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One of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act was a tax credit for small employers that pay their employees’ health-insurance premiums. In 2010 through 2013, companies that have fewer than 25 employees and meet a few other criteria could receive up to 35 percent of the premiums back in tax credits. So far, more than $1 billion has been provided in credits, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

In 2014, the ACA mandated those employers to buy their plans through the state or federal exchanges to receive the credit, which was increased to 50 percent maximum and made available for two years.

There was only one problem: In Washington state, the small business exchange program, called Small Business Health Options Program or SHOP, is only available in two counties, Cowlitz and Clark. read more »


Washington’s minimum wage increased to $9.32 per hour effective Jan. 1, as announced in September by the Department of Labor & Industries.

The 13-cents-per-hour increase, from $9.19 to $9.32 an hour, reflects a 1.455 percent increase in the Consumer Price Index between September 2012 and August 2013 for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers.

L&I uses this annual change in the federal CPI to calculate the state’s minimum wage each year, as required by Initiative 688, approved by Washington voters in 1998.

The CPI-W measures average price changes for goods and services purchased by urban wage earners and clerical workers. The goods and services it monitors include basic living costs such as food, clothing, shelter, fuels and services such as doctor visits. read more »


OLYMPIA — Confusion over the taxability of medical marijuana is leading the Washington State Department of Revenue (Revenue) to start an education effort early in the new year.

Revenue is mailing letters to several hundred businesses and organizations that provide medical marijuana, “medibles,” and related products, explaining that taxes apply to their transactions. Letter recipients include dispensaries, collectives, cooperatives, nonprofits and businesses that should be — but are not — registered with Revenue or paying taxes.

The letters will be mailed Jan. 3, and businesses should comply by Jan. 24.

Revenue has become increasingly aware of confusion within the medical marijuana community about the responsibility to collect and pay taxes. This education effort aims to create a level playing field by increasing compliance from those who are not registered and filing with Revenue. read more »


Should I expand my business to include selling to the Navy? Do we have opportunities in our local area to sell to other government agencies? How much of an investment in money and time does this take? Can I be successful? Where do I start? These are some of the most common questions business owners ask when they visit the Kitsap Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC).

In Kitsap County, we live in a land of government contracting opportunities. We have multiple Navy bases and are within close proximity to Lewis-McChord, the Veterans Administration, GSA, NOAA, Army Corps of Engineers, Coast Guard, and many other agencies accessible by ferry or within driving distance. The Federal Government purchases everything — from ships to toilet paper. And they contract for services that range from professional engineering services to dogs for chasing geese off airfields. read more »


WASHINGTON — Struggling homeowners could be hit with an unexpected tax bill in the new year.

A law that spared people who owe more than their homes are worth from being saddled with extra taxes when their banks provide mortgage relief is expiring next week. Congress hasn’t extended it. Underwater homeowners often try to negotiate with their bank so that they can sell their homes for less than they owe in a short sale or have their mortgage balance reduced.

But the difference between what the homeowner owes and the lower sales price approved by the bank is considered income for the homeowner and subject to tax by the Internal Revenue Service. read more »


OLYMPIA — The public will have an opportunity to comment on a proposed amendment to the disadvantaged business enterprise (DBE) participation goal for Washington State Department of Transportation projects that receive federal funding.

Construction projects built with federal funds must comply with federal laws and regulations concerning the use of certified minority — and women-owned DBE firms to complete a percentage of the work. Changes to the DBE participation goal are based on a recently completed disparity study.

WSDOT will gather input regarding the proposed goal at public meetings in Spokane, Seattle and Tacoma in January, as well as through a webinar and an online comment form.

“Compliance with the federal DBE program is a top priority for WSDOT,” said Secretary of Transportation Lynn Peterson. “The proposed goal more accurately reflects current marketplace conditions and helps ensure that we are treating contractors and subcontractors fairly.” read more »


Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent abruptly ousted city finance director Becky Hasart last week, and said the move was made as part of restructuring the Financial Services department.

Hasart, who had held the position for three years, was informed of Lent’s decision on Dec. 19. Assistant finance director Cathy Johnson will take over as interim finance director.

In published reports on the change, Lent said Hasart had done a good job as finance director and that she would give Hasart a positive letter of recommendation, but the department needed to be reorganized. The mayor had already shifted the city’s human resources office out of the finance department and put it under the supervision of the city attorney, and said she plans to do the same with the city clerk. read more »


The federal government announced it will offer a loophole to small businesses in Washington state that will allow those eligible to receive tax credits of up to 50 percent for insuring their employees.

“I was disappointed our state’s SHOP (Small Business Health Options) program was going to be so limited in 2014,” Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement. “There are an awful lot of small businesses that would like to offer health coverage to their employees but have had a hard time keeping up with rising insurance rates. For a while now, we have been looking for a way to make sure small businesses in all counties have some way of getting financial support to offer their employees comprehensive, affordable coverage.”

Except for Clark and Cowlitz counties, Washington doesn’t have a small business exchange, which under the Affordable Care Act was the only way for them to receive tax credits starting in 2014. read more »


WASHINGTON — The federal Department of Transportation (DOT) will consider banning the use of cellphones for voice calls onboard airplanes, a reaction to widespread public outrage over a proposal by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to loosen the rules.

Together, the two developments mean that consumers soon will probably be able to text and connect to the Internet on their cellphones at 10,000 feet, but not to make voice calls.

The two agencies said they had heard and wanted to respect public outcry at the prospect of being stuck for hours in close quarters next to a person gabbing into a cellphone. read more »

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