Do you know everything you need to know about your 401(k)? Check out this great article from Employee Benefit News about the top 10 misconceptions people have about their 401(k)s by Robert C. Lawton.
Unfortunately for plan sponsors, 401(k) plan participants have some big misconceptions about their retirement plan.
Having worked as a 401(k) plan consultant for more than 30 years with some of the most prestigious companies in the world — including Apple, AT&T, IBM, John Deere, Northern Trust, Northwestern Mutual — I’m always surprised by the simple but significant 401(k) plan misconceptions many plan participants have. Following are the most common and noteworthy —all of which employers need to help employees address.
1. I only need to contribute up to the maximum company match
Many participants believe that their company is sending them a message on how much they should contribute. As a result, they only contribute up to the maximum matched contribution percentage. In most plans, that works out to be only 6% in employee contributions. Many studies have indicated that participants need to average at least 15% in contributions each year. To dispel this misperception, and motivate participants to contribute something closer to what they should, plan sponsors should consider stretching their matching contribution.
2. It’s OK to take a participant loan
I have had many participants tell me, “If this were a bad thing why would the company let me do it?” Account leakage via defaulted loans is one of the reasons why some participants never save enough for retirement. In addition, taking a participant loan is a horribleinvestment strategy. Plan participants should first explore taking a home equity loan, where the interest is tax deductible. Plan sponsors should consider curtailing or eliminating their loan provisions.
3. Rolling a 401(k) account into an IRA is a good idea
There are many investment advisers working hard to convince participants this is a good thing to do. However, higher fees, lack of free investment advice, use of higher-cost investment options, lack of availability of stable value and guaranteed fund investment options and many other factors make this a bad idea for most participants.
4. My 401(k) account is a good way to save for college, a first home, etc.
When 401(k) plans were first rolled out to employees decades ago, human resources staff helped persuade skeptical employees to contribute by saying the plans could be used for saving for many different things. They shouldn’t be. It is a bad idea to use a 401(k) plan to save for an initial down payment on a home or to finance a home. Similarly, a 401(k) plan is not the best place to save for a child’s education — 529 plans work much better. Try to eliminate the language in your communication materials that promotes your 401(k) plan as a place to do anything other than save for retirement.
5. I should stop making 401(k) contributions when the stock market crashes
This is a more prevalent feeling among plan participants than you might think. I have had many participants say to me, “Bob, why should I invest my money in the stock market when it is going down. I’m just going to lose money!” These are the same individuals who will be rushing into the stock market at market tops. This logic is important to unravel with participants and something plan sponsors should emphasize in their employee education sessions.
6. Actively trading my 401(k) account will help me maximize my account balance
Trying to time the market, or following newsletters or a trader’s advice, is rarely a winning strategy. Consistently adhering to an asset allocation strategy that is appropriate to a participant’s age and ability to bear risk is the best approach for most plan participants.
7. Indexing is always superior to active management
Although index investing ensures a low-cost portfolio, it doesn’t guarantee superior performance or proper diversification. Access to commodity, real estate and international funds is often sacrificed by many pure indexing strategies. A blend of active and passive investments often proves to be the best investment strategy for plan participants.
8. Target date funds are not good investments
Most experts who say that target date funds are not good investments are not comparing them to a participant’s allocations prior to investing in target date funds. Target date funds offer proper age-based diversification. Many participants, before investing in target date funds, may have invested in only one fund or a few funds that were inappropriate risk-wise for their age.
9. Money market funds are good investments
These funds have been guaranteed money losers for a number of years because they have not kept pace with inflation. Unless a participant is five years or less away from retirement or has difficulty taking on even a small amount of risk, these funds are below-average investments. As a result of the new money market fund rules, plan sponsors should offer guaranteed or stable value investment options instead.
10. I can contribute less because I will make my investments will work harder
Many participants have said to me, “Bob, I don’t have to contribute as much as others because I am going to make my investments do more of the work.” Most participants feel that the majority of their final account balance will come from earnings in their 401(k) account. However, studies have shown that the major determinant of how much participants end up with at retirement is the amount of contributions they make, not the amount of earnings. This is another misconception that plan sponsors should work hard to unwind in their employee education sessions.
Make sure you address all of these misconceptions in your next employee education sessions.
See the original article Here.
Lawton R. (2017 April 4). The 10 biggest 401(k) plan misconceptions[Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/the-10-biggest-401-k-plan-misperceptions?brief=00000152-14a5-d1cc-a5fa-7cff48fe0001
Make sure to stay up-to-date with the most recent changes to the ACA, thanks to our partners at United Benefit Advisors (UBA).
In March, the employee benefits world watched as the House Speaker unveiled a proposal to replace parts of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) with the American Health Care Act (AHCA). The AHCA bill was withdrawn from consideration by the full House on March 24 because it appeared that there would not be enough votes to pass the AHCA.
On March 13, 2017, the U.S. Senate approved Seema Verma as the new administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), which spends more than a $1 trillion annually on health care programs.
The IRS updated its Q&As to address whether family members of an employee who declines employer-sponsored coverage would be eligible for a premium tax credit for Marketplace coverage. The IRS updated its Publication 969 regarding health savings accounts and other tax-favored health plans. The IRS released its Information Letter regarding the treatment of cafeteria plan forfeitures. The Department of Labor (DOL) released an advisory opinion on whether an association’s administrative services program was an ERISA employee welfare benefit plan or a multiple employer welfare arrangement (MEWA).
UBA released one new resource in March: Important News Regarding the Employer-Tax Exclusion for Health Insurance
UBA updated existing guidance:
IRS Updates Guidance on Premium Tax Credit Eligibility When Employer-Sponsored Health Plan Coverage is Offered to an Employee’s Spouse and Children
The IRS updated its Questions and Answers on the Premium Tax Credit. Specifically, Q&A 15 addresses a situation in which an employer offers minimum value, affordable coverage to an employee, the employee’s spouse, and the employee’s children. The plan only allows the spouse and dependent to enroll if the employee enrolls. The employee declines to enroll.
