The Alaska Chamber of Commerce says small business owners could end up paying an extra $500 for health insurance next year if Congress doesn’t act before January 1.

Last year lawmakers delayed an Affordable Care Act health insurance tax—commonly known as HIT—with the Protecting Families and Small Business Act of 2017.

If the tax goes into effect, Chamber President Curtis Thayer says it could impact many of Alaska’s 69,000 small business owners.

Tim Agosti’s business could be one of those. He owns Refrigeration and Food Equipment, a second-generation, commercial appliance repair business he took over from his father. He and two of his brothers make up the seven-person staff.

“We tend to keep to ourselves, that's how we avoid problems,” Agosti laughed.

Agosti said it’s always been important to make sure his staff has health insurance. A change in the company’s taxes could mean a change in employee benefits, though.

“We have a co-pay with our employees that's approximately $350 a month and if this tax occurs we have no choice to push it all to the employee,” Agosti explained.

Thayer said small business owners are facing more than just federal taxes and the burden is overwhelming.

“The state too is looking at putting a sales tax or payroll tax or something else, they're looking at their own tax structure and so when you add these costs on and on these small businesses hurt, struggle and go out of business,” Thayer said.

Agosti started working for Refrigeration and Food Equipment right out of high school. He’s seen the ups and downs of running a small business, which is even more difficult in a recession.

“We're having to watch all of our nickels and dimes and if things don't improve or the tax does go through we're going to have to do something drastic and start actually reducing people's hours just to survive,” he said.

On Tuesday House Republicans introduced a proposal to suspend the tax for another year. Congressman Don Young signed on to support it. Thayer said the chamber hopes Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan will get on board, too.

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