Reminder: Nondiscrimination Testing Required for Cafeteria Plans

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Employers, regardless of size, who provide a cafeteria plan (also known as a Section 125 plan) are required to perform nondiscrimination testing (NDT) as of the last day of their plan year. 

Definition: In general, Section 125(d)(1) defines the term “cafeteria plan” as a written plan under which— (A) all participants are employees, and (B) the participants may choose among 2 or more benefits consisting of cash and qualified benefits. 

In other words, a cafeteria plan is what permits employees to pay for qualified benefits, such as group health insurance, on a pretax basis, reducing both the employees’ and the employer’s tax liability.

However, in order for the employer (and employee) to receive the tax advantages associated with a cafeteria plan, the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) requires testing to ensure highly compensated employees (defined as $125,000 for 2019 plan year testing) and other individuals key to the business (i.e. officers, more than 5% shareholders or spouse/dependent of the highly compensated employees or these key individuals) do not receive a more favorable tax treatment (i.e. does not discriminate in favor of highly compensated employees).

Although the Section 125 rules only require an employer test “as of the last day of the plan year”, corrections are not allowed to be made retroactively after the plan year ends. Therefore, best practice is for a plan to be tested more than once, allowing an employer to possibly make adjustments to ensure the plan passes at the end of the year to preserve the tax treatment for the highly compensated and key employees. Otherwise, if a plan fails (i.e. found discriminatory) at the end of the year, the affected employees would be taxed on their total election amount.

If you haven’t ran your nondiscrimination tests, now would be a good time to engage a qualified vendor or legal counsel to perform the applicable nondiscrimination testing and possibly detect potential problems that may be resolved before the end of the plan year.

NOTE:  In addition to Section 125 NDT, the IRS Code requires other nondiscrimination testing to be done annually too. For instance, employers who sponsor a health FSA, which is considered a self-insured health plan, would be subject to both Section 125 & Section 105(h) testing, their dependent care FSA would be subject to Code Section 125 & Section 129 NDT.

 

Turning 26 and Coverage On Parent’s Health Insurance

26th birthday

Background:

Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) plans and issuers that offer dependent child coverage must “continue to make such coverage available for an adult child until the child turns 26 years of age.” This requirement is regardless of the child’s dependent status, residency, student status, employment status or marital status.  This rule applies to all health plans in the individual market and to all employer health insurance plans. (29 CFR 2590.715-2714 – Eligibility of children until at least age 26.)

Termination of coverage:

The ACA requirement for adult coverage applies only until the date that child turns 26. However, some states have laws extending coverage through the end of the month the child turns 26, or until the end of the billing cycle or calendar year or possibly beyond age 26. Check with your carrier, or policy documents to verify when coverage for a child who turns age 26 ends.

COBRA:

In general, employees must notify the employer in writing within 60 days of their dependent turning 26. In turn, employers with 20 or more employees, must provide a notice of COBRA eligibility, enrollment forms, duration of coverage and terms of payment to the individuals who are no longer eligible for coverage as a dependent under their parents plan.  (Employers with 20 or fewer employees, may have similar obligation under State law e.g. Mini-Cobra, instead of under COBRA.)

Note:  

Most states have an exception to the limiting age for disabled children. For instance, for group policies issued in Texas, a child who is not capable of self-sustaining employment because of mental retardation or physical disability and who is chiefly dependent on their parents for support and maintenance must be allowed to remain on his or her parent’s insurance, without regard to age. The employee must provide to the insurer proof of the child’s incapacity and dependency:

(1)  not later than the 31st day after the date the child attains the limiting age;  and (2)  subsequently as the insurer requires, except that the insurer may not require proof more frequently than annually after the second anniversary of the date the child attains the limiting age.

(Sec. 1201.059. TERMINATION OF COVERAGE BASED ON AGE OF CHILD IN INDIVIDUAL, BLANKET, OR GROUP POLICY.)

Why does it matter?
  1. Financial benefit: Dependents represent a large portion of the cost of many employers’ health plans. Older children who have passed age 26 are often inadvertently included on an employee’s health plan because of a lack of understanding on the part of the employee or a lack of communication on the part of the employer, including not having a process to update the status of dependents.
  2. Rejected claims: Often, ineligibility isn’t determined until a dependent makes a very large claim, at which point the provider might deny coverage.

Ensuring dependents do not remain enrolled longer than they are eligible, protects not just the employer, but also the employee and his or her loved ones from future legal and financial risk.

Can carrier plan materials serve as the SPD?

