Small Business Taxes & ManagementTM--Copyright 2014, A/N Group, Inc.
The IRS has released an FAQ on the Employer Shared Responsibility Provisions under the Affordable Care Act. We've culled the FAQ for the most important questions, edited some of the responses, and added some information. Our shortened version should prove adequate for most small business owners. You can see the entire FAQ at IRS.gov.
What are the Employer Shared Responsibility provisions? For 2015 and after, employers employing at least a certain number of employees (generally 50 full-time employees or a combination of full-time and part-time employees that is equivalent to 50 full-time employees) will be subject to the Employer Shared Responsibility provisions under Section 4980H of the Code (added to the Code by the Affordable Care Act). Under the Act, a full-time employee is an individual employed on average at least 30 hours of service per week. An employer that meets the 50 full-time employee threshold is referred to as an applicable large employer.
Under the Employer Shared Responsibility provisions, if these employers do not offer affordable health coverage that provides a minimum level of coverage to their full-time employees (and their dependents), the employer may be subject to an Employer Shared Responsibility payment if at least one of its full-time employees receives a premium tax credit for purchasing individual coverage on one of the new Affordable Insurance Exchanges, also called a Health Insurance Marketplace (Marketplace).
When do the Employer Shared Responsibility provisions go into effect? The Employer Shared Responsibility provisions generally are not effective until Jan. 1, 2015, meaning that no Employer Shared Responsibility payments will be assessed for 2014. See Notice 2013-45. Employers will use information about the number of employees they employ and their hours of service during 2014 to determine whether they employ enough employees to be an applicable large employer for 2015.
Computing number of employees. A full-time employee is one who works at least 30 hours per week. A combination of employees who, in total work 30 hours per week is the equivalent of a full-time employee (FTE). For example, Fred, Sue, and Mike work 10 hours per week. That's a total of 30 hours so they're considered as one full-time employee.
Under the final regulations, for purposes of determining full-time employee status, 130 hours of service in a calendar month is treated as the monthly equivalent of at least 30 hours of service per week.
Seasonal workers are taken into account in determining the number of full-time employees. However, if an employer’s workforce exceeds 50 full-time employees (including full-time equivalents) for 120 days or fewer during a calendar year, and the employees in excess of 50 who were employed during that period of no more than 120 days were seasonal workers, the employer is not considered an applicable large employer. Seasonal workers are workers who perform labor or services on a seasonal basis as defined by the Secretary of Labor, and retail workers employed exclusively during holiday seasons. For this purpose, employers may apply a reasonable, good faith interpretation of the term “seasonal worker.”
Employers will determine each year, based on their current number of employees, whether they will be considered an applicable large employer for the next year. For example, if an employer has at least 50 full-time employees (including full-time equivalents) for 2014, it will be considered an applicable large employer for 2015. Note that because employers will be performing this calculation for the first time to determine their status for 2015, there is a transition rule intended to make this first calculation easier. See question 31 for a discussion of this transition rule for 2015 determination of applicable large employer status.
Employers average their number of employees across the months in the year to see whether they will be an applicable large employer for the next year. This averaging can take account of fluctuations that many employers may experience in their work force across the year. The final regulations provide additional information about how to determine the average number of employees for a year, including information about how to take account of salaried employees who may not clock their hours.
If an employer was not in existence in the prior year, the number of employees for determining whether the employer is a large employer will be based on reasonable expectations.
Related entities. Section 4980H includes a longstanding provision that also applies for other tax and employee benefit purposes, under which companies that have a common owner or are otherwise related generally are combined and treated as a single employer, and so would be combined for purposes of determining whether or not they collectively employ at least 50 full-time employees (including full-time equivalents). If the combined total meets the threshold, then each separate company is subject to the Employer Shared Responsibility provisions.
This could be a problem for some entities. The rules are contained in IRS Reg. Sec. 1.414(ca)-2. For example, Fred owns 80% of the stock of Madison Inc. and 85% of the stock of Chatham Inc. Madison has 40 full-time employees and Chatham has 14 full-time employees. Madison and Chatham are related entities and will be treated as a single employer for purposes the Shared Responsibility Provisions. Since the combined number of full-time employees is 54, the provisions apply to both Madison and Chatham. These rules can be tricky. If you do business or have an interest in more than one entity, ask your tax advisor for advice.
