Now You Can Have Your Cake and Eat It Too: New Pension Distribution Rules Allow More Flexibility

If you are one of the lucky few employees who participate in an employer’s defined benefit retirement plan, you previously had to choose between receiving your benefits in a lump sum or in annuity payments. However, in the final rule adopted by the Treasury Department, defined benefit plans are allowed to offer participants the choice of taking a portion of their benefit in a lump sum and the remainder in annuity payments.

These new rules are designed to increase a participant’s flexibility in designing his or her retirement income. As Treasury explained, on the one hand, for plans that permitted a distribution of either lump sum or annuity payments, many participants were reluctant to take the annuity payments and instead chose a lump sum to maximize their flexibility.  Read More ›

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Dealing with Long-Winded Out-of-Network Provider Nuisance Letters

Over the past couple years, more and more of my clients with self-funded plans have received letters from out-of-network providers appealing denied claims.  The letters are usually 20 to 30 pages long, not very specific, and make various accusations against the plan and its fiduciaries. 

Most of the letters follow a standard approach.  They start by alleging breaches of fiduciary duty, they request all sorts of plan documents, and they request additional appeals to which the participant may or may not be entitled.  The biggest problem is that these letters are never very specific in exactly what they want.  Instead, they make vague accusations, and hope some or all will stick. Read More ›

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A Deeper Dive: Employers Receiving Federal Funding May Be Subject to ACA’s Nondiscrimination Rule and Need to Cover Transgender Benefits

In recent months, we have written a fair amount about providing transgender benefits in light of the nondiscrimination provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Our blogs of March 30, 2016 and June 22, 2016 highlight the key contours of the nondiscrimination rule.  In our June 22 post, we mention in passing that the final nondiscrimination rule applies to any health program or activity, any part of which receives funding from the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”).  This blog provides additional clarity on what it means for a group health plan or an employer to receive federal financial assistance (“FFA”) and, by consequence, become subject to the nondiscrimination provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Read More ›

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IRS Makes Late Rollovers Easier

Generally, distributions from a qualified retirement plan that are eligible for rollover must be rolled over within 60 days of the date on which the distribution occurs.  If a taxpayer did not complete the rollover within 60 days, the taxpayer previously had to request a private letter ruling from the IRS to receive additional time to complete the rollover.  In Revenue Procedure 2016-47, the IRS makes it easier for a taxpayer to rollover a qualified retirement plan distribution if the taxpayer misses the 60-day rollover window.

Under the new guidance, instead of applying for a private letter ruling, a taxpayer may complete a self-certification and provide it to the plan administrator or IRA trustee if the rollover was not completed due to one of reasons listed in the guidance.  Read More ›

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IRS Finalizes Regulations Simplifying 83(b) Filing Requirements

On July 23rd of last year, I blogged on a set of proposed regulations eliminating the requirement that a taxpayer attach a copy of his or her Section 83(b) election to their individual tax return.  This July, the IRS made the proposed rule final and the final regulations eliminate the requirement that a taxpayer attach a copy of their Section 83(b) election to their tax return for the year in which the restricted property was transferred. This change should be welcomed by taxpayers who file electronic federal tax returns because commercial software does not consistently allow taxpayers to attach a copy of the Section 83(b) election to an electronically filed return. Read More ›

Posted in Employee Benefits, Executive Compensation, Qualified Retirement Plans | Tagged , , , ,

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What is Telemedicine? A Cool Benefit or a Hot Mess?

We’ve had numerous inquiries lately about telemedicine benefits.  My clients most typically ask either “is this a group health plan?” or “is it just access to another provider?”  Clearly, there is much confusion surrounding telemedicine benefits.  Part of the problem is that the regulators have yet to issue guidance on how telemedicine should be treated.  All we can do is take what is a very innovative benefit and figure out how it fits into a complicated, and sometimes outdated, regulatory framework.

Let’s start by agreeing that telemedicine benefits are pretty cool.  With telemedicine, employees can usually see a doctor sooner than if they had to go to a doctor’s office.  Read More ›

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You Received a Health Insurance Marketplace Notice from HHS – Now What?

Take a deep breath.  The HHS Health Insurance Marketplace Notice (the “Notice”) may seem to be a nuisance, but it does not necessarily mean that you will be subject to employer shared responsibility penalties.

First, the IRS, not HHS, assesses employer shared responsibility penalties, and the IRS does so only after it provides employers with:  (1) a “certification” that one or more employees received a premium tax credit; and (2) an opportunity to respond to the certification.

Second, an individual may have incorrectly reported on his application that he was eligible for a premium tax credit (or cost-sharing reductions) because:  (1) he did not receive an offer of health coverage from you; (2) he did receive an offer of health coverage from you, but it was unaffordable or it failed to provide minimum value, or (3) he was in a waiting period and was unable to enroll in health care coverage.  Read More ›

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Departments Finally Publish Updated SBC Template and Instructions

On April 6, 2016, the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and Treasury (the “Departments”) issued an updated Summary of Benefits and Coverage (“SBC”) template.  The latest template represents an effort by the Departments to enhance consumer access to information regarding their health care options.

Although the new template is shorter than the prior version, it includes more detailed information about cost-sharing, deductibles and out-of-pocket limits.  Moreover, the template adds a new example describing coverage for an in-network emergency room visit.  The Departments intend that these additions will provide consumers with more meaningful information as they select their medical coverage.           Read More ›

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IRS Issues Additional Guidance on Determination Letter Program

As was previously announced in 2015, effective as of January 1, 2017, the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) is eliminating its five year staggered determination letter cycle for individually designed retirement plans. Plans in the current cycle (Cycle A) still may submit their plans for determination letters on or before January 31, 2017.  Pursuant to Revenue Procedure 2016-37, going forward, individually designed plans will only be permitted to submit a determination letter application on initial plan qualification, plan termination and in certain other circumstances as announced by the IRS.

The IRS did not provide much guidance on the other circumstances in which existing plans would be permitted to seek determination letters in the future, other than to provide that it will give consideration to significant changes in the law, new approaches to plan design and the IRS’ current case load and resources. Read More ›

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Changes to Accounting Rules Alter Approach to Share-Based Withholding

Earlier this year the Financial Accounting Standards Board released Accounting Standards Update No. 2016-09 (the “ASU”) to improve the accounting treatment of certain stock-based compensation payments.  Among other updates, the ASU modifies the manner in which employers withhold on stock-based compensation awards. 

Under the current accounting rules, one requirement for favorable equity (rather than liability) accounting treatment is that the employer limit the amount it can withhold in connection with stock-based withholding to the minimum statutory amount necessary to satisfy taxes.  The ASU provides that equity accounting treatment will be retained if an employer withholds at the maximum statutory amount necessary to satisfy taxes (or allows the employee to elect his or her withholding rate as long as the elected rate does not exceed the maximum statutory rate in the employees’ applicable jurisdiction).  Read More ›

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