewer shingles, $3,000 isn't going to get you to hire somebody when your sales are shrinking," Schumer said.

The credit was never part of the stimulus legislation as far as we saw, and it was not included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which Obama signed into law on Feb. 17, 2009. Likewise, we see no indication that this idea might re-emerge. So for now, we rate it Promise Broken.

Our Sources

Angie Drobnic Holan
By Angie Drobnic Holan January 18, 2009

Congress balks at $3,000 tax credit per worker

During the final stages of the campaign, Barack Obama proposed a number of economic measures intended to jump-start a sputtering economy. Among those was a tax credit for businesses to hire new workers; Obama proposed a $3,000 credit for every worker hired.

"We've already lost three-quarters of a million jobs this year, and some experts say that unemployment may rise to 8 percent by the end of next year," Obama said at a rally in Toledo, Ohio, on Oct. 13, 2008. "We can't wait until then to start creating new jobs. That's why I'm proposing to give our businesses a new American jobs tax credit for each new employee they hire here in the United States over the next two years."

But Congress didn't like the idea when it came time to write a stimulus bill in January 2009.

"If you have a company and you're selling fewer shingles, $3,000 isn't going to get you to hire somebody when your sales are shrinking," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., at a news conference on Jan. 14, 2009.

"So the basic view was, we need to do things to stimulate jobs on the tax cut side and on the business side, but that probably is not the best way to go. You don't get the most bang for the buck," he said, adding that the opposition was in the House and the Senate from both Democrats and Republicans.

When the House Appropriations Committee released its plans for the stimulus bill a few days later on Jan. 16, the measure was not included. So we rate this promise Stalled. (If nothing changes before passage of the final bill, we expect we'll be moving this to Promise Broken.)

Our Sources

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