The IRS determined that all three family members are not eligible for a premium tax credit for Marketplace coverage because they could have enrolled in the employer-sponsored coverage through the employee’s coverage and the coverage would have been minimum value and affordable.
IRS Updates Its Publication 969
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) updated its Publication 969 Health Savings Accounts and Other Tax-Favored Health Plans for use in preparing 2016 tax returns. The publication describes HSAs, MSAs, FSAs, and HRAs, including eligibility requirements, contribution limits, and distribution information.
IRS Releases Information Letter
IRS released Information Letter Number 2016-0077, in which it explains how an employer may dispose of a flexible benefit plan’s unused funds when an employer ceases business operations and terminates a plan and when a participant forfeits funds to an ongoing plan.
The plan documents will determine how an employer may dispose of unused funds when a cafeteria plan terminates. Unused funds will not revert to the U.S. Treasury.
The IRS explained that the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 125 rules apply to funds forfeited by a participant in an ongoing plan. Per IRC Section 125, the participants’ forfeited funds may be:
Finally, the IRS explained that when an employee terminates employment, IRC Section 125 prohibits the plan from reimbursing health care expenses incurred after the employee terminates employment and no longer participates in the plan.
DOL Issues Advisory Opinion
On January 13, 2017, the Department of Labor (DOL) issued Advisory Opinion 2017-01A. The DOL determined that an association’s administrative services program for its members’ employee benefits plan is not an ERISA employee welfare benefit plan and not a multiple employer welfare arrangement (MEWA).
As background, the association is comprised of large employers that sponsor self-insured benefit plans through administrative services only (ASO) agreements with insurance companies. The association has a member-owned and member-funded cooperative that analyzes health care spending, utilization, and outcomes; however, the association does not and will not provide insurance services to its members; determine benefit levels, administer plans, benefits, or claims; facilitate payment of ASO fees to insurers; or file or process claims.
The DOL determined that the program is not an ERISA employee welfare benefit plan because it has no employee participants and it does not offer or provide benefits to employees or their dependents.
The DOL determined that the program is not a MEWA because it is not an arrangement established or maintained to provide welfare benefits to employees of two or more employers. Further, the DOL determined that the program does not operate as a MEWA because no component of the program underwrites or guarantees welfare benefits, provides welfare benefits through group insurance contracts covering more than one employer, pools welfare benefit risk among participating employers, or provides similar insurance or risk spreading functions.
Question of the Month
Q. What obligations does an employer have when it receives returned Form 1095-Bs marked as undeliverable by the U.S. postal service?
A. Under IRS guidance, the employer fulfills its responsibility to furnish the statement to an individual if it mails the statement to the recipient’s last known permanent address (unless the recipient affirmatively consented to receive the statement in electronic format).
Practically speaking, the employer should keep the mailing which shows that the employer sent the statement to the recipient’s last known permanent address and that the statement was returned undeliverable. That way, the employer has proof that it mailed the statement to the recipient’s last known permanent address.
To download the full recap click Here.
Are you properly investing in your health saving account? Take a look at the this article from Benefits Pro about the importance of saving money for your healthcare by Reese Feuerman.
For all ages, it’s imperative to balance near-term and long-term savings goals, but the makeup of those savings goals has changed dramatically over the past 10 years.
With the continued rise in health care costs, and increased cost sharing between employers and employees, more employees and employers have been migrating to consumer-driven health care (CDH) to provide lower-cost alternatives.
With the increased adoption in these plans for employee cost savings purposes, employers have likewise realized similar cost savings to their bottom line. But what role does CDH play in the long term?
Republicans trying to find a way to repeal the ACA are turning to health savings accounts — new ones, called…
The Greatest Generation was able to rely on their pensions, Social Security, Medicaid, and the like as a means to support them in retirement for both medical and living expenses. However, as the Baby Boomers continue their journey towards retirement, reliance upon future proof retirement funds are fading into the sunset for coming generations. According to a 2015 study from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), 29% of American’s 55 and older do not have money set aside in a pension plan or alternative retirement plan.
To make matters worse, some experts are forecasting Social Security funding will be depleted by 2034, leaving even more retirees potentially without a plan. As such, Generation X and beyond must look for more creatives measures for savings to make up the difference.
In 1978, 401(k) plans were introduced to provide the workforce with a secondary means for retirement savings while also providing significant tax benefits. However, even when actively funded, with rising health care costs and a depleted Social Security system—the solution this workforce has paid into for their entire career—will not be enough.
According to Healthview Services, the average retiree couple will spend $288,000 for just health care expenses during retirement. This sum could easily consume one-third of total retiree savings. This is a contributing factor to the rise and rapid adoption of tax-advantage health accounts to supplement retirement savings. Introduced to the market in 2003, Health Savings Accounts (HSA) have provided employees with an option to set aside pre-tax funds to either cover current year health care expenses, like the familiar Flexible Spending Account (FSA), or carry over the funds year-over-year to pay for medical expenses later or during retirement. The pretax money employees are able to set aside in these accounts to cover health care expenses, will over time, be on par with retirement savings contributions, such as a 401(k) and 403(b), because of increasing costs and triple-tax savings.
It is important for consumers to understand these retirement options and how they could be leveraged for greater financial wealth. As a result, the Health Care Stack, an analysis authored by ConnectYourCare, acts as a life savings model and illustrates the amount of pretax money consumers can contribute for both their lifestyle and health expenses in retirement.
