How Health Insurance Tax Deductions Can Save You Money

Gusto Editors

When you give your team group health coverage, it’s pretty awesome.

  • It helps keep your team healthy.
  • It makes it easier for employees to have everything they need to do great work.
  • It helps you build a workplace where people feel valued.

While offering health insurance leads to a lot of good things, it’s also an expense you’ll have to take on. The good news is that there are some big health insurance tax deductions that keep those premiums from adding too much to your bottom line. In fact, the tax break for employers who provide health insurance is the largest in the entire tax code.

Not too bad, right?

Sprinkled throughout the entire tax code are even more hidden gems. Follow along as we highlight the main tax deductions you can get if you give your team health insurance.

4 tax benefits of employer-sponsored health coverage

1. Your premiums are tax-exempt

Employer-provided health insurance premiums for group health plans are tax-exempt. That means it can lower or even completely erase your tax duties.

These tax-exempt premiums came about during World War II when companies were trying to evade wage and price controls and have been a part of our health policies ever since.

Today’s headlines have a lot of discussions about the future of health care. While some changes may be on the way, policies like these are essential to giving employers the incentive they need to take good care of their employees.

2. Your contributions are deductible

Most carriers require employers to pay half of their employees’ premiums (but there’s no requirement for paying any dependent premiums).

When you pay part of your team’s premiums, it unlocks another big tax benefit. You see, paying part of your team’s premium is a generous act that also doubles as a business expense. When filing your taxes, that means you can write off those premiums as a tax deduction.

The premiums you pay are also a tax-free benefit for your employees. According to the IRS, if an employer covers health insurance costs for employees (plus their spouses and dependents), the employer’s payments are not considered wages. Therefore, they’re not subject to Social Security tax, Medicare tax, FUTA, or federal income tax withholding.

3. POP plans can help you save even more

A premium-only plan (POP) opens the door to extra tax savings.

POP plans (which are also known as basic cafeteria plans) come from IRS Section 125. They let your employees pay for their share of their health insurance premiums with pre-tax dollars, which means that both you and your team pay less in taxes.  

Your health insurance broker typically sets up your POP plan when they enroll you in your benefits plan.

Here’s an example of how the savings works for your business. This example assumes you pay 10 employees an average of $4,000 monthly and that you cover $200 per month of their health insurance premiums.

If employees buy their own insuranceIf employees pay premiums for group coverage
Monthly payroll$40,000$40,000
FICA taxes$3,060$2,907
Workers’ comp premiums$280$228
Total monthly payroll costs$43,340$43,135
Annual savings$2,460

If your organization has ten employees who each make $40,000 a year, a POP plan can help you save $2,460 a year.*

At the same time, one of those employees who earns $4,000 a month could wind up with an extra $972 a year of net pay:**

Employees’ net pay increaseIf employees buy their own insuranceIf employees pay premiums as part of a POP plan
Monthly gross pay$4,000$4,000
Pre-tax insurance deduction$0$200
Federal taxes$1,000$950
State taxes$320$304
FICA taxes$306$291
Post-tax insurance cost$200$0
Monthly net pay (take-home pay)$2,174$2,255
Annual net pay increase$972

4. You pay fewer payroll taxes

If you offer a cafeteria plan, the size of your payroll gets smaller in the eyes of Uncle Sam because the pre-tax premiums employees pay for health insurance aren’t counted as income, which reduces your payroll. Only the taxable wages they are paid count toward your tax burden.

A smaller payroll means less payroll tax.

(Drops the mic.)

Bonus: You get workers’ comp savings, too

Your workers’ comp premiums are based on the size of your payroll, too. When employees pay for health insurance premiums with pre-tax dollars, that means workers’ comp premiums decrease as well.

So what are you waiting for?

When you look at the big picture, there are lots of reasons offering health insurance is a healthy choice. Not only does it empower your team to take control of themselves, but you’ll also sweep up a ton of tax breaks while doing so. 

Review the benefits above, and take comfort in knowing that thanks to these health insurance tax deductions, some of the money you spend can come right back your way.

*Based on 6.2% Social Security and 1.45% Medicare taxes, no state taxes included.

**Based on 25% federal income and 6% state income taxes.

Gusto Editors Gusto Editors, contributing authors on Gusto, provide actionable tips and expert advice on HR and payroll for successful business management.
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