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Background

Under ERISA, all employers who offer group health and welfare benefits to their employees are required to maintain and distribute Summary Plan Descriptions (SPDs) to plan participants.

Definitions:

Plan Document – per ERISA, plans must be “established and maintained pursuant to a written instrument” called the plan document. It’s a document containing legalese, governing the terms of the plan including items such as: eligibility, participant and beneficiary rights, benefits available, how benefits are funded, and the named fiduciary. The plan document must be distributed upon request and failure to furnish the documents within 30 days after the request may expose the employer to penalties of up to $110 per day.

Summary [of the] Plan Document (SPD) – is a summary of the plan document written in language that can be understood by the typical participant. The SPD must be distributed at specific times to participants (e.g. within 90 days of the employee enrolling in the plan.) ERISA also requires specific information to be included in the SPD, such as: plan name, name of the plan sponsor & EIN, plan number, plan year, eligibility information (e.g waiting period), a description of plan benefits and circumstances causing loss or denial of benefits, benefit claim procedures, and a statement of participants’ ERISA rights.

NOTE: A summary of benefits and coverage (SBC) is also required for group health plans but is separate from and in addition to the plan document and the SPD

Employers with fully insured benefits receive plan materials (e.g. certificate of coverage) from the insurer (i.e. carrier) that describes the coverage provided under the plan. The carrier materials generally contain detailed benefits information, information on claims procedures and rights under ERISA but other ERISA required details (e.g. descriptions of eligibility, circumstances causing loss of benefits) are often missing. Therefore, it’s unlikely the the insurer’s materials can serve as the SPD on its own. 

ERISA’s requirements are the responsibility of the employer and plan administrator (typically the employer is the plan administrator), not the insurance company. Group insurance policies are written to cover the state-law and legal requirements of the insurance carrier, not to satisfy the requirements of ERISA, nor to provide legal protection to the employer. If the carrier materials do not satisfy ERISA’s requirements, it is the employer that violates ERISA, not the carrier.

Sometimes carriers will customize their materials and include employer and plan-identifying information, but that information may be incomplete or inaccurate and even with this additional customization the carrier documents often still do not contain the necessary details required to satisfy ERISA’s plan document requirements.

Solution: A Wrap Document

Many employers use a separate document that, when combined with the carrier provided materials, contains all of the “bells and whistles” required to satisfy ERISA’s requirements for an SPD, as well as certain other disclosures required under ERISA and COBRA. This separate document “wraps around” (i.e. incorporates by reference) the certificates and other benefit materials (e.g. summaries, open enrollment guide) for each plan option or component plan, thereby creating a complete SPD.

Another benefit of the “wrap document” is by combining all of the employer’s health and welfare benefits into one document, the employer can file one 5500 (rather than a separate 5500 for each benefit).

Many employers use a single document as both the wrap plan document/SPD and have the plan document and SPD as a consolidated document. If this approach is taken, the document must comply with both ERISA’s written plan document requirements and its SPD format and content rules.

The wrap document and the underlying carrier plan documents should be consistent and drafted to avoid creating conflicts. However, in the event of conflicting terms, generally, as long as the carrier documents comply with applicable federal law, the wrap document defers to the carrier documents only filling in the gaps when the carrier document is lacking.

Why It Matters?

Employers face strict deadlines and liability under ERISA law and failure to comply with ERISA requirements can lead to costly government penalties and even employee lawsuits. According to a U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) audit report for the 2018 fiscal year, 64.7% of investigations resulted in penalties or required other corrective action.

The DOL has recently enhanced its enforcement of ERISA violations by significantly increasing the number of audits it is conducting. Many employers think “It’s not going to happen to me”, however, the DOL conducts more than 3,000 audits each year with an increase on employers with fewer than 500 employees.

Given the recent upswing in health and welfare plan audits and the potentially stiff penalties for noncompliance, as a best practice and additional level of protection, employers should have a wrap plan document created to ensure they have and are providing an ERISA compliant SPD.

DOL Final Overtime Rule – What Employers Need to Know

compliance rules guidance street sign
What?

Final Fair Labor Standards Act’s (FLSA) overtime regulations were released updating the earnings thresholds necessary for executive, administrative and professional employees (EAPs) to be exempt from FLSA’s minimum wage and overtime pay requirements.

What are the overtime regulations? 

The FLSA requires employers to pay minimum wage ($7.25) and overtime (time and a half on more than 40 hours worked in a workweek) to employees unless an employee meets the few, narrowly construed exemptions from this requirement.