For illustrative purposes, according to current IRS guidelines, the average American under the age of 50 could set aside up to $24,750 each year pre-tax for retirement to cover their health care and living expenses. In this example, if a worker in his or her 30s starts to set aside the maximum contributions (based on IRS guidelines) for HSA contributions, assuming a rate of return of 3%, they would have $330,000 saved in their HSA to cover health care expenses once they reach the retirement age of 65. This number could be even greater if President Trump’s administration passes any number of proposed bills to increase the HSA contribution limits to match the maximum out-of-pocket expenses included in high deductible health plans. This allocation would not only cover average medical expenses, but also provide a triple-tax advantage for consumers from now through retirement.
In addition to the long-term retirement goals, the yearly pre-tax savings may be even greater if notional accounts are factored in, with approved IRS limits of a $2,600 per year maximum for Flexible Spending Accounts, $5,000 per year maximum for Dependent Care FSA, and $6,120 per year maximum for commuter plans. This equals $38,470 (or $44,820 if HSA contributions increase) of pre-tax contributions that consumers could save by offsetting the tax burden and could invest towards retirement.
For those consumers over the age of 50, the savings potential is even greater as they can contribute to a post retirement catch-up for their 401K plans equaling a total of $24,000, plus they may take advantage of the $6,750 HSA savings, as well as the additional $1,000 catch up. If certain proposed bills are passed, the increase could be $38,100 a year that they could set aside, in pre-tax assets, for retirement.
Not only will an individual’s expenses be covered, but there are other benefits brought forth by proper planning, including the potential to reach ones retirement savings goals early. Let’s say that after meeting with a licensed financial investor it was determined that an individual needed $1.8 million in order to retire, and according to national averages, close to $288,000 to cover health care costs.
Given the proper investment strategy around contributions to both retirement and HSA plans, an individual could – theoretically -save enough to meet their retirement investment needs by the age of 60 for both lifestyle and health care expense coverage, if they started making careful investments in their 20s (assuming the worker is making $50,000 per year with a 3% annual increase).
In comparison, under current proposals, which include the increased HSA limits, retirement savings could be achieved even earlier with the coverage threshold being at 57 for the average worker. This is a tremendous opportunity to transform retirement investment programs for all American workers who would otherwise be left on their own. Talk about the American dream!
While there is not a one-size fits all strategy, it is important for everyone to understand their options and see how these pretax accounts outlined in the Health Care Stack play an important consideration in ones future retirement planning.
Taking the time now to fully understand tax-favored benefit accounts will provide him or her with the appropriate coverage to enjoy life well into their golden years. Retirement is just around the corner, are you ready?
Feuerman (2017 March 02). How are your retirement health care savings stacking up?[Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/03/02/how-are-your-retirement-health-care-savings-stacki?ref=hp-in-depth
Have any questions about cafeteria plans and how they work? Check out this great article from our partner, United Benefit Advisors (UBA) about which events qualify and what changes can happen to any employee’s cafeteria plan by Danielle Capilla
Cafeteria plans, or plans governed by IRS Code Section 125, allow employers to help employees pay for expenses such as health insurance with pre-tax dollars. Employees are given a choice between a taxable benefit (cash) and two or more specified pre-tax qualified benefits, for example, health insurance. Employees are given the opportunity to select the benefits they want, just like an individual standing in the cafeteria line at lunch.
Only certain benefits can be offered through a cafeteria plan:
Some employers want to offer other benefits through a cafeteria plan, but this is prohibited. Benefits that you cannot offer through a cafeteria plan include scholarships, group term life insurance for non-employees, transportation and other fringe benefits, long-term care, and health reimbursement arrangements (unless very specific rules are met by providing one in conjunction with a high deductible health plan). Benefits that defer compensation are also prohibited under cafeteria plan rules.
Cafeteria plans as a whole are not subject to ERISA, but all or some of the underlying benefits or components under the plan can be. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) has also affected aspects of cafeteria plan administration.
Employees are allowed to choose the benefits they want by making elections. Only the employee can make elections, but they can make choices that cover other individuals such as spouses or dependents. Employees must be considered eligible by the plan to make elections. Elections, with an exception for new hires, must be prospective. Cafeteria plan selections are considered irrevocable and cannot be changed during the plan year, unless a permitted change in status occurs. There is an exception for mandatory two-year elections relating to dental or vision plans that meet certain requirements.
Plans may allow participants to change elections based on the following changes in status:
Plans may also allow participants to change elections based on the following changes that are not a change in status but nonetheless can trigger an election change:
Together, the change in status events and other recognized changes are considered “permitted election change events.”
Common changes that do not constitute a permitted election change event are: a provider leaving a network (unless, based on very narrow circumstances, it resulted in a significant reduction of coverage), a legal separation (unless the separation leads to a loss of eligibility under the plan), commencement of a domestic partner relationship, or a change in financial condition.
There are some events not in the regulations that could allow an individual to make a mid-year election change, such as a mistake by the employer or employee, or needing to change elections in order to pass nondiscrimination tests. To make a change due to a mistake, there must be clear and convincing evidence that the mistake has been made. For instance, an individual might accidentally sign up for family coverage when they are single with no children, or an employer might withhold $100 dollars per pay period for a flexible spending arrangement (FSA) when the individual elected to withhold $50.
Plans are permitted to make automatic payroll election increases or decreases for insignificant amounts in the middle of the plan year, so long as automatic election language is in the plan documents. An “insignificant” amount is considered one percent or less.
Plans should consider which change in status events to allow, how to track change in status requests, and the time limit to impose on employees who wish to make an election.
