On March 27, 2020, President Trump signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, intended to stimulate the national economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill would provide $2 trillion in direct financial assistance to Americans, ease access to loans and other economic assistance to businesses of all sizes, and provide aid and support to healthcare providers.
On March 25, 2020, the U.S. Senate voted unanimously (96-0) to pass the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act as an attempt to stabilize the U.S. economy disruptions in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The CARES Act aims to boost the economy with over $2 trillion in tax and non-tax emergency aid provided to individuals and businesses. The U.S. House of Representatives approved the bill on March 27, 2020, which is now pending presidential signature.
In a few short weeks, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has driven massive change in day-to-day activities for most Americans, and that change appears likely to accelerate. Travel restrictions, social distancing recommendations, and other public health interventions have had immediate implications for the nation’s employers, which now find themselves on the front lines of the COVID-19 response effort trying to ensure the safety of employees and customers while still continuing business operations. Employers are particularly aware of the financial challenges that may be imposed upon employees who are not permitted to work for extended periods of time, whether due to contracting COVID-19, self-quarantining due to coronavirus exposure, or office closures.
On March 18, 2020, the U.S. Senate passed the second in a series of bills in response to the COVID-19 outbreak within the United States. President Donald Trump signed the bill (H.R. 6201) into law later that evening.
High-deductible health plans may now cover testing and treatment for 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) on a first-dollar basis without risking making participants ineligible to participate in health savings accounts (HSAs). The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released a notice providing temporary relief for high-deductible health plans covering COVID-19-related health care services and supplies before the minimum deductible is met.
In response to the earthquakes that since January 6, 2020, have shaken Puerto Rico, on February 18, 2020, the Puerto Rico Department of the Treasury (known by its Spanish name as “Hacienda”) issued Circular Letter of Internal Revenue Number 20-09 (CL 20-09) to allow Puerto Rican participants in qualified retirement plans to receive, under favorable tax terms, distributions of the money they may need to help recover from the damages they and/or their close relatives sustained as a result of the earthquakes.
Despite multiple challenges, many portions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) are still in effect and employers are taking steps to remain in compliance with the law. This fact sheet is intended as a quick checkup as businesses prepare for reporting on coverage offered under their employer-sponsored healthcare plans in 2019 and develop their compliance strategies for 2020.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) revisited the treatment of prescription drug manufacturer coupons in a proposed rule, published on February 6, 2020, that could be welcome news for employers that have been struggling to interpret conflicting guidance concerning these coupons.
In late December, Congress passed and President Donald Trump signed into law the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act, the most sweeping retirement legislation since the Pension Protection Act of 2006. The Act, whose enabling legislation was included as part of a large government funding bill, contains many significant changes affecting employers and participants. Several provisions are effective immediately or retroactively, and others go into effect beginning in 2021.
Under a California law that took effect on January 1, 2020, employers will have to provide extra notices to California employees enrolled in flexible spending accounts (FSAs) explaining the “use it or lose it” federal tax rules that apply to those FSAs.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued Notice 2019-63 on December 2, 2019 providing some relief from Affordable Care Act (ACA) reporting requirements.
On December 5, 2019, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued the final redesigned 2020 Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Certificate, to incorporate changes pursuant to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.
Employer-sponsored health plans and health insurers may be required to post online—and to provide participants upon request—a range of pricing and cost-sharing information beginning in 2021.
Employers historically have maintained executive health examination programs to provide a convenient and efficient means for executives to visit several doctors in one visit, including for vision and annual health checkups. Generally, these programs are covered under employers’ self-insured health policies. This article discusses the taxability of employer-provided executive health examination programs and the associated employment tax withholding and reporting requirements.
Employers, it is time to update your qualified retirement plan administration systems for 2020. On November 6, 2019, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced the 2020 cost-of-living adjustments, also known as COLAs, affecting tax-qualified retirement plans.
Late last year, we wrote about Shore v. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Hospital Authority, et al., in which former Atrium Health employees filed a putative class action in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA).
