What employees need to know now to file tax forms for PPACA

Original post benefitspro.com

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) reporting deadlines are rapidly approaching, presenting a major administrative burden for employers who face penalties for failing to report in a timely and accurate manner.

While there has been significant discussion of employer roles and responsibilities, employees have been largely left out of the equation.

However, many employees will soon be receiving new forms that are critical to their ability to file their tax returns and to their employers’ ability to accurately fulfill their own reporting requirements.  Among these are Forms 1095-A, 1095-B, and 1095-C.

With this in mind, it is important for employers to educate individual taxpayers on what they are required to do and when and how to complete these requirements in the easiest and most efficient manner.

1095-C

The most commonly received form will be the new 1095-C, which millions of Americans will be receiving for the first time this year.

This new government form is used to tell the Internal Revenue Service that you were eligible for insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act and whether you took advantage of or waived this coverage.

This form will be sent by employers no later than March 31 to all eligible full-time employees who worked for a company with a total of 100 or more full-time or full-time equivalent employees in 2015. For the purposes of this form, full-time is any employee working 30 or more hours per week or 130 hours in a calendar month.

According to the IRS guidance, Form 1095-C helps to determine whether both the employer and the employee have complied with the “shared responsibility” clause of the ACA.

The form also determines whether an individual or family qualifies for the Premium Tax Credit, which reduces the burden of purchasing health insurance.

Anyone who does not have coverage elsewhere and chose to decline employer-sponsored health care coverage will be required to pay a penalty for not carrying coverage--this penalty will be assessed on their tax return.

For 2015, the penalty for declining all health care coverage is $325 per uninsured adult and $162.50 per uninsured child or 2 percent of household income, whichever is greater up to a family maximum of $975.

The penalty will increase to $695 per uninsured adult and $347.50 per child or 2.5 percent of household income up to a family maximum of $2,085 in 2016, and will continue to rise with inflation year-over-year.

However, the IRS offers special exemptions based on income, circumstance and membership in certain groups, so those without coverage should research their options or consult a tax professional. (The most common exemption is for those who declined employer-sponsored coverage that would have cost more than 8 percent of their total household income.)

Health care exemptions can be claimed by filing IRS form 8965 with your taxes. As previously noted, the form also determines who may be eligible for premium credits to help defray the expense of coverage.

Employers are required to submit insurance coverage information, along with social security numbers and other identifying employee information to the IRS, and employee failure to disclose a waiver of coverage may result in an audit and penalties greater than the ACA individual mandate penalty.

1095-B

Form 1095-B essentially serves the same purpose as form 1095-c, but is used by and sent to employees of companies with fewer than 100 employees.

It may also be sent directly by an insurer to certify that individuals/families had non-employer sponsored coverage in place in 2015.  This coverage may have come from:

  • Government health care plans such as Medicare Part A, Medicare Advantage, Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program, and Tricare for military members, veterans’ medical benefits and plans for Peace Corps volunteers.
  • Health coverage purchased through the "Marketplace" -- Web-based federal and state insurance markets set up under the Affordable Care Act.
  • Any individual health insurance policy in place before the Affordable Care Act took effect.

Depending on the way a health care plan is structured, some employees may receive both a 1095-B and a 1095-C.

1095-A

Form 1095-A is only applicable to those who purchased their health care coverage through ACA’s health care exchanges.

This form plays a critical role in reconciling the Advanced Premium Tax Credits (also known as APTCs)--a yearly stipend based on modified adjusted gross income designed to help lower-income individuals and families defray the cost of purchasing exchange-based health insurance--for 2015 and in determining future credits for 2016.

Per IRS and ACA requirements, any excess APTC received in the previous year must be repaid through income tax.

What to do with these forms

Like the more familiar W-2 or 1099 forms, the 1095-A, B, and C will be needed to file a 2015 tax return for anyone who receives it.

Those using a tax preparer will need to bring it with them along with their other filing documents, and those doing their own taxes or using tax preparation software will need to keep this document with their tax records in case of any further inquiry /audit by the IRS.

Help is available

Of course, this is just one important factor in gaining a more thorough understanding of the complexities of the ACA.  While the IRS has worked to streamline the process as much as possible, many employers and employees are struggling to understand and keep pace with changing requirements.