Capilla D. (2017 February 07). Cafeteria plans: qualifying events and changing employee elections [Web blog post]. http://blog.ubabenefits.com/cafeteria-plans-qualifying-events-and-changing-employee-elections
Great article from our partner, United Benefit Advisors (UBA) about the impact of the 21st Century Cures Act by Danielle Capilla,
On December 13, 2016, former President Obama signed the 21st Century Cures Act into law. The Cures Act has numerous components, but employers should be aware of the impact the Act will have on the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, as well as provisions that will impact how small employers can use health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs). There will also be new guidance for permitted uses and disclosures of protected health information (PHI) under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). We review the implications with HRAs below; for a discussion of all the implications, view UBA’s Compliance Advisor, “21st Century Cares Act”.
The Cures Act provides a method for certain small employers to reimburse individual health coverage premiums up to a dollar limit through HRAs called “Qualified Small Employer Health Reimbursement Arrangements” (QSE HRAs). This provision will go into effect on January 1, 2017.
Previously, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued Notice 2015-17 addressing employer payment or reimbursement of individual premiums in light of the requirements of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). For many years, employers had been permitted to reimburse premiums paid for individual coverage on a tax-favored basis, and many smaller employers adopted this type of an arrangement instead of sponsoring a group health plan. However, these “employer payment plans” are often unable to meet all of the ACA requirements that took effect in 2014, and in a series of Notices and frequently asked questions (FAQs) the IRS made it clear that an employer may not either directly pay premiums for individual policies or reimburse employees for individual premiums on either an after-tax or pre-tax basis. This was the case whether payment or reimbursement is done through an HRA, a Section 125 plan, a Section 105 plan, or another mechanism.
The Cures Act now allows employers with less than 50 full-time employees (under ACA counting methods) who do not offer group health plans to use QSE HRAs that are fully employer funded to reimburse employees for the purchase of individual health care, so long as the reimbursement does not exceed $4,950 annually for single coverage, and $10,000 annually for family coverage. The amount is prorated by month for individuals who are not covered by the arrangement for the entire year. Practically speaking, the monthly limit for single coverage reimbursement is $412, and the monthly limit for family coverage reimbursement is $833. The limits will be updated annually.
Impact on Subsidy Eligibility. For any month an individual is covered by a QSE HRA/individual policy arrangement, their subsidy eligibility would be reduced by the dollar amount provided for the month through the QSE HRA if the QSE HRA provides “unaffordable” coverage under ACA standards. If the QSE HRA provides affordable coverage, individuals would lose subsidy eligibility entirely. Caution should be taken to fully education employees on this impact.
COBRA and ERISA Implications. QSE HRAs are not subject to COBRA or ERISA.
Annual Notice Requirement. The new QSE HRA benefit has an annual notice requirement for employers who wish to implement it. Written notice must be provided to eligible employees no later than 90 days prior to the beginning of the benefit year that contains the following:
Recordkeeping, IRS Reporting. Because QSE HRAs can only provide reimbursement for documented healthcare expense, employers with QSE HRAs should have a method in place to obtain and retain receipts or confirmation for the premiums that are paid with the account. Employers sponsoring QSE HRAs would be subject to ACA related reporting with Form 1095-B as the sponsor of MEC. Money provided through a QSE HRA must be reported on an employee’s W-2 under the aggregate cost of employer-sponsored coverage. It is unclear if the existing safe harbor on reporting the aggregate cost of employer-sponsored coverage for employers with fewer than 250 W-2s would apply, as arguably many of the small employers eligible to offer QSE HRAs would have fewer than 250 W-2s.
Individual Premium Reimbursement, Generally. Outside of the exception for small employers using QSE HRAs for reimbursement of individual premiums, all of the prior prohibitions from IRS Notice 2015-17 remain. There is no method for an employer with 50 or more full time employees to reimburse individual premiums, or for small employers with a group health plan to reimburse individual premiums. There is no mechanism for employers of any size to allow employees to use pre-tax dollars to purchase individual premiums. Reimbursing individual premiums in a non-compliant manner will subject an employer to a penalty of $100 a day per individual they provide reimbursement to, with the potential for other penalties based on the mechanism of the non-compliant reimbursement.
Capilla D. (2017 February 01). Implications of the 21st century cures act [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://blog.ubabenefits.com/implications-of-the-21st-century-cures-act
Make sure you stay up to date on January’s compliances thanks to our partners United Benefits Advisors (UBA),
January was a significant month in the employee benefits world because the new U.S. administration issued an Executive Order announcing its intent to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). However, January was a relatively inactive month for new laws and administrative rulemaking because the new administration placed a freeze on rulemaking until presidential nominations of agency heads are confirmed.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released the 2017 poverty guidelines. The Department of Labor (DOL) released its inflation-adjusted civil monetary penalty amounts and an FAQ regarding the contraceptive services objection accommodation. The DOL, HHS, and the Treasury Department released FAQs about family HRA integration with a non-HRA group health plan. The IRS released its 2017 version of the Employer’s Tax Guide to Fringe Benefits and a memo on fixed indemnity health plan benefits tax treatment.
President Trump Signs Executive Order
On January 20, 2017, President Trump signed Executive Order: Minimizing the Economic Burden of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Pending Repeal.
The Executive Order directs the Department of Health and Human Services’ Secretary and the heads of all other executive departments and agencies with authority or responsibility under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) to exercise all authority and discretion to waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation of any provision or requirement of the ACA that would impose a fiscal burden on any state, or a cost, fee, tax, penalty, or regulatory burden on individuals, families, healthcare providers, health insurers, patients, recipients of healthcare services, purchasers of health insurance, or makers of medical devices, products, or medications.
The Executive Order indicates that the Administrative Procedure Act and its rulemaking process still apply to regulatory revisions. Because confirmation proceedings are not concluded for the heads of the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, or the Treasury, the agencies are in a rule promulgation freeze until presidential nominations are confirmed.
