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IRS Issues Guidance on Employer COVID-19 Leave-Based Charitable Donation Payments

In Notice 2020-46, the IRS provided guidance allowing employers to make cash payments to certain charitable organizations in exchange for vacation, sick, or personal leave that its employees elect to forgo without otherwise including such amounts in the employees’ gross income. In order to qualify for this relief, the payments must be made to a qualifying charitable organization no later than December 31, 2020 for the relief of victims of the COVID-19 pandemic as set forth in President Trump’s March 13, 2020 declaration of a nationwide emergency (a copy of which is available here). The employees will not be treated as constructively receiving any of the amounts they elect to forgo under the program, and the employees cannot claim a charitable contribution deduction with respect to the value of the forgone paid leave. Employers should (i) make sure that any election made by their employees is in writing and the recipient… Continue Reading

IRS Expands Definition of Qualified Individual for Loans and Coronavirus-Related Distributions under the CARES Act

Notice 2020-50 provides additional guidance to taxpayers and sponsors of qualified retirement plans regarding coronavirus-related distributions and loan extensions under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the “CARES Act”). Among the guidance included in Notice 2020-50 are the following three items of special importance to plan sponsors: Notice 2020-50 expands the definition of “Qualified Individual” for purposes of eligibility to receive a coronavirus-related distribution or special loan treatment to also include three new categories of individuals: an individual having a reduction in pay (or self-employment income) due to COVID-19 or having a job offer rescinded or start date for a job delayed due to COVID-19; an individual whose spouse or a member of the individual’s household (as defined below) is quarantined, furloughed or laid off, or has work hours reduced due to COVID-19, is unable to work due to lack of childcare due to COVID-19, has a reduction… Continue Reading

Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia – What It May Mean for Group Health Plans

The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia held that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects the employment rights of individuals who are gay, lesbian, or transgender because “sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role” in discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Although this case addressed whether an employer could fire an individual based on sexual orientation or gender identity, there could also be important implications for benefit plans. For example, employees could use the Bostock decision to seek coverage under group health plans for certain procedures that have traditionally been excluded from coverage, such as gender-affirmation surgery, arguing that such exclusions violate the protections under Title VII. If the plan covers implants after a mastectomy but would not cover the same procedure for an individual who is transitioning, the exclusion for transitioning individuals may also be challenged based on… Continue Reading

IRS Releases Proposed Rule on Executive Compensation for Tax-Exempt Organizations; Relief for Certain Employees Who Volunteer

On June 11, 2020, the IRS published a proposed rule under Section 4960 of the Internal Revenue Code (the “Code”), which was added to the Code by Section 13602 of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Under Section 4960 of the Code, during a taxable year, an applicable tax-exempt organization (“ATEO”) that pays to certain of its highest compensated employees remuneration in excess of $1,000,000 or any excess parachute payments would be subject to a 21% excise tax on the excess remuneration and excess parachute payments. Prior to the proposed rule, the IRS issued Notice 2019-09, which provided interim guidance on Section 4960. The proposed rule generally incorporates the guidance in Notice 2019-09. However, in response to comments received on Notice 2019-09, the proposed rule makes certain modifications and clarifications to the initial guidance. Notably, the proposed rule includes an exception so that employees of a related non-ATEO who provide… Continue Reading

PCORI Fee is Back and There’s No Relief From Its Deadline: July 31, 2020

The plan year ending before October 1, 2019 was supposed to be the last year that the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (“PCORI”) fee was required to be paid. However, legislation passed in December 2019 extended the PCORI fee for another ten years. Recognizing that plan sponsors believed the PCORI fee was ending and may not have anticipated the need to identify the number of covered lives to determine the PCORI fee, the IRS issued transition relief for the plan year ending before October 1, 2020. Under this transition relief, in addition to using one of the three methods specified in the regulations, plan sponsors may use any reasonable method for calculating the average number of covered lives. For the plan year ending on or after October 1, 2019 and before October 1, 2020, the PCORI fee is $2.54 times the average number of covered lives. Payment of the PCORI fee… Continue Reading

