Small Business Taxes & ManagementTM--Copyright 2009, A/N Group, Inc.
COBRA provides certain former employees, retirees, spouses, former spouses and dependent children the right to temporary continuation of health coverage at group rates. COBRA generally covers health plans maintained by private-sector employers with 20 or more full and part-time employees. It also covers employee organizations or federal, state or local governments. It does not apply to churches and certain religious organizations. The new COBRA subsidy provisions also apply to insurers required to offer continuation coverage under state law similar to the federal COBRA.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 includes changes to the health benefit provisions of the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985, commonly referred to as COBRA. The new law will affect former employees and their families, employers and others involved in providing COBRA coverage.
Under the new law, eligible former employees, enrolled in their employer’s health plan at the time they lost their jobs, are required to pay only 35 percent of the cost of COBRA coverage. Employers must treat the 35 percent payment by eligible former employees as full payment, but the employers are entitled to a credit for the other 65 percent of the COBRA cost on their payroll tax return. To qualify, a worker must have been involuntarily separated between Sept. 1, 2008, and Dec. 31, 2009. This subsidy phases out for individuals whose modified adjusted gross income exceeds $125,000, or $250,000 for those filing joint returns. Taxpayers with modified adjusted gross income exceeding $145,000, or $290,000 for those filing joint returns, do not qualify for the subsidy.
Employers must maintain supporting documentation for the credit claimed. This includes:
The credit is claimed on line 12a of Form 941 for the quarter the payments are made. Be sure to indicate the number of individuals provided COBRA premium assistance on line 12b. You may reduce your deposits during the quarter by the amount of COBRA premium assistance payments reported.
For more information, questions and answers on the COBRA subsidy, and links to additional information at the IRS Web site, go to www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=204708,00.html.
110-Percent Penalty for Nonqualified Subsidy Recipients
Individuals who have qualified and received the 65 percent subsidy for COBRA health insurance, due to involuntary termination from a prior job, should notify their former employer if they become eligible for other group health coverage. They should notify their plan in writing that they are no longer eligible for the COBRA subsidy. The notice that the United States Department of Labor sent to the individual advising them of their right to subsidized COBRA continuation payments includes the form individuals should use to notify the plan that they are eligible for other group health plan coverage or Medicare.
If an individual continues to receive the subsidy after they are eligible for other group health coverage, such as coverage from a new job or Medicare eligibility, the individual may be subject to the new IRC Sec. 6720C penalty of 110 percent of the subsidy provided after they became eligible for the new coverage.
Taxpayers who fail to notify their plan that they are no longer eligible for the COBRA subsidy may wish to self-report that they are subject to the penalty by calling the IRS toll-free at 800-829-1040. In addition, taxpayers will need to notify their plan that they are no longer eligible for the COBRA premium subsidy.
Anyone who suspects that someone may be receiving the subsidy after they become eligible for group coverage or Medicare may report this to the IRS by completing Form 3949-A, Information Referral (PDF).
Copyright 2009 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. 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 09/09/09