However, for quick questions, there are many good resources available to both employers and employees.  One of the best is the IRS website.

As in all tax-related issues, the most important factors in handling ACA reporting for all groups are to know what’s coming, prepare in advance, keep excellent records, take note of deadlines and avail yourself of helpful resources.


Can you hear me now?!

Original post by ubabenefits.com

If your boss has never yelled at you, then either you own your own business, are self-employed, or have a boss who is mute. At some point in your working career, it’s safe to say that you’ve been yelled at by a supervisor. Whether that anger toward you was justified or not is probably up for debate, but what can almost be guaranteed is that you weren’t quite sure how to handle it and respond.

An article on Business Insider’s website titled, “6 ways to respond to your boss yelling at you,” discusses the multiple ways employees can react to their boss yelling at them. Let’s get two important things out of the way first. If your boss isn’t just yelling at you, but is actually bullying you, then you should go to your human resources department immediately. However, if you’re just being yelled at, then never, EVER, for any reason should you yell back. Don’t give your boss a reason to be madder at you. It’s just not worth it.

Do you think you’re right and the boss is wrong? Don’t yell back. Are you the scapegoat for someone else’s mistake? Don’t yell back. Is your boss just venting and you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time? Don’t yell back. Yelling never accomplishes anything and if you yell at your boss, you risk the obvious of being fired, or at least being watched like a hawk or having a grudge held against you.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with standing up for yourself and, fortunately, there are many ways to accomplish this without further upsetting the boss. Once things have calmed down, analyze exactly WHY the boss is yelling at you because, you know, you could actually be seriously at fault.

Regardless of fault, the primary reason that your boss is yelling is most likely because he or she has simply reached the breaking point. After you sit there (or stand) and “ride out the storm,” ask to speak with your boss privately at a later day and time. Make it a formal meeting either in the boss’s office or a conference room. Before the meeting, make sure you have a plan for mending the relationship and resolving the issue that made your boss so angry in the first place.

The reason your boss was so angry could have been a misunderstanding. If that’s the case, then say so, but remain composed and keep things as factual as possible without straying off-message. Your boss may then ask questions so as to better understand the situation. Be honest, but remember to stay focused and stick to the point.

If, in fact, the reason your boss was yelling at you was because you screwed up, then take responsibility for your mistake. Don’t place blame with others, make excuses, or be argumentative. Accept blame and tell the boss that you understand why you made the mistake, say that you’re sorry, and that you will work diligently to correct the mistake as quickly as possible. After all, everyone makes mistakes.

Let’s assume that whatever the boss was yelling at you about wasn’t your fault. When you have the follow-up meeting with your boss, try and have a solution developed. By demonstrating initiative and thinking on your feet, you just might be able to turn this around in your favor and show the boss that you’re a team player that can shake off being berated.

Finally, make sure that you’re proactive and stay on top of the resolution. Give your boss regular updates and ask for feedback to ensure that you’re on track and won’t get yelled at again. If all goes well, you should be back on your boss’s good side in no time!


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Just Say 'No' to Co-Workers' Halloween Candy

Originally posted on  October 14, 2014 by Josh Cable on ehstoday.com.

Workplace leftovers might seem like one of the perks of the job. But when co-workers try to pawn off their Halloween candy on the rest of the department, it's more of a trick than a treat.

Those seemingly generous and thoughtful co-workers often are just trying to keep temptation out of their homes.

"Not only does candy play tricks on your waistline, but it also turns productive workers into zombies," says Emily Tuerk, M.D., adult internal medicine physician at the Loyola University Health System and assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

"A sugar high leads to a few minutes of initial alertness and provides a short burst of energy. But beware of the scary sugar crash. When the sugar high wears off, you'll feel tired, fatigued and hungry."