HHS Releases 2017 Federal Poverty Guidelines
The 2017 poverty guidelines (also referred to as the FPL) were released by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). For a family/household of 1 in the contiguous United States, the FPL is $12,060. In Alaska, the FPL is $15,060 and in Hawaii the FPL is $13,860. Applicable large employers that wish to use the FPL affordability safe harbor under the employer shared responsibility/play or pay rules should ensure that their lowest employee-only premium is equal to or less than $97.38 a month, which is 9.69 percent of the FPL.
DOL Releases Inflation-Adjusted Federal Civil Penalty Amounts
On January 18, 2017, the Department of Labor issued the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Annual Adjustments for 2017 which is its first annual adjustment of federal civil monetary penalties. Here are some of the adjustments:
The adjustments are effective for penalties assessed after January 13, 2017, for violations occurring after November 2, 2015.
DOL Releases FAQ Regarding Contraceptive Services Objection Accommodation
As part of implementing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Departments of Labor (DOL), Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Treasury (collectively, the Departments) issued regulations to require coverage or women’s preventive services, which essentially includes all FDA-approved contraceptives, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for women with reproductive capacity, as prescribed by the health care provider (collectively, contraceptive services).
The regulations exempt group health plans of “religious employers” (specifically defined in the law) from the requirement to provide contraceptive coverage. Later, amended regulations provide an accommodation for eligible organizations – which are not eligible for the religious employer exemption – that object on religious grounds to providing coverage for contraceptive services. Because of litigation, the Departments extended the accommodation to closely held for-profit entities.
Under the accommodation, an eligible organization that objects to providing contraceptive coverage for religious reasons may either:
Most recently, in 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court considered claims by several employers that, even with the accommodation provided in the regulations, the contraceptive coverage requirement violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The Court heard oral arguments and ultimately remanded the case (and parallel RFRA cases) to the lower courts to give the parties “an opportunity to arrive at an approach going forward that accommodates [the objecting employers’] religious exercise while at the same time ensuring that women covered by [the employers’] health plans ‘receive full and equal health coverage, including contraceptive coverage.’”
To address the Court’s statement, the Departments published their request for information (RFI) regarding the Court’s statement and received more than 54,000 public comments. Based on the comments submitted, the Departments released FAQs About Affordable Care Act Implementation Part 36 to indicate that they not making changes to the accommodation for the following reasons:
Agencies Release FAQs About Family HRA Integration with Non-HRA Group Health Plan
The Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and the Treasury (collectively, the Departments) released FAQs About Affordable Care Implementation Part 37 to address health reimbursement arrangement (HRA) integration with group health plans.
The Departments indicate that, for purposes of determining whether a family HRA is “integrated” with a non-HRA group health plan, an employer may rely on an employee’s reasonable representation that the employee and other individuals covered by the family HRA are also covered by another qualifying non-HRA group health plan.
Also, a family HRA is permitted to be integrated with a combination of coverage under other qualifying non-HRA group health plans if all individuals who are covered under the family HRA are also covered under other qualifying non-HRA group health plan coverage.
For example, a family HRA covering an employee, spouse, and one dependent child may be integrated with the combination of (1) the employee’s self-only coverage under the non-HRA group health plan of the employee’s employer, and (2) the spouse and dependent child’s coverage under the non-HRA group health plan of the spouse’s employer, if both non-HRA group health plans are qualifying nonHRA group health plans.
IRS Releases 2017 Version of the Employer’s Tax Guide to Fringe Benefits
The IRS released its 2017 Version of Publication 15-B which provides information on the employment tax treatment of various fringe benefits. Fringe benefits are taxable unless an exclusion applies. The publication lists the qualified benefits that a cafeteria plan may include and examples of benefits that a cafeteria plan is not permitted to include. It also provides the 2017 dollar limits for various benefits.
IRS Issues Memo on Fixed-Indemnity Health Plan Benefits Tax Treatment
On January 20, 2017, the IRS released a Memorandum on the tax treatment of benefits paid by fixedindemnity health plans that addresses: (1) whether payments to an employee under an employerprovided fixed-indemnity health plan are excludible from the employee’s income under Internal Revenue Code §105, and (2) whether payments to an employee under an employer-provided fixedindemnity health plan are excludible from the employee’s income under Internal Revenue Code §105 if the payments are made by salary reduction through a §125 cafeteria plan.
Some examples of fixed indemnity health plans are AFLAC or similar coverage, or cancer insurance policies.
Generally, the Internal Revenue Code imposes taxes on wages paid with respect to employment. For federal income tax withholding, the Internal Revenue Code generally requires every employer who pays wages to deduct and withhold taxes on those wages.
The IRS concluded that an employer may not exclude payments under an employer-provided fixedindemnity health plan from an employee’s gross income if the coverage’s value was excluded from the employee’s gross income and wages. Further, an employer may not exclude payments under an employer-provided fixed-indemnity health plan if the plan’s premiums were made by salary reduction through a §125 cafeteria plan.
In the context of an employer-provided fixed-indemnity health plan, when the employer’s payment for coverage by the fixed-indemnity plan is excluded from the employee’s gross income, then the payments by the plan are not excluded from the employee’s gross income
In contrast, when the premiums are paid with after-tax dollars, the payments by the plan are excluded from the employee’s gross income.
To download the full compliance recap click Here.
IRS may play a big part in your company’s ACA tax filing. Checkout this article from Benefits Pro about what the IRS will be looking for in companies ACA filings this year by Allison Bell
An official who serves as a voice for taxpayers at the Internal Revenue Service says the IRS may be poorly prepared to handle the wave of employer health coverage offer reports now flooding in.
The Affordable Care Act requires “applicable large employers” to use Form 1095-C to tell their workers, former workers and the IRS what, if any, major medical coverage the workers and former workers received. Most employers started filing the forms in early 2016, for the 2015 coverage year.
