Making a List, Checking it Twice – 2017

It’s that time of year when boys and girls start making their lists for the holidays, but we in the employee benefits world make a very different kind of list.  In the rapidly changing world of employee benefits and executive compensation law, checklists can be particularly helpful to make sure important issues do not fall through the cracks.  Each year we publish health and welfare, cost-of-living, executive compensation, and qualified retirement plan checklists to help individuals stay apprised of changes in the law, changes that they might need to make to their employee benefits plans, and various notice requirements.  We just published the last of our annual checklists.  Read More ›

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IRS to Begin Enforcing 4980H Penalties on Large Employers Before End of 2017

On November 2, 2017, the IRS issued guidance regarding the enforcement of Employer Shared Responsibility payments, otherwise known as the Section 4980H penalty. Questions 55-58 of the IRS Questions and Answers on Employer Shared Responsibility Provisions Under the Affordable Care Act indicate that the IRS is moving forward with assessing penalties on Applicable Large Employers (“ALEs”) who failed to offer appropriate health care coverage under Section 4980H for the 2015 calendar year.

An ALE is generally an employer who employs at least 50 full-time employees during the calendar year. An ALE will be assessed a penalty for the 2015 year if any full-time employee received a premium tax credit or cost-sharing reduction and either: (a) the employer failed to provide minimum essential health coverage to 95% of its full-time employees; or (b) the employer offered minimum essential health coverage to 95% of its full-time employees, but the coverage was not affordable or did not provide minimum value. Read More ›

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IRS Announces 2018 Cost of Living Adjustments

The IRS recently announced cost-of-living adjustments for 2018 in Notice 2017-64 and related guidance.  The key dollar limits for qualified retirement plans and health and welfare plans are noted below.

Qualified Retirement Plan Dollar Limits

  2017 2018
Limit on Section 401(k) deferrals (Section 402(g)) $18,000 $18,500
Dollar limitation for catch-up contributions (Section 414(v)(2)(B)(i)) $6,000 $6,000
Limit on deferrals for government and tax-exempt organization deferred compensation plans (Section 457(e)(15)) $18,000 $18,500
Annual benefit limitation for a defined benefit plan (Section 415(b)(1)(A)) $215,000 $220,000
Limitation on annual contributions to a defined contribution plan (Section 415(c)(1)(A)) $54,000 $55,000
Limitation on compensation that may be considered by qualified retirement plans (Section 401(a)(17)) $270,000 $275,000
Dollar amount for the definition of highly compensated employee (Section 414(q)(1)(B)) $120,000 $120,000
Dollar amount for the definition of a key employee in a top-heavy plan (Section 416(i)(1)(A)(i)) $175,000 $175,000
Dollar amount for determining the maximum account balance in an ESOP subject to a five-year distribution period (Section 409(o)(1)(C)(ii)) $1,080,000 $1,105,000
SIMPLE retirement account limitation (Section 408(p)(2)(E)) $12,500 $12,500
Social Security Taxable Wage Base $127,200 $128,700

Health and Welfare Plan Dollar Limits

  2017 2018
Annual Cost Sharing Limit (self-only coverage) $7,150 $7,350
Annual Cost Sharing Limit (other than self-only coverage) $14,300 $14,700
HDHP Out-of-Pocket Maximum (self-only coverage) $6,550 $6,650
HDHP Out-of-Pocket Maximum (family coverage) $13,100 $13,300
Annual HDHP Deductible (self-only coverage) Not less than $1,300 Not less than $1,350
Annual HDHP Deductible (family coverage) Not less than $2,600 Not less than $2,700
Maximum Annual HSA Contributions (self-only coverage) $3,400 $3,450
Maximum Annual HSA Contributions (family coverage) $6,750 $6,900
Maximum HSA Catch-Up Contribution $1,000 $1,000
Health Flexible Spending Account Maximum $2,600 $2,650

  Read More ›

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Reminder that Nonqualified Deferred Compensation Deferral Elections for 2018 Must be Made on or Before December 31, 2017

As we approach the end of 2017, we want to remind employers and employees to take action before year end if they desire to defer compensation that will be earned during 2018.  As a general rule, Section 409A of the Internal Revenue Code requires that compensation deferrals under a nonqualified deferred compensation plan be made before the year in which the underlying services are performed. There are some exceptions to this general rule, but Section 409A imposes strict requirements on the timing of compensation deferral elections and that most deferrals of compensation that will be earned in 2018 must be made on or before December 31, 2017. Read More ›