Salary level alone does not make an employee exempt, rather to qualify for the executive, administrative or professional employee exemption the employee must also perform specific duties, i.e. pass the duties test.

Current Salary Level: $455 per week ($23,660 per year for a full-year worker)

New Salary Level $684 per week (equivalent to $35,568 per year for a full-year worker).

(The FLSA regulations also contain a special rule for “highly compensated” employees and the new regulations will increase the total annual compensation requirement for these employees from $100,000 per year to $107,432 per year.)

When?

Assuming there is no lawsuit to block these new rules, the final rule is effective January 1, 2020.

How should employers prepare?
  1. Evaluate potentially impacted employees – pull data for exempt workers earning $35,568 per year or less.
  2. Review job descriptions & ensure employees are classified correctly. Be sure to keep in mind, meeting the salary cutoff is just one requirement for classifying workers as exempt.
  3. Consider what positions you might restructure.
  4. Decide when, practically speaking, you will implement changes – the new salary level exemption under the regulations will increase all at once.

If you currently have exempt employees making less than $684/week you will need to decide whether you:

  • Keep employees at their current salary level and closely monitor overtime
  • Convert employees to hourly & reclassify to nonexempt*
  • Increase salaries

*A communication strategy to reclassified employees should be developed to make sure these employees don’t feel they are being demoted but rather the changes are based on a new government rule.

Example:

FLSA: Memo to Exempt Employees Regarding the FLSA Changes

Dear [Employee Name]

Due to both your job duties and the amount of salary you are paid, you are currently exempt from overtime under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). However, in September of 2019, these regulations were amended and the salary requirement to remain exempt significantly increases effective January 1, 2020. 

Therefore, to comply with the new government rules, your status is changing to nonexempt (overtime eligible) effective {date}. This means you will now be paid an hourly rate of [$] and eligible to be paid overtime any week when more than 40 hours is worked.  Your job duties do not change as a result of your nonexempt classification.  Your manager will meet with you to review the time tracking requirements and the process for obtaining approval for overtime hours.

If you have any questions regarding the impact of this FLSA overtime rule, or your change to nonexempt status, please contact [name and contact information]. 

What is Imputed Income?

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In general, if an employer has adopted a cafeteria plan, their employees are not taxed on the cost of employer-provided benefits for the employee and their tax dependents. However, there are three benefits-related exceptions to this rule:

  1. Cost of group term life insurance – in certain situations
  2. Long-term disability (LTD) “gross up” amounts
  3. Benefits for domestic partners and other individuals who do not meet federal tax law definitions of “dependent”

In these situations, the cost of the benefits provided is considered “imputed income” to the employee and therefore the cost or “fair market value” of the benefits are added to the employee’s gross (taxable) income.  This non-cash taxable compensation (i.e. benefit) is treated as income and included in the employee’s form W-2 for tax purposes. Imputed income is subject to Social Security and Medicare tax and employment tax withholding.

Cost of Group Term Life Insurance 

An employer must impute income for:

  1. Life insurance coverage for any employee above $50,000
  2. Employer-paid coverage for spouses or dependents on amounts greater than $2,000
  3. If a plan is discriminatory, the cost of coverage in any amount for “key employees”

Life insurance coverage for any employee above $50,000

In 1964, Congress adopted Code §79 which begins by stating a general rule that the cost of group-term life insurance is included in gross income. It then carves out a limited exception for the cost of up to $50,000 of group-term life insurance coverage per employee.

If any employee (highly compensated or non-highly compensated) receives more than $50,000 of employer-provided life insurance, then employers are required to impute income on the cost of coverage in excess of $50,000.

IRS Publication 15-B “Employer’s Tax Guide to Fringe Benefits”, explains in detail how the calculation is determined, however, here is a high level overview:

 To calculate the value of the excess benefit coverage:

  1. Determine the excess of the life insurance (Value of life insurance – $50,000 allowable).
  2. Divide the excess amount by 1,000.
  3. Multiply the result by the age-appropriate value in Table 2-2 (page 14 of IRS publication 15-B (2019) table below)
  4. Multiply that result by the number of months of coverage.
  5. Subtract after-tax premiums paid by the employee.

Example: an employee is 40 years old and does not pay any of the premiums for life insurance for the whole year*. The value of the life insurance was $75,000.

  1. Determine excess (Value of life insurance – $50,000 allowable) – $75,000 – $50,000 = $25,000 (excess)
  2. Divide the excess amount by 1,000 – $25,000 /$ 1,000 = 25
  3. Multiply the result of #2 by the age value found in Table 2-2 (IRS pub. 15-B page 14 (2019) table below) – 25 x $0.10 = $2.50
  4. Multiply the result of #3 by the number of months of coverage – $2.50 x 12 (months) = $30.00

$30.00 is the amount to be added to the employee’s W-2 as income for the premiums paid by the company on the excess $25,000.

