[firm] blog logo

Fifth Circuit Adopts the ?Ç£Narrow View?Ç¥ of Governing Plan Documents

Upon request by a participant or beneficiary, a plan administrator must furnish copies of summary plan descriptions, contracts, etc., and ?Ç£other instruments under which the plan is established or operated.?Ç¥ Failure to comply with the request may result in a penalty of up to $110 per day. Before this case, the Fifth Circuit had not addressed the scope of the ?Ç£other instruments?Ç¥ catch-all phrase. Some circuits have interpreted this phrase broadly, although the majority of courts read it narrowly to apply to only ?Ç£formal legal documents?Ç¥ that govern a plan. In an unpublished opinion, the Fifth Circuit applied the ?Ç£narrow view?Ç¥ and found that, because the appellants failed to sufficiently plead that the investment guidelines were binding or mandatory with respect to the plans at issue, the investment guidelines were not required to be disclosed. Murphy v. Verizon Commc?ÇÖns, Inc., No. 13-11117 (5th Cir. Oct. 14, 2014) (unpublished).

IRS Announces 2015 Qualified Pension Plan Limits

The IRS recently announced cost-of-living adjustments for 2015. The following list describes some of the key limits that will apply to employer qualified retirement plans in 2015. The annual limit on elective deferrals for employees who participate in 401(k) and 403(b) plans will increase from $17,500 to $18,000. The limit for annual additions to defined contribution plans will increase from $52,000 to $53,000. The catch-up contribution limit for employees aged 50 and over who participate in 401(k) and 403(b) plans will increase from $5,500 to $6,000. The annual benefit limit under a defined benefit plan remains unchanged at $210,000. The dollar limit on compensation for defining a ?Ç£key employee?Ç¥ in a top heavy plan remains unchanged at $170,000. The dollar limit on compensation for defining a ?Ç£highly compensated employee?Ç¥ will increase from $115,000 to $120,000. The annual limit on compensation taken into account when calculating a participant?ÇÖs benefit accruals will… Continue Reading

Application of the HIPAA Privacy Rule to Same-Sex Marriages

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (?Ç£HHS?Ç¥) issued guidance explaining that for purposes of the HIPAA privacy rule, the term ?Ç£spouse?Ç¥ includes individuals who are in a legally valid same-sex marriage sanctioned by a state, territory, or foreign jurisdiction; the term ?Ç£marriage?Ç¥ includes both same-sex and opposite-sex marriages; and the term ?Ç£family member?Ç¥ includes dependents of those marriages. Legally married same-sex spouses, regardless of where they live, are family members for the purposes of applying rules permitting HIPAA covered entities to share an individual?ÇÖs protected health information with a family member of the individual. The HHS guidance can be found here.

IRS Simplifies Procedures for Electing Tax Deferral on Canadian Retirement Plan Accrued Income

The IRS recently issued Revenue Procedure 2014-55, which simplifies the reporting obligation and method to obtain the deferral of U.S. taxation on interests held by U.S. taxpayers in Canadian Registered Retirement Savings Plans (?Ç£RRSPs?Ç¥) and Registered Retirement Income Funds (?Ç£RRIFs?Ç¥). Previously, to defer U.S. taxation on income accruing in their RRSPs and RRIFs to the date of distribution, U.S. taxpayers were required to file Form 8891 with the IRS, which many taxpayers failed to do. The IRS has eliminated Form 8891, as well as the requirement that taxpayers file this form for future and most prior tax years. U.S. taxpayers may generally qualify for favorable tax treatment under the Revenue Procedure so long as they continue to file U.S. tax returns for any year in which they hold an interest in a RRSP or RRIF and include any distributions as income on their U.S. tax returns. A copy of the… Continue Reading

Employer Provided Parking Can Be Taxable Employee Benefit

In Information Letter 2014-17, the IRS reminds employers that the amount that the fair market value of employer-provided parking exceeds the amount (i) paid by the employee for the parking, if any, plus (ii) the amount excludible from income as ?Ç£qualified parking,?Ç¥ is subject to income and employment taxes and withholding. For 2014, the amount excludible for qualified parking is $250 per month. Generally, qualified parking is parking provided by the employer on or near its premises. An employer is considered to provide parking if the employer pays for it (either directly or by reimbursing the employee) or provides it on property owned or leased by the employer. A copy of the Information Letter is available?áhere.

EEOC Files Second Wellness Program Lawsuit Against an Employer

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (?Ç£EEOC?Ç¥) sued an employer claiming it violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (?Ç£ADA?Ç¥) when the employer cancelled coverage and transferred 100% of the premium to the employee for failing to complete biometric screening and a health risk assessment. Employees who completed the screening were charged only 25% of the premium. This lawsuit follows the EEOC?ÇÖs ADA lawsuit earlier this year against a different employer that terminated an employee for failing to participate in the employer?ÇÖs wellness program. The EEOC has taken the position that wellness programs must be voluntary and cannot compel participation by cancelling coverage or imposing onerous penalties. The EEOC?ÇÖs Press Release can be found here.

Final Regulations Issued on Exemption for Limited-Scope Dental/Vision Benefits and EAPs

Final regulations issued by the Departments of Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services modify the excepted benefit exemption for limited-scope vision and dental benefits, as well as employee assistance programs (?Ç£EAPs?Ç¥). Consistent with the proposed regulations issued in December 2013, the final regulations add an exemption for standalone limited-scope dental or vision coverage and coverage for long-term care that otherwise are not ?Ç£an integral part?Ç¥ of the employer?ÇÖs group health plan. Coverage that satisfies the exemption is not subject to some of the requirements imposed by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). Consistent with the proposed regulations, the final regulations eliminate the additional employee contribution requirement for a self-insured limited-scope dental or vision plan to be considered an excepted benefit and provide that EAPs must satisfy four requirements to be considered excepted benefits. The final regulations are available… Continue Reading

CMS FAQ: Insurer is Required to Obtain HPID for Fully Insured Health Plan

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (?Ç£CMS?Ç¥) issued a FAQ and quick reference guide outlining the process for a health plan to obtain a health plan identifier (?Ç£HPID?Ç¥). Among its guidance, CMS explains that for fully-insured plans, the insurer is treated as offering a controlling health plan (?Ç£CHP?Ç¥) and thus must obtain the HPID. The individual employer plans are sub health plans (?Ç£SHPs?Ç¥) to the fully-insured CHPs. The SHPs may obtain HPIDs, but are not required to. The CMS FAQ can be found here. The CMS quick reference guide can be found here.

Texas Supreme Court Holds Former ExxonMobil Executive Forfeited Restricted Stock

In the case of Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Drennen, the Texas Supreme Court held that New York law could be applied to determine the enforceability of a forfeiture provision contained in an executive compensation agreement between a Texas-based corporation and a Texas employee. A vice president of ExxonMobil had received restricted stock under an incentive plan, which included a New York choice of law provision. After he took a position with a competitor, ExxonMobil cancelled all of his outstanding shares of restricted stock, pursuant to a clause in the incentive plan which provided that outstanding shares would be forfeited if the executive engaged in ?Ç£detrimental activity,?Ç¥ such as becoming employed by a competitor. The executive sued to recover the forfeited shares. Following judgment in favor of ExxonMobil at the trial court, the court of appeals reversed, holding that the choice of law provision was unenforceable because applying New York law… Continue Reading

October 15 Deadline to Notify Medicare-Eligible Participants of Creditable Coverage

Employers whose policies include prescription drug coverage must notify Medicare eligible policyholders as to whether their prescription drug coverage is creditable coverage prior to October 15 of each year.?á Model notice documents are available on the CMS website here.

October 2014