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COVID-19 Relief – Added Flexibility to Code Section 125 Cafeteria Plans

Prospective Mid-Year Election Changes IRS Notice 2020-29 allows employers to amend cafeteria plans to permit employees to make the following prospective mid-year election changes (including an initial election) for employer-sponsored health coverage, health flexible spending accounts (“FSAs”), and dependent care FSAs during calendar year 2020, regardless of whether the basis for the election change satisfies the “change in status” rules under Treas. Reg. § 1.125-4: Make a new election for employer-sponsored health coverage, if the employee initially declined to elect employer-sponsored health coverage; Revoke an existing election for employer-sponsored health coverage and make a new election to enroll in different health coverage sponsored by the same employer (including changing enrollment from self-only to family coverage); Revoke an existing election for employer-sponsored health coverage, provided the employee attests in writing that the employee is enrolled, or immediately will enroll, in other health coverage not sponsored by the employer; and Revoke an… Continue Reading

Extension of Certain Timeframes for Employee Benefit Plans

On April 29, 2020, the U.S. Departments of Labor and the Treasury (together, the “Departments”) issued a notice (the “Notice”) requiring that all group health plans, disability and other types of employee welfare benefit plans, and employee pension benefit plans, subject to ERISA and the Internal Revenue Code, must disregard the period from March 1, 2020 until 60 days after the announced end of the COVID-19 National Emergency or such other date as announced by the Departments in a future notice (the “Outbreak Period”) for the following periods and dates: The 30-day period (or 60-day period, if applicable) to request HIPAA special enrollment; The 60-day election period for COBRA continuation coverage; The date for making COBRA premium payments; The date for individuals to notify the plan of a COBRA qualifying event or determination of disability; The date within which individuals may file a benefit claim under the plan’s claims procedures;… Continue Reading

The DOL and the IRS Jointly Provide Relief from Certain Timeframes Applicable to Health and Welfare and Pension Plans

On April 28, 2020, the IRS and DOL issued a Final Rule extending certain timeframes under ERISA and the Internal Revenue Code for group health, disability and other welfare plans, pension plans, and the participants and beneficiaries under those plans. The timeframe extensions include, among other things, the time to elect COBRA and pay premiums, special enrollment timeframes under HIPPA and CHIPs, claims procedure timeframes, and certain external review process timeframes.  Applicable plans must disregard the period from March 1, 2020 until 60 days after the announced end of the COVID-19 National Emergency for all plan participants, beneficiaries, qualified beneficiaries, or claimants wherever located in determining the enumerated time periods and dates and for providing COBRA election notices.  In addition, Disaster Relief Notice 2020-01 was issued addressing the timeframe relief and addressing certain other COVID-19 relief. The Final Rule is available here: https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/ebsa/temporary-postings/covid-19-final-rule.pdf. Disaster Relief Notice 2020-01 is available here: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ebsa/employers-and-advisers/plan-administration-and-compliance/disaster-relief/ebsa-disaster-relief-notice-2020-01.

Spousal Consent Under a Retirement Plan During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Generally, a spouse must consent to a retirement plan participant’s waiver of a qualified joint and survivor annuity or the designation of an optional form of benefit or an alternate beneficiary. The applicable regulations require this consent, even if signed electronically, to be witnessed in the physical presence of a plan representative or a notary public. Neither the IRS nor the DOL has issued guidance permitting the physical presence requirement to be satisfied by electronic means (for example, via webcam) even though numerous states now permit electronic notarizations. Employers should use care and consult with legal counsel when determining how to handle participants who are unable to satisfy the plan’s current physical presence notarization requirements.

CARES Act: Additional Guidance on the Interplay Between Social Security Tax Deferrals and Forgiveness of PPP Loans

In a new set of FAQs, the IRS clarifies that an employer who receives a loan under the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) may also defer payment of the employer portion of Social Security taxes due on eligible wages until the employer receives notice from its PPP lender that the loan has been forgiven. Under the CARES Act, employers of all sizes may defer payment of their portion of Social Security taxes due on wages earned between March 27, 2020 and December 31, 2020, until December 31, 2021 (50% of the deferred taxes are due) and December 31, 2022 (the remaining deferred taxes are due), subject to certain restrictions. One of those restrictions is that an employer may not defer its Social Security taxes if it has taken out a PPP loan and all or any portion of the loan is forgiven. The new FAQs clarify that, once an employer receives… Continue Reading

Evaluating Performance Goals and Incentive Compensation in Light of COVID-19

Boards and compensation committees will be reevaluating their incentive compensation arrangements in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting market uncertainty. Both long-term and short-term incentive plans can lose motivational and retention value if the performance goals are unachievable or if they do not align with market reality. Companies that have not yet established performance goals for their 2020 equity and bonus awards should carefully consider market conditions and shareholder perception before establishing goals, focusing on motivating their executives with pay for performance that aligns with shareholders’ interests, while giving the company flexibility to navigate through uncharted territory. To the extent possible, companies should also consider delaying the issuance of incentive compensation awards until there is more stability in the business and in the financial markets. Companies that have already established goals for their 2020 awards (or that are evaluating the continued effectiveness of performance goals for prior year… Continue Reading

Retirement Plan Issues and COVID-19: Additional Relief Issued By IRS

The IRS issued Notice 2020-23 (the “Notice”), postponing various employee benefit related deadlines under the Internal Revenue Code. Under the Notice, the due dates of many tax payments and filings that would ordinarily fall on or after April 1, 2020 through July 14, 2020 were automatically extended to July 15, 2020. For example, Forms 990 that would have been due for calendar year filers on May 15, 2020 and Form 990-T that would have been due for calendar year filers on April 15, 2020 are now not due until July 15, 2020. Note that this relief will not apply to Forms 5500 for plans with calendar year plan years since those Forms 5500 are due July 30, 2020, which is currently outside of the relief period. The Notice also provides relief to any plan performing one of 44 time-sensitive actions that are listed under Revenue Procedure 2018-58. To the extent… Continue Reading

CARES Act Relief Checklist: Considerations in Deciding What Relief is Right for Your Business

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the “CARES Act”) offers relief to businesses affected by COVID-19 through various programs, including forgivable loans and federal income tax credits. However, the CARES Act prevents businesses from claiming certain benefits that are considered duplicative.  The following checklist outlines key considerations for businesses when selecting among the Paycheck Protection Program (the “PPP”), the Employee Retention Tax Credit, the Employer Social Security Tax Deferral, and Work Opportunity Tax Credit. Certain industries, such as aviation, have specialized relief, which is beyond the scope of this checklist. In deciding what relief is appropriate, businesses should consider, as discussed in detail below, employer size, what may be best for the business’s employees, and the business’s long-term prospects. While this checklist is designed as a tool to assist businesses in choosing the proper relief, the best way to determine which option is optimal for a particular business… Continue Reading

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

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