Congress urged to delay HIT; tax would have devastating effect on ag industry, small businesses | TheFencePost.com

Congress urged to delay HIT; tax would have devastating effect on ag industry, small businesses

-Colorado Farm Bureau

CENTENNIAL, Colo. – Colorado Farm Bureau officials along with state and local business leaders called on congress to delay the Health Insurance Tax, or HIT, at a roundtable meeting Oct. 7 in Centennial, Colo. The discussion included representatives from the Colorado Farm Bureau, the Colorado Business Roundtable, and the South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce, among others. Attendees expressed concerns about the impact of the HIT on Colorado small business, farmers and ranchers if the tax is not delayed next year.

"The health insurance tax has the potential to have devastating effects on the farming industry," said Zach Riley, director of public policy, national affairs for the CFB. "With net farm income down by more than 50 percent in the last two years due to a drop in commodity prices, now is not the time for increasing the tax burden on rural America."

Bob Golden, CEO of the Southwest Denver Metro Chamber, said the HIT threatens to cripple the small businesses that serve as the very lifeblood of Colorado communities. "The average business size of the 700 businesses we represent is seven employees. It's tough enough right now for small businesses and this would make already expensive health insurance even more expensive."

The HIT is a federal tax on health insurance plans purchased by small business owners, the self-employed, and workers who receive their health care coverage through an employer. Without action by Congress to delay the tax, the HIT is expected to increase premiums nationwide by $14.3 billion next year, when the tax goes into effect in January. A recent study by Oliver Wyman shows that families in the small employer market could be faced with $500 on average in higher premiums in 2018 as a result of the HIT.

The HIT has also been estimated to impact 156 million Americans, with 50 percent of those paying the HIT earning an income between $10,000 and $50,000. "This happens to be the demographic that a large portion of our producer members and rural Coloradoans fall under," said Shawn Martini, vice president of advocacy for CFB.

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., recently introduced the "Healthcare Tax Relief Act," a bill in congress that would delay implementation of the HIT tax for 2018. The effort to prevent a tax hike in the form of the HIT has been a top priority for small businesses and the employer community, from the hospitality industry to the agricultural sector.

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"We appreciate Sen. Gardner's leadership in advocating on behalf of Colorado's citizens and businesses," said Jeff Wasden, president of Colorado Business Roundtable. "By voting to delay the Health Insurance Tax, he and congress can continue to help support our state's business community, strengthen our economy and ultimately make all of Colorado proud."

Wasden points out that recent analysis estimates that nationwide, between 152,000 and 286,000 private sector jobs could be lost by 2023 as a result of the increased cost burdens of the HIT. "Growth would necessarily slow as small business owners face increased uncertainty and an inability to properly budget for the future," he said.

Colorado is home to more than 33,000 farms and ranches, and 572,000 small businesses, which employ more than 1 million private sector workers. According to research by the National Federation of Independent Business Research Foundation, the HIT will jeopardize between 152,000 to 286,000 private-sector jobs across the U.S. by 2023, and reduce real GDP by as much as $20 billion to $33 billion over the same period.