This year, the IRS is supposed to start imposing penalties on some employers who failed to offer what the government classifies as solid coverage to enough workers.
If Donald Trump’s promise holds true, the Affordable Care Act could be on its way out. Along with it may…
Nina Olson, the national taxpayer advocate, says the IRS was not equipped to test the accuracy of ACA health coverage information reporting data before the 2016 filing season, for the 2015 coverage year. The IRS expected to receive just 77 million 1095-C forms for 2015, but it has actually received 104 million 1095-C’s, and it has rejected 5.4 percent of the forms, Olson reports.
“Reasons for rejected returns include faulty transmission validation, missing (or multiple) attachments, error reading the file, or duplicate files,” Olson says.
Meanwhile, the IRS has had to develop a training program for the IRS employees working on employer-related ACA issues on the fly, and it was hoping in November to provide the training this month, Olson says.
“The training materials are currently under development,” Olson says. She says her office did not have a chance to see how complete the training materials are, or how well they protect taxpayer reports.
Olson discusses those concerns about IRS efforts to administer ACA tax provisions and many other tax administration concerns in a new report on IRS performance. The Taxpayer Advocate Service prepares the reports every year, to tell Congress how the IRS is doing at meeting taxpayers’ needs.
In the same report, Olson talks about other ACA-related problems, such as headaches for ACA exchange plan premium tax credit subsidy users who are also Social Security Disability Insurance program users, and she gives general ACA tax provision administration data.
The ACA premium tax credit subsidy program helps low-income and moderate-income exchange plan users pay for their coverage.
Exchange plan buyers who qualify can get the tax credit the ordinary way, by applying for it when they file their income tax returns for the previous year. But about 94 percent of tax credit users receive the subsidy in the form of an “advanced premium tax credit.”
When an exchange plan user gets an APTC subsidy, the IRS sends the subsidy money to the health coverage issuer while the coverage year is still under way, to help cut how much cash the user actually has to pay for coverage.
When an APTC user files a tax return for a coverage year, in the spring after the end of the coverage year, the user is supposed to figure out whether the IRS provided too little or too much APTC help. The IRS is supposed to send cash to consumers who got too little help. If an APTC user got too much help, the IRS can take some or all of the extra help out of the user’s tax refund.
Another ACA provision, the “individual shared responsibility” provision, or individual coverage mandate provision, requires many people to obtain what the government classifies as solid major medical coverage or else pay a penalty.
Individual taxpayers first began filing ACA-related tax forms in early 2015, for the 2014 coverage year. Early last year, individual taxpayers filed ACA-related forms for the second time, for the 2015 coverage year.
Only 6.1 million taxpayers told the IRS they owed individual mandate penalty payments for 2015, down from 7.6 million who owed the penalty for 2014.
But, in part because the ACA designed the mandate penalty to get bigger each year for the first few years, the average penalty payment owed increased to $452 for 2015, from $204 for 2014.
The number of households claiming some kind of exemption from the penalty program increased to 8.6 million, from 8.4 million.
The number of filers who said they had received APTC help increased to 5.3 million for 2015, up from 3.1 million for 2014. And the amount of APTC help reported increased to $18.9 billion for 2015, from $11.3 billion in APTC subsidy help for 2014.
That means the 2015 recipients were averaging about $3,566 in reported subsidy help in 2015, down from $3,645 in reported help for 2014.
Olson says her office helped 10,910 taxpayers with ACA premium tax credit issues in the 12-month period ending Sept. 30, 2016, up from 3,318 in the previous 12-month period.
One of her concerns is how the Social Security Disability Insurance program, which is supposed to serve people with severe disabilities, interacts with the ACA provision that requires people who guess wrong about their income during the coverage year to pay back excess APTC subsidy help.
Some Social Security Disability Insurance recipients have to fight with the Social Security Administration for years to qualify for benefits. Once the SSDI recipients win their fights to get benefits, the SSA may pay them all of the back benefits owed in one big lump sum.
The big, lump-sum disability benefits payments may increase the SSDI recipients’ income for a previous year so much they end up earning too much for that year to qualify for ACA premium tax credit help, Olson says in the new report.
The SSDI recipients may then have to pay all of the ACA premium tax credit help they received back to the IRS, Olson says.
So far, IRS lawyers have not figured out any law they can use to protect the SSDI recipients from having to pay large amounts of premium tax credit help back to the government, Olson says.
For now, she says, her office is just trying to work on a project to warn consumers about how accepting any lump-sum payment, including an SSDI lump-sum benefits payment, might lead to premium tax credit headaches.
Bell A. (2017 January 16). IRS may have big ACA employer tax woes, advocate says [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/01/16/irs-may-have-big-aca-employer-tax-woes-advocate-sa?page_all=1
Are you worried that your company’s retirement plan is not up to government standards? If so take a look at this article from HR Morning about what the DOL and IRS are looking for in retirement plans by Jared Bilski
Two of the most-feared government agencies for employers — the DOL and IRS — have decided there’s a real problem with the way retirement plans are being run, and they’re ramping up their audits to find out why that is.
In response to the many mistakes the agencies are seeing from retirement plan sponsors, the IRS and DOL will be increasing the frequency of their audits.
What does that mean for you? According to experts, plan sponsors can expect the feds to dig deep into the minute operations of plans. That means the unfortunate employers who find themselves in the midst of an audit can expect to be asked for heaps of plan info.
Linda Canafax, a senior retirement consultant with Willis Towers Watson, put it like this:
“The DOL and IRS are truly diving deep into the operations of the plans. We have seen a deeper dive into the operations of plans, particularly with data. Plans may be asked for a full census file on the transactions for each participant. Expect the DOL and IRS to do a lot of data mining.”
