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EMPLOYEE BENEFIT/EXECUTIVE COMPENSATION CHANGES MADE BY THE CARES ACT

On March 27, 2020, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the “CARES Act”). This historic $2 trillion relief package received bipartisan support and is part of the third wave of federal government support as the nation copes with the acute economic fallout from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.  Some of the key provisions of the CARES Act that apply to health and welfare plans, educational assistance programs, retirement plans, executive compensation programs, and employment and payroll taxes are outlined below. Health and Welfare Plans Q1.      What COVID-19 testing and treatment is our company’s employer-sponsored group health plan required to cover? The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) requires an employer-sponsored group health plan (including a grandfathered plan under the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”)) (a “Plan”) to provide coverage for COVID-19 diagnostic testing and services related to the diagnostic testing without any cost sharing (including deductibles, copayments, and… Continue Reading

COVID-19 EMPLOYEE BENEFIT AND EXECUTIVE COMPENSATION QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

In light of the recent economic developments stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, many employers are evaluating their employee benefit plans and how employee and employer costs will be impacted. The following summary provides a list of questions we have been receiving from clients over the past week, along with action items to help employers address these issues. Health and Welfare Plans and Fringe Benefits Should benefits coverage continue while an employee is on an unpaid furlough? If so, how would the employee pay the employee’s portion of the premium? Could the employee elect to drop coverage due to the reduction in hours of active service? Could the employer pay for coverage for some or all of its furloughed employees? Continued eligibility for benefits will depend on whether the employer treats the furlough as a termination of employment or as an unpaid leave of absence. The terms of the plan, including… Continue Reading

Deadlines Extended for 403(b) Plans and Pre-Approved Defined Benefit Plans

The IRS announced it is extending the deadline for plan sponsors to update their pre-approved and individually designed 403(b) plan documents as well as certain upcoming deadlines applicable to pre-approved defined benefit plans. The IRS’s announcement is available here.

IRS Guidance Regarding High Deductible Health Plans and Expenses Related to COVID-19

In Notice 2020-15 (the “Notice”), the IRS provides relief for certain expenses related to the 2019 novel coronavirus (“COVID-19”). Generally, a high deductible health plan (“HDHP”) must satisfy the minimum deductible and maximum out-of-pocket expense requirements under Section 223(c)(2) of the Internal Revenue Code. However, “[t]o facilitate the nation’s response to [COVID-19],” the Notice provides that a health plan that otherwise satisfies the requirements to be an HDHP will not fail to be an HDHP merely because the plan provides health benefits for testing and treatment of COVID-19 before satisfying the applicable minimum deductible requirements. Notice 2020-15 is available here.

March 31st Deadline to Adopt Compliant 403(b) Plan

Tax-exempt organizations that sponsor individually-designed 403(b) plans that have not received favorable determination letters and which may contain one or more form defects, and plan sponsors that have not timely adopted amendments to reflect changes in the law or regulations, generally have until March 31, 2020 to cure any defects by either (i) amending and restating their plan on an up-to-date pre-approved plan document or (ii) correcting any form defects retroactively to January 1, 2010 (or the plan’s original effective date, if later). After the March 31, 2020 deadline, generally, the only way to cure form defects in a 403(b) plan that arose prior to March 31, 2020 will be through the IRS’s voluntary correction program.

Court Finds Plausible Claim for Violation of Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act

In Peter E. and Eric E. v. United Healthcare Services, Inc., the plaintiffs, a father and son, brought a claim against the defendants for violation of the federal Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (the “MHPAEA”), alleging that the group health plan’s denial of continued coverage for the dependent son’s mental health and substance abuse treatment violated the MHPAEA. This alleged violation, the plaintiffs argued, resulted in an impermissible disparity under the MHPAEA because equivalent mental health/substance abuse benefits were denied, but analogous levels of medical/surgical benefits would have been covered under the plan. Holding that the plaintiffs had alleged sufficient facts to show they had a plausible claim for a violation of the MHPAEA, the court denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss and allowed the case to proceed to trial. Although this court’s opinion is controlling only in the jurisdiction in which it was issued (Utah), the case… Continue Reading

New Jersey Employers with Twenty or More Employees Must Offer a Pre-Tax Transportation Fringe Benefit

New Jersey enacted Senate Bill No. 1567 (the “Senate Bill”), which requires every employer in New Jersey that employs at least 20 persons, excluding employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement, to offer a pre-tax transportation fringe benefit to all of its employees in New Jersey, effective as of March 1, 2020. A pre-tax transportation fringe benefit allows an employee to set aside wages on a pre-tax basis to purchase eligible transportation services, such as transit passes and commuter highway vehicle travel, as consistent with Section 132(f)(1) of the Internal Revenue Code. An employer that is found to be in violation of this requirement is liable for a civil penalty ranging from $100 to $250 for the first violation. An employer has 90 days to correct the violation before such penalty is imposed. After 90 days, a $250 penalty will be imposed for each additional 30-day period during which an… Continue Reading

Agencies Update Group Health Plan Required Disclosure Documents

Federal agencies recently issued updated versions of certain documents that are required to be disclosed to individuals under applicable employer-sponsored group health plans. A set of FAQs regarding the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) was issued by the federal Departments of Labor (“DOL”), Health and Human Services (“HHS”), and Treasury (collectively, the “Departments”), which describe recent changes made by the Departments to the “summary of benefits and coverage” template under the ACA (“SBC”). Among other minor changes to the SBC, certain verbiage on the SBC and the associated uniform glossary were revised to reflect the prior elimination, as of January 1, 2019, of the tax penalty related to an individual’s failure to comply with the so-called “individual mandate” under the ACA. The FAQs also provide additional guidance regarding the updated SBC coverage examples calculator that was released by HHS late last year. The revised SBC and SBC coverage examples calculator each… Continue Reading

IRS Emphasizes Requirement to Retain Executed Copies of Plan Documents

The IRS recently released Chief Counsel Memorandum 2019-002 (the “CCM”), in which it emphasized an employer’s obligation to timely sign and retain a copy of its qualified plan document pursuant to Section 6001 of the Internal Revenue Code or risk plan disqualification. The IRS issued the CCM in response to the Tax Court’s holding in Van Lanes Recreation Center v. Commissioner, TC Memo 2018-92. In Van Lanes, the Tax Court held that the IRS had abused its discretion by disqualifying a plan when the employer failed to produce a signed copy of the restated plan document. The Tax Court determined that there was both credible evidence that the restated plan had been adopted and credible explanations for the absence of the signed documents including flooding of the employer’s premises and seizure of its accountant’s computers. Plan documents must be signed by the plan sponsor or someone authorized to act on… Continue Reading

Supreme Court Vacates and Remands IBM Stock Drop Case

In a per curiam opinion, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the decision of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in favor of a group of IBM retirement plan participants who alleged that IBM, in its capacity as plan sponsor of the IBM Company Stock Fund (which is an ESOP governed by ERISA), breached its duty to prudently manage the ESOP’s assets. The participants alleged that IBM had a duty to disclose enormous losses being incurred by its microelectronics business and that the company’s failure to disclose such losses resulted in an artificially high stock price, which dropped significantly once those losses were eventually disclosed (see our prior blog post on the Second Circuit’s opinion here). In its opinion, the Supreme Court remanded the case back to the Second Circuit so that court could consider new arguments briefed by IBM in its appeal to the Supreme Court… Continue Reading

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