Tuerk offers a few tips to help you and others on your team avoid being haunted by leftover candy:

  • Make a pact with your co-workers to not bring in leftover candy.
  • Eat breakfast, so you don't come to work hungry.
  • Bring in alternative healthy snacks, such as low-fat yogurt, small low-fat cheese sticks, carrot sticks or cucumber slices. Vegetables are a great healthy snack. You can't overdose on vegetables.
  • Be festive without being unhealthy. Blackberries and cantaloupe are a fun way to celebrate with traditional orange and black fare without packing on the holiday pounds. Bring this to the office instead of candy as a creative and candy-free way to participate in the holiday fun.
  • If you must bring in candy, put it in an out-of-the-way location. Don't put it in people's faces so they mindlessly eat it. An Eastern Illinois University study found that office workers ate an average of nine Hershey's Kisses per week when the candy was conveniently placed on top of the desk, but only six Kisses when placed in a desk drawer and three Kisses when placed 2 feet from the desk.

And if you decide to surrender to temptation and have a treat, limit yourself to a small, bite-size piece, Tuerk adds. Moderation is key.


Four Simple Tips for Streamlining Open Enrollment

Originally posted by United Benefit Advisors (UBA).

Communicating the value of benefits is an age-old dilemma further complicated now that many employers are making big plan changes to comply with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). As more and more employers move to high deductible health plans, making employees aware of how to use their benefits and take control of their health care consumption will be the key to cost savings. Our white paper, "A Business Case For Benefits Communications,” addresses how best to reach employees, what they need to know, and how they prefer to receive the information. However, once you have educated your workforce, how do you enroll them efficiently and effectively in your plan options? UBA Partner Mike Humphrey, Senior Benefits Advisor at The Wilson Agency, has been guiding employers through the daunting task of enrolling hundreds or thousands of employees and their dependents for years. To keep open enrollment hassle and panic-free, he offers four basic tips for employers:

1.      Enrollment should be automated.
Going through thousands of sheets of paper to get the process done is part of what makes open enrollment a daunting process. Instead, think about your organization’s culture and environment (and your precious time); most likely it will make sense to automate the program. There is an additional expense, but it’s easily justified for larger employers. It will be easier for you, more accurate, and the majority of employees will prefer an online process to filling out paperwork.
2.      Make sure it has a user-friendly interface.
While setting up an online open enrollment system, take the extra time to ensure that it is easy for employees to use. For example:
  • Is everything easy to understand?
  • Does entry of information flow nicely?
  • Can the user save their progress and go back to make modifications at a later time?
  • Does it automatically send the employee a confirmation statement after they have finished enrolling?
 
3.      Consider multi-learning tools.
The choice of an online open enrollment system also depends on how educated your employees are about their benefit programs. However, even for a well-educated group of employees, we suggest a dictionary of applicable terminology (possibly have a definition pop up as you hover over words like deductible, co-pay, co-insurance, etc.). Video tutorials are also a popular way to show employees how to use the online system and to further guide them in their selection of health plan options.
4.      Make the business case.
If you have multiple HR offices and/or sub-companies, make sure that you have their buy-in before implementing the online system. Explain the cost and what you receive in return. If people see how it will benefit them, they’ll be more likely to support the initiative. And once they’re on board, be sure to have plenty of opportunities for training HR staff.

5 root causes of disengagement

Originally posted on http://ebn.benefitnews.com.

The one-size-fits-all communications approach is ending, but employee engagement is still an issue for many employers. Alison Davis, of employee communication firm Davis & Company, identified five root causes of deteriorating engagement, which she shared with attendees at this year’s Benefits Forum & Expo.

The shredded employment contract

Since the recession, employees are losing confidence in the security of their jobs. Workers feel there has been a shift and that employers are holding more of the cards. According to Gallup, the number of actively disengaged workers increased to 24% in organizations that have recently laid off employees. Additionally, Towers Watson notes that 72% of companies have reduced their workforce in response to the recession.

Lack of trust in leaders

According to Towers Watson, fewer than two in five employees have confidence in senior leaders. People are skeptical and often have a wait-and-see attitude to what leaders have to say. Employees are saying “let’s wait and see what really happens,” Davis says.

Demographic attitudes

Another, and probably the biggest, challenge revolves around the different attitudes of the three primary generations in today’s workforce, says Davis. Baby boomers are burnt out and display a negative attitude in their exchanges with co-workers; Gen Xers are balancing work and home life responsibilities; Millennials have an “all about me” attitude and are somewhat impatient about moving up (or across) the corporate ladder. The average length of tenure out one job for a millennial is 2.6 years, and by the age of 27 they will have already worked four different jobs.