Ultimately, it’s impossible to completely prevent an audit. But employers can — and should — do certain things to safeguard themselves in the event the feds come knocking.
First, a self-audit is always a good idea. It’s always better for you to discover any problems before the feds do. Next, you’ll want to be on the lookout for the types of errors that can lead the feds to your workplace in the first place.
The most common errors the IRS and the DOL are looking for:
Bilski J. (2017 January 6). DOL and IRS want a closer look at your retirement plan[Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.hrmorning.com/dol-and-irs-want-to-take-a-closer-look-at-your-retirement-plan/
Make sure you stay up-to-date with the most recent alerts thanks to our partners at United Benefit Advisors (UBA).
December was a relatively busy month for new laws and administrative rulemaking in the employee benefits world. President Obama signed the 21st Century Cures Act into law. The IRS issued a reporting deadline reminder, two information reporting summaries, and Q&As on information reporting. A U.S. District Court issued a nationwide preliminary injunction regarding a portion of the Section 1557 regulations. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services issued FAQs on broker compensation and discriminatory marketing practices. The Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and the Treasury issued FAQs on HIPAA special enrollment, women’s preventive services, and qualifying small employer health reimbursement arrangements. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued an informal discussion letter regarding wellness programs under the ADA and GINA. The IRS issued final regulations about the premium tax credit and deferred finalizing the opt-out arrangement proposed rules to a later time.
UBA released three new advisors in December:
UBA also updated existing guidance:
21st Century Cures Act
On December 13, 2016, President Obama signed the 21st Century Cures Act into law. Of the Act’s many components, employers should be aware of the impact the Act will have on the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, as well as provisions that will affect the way certain small employers can use health reimbursement arrangements to reimburse individual premiums. There will also be new guidance for permitted uses and disclosures of protected health information under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
IRS Reminder and Summaries
In December 2016, the IRS issued a reminder about its extension of the 2017 due date for employers and coverage providers to furnish information statements to individuals. The due dates to file those returns with the IRS are not extended. This IRS chart describes the upcoming deadlines. The IRS also issued two summaries: Information Reporting by Providers of Minimum Essential Coverage and Information Reporting by Applicable Large Employers.
IRS Q&As about Information Reporting by Employers on Form 1094-C and Form 1095-C
In December 2016, the IRS updated its longstanding Questions and Answers about Information Reporting by Employers on Form 1094-C and Form 1095-C that provides information about
The Q&A describes when and how an employer reports its offers of coverage and provides examples to illustrate the codes that employers should use. The updated Q&A provides information on COBRA reporting that had been left pending in earlier versions of the Q&A for the past year.
U.S. District Court Issues Nationwide Preliminary Injunction – No Impact on Employee Benefit Plan Requirements
On December 31, 2016, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas granted a preliminary injunction sought by several states and private health care providers. The court issued a nationwide injunction that prevents the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and HHS’ Secretary from enforcing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s Section 1557 regulations that prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or pregnancy termination.
Practically speaking, until this litigation is resolved, healthcare providers and states will not face enforcement by HHS if they do not comply with the regulations that prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or pregnancy termination.
Healthcare providers and states should continue to comply with all other provisions of the Section 1557 regulations. This would include compliance with any portion of the Section 1557 regulations that impact employee benefit plans. On January 3, 2017, HHS released the following statement: “HHS’s Office for Civil Rights will continue to enforce the law – including its important protections against discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, or disability and its provisions aimed at enhancing language assistance for people with limited English proficiency, as well as other sex discrimination provisions – to the full extent consistent with the Court’s order.”
CMS Frequently Asked Questions on Agent/Broker Compensation and Discriminatory Marketing Practices
In December 2016, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a Q&A to address issuers’ attempts to discourage insurance offers to higher risk individuals by reducing or eliminating commissions to brokers for sales to higher risk individuals.
Federal regulations prohibit marketing practices that discourage higher risk individuals’ health insurance coverage enrollment, both inside and outside of the Marketplaces. In its Q&A, CMS concludes that a commission arrangement or other agent/broker compensation that is structured to discourage agents and brokers from marketing to and enrolling consumers with significant health needs constitutes a discriminatory market practice prohibited by federal regulations.
CMS provides the following example. If an issuer pays agents or brokers less through all forms of compensation for higher metal level plans (such as platinum and gold level plans), which are associated with higher utilization, than the issuer pays for lower metal level plans (such as bronze and silver level plans), then the payment arrangement is a failure to comply with the federal guaranteed availability provisions and qualified health plan marketing standards.
CMS will enforce this guidance for policy years beginning on January 1, 2018, in an individual or merged market, and plan years beginning after April 1, 2017, in a small group market in a state that permits quarterly rate updates. For non-grandfathered coverage offered with a plan or policy year beginning on or after such dates, issuer agent/broker compensation arrangements and accompanying marketing and distribution practices must comply with CMS’ guidance, regardless of whether coverage is offered through or outside of the Marketplaces.
FAQs on HIPAA Special Enrollment; QSE HRAs Released
On December 20, 2016, the Department of Labor (DOL), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Department of the Treasury (collectively, the Departments) issued FAQs About Affordable Care Act Implementation Part 35. The FAQs cover a new HIPAA special enrollment period, an update on women’s preventive services that must be covered, and clarifying information on qualifying small employer health reimbursement arrangements (QSE HRAs).
EEOC Informal Discussion Letter
In December 2016, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released one informal discussion letter to address wellness programs under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). These letters are customarily released to the public within a few months of being provided to the initial addressee.
The letter confirmed that the ADA wellness rules apply only to wellness programs that require a medical exam or answers to disability-related questions, or both. The ADA wellness program rules does not apply if the same incentive can be earned with or without a medical exam or answering disability- related questions. Further, employers may offer incentives only to employees who enroll in the employer-sponsored group health plan and complete wellness activities; if the incentive is the same across all the employer’s group health plans, then the employer must use the lowest-cost option to calculate the applicable incentive limit.
