IRS Letters 226J: Having the Right Section 4980H Records Can Be Worth a Small Fortune

As reported in our 2018 End of Year Plan Sponsor “To Do” List (Part 1) Health & Welfare, the Section 4980H penalties are still in effect and the IRS is enforcing them.  Employers continue to receive Letters 226J, which the IRS uses to propose employer shared responsibility payments. During the Letter 226J process, the IRS has been allowing employers to challenge proposed penalties and to correct reporting errors. However, the IRS will not necessarily accept an employer’s word at face value.

Recordkeeping is key

One of the biggest problems employers may face is finding records to prove they satisfied the 95% offer of coverage test (to avoid the subsection (a) penalty) or that they offered a specified employee minimum value affordable coverage (to avoid the subsection (b) penalty).  Read More ›

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IRS Changes Course on Lump Sums to Retirees

In Notice 2019-18, the Internal Revenue Service (the “IRS”) changed its position and now will permit employers to offer lump sum payments to retirees who are currently receiving annuity payments from a defined benefit plan.  This is a reversal from its position in Notice 2015-49, in which the Treasury Department and the IRS stated that they intended to propose amendments to the required minimum distribution regulations to address the payment of lump sums to replace ongoing annuity payments under a defined benefit plan.  Prior to the issuance of Notice 2015-49, a number of defined benefit plans started offering retirees who were receiving annuities an opportunity to elect to convert their annuities into lump sum benefits during a limited period of time in what became known as “de-risking” transactions.  Read More ›

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Seeing the Big Picture – How Proposed Health Reimbursement Arrangements Might Harmonize with Existing Law

On October 29, 2018, proposed regulations were published in the Federal Register that would permit employers to offer two new types of health reimbursement arrangements (“HRAs”) that align with the requirements of the Affordable Care Act (the “ACA”). The proposed HRAs are designed to expand the availability of account-based group health plans. A summary of the proposed regulations – and the HRAs that they would permit if finalized – can be found in our November 7, 2018, blog, “Zombie Benefits – Are Health Reimbursement Arrangements Back from the Dead?

As an addendum to the proposed regulations, the IRS published Notice 2018-88, which considers the interaction of the new HRAs with the employer shared responsibility mandate set out in Code Section 4980H and the non-discrimination rules contained in Code Section 105(h). Read More ›

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IRS Issues Updated Tax Notice for Qualified Retirement Plan Distributions

The Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) recently released guidance that contains two updated safe harbor notices that retirement plans may use to satisfy the requirements of the Internal Revenue Code (the “Code”) to provide an advance notice to a participant prior to the date on which the participant receives a distribution that meets the requirements for an eligible rollover distribution.  This notice is commonly referred to as the “402(f) Notice” after the relevant section of the Code that requires the notice to be provided.

The IRS guidance contains two model notices, one that may be used when distributions are not from a Roth account and a second model notice that may be used for distributions that are from a Roth account. 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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IRS Announces Reduction in Family HSA Contribution Limit for 2018

In Revenue Procedure 2018-18, the Internal Revenue Service announced a reduction in the HSA contribution limit for family coverage in 2018 to $6,850 from $6,900.  The self-only HSA contribution limit for 2018 remains unchanged at $3,450.

This change is a technical result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which adjusted the method for calculating inflation. Although the reduction may appear somewhat small, it may cause certain employees to inadvertently contribute over the limit.  For instance, an employee who front-loads his or her annual contribution may have already exceeded the new limit.

The IRS has not issued any transition relief for excess contributions made in 2018 by employees relying on the original contribution limit announced in Revenue Procedure 2017-37Read More ›

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Hardship Distribution Changes – Tax Reform May Have Unintended Consequences

When tax reform proposals were floating around in the fall of 2017, several early proposals to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (the “Act”) included changes to the hardship distribution rules for qualified retirement plans. However, the final version of the Act did not make any direct changes to hardship distributions.  Nevertheless, the Act, perhaps unintentionally, made a significant change to the circumstances under which a participant can request a hardship for a personal casualty loss.

Personal Casualty Loss

The Act changed to the definition of a “personal casualty loss” under Section 165 of the Internal Revenue Code (the “Code”). Under the revised definition of 165, a personal casualty loss is only deductible if it is attributable to a federally declared disaster (i.e. Read More ›

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IRS Publishes 2017 Required Amendments List

 

In our 2017 End of Year Plan Sponsor “To Do” List (Part 4) Qualified Plans, we suggested that sponsors of all qualified retirement plans should be on the lookout for the Internal Revenue Service’s (“IRS”) 2017 Required Amendments List (“RA List”).  The IRS recently published Notice 2017-72, which contains the 2017 RA List, https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/n-17-72.pdf

Part A of the RA List addresses changes in qualification requirements that require amendments to most plans (or to the types impacted by the change).  The 2017 RA List contains two changes in Part A:  those required by final regulations regarding cash balance/hybrid plans and those that address benefit restrictions for certain defined benefit plans that are eligible cooperative plans or eligible charity plans described in Section 204 of the Pension Protection Act of 2006, as amended.  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 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.
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