Payments for Certain Healthcare Arrangements are Tax Deductible

The IRS recently issued proposed regulations that address the treatment of amounts paid by an individual for a “direct primary care arrangement” or a “health care sharing ministry” (collectively, the “Arrangements”) as being tax-deductible “medical care expenses” under Section 213 of the Internal Revenue Code (the “Code”). Under the proposed regulations, a direct primary care arrangement (“DPC Arrangement”) is defined as a contract between the individual and one or more primary care physicians pursuant to which the physician(s) agree to provide medical care for a fixed annual or periodic fee without billing a third party. A health care sharing ministry (“Sharing Ministry”) is defined as a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Code that meets specified requirements, including that its members share a common set of ethical or religious beliefs and share medical expenses in accordance with those beliefs. HSAs and the Arrangements. The preamble to the proposed regulations confirms… Continue Reading

The DOL Says Certain Private Equity Investments May Be Permissible Designated Investment Alternatives Under Individual Accounts Plans

On June 3, 2020, the DOL issued an information letter addressing the possibility of including a private equity type investment as a “designated investment alternative” under a participant directed individual account plan. The DOL concluded that, as a general matter, “a plan fiduciary would not . . . violate [ERISA’s fiduciary duties] solely because the fiduciary offers a professionally managed asset allocation fund with a private equity component as a designated investment alternative for an ERISA covered individual account plan in the manner described in [the] letter.” The DOL observed that private equity investments “involve more complex organizational structures and investment strategies, longer time horizons, and more complex, and typically, higher fees” and they generally have “different regulatory disclosure requirements, oversight, and controls” and “often have no easily observed market value.” In addition to these considerations, the DOL listed several factors that plan fiduciaries should evaluate when considering whether a… Continue Reading

Sixth Circuit Case Excludes Voluntary Retirement Contributions from a Debtor’s Disposable Income

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (the “Sixth Circuit”), whose jurisdiction includes Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee, recently held that, under Chapter 13 of the Bankruptcy Code, a debtor’s pre-petition and certain post-petition voluntary retirement contributions are excludable from the debtor’s disposable income, which is used to satisfy a debtor’s obligations to its unsecured creditors. In Davis, a debtor filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 13 of the Bankruptcy Code and sought to satisfy her unsecured debts by paying all of her “projected disposable income” to her unsecured creditors. The debtor sought to exclude her voluntary 401(k) contributions from her projected disposable income, but the bankruptcy court upheld an amended bankruptcy plan that included such contributions in her disposable income. The debtor appealed to the Sixth Circuit, which held that, because the debtor’s post-petition monthly 401(k) contributions were regularly withheld from the debtor’s wages prior to the bankruptcy,… Continue Reading

The IRS Amends COVID-19 Relief to Add Additional Time-Sensitive Actions

Previously, IRS Notice 2020-23 extended the due dates for certain tax payments, filings, and other “Time-Sensitive Actions” that would ordinarily fall on or after April 1, 2020 through July 14, 2020 to July 15, 2020. See our prior blog post on Notice 2020-23 here. The IRS recently issued Notice 2020-35 to make additional Time-Sensitive Actions eligible for relief. For example, under this new guidance, an employer that receives a compliance statement issued under the voluntary correction program (VCP) component of the Employee Plans Compliance Resolution System (EPCRS) with a 150-day deadline to implement all corrective actions that ends between April 1, 2020 through July 14, 2020 has until July 15, 2020 to implement the corrections. A full list of the Time-Sensitive Actions is included in Section III.B of Notice 2020-35, which is available here.

Employer Friendly Changes to PPP Loan Forgiveness Requirements

On June 5, 2020, the President signed the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act (the “Act”), which made certain changes to the requirements of forgivable loans made under the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”). For a PPP loan to be forgiven, the loan proceeds must be used to cover payroll and other approved operating costs incurred by the employer during a designated time period following the date on which the loan was made (the “Coverage Period”). The Act extended the coverage period from eight to 24 weeks and reduced the percentage of loan proceeds that must be used to cover payroll costs during the Coverage Period to 60% (down from 75%). Accordingly, up to 40% of the loan proceeds could be used by an employer to cover other non-payroll operating costs, such as rent, utilities, and interest on its other debt obligations that are due during the Coverage Period. The Act is… Continue Reading

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