IRS Premium Tax Credit Regulation VI
On December 19, 2016, the IRS issued final regulations relating to the health insurance premium tax credit.
If an individual declines enrollment in affordable, minimum value employer-sponsored coverage for a year, and the individual is not given an opportunity to enroll in employer-sponsored coverage for one or more succeeding years, the individual is not disqualified from premium tax credits for the succeeding years. For purposes of the employer shared responsibility penalty, a large employer may be treated as not having offered coverage for those succeeding years.
On a separate issue, although the proposed rule addressed the effect of payments made available under opt-out arrangements on an employee’s required contribution for purposes of premium tax credit eligibility and an exemption from the section 5000A individual shared responsibility provision, the final regulations do not finalize regulations on the effect of opt-out arrangements on an employee’s requirement contribution.
Per the final regulations, the Treasury Department and the IRS continue to examine the issues raised by opt-out arrangements and expect to finalize regulations later. Until final regulations are applicable, individuals and employers can continue to rely on the proposed rule and the guidance provided in Notice 2015–87.
Q. Under the ACA, which employers must report information on Form W-2 and what information must be reported?
A. The Affordable Care Act requires employers to report the cost of coverage under an employer- sponsored group health plan.
Reporting the cost of health care coverage on Form W-2 does not mean that the coverage is taxable.
Employers that provide “applicable employer-sponsored coverage” under a group health plan are subject to the reporting requirement. This includes businesses, tax-exempt organizations, and federal, state and local government entities (except with respect to plans maintained primarily for members of the military and their families). Federally recognized Indian tribal governments are not subject to this requirement.
Employers that are subject to this requirement should report the value of the health care coverage in Box 12 of Form W-2, with Code DD to identify the amount. There is no reporting on Form W-3 of the total of these amounts for all the employer’s employees.
In general, the amount reported should include both the portion paid by the employer and the portion paid by the employee. See the chart below from the IRS’ web page and its questions and answers for more information.
Download the compliance recap here.
Updated January 4, 2017
Make sure you are up-to-date with the IRS new rules on 6055/6056 from our partners at United Benefits Advisor (UBA).
Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), individuals are required to have health insurance while applicable large employers (ALEs) are required to offer health benefits to their full-time employees. In order for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to verify that (1) individuals have the required minimum essential coverage, (2) individuals who request premium tax credits are entitled to them, and (3) ALEs are meeting their shared responsibility (play or pay) obligations, employers with 50 or more full-time or full-time equivalent employees and insurers are required to report on the health coverage they offer.
Final instructions for both the 1094-B and 1095-B and the 1094-C and 1095-C were released in September 2016, as were the final forms for 1094-B, 1095-B, 1094-C, and 1095-C. In December 2016, the IRS updated its longstanding Questions and Answers about Information Reporting by Employers on Form 1094-C and Form 1095-C.
When? Which Employers?
Reporting will be due early in 2017, based on coverage in 2016. All reporting will be for the calendar year, even for non-calendar year plans. The reporting requirements are in Sections 6055 and 6056 of the ACA. Draft instructions for both the 1094-B and 1095-B, and the 1094-C and 1095-C were released in August 2016. The final instructions are substantially similar to the draft instructions.
6055 Requirements: Forms 1094-B and 1095-B
IRS Form 1095-B is used to meet the Section 6055 reporting requirement. Section 6055 reporting relates to having coverage to meet the individual shared responsibility requirement. Form 1095-B is used by insurers, plan sponsors of self-funded multiemployer plans, and plan sponsors of self-funded plans that have fewer than 50 employees to report on coverage that was actually in effect for the employee, union member, retiree or COBRA participant, and their covered dependents, on a month-by-month basis. Filers use Form 1094-B as the transmittal to submit the 1095-B returns.
6056 Requirements: Forms 1094-C and 1095-C
IRS Form 1095-C is primarily used to meet the Section 6056 reporting requirement. The Section 6056 reporting requirement relates to the employer shared responsibility / play or pay requirement. Information from Form 1095-C is also used to determine whether an individual is eligible for a premium tax credit. Employers with 50 or more full-time or full-time equivalent employees complete much of Form 1095-C to report on coverage that was offered to the employee and eligible dependents. In addition, to save large employers that sponsor self-funded plans from having to complete two forms, a Part III has been included in Form 1095-C. Large employers with self-funded plans use that part of the form to report information about actual coverage that otherwise would be reported on Form 1095-B. Employers with 50 or more full- time or full-time equivalent employees with fully insured plans will skip section III, and their carrier will complete a separate B series form to report that information for them.
Form 1094-C is used in combination with Form 1095-C to determine employer shared responsibility penalties.
Employers with 50 or more full-time or full-time equivalent employees must provide Form 1095-C to virtually all employees who were full time (averaged 30 hours per week) during any month during the year, even if coverage was not offered to the employee or the employee declined coverage. (If the full- time employee never became eligible during the year, most likely because the employee is a variable- hours employee in an initial measurement period, the form does not need to be provided).
The 2016 instructions for Forms 1094-C and 1095-C include some form revisions and code changes. The Qualifying Offer Method Transition Relief is not applicable for 2016. Clarification language was added to remind filers of the definition of “full-time employee” and to inform recipients that the form should not be submitted with their returns. New codes 1J and 1K were added to address conditional offers of spousal coverage.
For the 1094-B and 1095-B forms, there are a few form revisions. Clarification language was added to remind recipients that the form should not be submitted with their returns. Also, the form is updated to reflect the rule that a taxpayer identification number (TIN) may be entered.
1094-C and 1095-C Highlights
1094-B and 1095-B Highlights
Download the release here.