The CARES Act: What Employers Need to Know About the Historic Stimulus Package

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.

Payroll Relief Under the CARES Act Softens the Financial Impact of COVID-19 for Employers

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.

Lending a Helping Hand: Employer Options for Providing Financial Support to Employees Affected by the Coronavirus

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.

IRS to Waive HSA Rule for Coronavirus Coverage

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.

Puerto Rico Issues Guidance for Disaster Relief Distributions From Tax-Qualified Retirement Plans Due to 2020 Earthquakes

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.

ACA Checkup: What Do Employers Need to Know in 2020?

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.

Congress Looks to Secure Your Retirement Under the SECURE Act

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.

Determining the Taxability of Employer-Provided Executive Health Examination Programs

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.

ERISA-Exempt Governmental Plan Withstands Putative Class Action Challenge

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).

Final IRS Regulations for Hardship Distributions Incorporate a Decade of Legislative Changes

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.

Arizona Municipalities Retain Authority to Enact Benefits Ordinances After State High Court Denies Review

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.

The Beginning of the End for 401(k) Class Actions? Ninth Circuit Enforces Individual Arbitration

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.

Solving a Chronic Problem: IRS Expands Preventive Care to Include Certain Chronic Conditions

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.

2020 Drug Coupon Rule Dropped Due to Implementation Concerns

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.

Traps for the Unwary: Code Section 410(b) Coverage Testing Concerns in Transactions

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.

Substance, Not Form, Determines Whether Employee Meals Have Noncompensatory Business Reason, IRS Warns

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.

A Welcome Expansion: IRS Resuscitates Determination Letter Program

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.

Supreme Court to Review ERISA Statute of Limitations Case

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.

The Battle Lines of Mental Health Parity Litigation: Utah District Court Grants Motion to Dismiss, Finds Conclusory Allegations Insufficient

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.