A New Perspective on Student Loan Repayment Benefits

On August 17, 2018, the Internal Revenue Service (the “Service”) published a Private Letter Ruling (the “PLR”) describing a unique student loan repayment program in the context of a qualified retirement plan.

Proposed Student Loan Repayment Program

As described in the PLR, an Employer sponsors a Section 401(k) defined contribution plan that permits elective deferrals. The plan requires the Employer to make a matching contribution equal to 5% of an eligible employee’s compensation for a given pay period if such employee makes an elective contribution of at least 2% of his or her compensation during the same period.

The Employer proposed to amend the plan to incorporate a student loan repayment program (the “Program”). Read More ›

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New Plan Year, New Wellness Program – Some Things to Keep in Mind

As a follow-up to our recent blog Count Down to Open Enrollment – Some Quick Thoughts, below is a little more detail on how seemingly simple wellness program design changes can have significant legal consequences.

  • HIPAA – Employers feeling extra generous this plan year may want to increase their wellness program’s financial incentive.  It is important that such employers remain mindful of the limitations under HIPAA, i.e., 30% of the total cost of health plan coverage, or 50% for programs designed to prevent or reduce tobacco use.  As noted in our previous blog “Wellness Rules Under the ADA – Will There Ever Be Certainty?
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The 162(m) Transition Rule Guidance Has Arrived

On August 21, 2018, the IRS released Notice 2018-68 providing its initial guidance on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (Act) transition rule for changes under 162(m).  Before the Act, 162(m) limited a public company’s tax deduction to $1,000,000 for annual compensation paid to its “covered employees” (i.e., the CEO and the other three most highly compensated executives (excluding the CFO)).  Important pre-Act limitations/exceptions to this rule included (i) a more narrow definition of covered employee, and (ii) an exclusion for performance-based compensation.

The Act substantially broadened the definition of covered employee and eliminated the performance-based compensation exception. However, the Act offered a transition rule for compensation paid under a written binding contract that was in effect on November 2, 2017 and that is not materially modified after that date. Read More ›

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Settlement of Solak v. Barrett May Provide Additional Guidance on Setting Director Pay

I’ve stressed how important it is for public company executives and directors to stay apprised of developments in the director pay area, including developments/settlements of director pay lawsuits.  Earlier this summer, the Delaware Chancery court approved a settlement of Solak v. Barrett, a case in which the plaintiffs alleged that the directors of Clovis Oncology breached their fiduciary duties by adopting a compensation plan that overcompensated themselves, in relation to companies of comparable market capitalization and size. In their complaint, the plaintiffs cited as evidence, the fact that the non-employee directors of Clovis each had been paid an average of $429,163 annually between 2012 and 2016, while Fortune 50 companies pay their directors a median total of $281,667 a year and S&P 500 companies pay an average $277,237 a year.  Read More ›

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The 95 Percent Test: Gearing up for Another Round of Employer Shared Responsibility Penalties

Late last year, the Internal Revenue Service (the “Service”) began enforcing penalties with respect to failures to comply with the employer shared responsibility provisions of Section 4980H of the Internal Revenue Code.  In the coming months, the Service is expected to begin assessing penalties with respect to such failures occurring in calendar year 2016.  These penalties are of two varieties:

  1. Section 4980H(a) penalties are assessed for any month in which an applicable large employer (“ALE”) does not offer minimum essential coverage to substantially all (95% for 2016 and future years) of its full-time employees and their dependents and at least one full-time employee receives a premium tax credit. 
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The Family Medical Leave Act and Benefit Plans: What comes first – the Law or the Employer’s Established Policy?

An employer that employs 50 or more employees for each working day during each of 20 or more calendar workweeks in the current or preceding calendar year is subject to the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). Therefore, often when I am reviewing an employee benefits plan or policy I flag language that states something like: “You may be eligible to continue your coverage pursuant to the FMLA. Contact the company for more information.”  What does this mean?

Group Health Plan

For purposes of the FMLA, a group health plan is generally a plan that provides health care to employees, former employees, or families of such employees or former employees. Read More ›

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Association Health Plans – A New Frontier?

On June 21, 2018, the Department of Labor published the final association health plan (“AHP”) rule, which can be accessed at: https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2018-06-21/pdf/2018-12992.pdf.  83 FR 28912 (June 21, 2018).  The final rule is short, just shy of three pages in length (see page 28961 to 29964), and provides that a bona fide group or association shall be deemed to be able to act in the interest of an employer within the meaning of section 3(5) of ERISA by satisfying the criteria set forth in the final rule.  The requirements are relatively straightforward and are summarized below:

  • Bona fide group or association of employers – There are eight requirements that must be met to satisfy this standard. 
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Congress Eases Restrictions on Hardship Distributions

We previously reported on certain changes made to the hardship distribution rules for qualified retirement plans by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.  Since then, Congress has made additional and significant changes to those same hardship distribution rules by the passage of the Bipartisan Budget Act (the “BBA”).  The BBA loosens various restrictions on a participant’s ability to request and receive a hardship distribution.  In particular, the BBA provides:

  1. Effective for plan years beginning after December 31, 2018, participants may receive hardship distributions comprised of employee elective deferrals, employer contributions and earnings on both.  Traditionally, hardship distributions were limited to employee elective deferrals and did not include qualified nonelective contributions, qualified matching contributions, safe harbor contributions or earnings on the same.
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Wellness Rules Under the ADA – Will There Ever Be Certainty?

We previously blogged about the EEOC’s final rules, published in the Federal Register on May 17, 2016, that explain how the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) applies to employer sponsored wellness programs. These rules clarified when an employee health program, which includes a disability-related inquiry or medical examination, is considered “voluntary” under the ADA.  The EEOC’s rules stated, amongst other things, that an employer may offer incentives for employees who participate in a wellness program as long as the incentive does not exceed 30% of the total cost of self-only coverage.

We also previously blogged that this incentive provision was under scrutiny by the U.S. Read More ›

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Much Ado about $50… IRS Announces Relief for Reduction of Maximum HSA Contributions

On April 3, we blogged about a reduction in the HSA contribution limit for family coverage in 2018 from $6,900 to $6,850.  This was a technical change resulting from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that adjusted the method for calculating inflation.  On April 26, in Revenue Procedure 2018-27, the IRS came through with a fix for this $50 technical issue.  For 2018, taxpayers with family coverage under a high deductible health plan (HDHP) may treat $6,900 as the maximum deductible HSA contribution. 

  Read More ›

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