The health care reform bill passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010, includes a new small business tax credit.
In his remarks at the bill signing, Obama touted the credit as one of the immediate benefits of the bill.
"This year, we'll start offering tax credits to about 4 million small businessmen and women to help them cover the cost of insurance for their employees," Obama said. "That happens this year."
You can read the full legislative details of the small business tax credits for employee health insurance expenses beginning with Section 1421 of the bill, starting on page 305.
From 2010 through 2013, qualifying small companies could get a tax credit of up to 35 percent of the company's contribution to employee's health coverage. Beginning in 2014, when the exchanges start up, small businesses could qualify for up to 50 percent of the cost.
Here's some of the fine print: in order to be eligible, the employer can have no more than 25 full-time equivalent employees (and 10 or fewer for the full amount of the tax credit) with average salaries of under $50,000.
So the bill gets to Obama's promise of a tax credit of up to 50 percent on premiums paid by small businesses on behalf of their employees by 2014. But there's one key difference between Obama's promise and what the bill delivers: the tax credit is not refundable. If it was refundable, it means that of your tax liability is less than zero, the government will send you a check.
However, as the Joint Committee on Taxation makes clear, "The credit is only available to offset actual tax liability and is claimed on the employer"s tax return. The credit is not payable in advance to the taxpayer or refundable."
And so we rate this promise a Compromise.