Do the Employer Shared Responsibility provisions apply to employers with full-time employees who are eligible for health coverage through another source, such as Medicare, Medicaid, or a spouse’s employer? Yes. For purposes of determining whether an employer is an applicable large employer, all employees are counted (subject to a limited exception for certain seasonal workers), regardless of whether the employees are eligible for health coverage from another source, such as Medicare, Medicaid, or a spouse’s employer. Thus, an applicable large employer with full-time employees who are eligible for health coverage through another source, such as Medicare, Medicaid, or a spouse’s employer, will be subject to the Employer Shared Responsibility provisions regardless of whether those employees are eligible for coverage from another source. But, employees who are eligible for Medicare or Medicaid are not eligible for a premium tax credit. If no full-time employee receives a premium tax credit (for example, because all of an employer’s full-time employees are eligible for Medicare or Medicaid), the employer will not be subject to an Employer Shared Responsibility payment.
Under what circumstances will an employer owe an Employer Shared Responsibility payment? For 2015 and after, an applicable large employer will be liable for an Employer Shared Responsibility payment only if:
(a) The employer does not offer health coverage or offers coverage to fewer than 95% of its full-time employees and the dependents of those employees, and at least one of the full-time employees receives a premium tax credit to help pay for coverage on a Marketplace;How does an employer know whether the coverage it offers is affordable? If an employee’s share of the premium for employer-provided coverage would cost the employee more than 9.5% of that employee’s annual household income, the coverage is not considered affordable for that employee. Because employers generally will not know their employees’ household incomes, employers can take advantage of one or more of the three affordability safe harbors set forth in the final regulations that are based on information the employer will have available, such as the employee’s Form W-2 wages or the employee’s rate of pay. If an employer meets the requirements of any of these safe harbors, the offer of coverage will be deemed affordable for purposes of the Employer Shared Responsibility provisions regardless of whether it was affordable to the employee for purposes of the premium tax credit.
(b) The employer offers health coverage to all or at least 95% of its full-time employees, but at least one full-time employee receives a premium tax credit to help pay for coverage on a Marketplace, which may occur because the employer did not offer coverage to that employee or because the coverage the employer offered that employee was either unaffordable to the employee or did not provide minimum value.
The three affordability safe harbors are (1) the Form W-2 wages safe harbor, (2) the rate of pay safe harbor, and (3) the federal poverty line safe harbor. These safe harbors are all optional. An employer may use one or more of the safe harbors only if the employer offers its full-time employees and their dependents the opportunity to enroll in minimum essential coverage under an eligible employer-sponsored plan that provides minimum value for the self-only coverage offered to the employee. An employer may choose to use one or more of the safe harbors for all of its employees or for any reasonable category of employees, provided it does so on a uniform and consistent basis for all employees in a category.
If an employer that does not offer coverage or that offers coverage to fewer than 95% of its full-time employees owes an Employer Shared Responsibility payment, how is the amount of the payment calculated? If an applicable large employer does not offer coverage or offers coverage to fewer than 95% of its full-time employees (and their dependents), it owes an Employer Shared Responsibility payment equal to the number of full-time employees the employer employed for the year (minus up to 30) multiplied by $2,000, as long as at least one full-time employee receives the premium tax credit. (Note that for purposes of this calculation, a full-time employee does not include a full-time equivalent). For an employer that offers coverage for some months but not others during the calendar year, the payment is computed separately for each month for which coverage was not offered.
If an employer offers coverage to at least 95% of its full-time employees (and their dependents), but, nevertheless, owes the Employer Shared Responsibility payment, how is the amount of the payment calculated? For an employer that offers coverage to at least 95% of its full-time employees (and their dependents), but has one or more full-time employees who receive a premium tax credit, the payment is computed separately for each month.
How will an employer know that it owes an Employer Shared Responsibility payment? The IRS will adopt procedures that ensure employers receive certification that one or more employees have received a premium tax credit.