Mad men management

Employers are trapped in a 1950s mindset. This can be seen in the organizational charts that show a top-down hierarchy. The decision-making is done at the top, and general access to information is scarce, even as corporate leaders talk about transparency.

The way work gets done

We’re in a 24/7/365 mindset where an employee is always on the job. Employees never feel quite done or that they can ever shut it down, which affects their work-life balance and causes them to feel disengaged.


7 ways to keep your sanity during open enrollment

Originally posted on http://ebn.benefitnews.com.

‘Tis the open enrollment season in the benefits world. For many benefit managers, that means stress, panic and very long days (and nights). But there are ways to make this time of year less frantic and more productive.

1. Don’t go it alone.

HR cannot run open enrollment in a vacuum. So lean on consultants and communication pros to craft your messaging. Turn to senior leaders for top-down messaging on why changes are happening. Bring in your benefit vendors to explain the impact of changes and walk employees through the enrollment process. Like many things, open enrollment takes a village, so use yours.

2. Get your data ducks in a row.

Few things can set off a fire drill like systems crashing and just plain misbehaving – especially with online enrollment. Get ahead of the game by partnering with IT to determine how people will enroll, how data will be handled and how it needs to flow between departments (like HR and payroll). Map out contingency plans and decide who will be on point if things go awry.

3. Get real and get personal.

Be straight-up with employees about what’s changing, why and what they need to do. No spin. No sugar. If you’re making significant plan changes this year, use personas to help people understand how this will affect them. And provide decision guides that walk them through all the variables (particularly deductibles, co-payments, HSA contributions, covered services and provider network details) so they can make the best choice for themselves and their families.

4. Make it a conversation. Then listen hard.

We all put a ton of blood, sweat and tears into benefit planning and open enrollment communications – so much so, that it can become a bit of a one-way street. Keep in mind that this is a time when employees are sitting up straight and paying attention. Ask for their feedback. How do they feel about what’s changing? The benefits overall? Why? What could be done differently? Whether you’re talking with employees at a town hall, engaging with them over social media or asking for their honest responses to a survey, really listen to what they have to say, thoughtfully respond and act on their feedback as much as you can.

5. Start planning for next year now.

We know – right now, it’s all you can do to stay focused on the enrollment at hand. But it’s less daunting than it sounds: what we’re suggesting is that you take employee feedback and lessons learned from this enrollment period and start compiling them for next year. That might be possible benefit changes, new benefits to add or ways to communicate differently. You know what they say about the early bird … and in this case, the sooner you nail down what 12 months from now looks like, the more proactive (and effective) you’ll be when it comes to next year’s systems and communications.

6. Make it a challenge!

Why not make open enrollment fun – and an opportunity to earn points and prizes? Launch an Open Enrollment Challenge and reward employees for taking various actions, like attending an open enrollment info session, updating beneficiary details and enrolling by a certain date. Or plan an Open Enrollment Walk, where people can head out for a stroll with HR and colleagues, giving them an opportunity to ask benefit questions along the way (and make time afterward too).

7. Take care of you.

Although you may feel like you just don’t have time to take a break, right now you need it more than ever. Along with those enrollment meetings, town halls, social media replies and survey reviews, block time for yourself on the calendar. Go for a run, head out for a relaxing healthy lunch, read a great book, meditate, take a yoga class – whatever makes you happy and keeps you sane.


Many of us get forced to retire; How to prepare yourself to handle a tough transition

Originally posted September 24, 2014 Wednesday by Rodney Brooks in USA Today, First Edition, Money; Pg. 3B and on http://www.ifebp.org.

That retirement you're looking forward to in five years: Be prepared for it sooner than you expect.

Numerous surveys have shown that people think that they are going to retire later than it happens. The two big reasons: health issues and losing your job. According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, 47% of American retirees in a 2013 survey retired before they planned, mostly because of health or disability.

