A new regulation that went into effect on July 1 threatens small businesses with fines from the Internal Revenue Service of up to $36,500 a year per employee, if the businesses help their employees with health costs by reimbursing them for the cost of their healthcare premiums or by paying for their health costs directly.

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) reported that the new regulation, which is not part of the Affordable Care Act, states that employers who compensate their employees for health costs, rather than offering a group health plan, “can be fined $100 per day, per employee,” which adds up to “$36,500 per employee up to $500,000 in total.”

Gracie-Marie Turner, the founder of the Galen Institute and a contributor to Forbes, noted that this new regulation is more than “18 times greater than the $2,000 employer-mandate penalty under Obamacare for not providing qualifying health insurance for employees,” and while employers with fewer than 50 employees are exempt from the employer-mandate penalty under Obamacare, they are not exempt from this penalty from the IRS.

“The rule appears nowhere in the Affordable Care Act but was developed by the Obama administration’s regulation writers at the IRS,” Turner wrote. “The rule punishes small businesses for providing the only health insurance support many can afford – a contribution to help employees pay premiums for their individual or family health insurance policies or to help finance direct payment for medical services.”

Kevin Kuhlman, NFIB’s policy director, called the new regulations the “biggest penalty no one is talking about.”

“The penalty for compensating employees for healthcare-related expenses is enough to destroy most small businesses,” Kuhlman said. “Reimbursing employees for the cost of insurance or medical services is a way for small businesses to help their workers without the administrative headaches of setting up a costly group plan.”

In response to the regulation, Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.) introduced H.R. 2911 in the House and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) introduced S.1697 in the Senate. Both bills are labeled as “Small Business Healthcare Relief Acts” and are awaiting congressional action.

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