How will an employer make an Employer Shared Responsibility payment? If it is determined that an employer is liable for an Employer Shared Responsibility payment after the employer has responded to the initial IRS contact, the IRS will send a notice and demand for payment. That notice will instruct the employer on how to make the payment. Employers will not be required to include the Employer Shared Responsibility payment on any tax return that they file.
Do employers have additional time to expand their 2015 health plans to add dependent coverage? The transition relief in the preamble to the final regulation generally extends the transition relief that had been provided for plan years that begin in 2014 (2014 plan years) to plan years that begin in 2015 (2015 plan years). Under this transition relief, an employer that takes steps during its 2014 plan year toward offering dependent coverage will not be subject to an Employer Shared Responsibility payment solely on account of a failure to offer coverage to dependents for that plan year.
This extended transition relief applies to employers for the 2015 plan year for plans under which (1) dependent coverage is not offered, (2) dependent coverage that does not constitute minimum essential coverage is offered, or (3) dependent coverage is offered for some, but not all, dependents.
Is additional transition relief available for employers with at least 50 but fewer than 100 full-time employees (including full-time equivalents)? Yes. For employers with fewer than 100 full-time employees (including full-time equivalents) in 2014, that meet the conditions described below, no Employer Shared Responsibility payment under section 4980H(a) or (b) will apply for any calendar month during 2015. For employers with non-calendar-year health plans, this applies to any calendar month during the 2015 plan year, including months during the 2015 plan year that fall in 2016. See Question 34 at IRS.gov for eligibility rules for relief.
I am a small employer with 30 employees. How do the Employer Shared Responsibility provisions (Code section 4980H) affect me? They don’t. Employers that employ fewer than 50 full-time employees (including full-time equivalents) in their businesses are not subject to the Employer Shared Responsibility provisions. The vast majority of businesses fall below this threshold.
In addition, the preamble to the final regulations for the Employer Shared Responsibility provisions provides transition relief for 2015. Employers with at least 50 but fewer than 100 full-time employees (including full-time equivalents) in 2014 that meet conditions described in the preamble to the final regulations will not be subject to any Employer Shared Responsibility payments for 2015 (or for the 2015 plan year in the case of an employer with a non-calendar-year health plan).
If I hire additional employees, including some part-time employees, how do I determine if I have become large enough to be subject to the Employer Shared Responsibility provisions? An employer determines if it is subject to these provisions for a current year by counting how many full-time employees and full-time equivalents it employed during the prior calendar year.
First, for each month of the prior year, the employer counts its employees working an average of 30 or more hours per week as full-time employees and, if it has employees working less than that, adds the number of full-time equivalents (determined by simply adding up the hours that are worked by these less-than-full-time employees for the month, but no more than 120 hours per employee, and then dividing by 120).
Second, the resulting totals for each month in the prior year are added together and then divided by 12 to get an average for the prior year. If the result is less than 50, the employer is not subject to these rules for the current year and need not take any other action.
What if I buy or start another business that has another group of employees, but my new business is in an entity that is separate from my existing business? In that case, section 4980H provides for common ownership and control “aggregation” rules that may apply. These are similar to rules that have applied to 401(k) and other retirement plans for years. Under these rules, the employees of businesses that are under common control are added together to determine if an employer employs the equivalent of at least 50 (or 100 under the 2015 transition rule noted above) full-time employees (including full-time equivalents).
For example, if an individual owns 80% or more of two businesses that are separate legal entities, the total number of full-time employees of that employer is based on the full-time employees (including full-time equivalents) in both businesses combined together. If the employees in the combined businesses add up to fewer than 50 full-time employees (including full-time equivalents) in a year, the Employer Shared Responsibility provisions will not apply to those businesses for the following year.
When can an employee receive a premium tax credit? The premium tax credit generally is available to help pay for coverage for employees who
Copyright 2014 by A/N Group, Inc. This publication is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is distributed with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. Articles in this publication are not intended to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of avoiding accuracy-related penalties that may be imposed on a taxpayer. The information is not necessarily a complete summary of all materials on the subject. Copyright is not claimed on material from U.S. Government sources.--ISSN 1089-1536
--Last Update 02/14/14