Unplanned early retirement can create havoc with your retirement plans. Those five or 10 additional years of saving were no longer possible. Some may have had to take Social Security earlier than expected.

"I have several clients and families who have gone through this," says Greg Sullivan, with Sullivan, Bruyette, Speros & Blayney In McLean, Va. "What we are always doing is trying to keep our clients prepared for the unexpected."

Others are not prepared psychologically.

"Don't leave your retirement to hopium," says Kimberly Foss, president of Empyrion Wealth Management in Roseville, Calif., author of Wealthy by Design. "Hopium is a foolish hope. It allows people to ignore sometimes unexpected realities, such as unemployment. It keeps people from making a proper plan. If they do ignore it, it leads to financial ruin."

How to be ready:

Do an assessment. Sullivan says you should look at cash flow, balance sheet, insurance and estate plans to get an idea of where you are today and the impact of earlier-than-expected retirement.

Plan for the unexpected. "If you pre-rehearse those types of contingencies, you are far more likely to make good decisions in an emotional moment," says Joe Sicchitano, head of wealth planning for SunTrust Bank.

It's not that different from helping children who are afraid of monsters in the closet, Sicchitano says. "The best solution is turn the light on, and see how big he is, how scary he is.

"Build an emergency fund. "You want to make sure you've built an adequate emergency fund," says Marc Freedman, president CEO of Freedman Financial in Peabody, Mass., and author of Retiring for the Genius. "Six to 12 months of your living expenses," he says. "If you are 55 and faced with retiring soon, you should be able to do that.

"Consider what you want in retirement. Once people get into their 50s, they need to look at how early they can retire, based on what they want, says Joe Franklin, president of Franklin Wealth Management in Hixson, Tenn. "Determine at what age you are independent enough to say, 'I can keep working if I enjoy it or leave if I don't like it.'

"Reduce debt. "The more you can lower your committed expenses, the more flexibility you have," says Sicchitano.

Maximize contributions to your 401(k) and minimize fees. Jerry Schlichter, partner in the St. Louis law firm of Schlichter, Bogard & Denton, says the more attention you've paid to your retirement plan, the better you position yourself for an unexpected retirement. "You want to avoid paying fees that will deplete those assets. The Department of Labor has said a 1% difference in fees over a work life expectancy of 25 years will make a 28% difference in the retirement assets you have. Watch your fees, and make sure they are appropriate. Your company has a duty to make sure you are paying reasonable fees."

 


8 tips to share with employees to ensure a successful open enrollment

Originally posted on http://ebn.benefitnews.com.

As open enrollment season approaches, benefit managers are moving into high gear as they prepare to answer employee questions and concerns about their 2015 benefits. And as employees take on more responsibility for their health care, it’s more important than ever for them to understand how they can make the most of the programs and benefits their employers are offering.

Here are eight tips from benefits consulting firm Aon Hewitt that benefit managers can share with employees to help ensure open enrollment runs smoothly.

1. Take an active role.

Employers are taking steps to make enrollment quicker and easier. “Many companies are designing the process so it is similar to an online retail shopping experience, where employees can access decision support tools and other resources that can help them narrow down their choices and weigh them against their specific needs,” says Joann Hall Swenson, health engagement leader at Aon Hewitt. “Employers are also stepping up their efforts to clearly communicate what is changing from previous years, using a variety of communication methods.” Encourage employees to take advantage of the resources you provide.

2. Assess your and your dependents’ health care needs.

Understanding their past needs and estimating their future needs will help employees determine what adjustments they may need to make in their benefits selections for 2015. Encourage employees to start by reviewing how much they’ve spent in the past year out-of-pocket, the costs of their regular prescriptions and the number of doctor visits they’ve had. If they are participating in a flexible spending account, encourage them to re-evaluate their contribution levels based on their actual and anticipated expenses for 2015. It’s also important to think about any life changes that may impact their decisions, such as an addition to the family or the development of a new medical condition that may impact health care expenses.

3. Evaluate your plan’s provider network.

Over the past few years, there have been many changes taking place in the provider community, including doctor’s groups joining together and hospitals and health systems re-contracting with insurers. As a result, health plan options may include vastly different combinations of doctors and hospitals than in the past. Most employers and health plans offer a number of tools and resources that can help employees assess the cost impact and quality of different providers as they make their enrollment decisions.

