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New Dentist Finances

Dental Student Loan Repayment and FQHCs

Couple discusses moneyWe’re hard at work on the next issue of ADA New Dentist News, including a piece about FQHCs and dental student loan repayment.

An FQHC (Federally Qualified Health Center) is part of the dental safety net — these centers serve locations or populations with limited access to care. They may be located in urban or rural areas. An FQHC is often an integrated medical facility, where a patient has a single chart encompassing all care, including medical, dental and behavioral health.

Some dentists work full-time at a FQHC, while others devote part of their schedules to working for one of these centers. Loan repayment is available for a combined commitment that includes both a minimum number of 20 hours per week, and a minimum number of years of service.

Find out more at this link.

Have you worked at an FQHC? Share your experience in the comments.

Employee or Independent Contractor — What’s the Difference?

The ADA Center for Professional Success

The ADA Center for Professional Success

Sometimes there is confusion over what it means to work as an independent contractor vs. working as an employee. Here’s the IRS on the topic (PDF link):

“An employer must generally withhold federal income taxes, and pay unemployment tax on wages paid to an employee. An employer does not generally have to withhold or pay any taxes on payments to independent contractors.”(IRS Publication 15-A)

So is this just a matter of word choice? Absolutely not!

The ADA Center for Professional Success has more information:

Employees are typically subject to the employer’s instruction, such as when and where to work, what supplies must be used, how work is to be completed and other procedures. Employees may not be required to invest in their own materials and may be eligible for benefits. For an employee, the employer dentist must generally withhold income taxes, withhold and pay social security and Medicare taxes, pay unemployment tax, and afford workers’ compensation benefits.

Be careful though, as being an employee does not mean that the employee dentist can defer ethical responsibility for care. That always rests with the individual professional. “The boss made me do it” is never a good defense!

Independent contractors have more control and are often paid a flat fee for their work. They are not as likely to be reimbursed for expenses, nor to receive benefits and the relationship is usually just centered around the end results of the work, not the time at or means by which those results are accomplished. There is generally no requirement to withhold or pay taxes for independent contractors — the burden is on the independent contractor. Keep in mind that the final test comes from what actually goes on in the relationship. The label on a piece of paper doesn’t matter as much as the day-to-day workings of the practice.

If the IRS believes that a worker has been mis-classified, the business may be liable for back taxes. And it’s important to note that part-time or full-time status is not a deciding factor.

If you are concerned about the classification of those who work for you, or of the classification of yourself as a worker, it’s important to consult with a local employment attorney in your state of practice.

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ADA members — check out the ADA Center for Professional Success at Success.ADA.org. Resources include financial calculators to factor loan payments and overhead expenditures, ergonomic tips to keep you healthy and patient communications strategies to build trust and increase patient satisfaction.

Money Matters — Shared Accounts?

Couple discusses money

Shared finances

Over at his blog The Simple Dollar, Trent has been wondering when it makes sense for romantic couples to share a checking account (Spoiler alert: He and his wife began marriage with separate accounts, but they eventually merged.)

Back in 2011, Jessica Grose wrote for Slate about the possibilities she and her husband considered:

Seems like there might not be one size that fits all. What approach works for you? Share your answers in the comments.

Money Matters – Stafford Loans and You

open mouthAs of today, July 1, the interest rates on Stafford Loans are set to double from 3.4% to 6.8%.You’ll find some handy explanations of how this affects you over at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s blog.

Already on the hook for loans? This change only affects new Stafford Loans for undergraduate education. If you have loan that originated before July 1, 2013, or you are taking out a loan to finance your post-graduate education—such as dental school or a residency—you are not affected by this change.

The ADA speaks up. Increasing the cost of education is a big deal, so much so that the ADA sent a letter to the U.S. Senate, explaining that education debt plays a major role in postgraduate career planning and can influence whether a recent graduate will choose to enter private practice, focus on underserved communities or pursue a career in public service, teaching research and/or public health. Read more about the letter here. The interest rates could be revised retroactively, so it’s important to speak up. If you’d like to contact your legislator yourself here’s some information on how to do that.

Other Resources The ADA collects information on student loan repayment programs. Access a list of federal and state programs that offer loan repayment assistance, which are often in exchange for services in a healthcare shortage area. Download the free pdf here.

The ADA offers a free student loan contract analysis service to student members. Contact an ASDA chapter leader at your school and notify the ADA legal department at studentloananalysis@ada.org to receive a written analysis – in plain language – of your student loan contract. The service is available for unsigned contracts and all pre-doctoral and post-doctoral student members may take advantage of it. Here’s the Student Loan Analysis F.A.Q.