Table 2-2. Cost Per $1,000 of Protection for 1 Month
Age                                          Cost
Under 25 ……………………….  …. $ 0.05
25 through 29 ………………………… 0.06
30 through 34 ……………………….. 0.08
35 through 39 ……………………….. 0.09
40 through 44 ……………………….. 0.10
45 through 49 ……………………….. 0.15
50 through 54 ……………………….. 0.23
55 through 59 ……………………….. 0.43
60 through 64 ……………………….. 0.66
65 through 69 ……………………….. 1.27
70 and older ………………………… 2.06

(*Ideally, imputed income amounts are being taxed over the course of the year, but if they were not, at a minimum, the amount should be included on employees’ W-2 at the end of the year.)

Coverage in excess of $2,000 for spouses or dependents.

If an employer pays for life insurance coverage for an employee’s spouse or dependents in an amount more than $2,000, the entire premium amount is imputed income for the employee.

Note:  There is no imputed income for the employee if the coverage amount paid by the employer for the employee’s spouse or dependents is less than $2,000. In this case, it may be considered a  “de minimis” fringe benefit and excludable from income.  (See IRS Notice 89-110 for more details.)

If a plan is discriminatory, the cost of coverage in any amount for “key employees”

If the group life insurance plan favors either as to eligibility or as to the kind or amount of life insurance benefits to any “key employee” (as defined by paragraph (1) of section 416(i)) then all “key employees” covered under the plan must also include in taxable income the higher cost of the first $50,000 of coverage or Table I cost.

Long-term disability (LTD) “gross up” amounts

If an employer wants their employees to have a tax-free LTD benefit in the event the employee becomes disabled, the employer would need to “gross up” (i.e. increase) the employee’s salary by the amount of the employer-paid premium and report the premiums as taxable wages on the employee’s W-2.

Otherwise, if the disability premium is paid pre-tax, the LTD monthly benefit the employee receives if they become disabled and cannot work, will be taxed just like their income is taxed when they are working. e.g. disabled employee receives 60% of their monthly earnings less taxes.

Most carriers will offer a tax choice plan (will apply a slight load to the LTD rate) when the employer pays for the premium, the employer can either:

  1. Treat the premium payments as employee paid and include in W-2 income (taxable premiums but non-taxable benefits);
  2. Treat the premium payments as employer paid with no W-2 income (non-taxable premiums but benefits are taxable); or,
  3. Give employees the choice between options 1 and 2.

Benefits for Domestic Partners (DP) & Their Children

Most domestic partners do not meet the financial dependency criteria to qualify as an employee’s tax dependent for group health plan purposes. Under federal law, the fair market value of coverage for the cost of the non-tax code dependents (minus any after-tax contributions paid by the employee) would be included (i.e. imputed) in the employee’s gross income for federal (and most state) tax purposes and reported as taxable earnings on their W-2 Form. The imputed income is subject to federal income tax withholding as well as FICA and FUTA.

However, if a domestic partner (and their children) qualifies as the employee’s tax dependent, (something an employee needs to determine, not the employer**) there is no imputed income.

(**Best practice is for an employer to require a signed affidavit from the employee as to whether or not a domestic partner qualifies as a Tax Code dependent.)

This information is an overview and should not be considered tax or legal advice.

October 15th Deadline Drawing Near – Medicare Part D Notices

Oct 15

All employers that offer prescription drug coverage to Medicare Part D eligible individuals–which may include active employees, disabled employees, COBRA participants, retirees, and their covered spouses and dependents who have coverage under Medicare Part A or B—are required to provide a Part D Notice of Creditable Coverage (the “Notice”) to Part D eligible individuals.** The purpose for the Notice is to let participants know whether the prescription coverage being offered is creditable. 

Creditable = prescription drug coverage that on average, pays out at least as much as the standard coverage available through a Medicare prescription drug plan.

**As a practical matter, employers do not know which employees, spouses or dependents are enrolled in Medicare Part A or Part B, nor will they know which individuals are considering enrollment in the employer’s plan. Therefore, employers generally provide the Notice to all employees. 

Why does it matter?

Disclosure of whether their prescription drug coverage is creditable allows individuals to make informed decisions about whether to remain in their current prescription drug plan or enroll in Medicare Part D during the Part D annual enrollment period.

