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Business taxes and ObamaCare: how is 'full-time' work defined?

No matter what you think of federal healthcare insurance reform, it's clear that the potential impact is huge. This does not just mean for individuals, either.

Business tax issues relating to the Affordable Care Act are on many employers' minds. One of these issues is the test that will be used to distinguish full-time workers and part-time workers for purposes of the new law.

The Internal Revenue Service, however, has already weighed in this subject. The IRS has issued a detailed notice with guidelines about which employees must be offered health insurance through their jobs.

Generally, the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or "ObamaCare") requires companies with 50 or more full-time employees to provide health insurance for those employees.

But how many hours does someone have to work to be considered a full-time employee for purposes of the ACA?

The basic dividing line is 30 hours per week. If someone works less than that, he or she is considered a part-time employee - and the employer is therefore not required to offer health insurance.

Some employees, though, work variable hours. In some weeks, the total may exceed 30 hours. In others, it may be less. How are those employees to be treated under the ACA?

That's where things get a little tricky. The IRS has proposed criteria to be used in making the determination, such as allowing employers a "look-back" period of up to a year before making the determination.

But the fact that another federal agency, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, uses a different definition for "part-time" is a possible source of confusion. The BLS uses the measure of 35 hours per week as the dividing line between full-time and part-time jobs.

Source: "ObamaCare: Rhetoric Vs. Reality," RealClear Politics, Robert Samuelson, 10-22-12

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