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A Time to Remember that Employer-Provider Data Breach Benefits are not Taxable

Hardly a week goes by without another announcement of a high-profile data security breach.  The list of data breaches impacting high-profile employers and their employees just in 2017 is long.  Protecting our sensitive data is becoming a top priority for us all.  Recognizing this need, employer-provided identity theft protection is one of the fastest growing employer-provided benefits.  Willis Towers Watson found that, while around 35% of employers offered this benefit in 2015, as many as 80% of employers will offer the benefit by 2018.  The fact that employer-provided identity theft protection can be offered by employers as a nontaxable benefit adds to its attraction for employees.  Read More ›

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Section 4980H Large Employer Penalties – IRS Signals the Health Coverage Penalties Remain in Force

Many employers were hopeful that the Code Section 4980H penalties would be repealed now that Republicans control Congress and Trump is in the White House.  To date, that has not happened, nor has the IRS announced it will not enforce these penalties.  In fact, in two Information Letters released by IRS on July 16, 2017, the IRS indicated that the ACA Executive Order signed by President Trump when he first took office “does not change the law; the legislative provisions of the ACA are still in force until changed by the Congress, and taxpayers remain required to follow the law and pay what they may owe.”

Senate Republicans are making one last ditch effort to repeal Code Section 4980H.  Read More ›

Posted in Employee Benefits

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IRS Issues Hurricane Harvey Relief

In Announcement 2017-11, the IRS relaxed standards for hardship distributions and loans from qualified retirement plans for those affected by Hurricane Harvey. This relief applies to employees or former employees and their family members who live or work in the disaster areas designated for individual assistance by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”).

The Announcement provides for the following relief:

  • Relaxes the administrative rules that apply to hardship distributions by permitting plan administrators to rely on a participant’s representations regarding the need for, and the amount of, the hardship distribution unless the plan administrator has actual knowledge to the contrary.
  • Permits hardship distributions for Hurricane Harvey-related needs for family members, including parents, children and spouses.
Read More ›
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Wellness Incentives Under Scrutiny After District Court Decision

In the most recent updates to the AARP v. EEOC wellness case (AARP v. EEOC, D.D.C., No. 1:16-cv-02113), the District Court for the District of Columbia has ordered the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) to review the wellness regulations related to the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (“GINA”) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) with respect to the amount of incentives that an employer may provide under a wellness program.

The ADA and GINA both permit the collection of certain health information by an employer so long as the disclosure is “voluntary.” However, neither the ADA nor GINA provides a definition of what is considered “voluntary.”  In May of 2016, the ADA and GINA wellness regulations were finalized and provide, in relevant part, that a wellness program can offer incentives or penalties of up to 30% of the cost of self-only coverage. Read More ›

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The New Disability Claims Regulations: They Don’t Only Apply to Disability Plans

Introduction

The Department of Labor (“DOL”) issued regulations that revise the ERISA claims procedure regulations for employee benefit plans that provide disability benefits (the “New Disability Claims Regulations” or “New Regulations”).  They are based on the Affordable Care Act’s (the “ACA”) enhanced claims and appeals regulations for group health plans (the “ACA Enhanced Regulations”).  The scope of the New Regulations are broader than you may  realize and apply to any plan, regardless of how it is characterized, that provides benefits or rights that are contingent on whether the plan determines an individual to be disabled.  This can include ERISA governed short-term disability plans, long-term disability plans, qualified retirement plans (e.g., a 401(k) plan), nonqualified retirement plans, and health and welfare plans.  Read More ›

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Say on Pay Failure Results 2017

Of the 7% of Russell 3000 companies that received “against” vote recommendations from ISS on their say on pay proposals this 2017 proxy season, some of the cited reasons for the negative vote recommendations from ISS consisted of the following:

  • Pay for failure (i.e., pay for performance disconnect).
  • Lack of rigorous performance goals.
  • A substantial portion of granted equity awards were not performance-based.
  • Presence of an ISS “problematic pay practice” including:
    • Abnormally large bonus payments without proper link to performance.
    • Change in control payments exceed 3 times base salary/target bonus.
    • Single trigger change in control or severance payments.

A full list of the ISS “problematic pay practices” can be found here. Read More ›

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