Buckle Up! Complying with the Health & Welfare Provisions of the CAA Could be a Wild Ride

While many of us were still in a food coma from the holidays, former President Trump signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 (the “CAA”) on December 27, 2020.  The CAA includes provisions impacting both retirement plans and health and welfare plans.  This blog focuses on the effective dates for the health and welfare changes.  In later articles we will provide more substantive information.

Some of the CAA protections expand upon protections offered under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“ACA”).  For example, the CAA includes protections against balance billing for out-of-network emergency care, building on ACA’s emergency care rules.  Read More ›

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Can’t Touch This: IRS Extends Physical Presence Relief for Remote Notarization

On December 23, 2020, the IRS issued Notice 2021-03, which extends relief from the “physical presence” requirement applicable to signatures that must be witnessed by a plan representative or notary public.  By way of background, Treasury Regulations Section 1.401(a)-21(d)(6)(i) provides that, in the case of a participant election that is required to be witnessed by a plan representative or a notary public (such as a spousal consent to a waiver of a QJSA), the signature of the individual making the election must be witnessed in the physical presence of a plan representative or a notary public.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the IRS issued Notice 2020-42, which provided temporary relief from the physical presence requirement if the requirements of the notice are satisfied (discussed below).  Read More ›

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Wellness Program Incentives – New Year, New EEOC Proposed Rules

For years we have been trying to understand how the EEOC regulates wellness programs. Although we still do not have a complete picture, we are getting closer with the EEOC’s new Notices of Proposed Rulemaking on wellness programs under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (“GINA”). This blog summarizes the status of the ADA wellness program rules and the changes under the recently released proposed ADA wellness program rules.

Title I of the ADA

Title I of the ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals on the basis of disability in regard to employment compensation and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment, including “fringe benefits available by virtue of employment, whether or not administered by the covered entity.” The ADA also restricts the medical information employers may obtain from employees by generally prohibiting them from making disability-related inquiries or requiring medical examinations. Read More ›

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Certain Information Statements for ISOs and ESPPs Due by January 31, 2021

As reported in Part 3 of our 2020 End of Year Plan Sponsor “To Do” List, Section 6039 of the Internal Revenue Code (the “Code”) requires employers to provide a written information statement to each employee or former employee and file information returns with the IRS regarding: (1) the transfer of stock pursuant to the exercise of an Incentive Stock Option (“ISO”); and (2) the first transfer by the employee or former employee of stock purchased at a discount under an Employee Stock Purchase Plan (“ESPP”).  For ISO exercises and ESPP transfers occurring in 2020, the Section 6039 employee information statement requirement is satisfied by providing Form 3921 (for ISOs) and Form 3922 (for ESPPs) to employees no later than January 31, 2021.  Read More ›

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Get Ready, Get Set, to Cover COVID-19 Vaccines for Free

Last month, we reported that Moderna was seeking FDA authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine and reminded readers about the immunization coverage requirements in Section 3202 of the CARES Act in our SW Benefits Blog, “Free COVID-19 Vaccine and Testing Update.”  As of the date of this blog, the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines have been approved and group health plans must act quickly to meet the requirements of the CARES Act.

On October 28, 2020, HHS, DOL, and the Treasury issued interim final rules (the “new regulations”) about the COVID-19 immunization coverage requirements.  The new regulations generally took effect November 2, 2020 and are effective until the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency declared by HHS.  Read More ›

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IRS Clarifies SECURE Act Changes to Qualified Automatic Contribution Arrangements

The IRS recently published Notice 2020-86 (the “Notice”), which provides clarification with respect to certain changes made by the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019 (the “SECURE Act”). In particular, the Notice answers several outstanding questions related to the maximum default deferral rate for qualified automatic contribution arrangements.

As previously reported here, the SECURE Act raised the maximum permissible deferral rate for qualified automatic contribution arrangements to 15% of compensation from 10% of compensation for the second plan year and all subsequent plan years. The maximum deferral rate through the end of the first year remains set at 10% of compensation. Read More ›

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‘Tis the Season: Four Year-End Employee Benefit Plan Checklists

Each year, we publish health and welfare, cost-of-living, executive compensation, and qualified retirement plan checklists to help individuals and employers stay apprised of updates to the law of employee benefits.  We recently published the last of these annual checklists.  In case you missed them, the links are below.

Happy holidays!

2020 End of Year Plan Sponsor “To Do” List (Part 1) Health & Welfare

2020 End of Year Plan Sponsor “To Do” List (Part 2) Annual Cost of Living Adjustments

2020 End of Year Plan Sponsor “To Do” List (Part 3) Executive Compensation

2020 End of Year Plan Sponsor “To Do” List (Part 4) Qualified Retirement Plans 

  Read More ›

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With a New Administration, Will the Department of Labor’s Fiduciary Rule Once Again be Revised?

The Department of Labor’s (the “DOL”) attempts to regulate the conduct of fiduciaries under ERISA and the Code has been mired in controversy.  In 2010, the Obama administration’s DOL proposed a fiduciary regulation that was met with so much criticism that it was subsequently withdrawn in 2011.  In 2015, the DOL re-proposed a fiduciary regulation that imposed a fiduciary standard on financial advisors giving clients advice about their retirement plan investments.  The DOL issued final regulations and the final rule was being implemented when it was struck down by a federal appeals court in June 2018.

In June 2020, the DOL proposed a new fiduciary rule which significantly revises the Obama administration fiduciary rule.  Read More ›

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Is Your Safe Harbor Section 401(k) Plan Required to Provide an Annual Notice?

Sponsors of safe harbor Section 401(k) plans should consider whether they are required to provide their annual safe harbor notice in 2020 for the upcoming 2021 plan year.  The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement (“SECURE”) Act, which was enacted on December 20, 2019, changed the annual notice requirements for some safe harbor Section 401(k) plans.

Prior to the SECURE Act, safe harbor Section 401(k) plans were required to meet certain annual notice requirements regardless of whether they relied on matching or nonelective contributions to satisfy the safe harbor requirement.  The Internal Revenue Code requires that this annual safe harbor notice be provided to participants within a reasonable period before the beginning of the plan year.  Read More ›

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Final DOL Rule Imposes Fiduciary Limitations on Social Investing

The DOL recently issued a final rule (“Rule”) providing guidance on the long-standing issue of whether ERISA fiduciaries are permitted to consider non-pecuniary factors while making investments (or selecting investment funds) that promote one or more environmental, social or corporate governance goals (so called “ESG Investments”).  The preamble to the Rule acknowledges that ERISA fiduciaries must act solely in the interest of plan participants/beneficiaries and that courts have consistently interpreted this interest to refer to pecuniary, rather than non-pecuniary benefits.

Prior DOL ESG Investment guidance also required ERISA fiduciaries to place financial returns over other non-financial goals and prohibited a fiduciary from subordinating the interests of participants/beneficiaries in their retirement income to “unrelated objectives.”  However, the DOL previously stated that, when comparing ESG and non-ESG investments, if the financial returns were comparable, it was not a breach of fiduciary duty to select the ESG Investment.  Read More ›

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