4. Evaluate whether a consumer-driven health plan is right for you.

CDHPs often have lower premiums, which make them an attractive option for individuals who want to reduce the costs taken out of their paychecks each month. While employees may have a higher deductible to meet, many employers couple these plans with health reimbursement accounts or health savings accounts, which employees can use to help pay for eligible out-of-pocket health care costs. HSAs are the most common, and allow employees to save money by contributing, on a pre-tax basis, up to $3,350 in 2015 or $6,650 if they have family coverage, with no use-it-or-lose-it rule. In addition, employers may also contribute to the HSA. It’s important for employees to understand how the employer’s contributions work so they can maximize this subsidy.

5. Determine the best source of coverage for your dependents.

If an employee’s spouse, partner or adult children have access to health coverage elsewhere, including through their employer, it may be more cost effective for them to enroll in this coverage instead of being covered by you. Encourage employees to carefully review and compare these plans to ensure they are choosing the coverage they need at the most favorable cost.

6. Take advantage of health and wellness programs.

Many employers offer a wide range of health and wellness programs, such as health assessments, weight loss programs and health coaching, to help employees get and stay healthy. Taking part in these programs can help employees understand their current health status, and they might even be able to take advantage of a financial incentive for doing so.

7. Understand how your employer coverage works in comparison to ACA exchanges.

2015 will be the second year of coverage available to Americans through the marketplaces, commonly referred to as “public exchanges.” In most cases, individuals with coverage through their employer will not be eligible for federal tax credits for purchase of insurance through the marketplaces. Employees can visit healthcare.gov to learn more about the marketplaces.

8. Take a holistic view of health and financial wellness.

As employees assess their health plan options for 2015, it’s important for them to look holistically at their health and financial well-being, including health care, income protection (e.g., life and disability insurance) and retirement planning. Does their spending reflect their needs and priorities? For example, if they aren’t contributing to your 401(k) plan, remind them that now might be a good time to start. Beginning to save earlier in their careers will help ensure they’re on track to meet their long-term savings goals.

 

 

 


6 ways to overcome distractions

Originally posted by Erin Bramblett, HR specialist with Insperity, an HR outsourcing firm on http://ebn.benefitnews.com.

If anyone knows a thing or two about multitasking, it’s benefit managers. From understanding the compliance complexities of the Affordable Care Act to navigating the nuances of ERISA, benefit managers are experts at juggling several priorities. Yet multitasking and having to deal with constant interruptions can negatively affect work quality, according to a recent study from the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society.

1. Prioritize.

“Prioritize what you need to get done as an employee and do those things early in the day,” says Bramblett. “Focus on what needs to get done, whether it’s three things or five things, and focus on those until they’re done.”

2. Create a to-do list.

“Write that bulleted list, include scheduled breaks and cross them off as you complete them. That will help you stay focused,” advises Bramblett. “And taking a mental break in between tasks will help employees shift gears a little more easily.”

3. Don’t check social media during the day.

A five-minute break to update your status can easily turn into a 30-minute waste of time, says Bramblett, who advises keeping social media pages closed during the work day. But if you absolutely can’t go all day without seeing what those crazy cats on Instagram are up to, then schedule it as part of your break on your to-do list.

4. Learn the power of ‘no.’

“It’s hard to not say ‘yes’ to every assignment that comes your way,” says Bramblett. “But you’ve got to make sure you’re keeping your to-do list at a realistic level.” She advises communicating with your team, your boss or your clients to make sure your daily priorities are correct and that you’re finding out which things are most important for you to get done each day.

5. Don’t think you’re capable of multitasking.

“It is scientifically proven that individuals work better when they are single-tasking,” says Bramblett, citing an American Psychological Association study that showed multitasking undermines efficiency by as much as 40%.

6. Create a workplace that doesn’t expect multitasking.

“If employees feel like they have to multitask because their boss keeps coming at them with multiple projects and asking for updates on 15 different things in a day, that would certainly be something that would create that environment so you want to ensure you create that work-life balance,” advises Bramblett.