Individuals who do not enroll in Medicare Part D during their initial enrollment period (IEP), and who subsequently go at least 63 consecutive days without creditable coverage (e.g., because they dropped their creditable coverage or have non-creditable coverage) generally will pay higher premiums if they enroll in a Medicare drug plan at a later date.

When must the notice be provided?

At a minimum, the Notice must be provided to individuals at the following times:

  1. Prior to the Medicare Part D annual election period—beginning Oct. 15 through Dec. 7 of each year;
  2. Prior to an individual’s IEP for Part D;
  3. Prior to the effective date of coverage for any Medicare-eligible individual who joins the plan;
  4. Whenever prescription drug coverage ends or changes so that it is no longer creditable or becomes creditable; and
  5. Upon a beneficiary’s request.

If the Notice is provided to all plan participants annually, before Oct. 15 of each year, items (1) and (2) above will be satisfied.

“Prior to,” as used above, means the individual must have been provided with the Notice within the past 12 months.

Note:  One way to ensure this requirement is met is to provide the Notice annually at open enrollment to all participants and in plan enrollment materials provided to new hires.

Although there are no specific penalties associated with this Notice requirement, failing to provide the Notice may be detrimental to employees and cause employee relations issues.

Resources:

Model Notice Letters

Did you receive a Medical Loss Ratio (MLR) Rebate?

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Summary of Medical Loss Ratio (MLR) rebates

The ACA requires health insurers to spend a minimum percentage of their premium dollars, or MLR, on medical care and health care quality improvement. This percentage is:

  • 85 percent for issuers in the large group market; and
  • 80 percent for issuers in the small and individual group markets.

Issuers that do not meet these requirements must pay rebates to the policyholder (employer) by Sept 30 of each year and the rebates are based upon aggregated market data in each state, not upon a particular group health plan’s experience. In other words, even if a particular employer’s plan’s MLR was below the applicable required standard, they will not receive a rebate unless the particular insurance product they purchased in their market size in their state qualifies for an MLR rebate.

NOTE: Carriers are required to mail out MLR (medical loss ratio) rebates by September 30.

Who does this apply to?

  • Fully insured health plans only. This does not apply to self-funded health plans or to polices for “excepted benefits” such as stand-alone dental or vision coverage.

How should employer handle MLR rebates?

>>Determine which plan or policy is covered by the rebate they received. (The issuer should include policy information as part of the rebate.)

>>Decide how much of the rebate must be paid to plan participants, and how much the employer may keep.

  • If the plan documents do not specify otherwise, the portion of the rebate that will be considered “plan assets” is the same percent of the total premium that was paid by participants. Under ERISA, the portion of the rebate considered “plan assets” can only be used for the exclusive benefit of plan participants and beneficiaries and therefore, must be paid to or used for the benefit of plan participants (more on this below).

  e.g. If ER contributes 55% of total premiums, EE contributes 45%, then 45% of  the MLR rebate are plan assets

>>Must or should the rebate be allocated to both prior year and current year participants?

  • If the employer finds that the cost of distributing shares of a rebate to former participants approximates the amount of the proceeds, the employer may decide to allocate the portion of a rebate attributable to employee contributions only to current participants using a “reasonable, fair, and objective” method of allocation.  (Technical Rel. 2011-04)

>>Decide how the rebate be paid or used

  • If distributing cash payments to participants is not cost-effective (for example, the payments would be de minimis amounts, or would have tax consequences for participants) the employer may apply the rebate toward future premium payments (e.g. premium reduction) or benefit enhancements.
  • An employer may also “weight” the rebate so that employees who paid a larger share of the premium will receive a larger share of the rebate.

Distribution examples:

        1. Pay the rebate to current employees by including the amount in their paychecks and withholding taxes.
        2. Reduce employees next month’s premiums (e.g. premium reduction) by the rebate amount or discount to all employees participating in the plan at the time the rebate is distributed.

>>When must the rebate be paid to participants?

  • The “plan asset” portion must be paid within 3 months of the date the employer receives the check from the insurer, or the employer must establish a trust to hold plan assets.

If an employer receives a rebate, and part of the rebate is “plan assets,” the employer is required to return the appropriate amount to participants. There is no minimum amount (de minimis exception) below which employers do not have to comply with the MLR rebate rules.

Therefore, employers should review all relevant facts and circumstances when determining how the rebate will be distributed and ensure they have procedures in place for determining the amount of any MLR rebate issued by an insurer that would be considered “plan assets” and required to be provided to participants.