On September 23, 2019, the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) published final regulations that modify the hardship distribution rules for profit sharing, 401(k), 403(b), and eligible governmental 457(b) plans. The final hardship distribution regulations generally expand and streamline the use of hardship distributions for changes made in legislative acts spanning more than a decade: the Pension Protection Act of 2006, the Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax Act of 2008, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, and the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018.
In February 2019, the Arizona Court of Appeals, Division One ruled that the Arizona State Legislature overstepped its authority in 2016, when it prohibited Arizona cities and other municipalities from enacting their own employee benefits ordinances. On August 27, 2019, the Arizona Supreme Court denied review of the Court of Appeals decision.
In Dorman v. Charles Schwab Corp., No. 18-15281 (August 20, 2019), the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently held that a 401(k) plan participant was required to individually arbitrate his claims regarding the plan’s fees and investment options, pursuant to the plan’s arbitration provision.
On July 17, 2019, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Department of the Treasury in Notice 2019-45 announced the expansion of preventive care benefits under qualifying high-deductible health plans (HDHPs). This expansion allows individuals to retain their eligibility to make contributions to health savings accounts (HSA) when covered under HDHPs that provide for first-dollar coverage for certain chronic conditions.
Employer plans will still be able to exclude the value of drug manufacturer coupons from annual out-of-pocket maximums, even when no generic equivalent is available, under new guidance from the Department of Labor, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and Department of Treasury. These exclusions, or copay accumulators, are built into many employer plans.
On March 1, 2019, New Jersey governor Phil Murphy signed Senate Bill No. 1567 (S1567) into law, making New Jersey the first state to require certain employers to provide pretax transportation fringe benefits to employees.
With a recent uptick in mergers and transactions, we thought it would be worthwhile to provide a refresher on some coverage testing issues related to retirement plans. Although a seemingly mundane topic, coverage testing should be kept in mind in corporate transactions where the buyer is acquiring an entity that sponsors a 401(k) plan and the fate of that plan is not resolved prior to the closing of the transaction. Failure to consider coverage testing concerns in the years following an acquisition can lead to qualification failures in retirement plans, which potentially can require millions of dollars to correct.
In a technical advice memorandum (TAM 201903017) released on January 18, 2019, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) provided guidance on whether employer-provided meals and snacks are includable in employee income and subject to employment tax. The memorandum, which cites a number of IRS rulings on this topic, serves as a forewarning to employers of the limitations of providing free meals to employees.
Starting in 2020, employers will be able to offer health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) that work in conjunction with individual coverage or Medicare without running afoul of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) market reform rules.
Beginning September 1, 2019, employers that sponsor cash balance plans and certain merged plans can sleep easier. Revenue Procedure 2019-20, issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on May 1, 2019, opens the IRS’s determination letter program for individually designed “statutory hybrid plans” and certain “merged plans.” Plan sponsors will recall that beginning January 1, 2017, the IRS’s determination letter program for individually designed plans was significantly curtailed by Revenue Procedure 2016-37. Revenue Procedure 2016-37 provided that plan sponsors of individually designed plans could seek a determination letter from the IRS only for initial plan qualification, plan terminations, or other circumstances to be provided by the IRS at a later time.
In late 2018, in Sulyma v. Intel Corporation Investment Policy Committee, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that a plaintiff’s access to documents disclosing an alleged breach of fiduciary duty did not trigger the Employee Retirement Income Security Act’s (ERISA) statute of limitations. According to the court, actual knowledge is required to start the limitations period. The plaintiff testified that he was not aware of the investments at issue or the documents disclosing the investments, therefore, he did not have sufficient knowledge of the alleged breach.
On June 5, 2019, in the matter Kerry W. v. Anthem Blue Cross and Shield, No. 2:19cv67, Judge Dee Benson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah granted Anthem Blue Cross and Shield’s motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ cause of action for violation of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equality Act (MHPAEA). The district court in Utah continues to determine that a denial of a mental health benefit claim based on medical necessity cannot be transformed into a cause of action for violation of the MHPAEA through conclusory allegations.