WASHINGTON — Tucked into the nation’s massive new health care law is a requirement that could become a paperwork nightmare for nearly 40 million businesses.
The rule: They must file tax forms for every vendor that sells them more than $600 in goods.
The goal is to prevent vendors from underreporting their income to the Internal Revenue Service. The government must think vendors are omitting a lot, because the filing requirement is estimated to bring in $19 billion over the next decade.
Business groups say it will swamp their members in paperwork, and Congress is listening. Democrats and Republicans want to repeal it, but getting them to work together on the issue is proving difficult in an election year.
The House rejected a bill Friday that would have repealed the provision. The two parties disagreed on how to make up the lost revenue.
Businesses already must file Form 1099s with the IRS when they purchase more than $600 in services from a vendor in a year. The new provision would extend the requirement to the purchase of goods, starting in 2012.
The requirement would hit about 38 million businesses, charities and tax-exempt organizations, many of them small businesses already swamped by government paperwork, according to a recent report by the National Taxpayer Advocate. It would also create an avalanche of paperwork that could strain the IRS itself, wrote the advocate, an independent watchdog within the IRS.
Businesses that repeatedly make small purchases from the same vendor would have to keep good records in case the total exceeded $600 in a year. Companies would also have to get vendors’ tax identification numbers to include in the filings.
“Tax paperwork and compliance are already major expenses for small businesses,” a coalition of 80 business groups wrote in a recent letter to lawmakers. “This new and expanded requirement means that almost every business-to-business transaction is potentially reportable to the IRS.”
Republicans want to repeal the filing requirement and pay for it by changing other parts of the new health care law, a strategy that Democratic leaders won’t support. Democrats want to repeal the filing requirement and pay for it by raising taxes on international corporations and limiting taxpayers’ ability to use special trusts to avoid gifts taxes. Republicans won’t support that.
The House rejected a Democratic bill Friday after Democratic leaders brought it up under a procedure that requires a two-thirds majority for approval. The vote was 241 to 154, with nearly all Democrats voting in favor of the bill and nearly all Republicans opposed.
“Despite all of their rhetoric about the need to eliminate this reporting requirement, Republicans walked away from small businesses when it mattered most,” said Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan, chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee.
“Frankly, this is a missed opportunity,” said Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan, the top Republican on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, who voted against the bill. “It is a missed opportunity to fix a fundamental flaw in the health care law and a missed opportunity to truly help American employers and the jobs they provide.”