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The draft instructions for the Forms 1094-C and 1095-C for the 2021 reporting season were released in late September 2021 with subtle, but important changes. To an untrained eye, these changes may fly under the radar. However, for the first time since the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) inception, employers who file incorrect or incomplete Forms 1095-C with the IRS may suffer costly penalties. The remainder of this article will explore the changes made in the draft instructions for the Forms 1094-C and 1095-C in 2021.
The 2020 instructions to the Forms 1094-C and 1095-C included language that asserted no penalty would be imposed under IRC sections 6721 or 6722 for incorrect or incomplete Forms 1095-C so long as the employer showed that it made good-faith efforts to comply with the information reporting requirements. Similar language has been included in Notices released by the IRS that correspond to all the ACA reporting seasons to date. However, Notice 2020-76, the Notice that extended the good-faith efforts relief for the 2020 reporting season and was incorporated into the final instructions for the Forms 1094-C and 1095-C in 2020, stated that the good-faith efforts relief would not continue for tax reporting seasons past 2020.
As a result of the good-faith efforts relief no longer applying, if an employer submits a Form 1095-C to the IRS or furnishes a Form 1095-C to an employee that is incorrect or incomplete, the employer could be penalized $280 per return. It should be noted that this penalty would apply twice to the same Form 1095-C, once for the Form 1095-C that is furnished to the employee and once for the Form 1095-C that is submitted to the IRS for a total of $560.
The chart below details the cost an employer could incur depending on the percentage of its Forms 1095-C that are filed incorrectly or incompletely. While the chart only discusses the penalty under IRC section 6721, if the IRS were to aggressively penalize an employer, the penalty could be doubled by the IRS by utilizing the penalty under IRC section 6722. The column labeled “# of Forms 1095-C” states the number of Forms 1095-C filed by the employer. The columns labeled with a “x%” state the presumed number of Forms 1095-C that are hypothetically filed incorrectly or incompletely. The dollar figure in the chart states the hypothetical penalty.
|# of Forms 1095-C||1%||3%||5%||10%||15%||20%||25%|
As the chart above displays, an employer who submits 1,000 Forms 1095-C to the IRS with 10 percent of the Forms 1095-C being incorrect could be subject to a penalty of $28,000 under IRC section 6721. Additionally, that employer could be subject to a separate $28,000 penalty for furnishing incorrect Forms 1095-C to employees under IRC section 6722. Many employers and service providers in the ACA space have submitted Forms 1095-C to the IRS that have a much higher error rate than 10 percent in previous years. Consequently, it is easy to envision staggering penalties under IRC sections 6721 and 6722 if the IRS stringently enforces these penalties. As a result, employers must be confident that the information reported to the IRS on the Forms 1094-C and 1095-C is complete, meticulous and error free in order to avoid IRS penalties.
Additionally, for the first time in ACA reporting history the IRS appears set on keeping the deadline of January 31, 2022 to furnish the Forms 1095-C to employees. The 2021 draft instructions provide guidance on how an employer can request a 30 day extension. This extension is not automatically granted and therefore should not be relied upon by employers.
Two other small changes were made in the draft instructions to the Forms 1094-C and 1095-C. First, the maximum penalty under IRC sections 6721 and 6722 increased from $3,392,000 in 2020 to $3,426,000 in 2021. Second, two new codes were added for individual coverage health reimbursement arrangements (ICHRAs). Each new code involves employers who offered ICHRAs to the employee and the employee’s spouse.
Code 1T – Individual coverage HRA offered to employee and spouse (no dependents) with affordability determined using employee’s primary residence location ZIP code.
Code 1U – Individual Coverage HRA offered to employee and spouse (not dependents) using employee’s primary employment site ZIP code affordability safe harbor.
Since both new codes deal with ICHRAs and both should never be used, as the new codes do not offer coverage to dependent children, these new codes will have little impact on employers. Any employer who is using an ICHRA as part of their ACA strategy should be utilizing codes 1M, 1N, 1P, or 1Q depending on who in the employee’s family is eligible to utilize the ICHRA.
We anticipate the final instructions will be released any week with minimal, if any, changes compared to the draft instructions. While it is still possible the IRS may release a Notice extending the good-faith efforts relief to 2021 reporting and extend the due date to furnish the Forms 1095-C to full-time employees, employers should not rely on such a Notice this year. As a result, it is essential that employers make sure that every line 14 and 16 code combination submitted to the IRS is error free.
The IRS recently released final forms and instructions for the 2018 employer reporting. The good news is that the process and instructions have not changed significantly from last year. However, the IRS has started to assess penalties on the 2015 forms. For that reason, employers should make sure they complete the forms accurately.
The final 2018 forms and instructions can be found at:
Employers with self-funded plans can use the B forms to report coverage for anyone their plan covers who is not an employee at any point during the year. The due dates for 2018 are as follows:
Be sure to file these forms on time. The IRS will assess late filing penalties if you file them after they are due. The instructions explain how to apply for extensions if you think you may miss the deadlines.
The 1095 C form can be sent to employees electronically with the employee’s consent, but that consent must meet specific requirements. The consent criteria include disclosing the necessary hardware and software requirements, the right to request a paper copy, and how to withdraw consent. They are the same consent requirements that apply to the W-2.
Employers must submit the forms electronically if they file 250 or more 1095 Cs. The instructions explain how to request a waiver of the electronic filing requirement.
On Feb. 15, the IRS announced on its ACA Information Center for Tax Professionals webpage that it would not reject taxpayers’ 2016 income tax returns that are missing health coverage information.
This information is supposed to be included on line 61 of the Form 1040 and line 11 of the Form 1040EZ to demonstrate compliance during the year with the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) mandate that individuals have health insurance that meets ACA standards, or else pay a penalty.
Two crucial points regarding the IRS announcement should be stressed:
The IRS indicated that it will accept tax returns lacking this information in light of President Donald Trump’s executive order directing agencies to minimize the ACA’s regulatory burden. While the requirement to have ACA-compliant coverage or pay a tax penalty has been in place since 2014, starting this year the IRS was to have begun automatically flagging and rejecting tax returns missing that information.
“This action by the IRS doesn’t mean it won’t enforce the individual mandate,” said Lisa Carlson, senior Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) attorney at Lockton Compliance Services in Chicago. “This action simply means the IRS won’t reject a taxpayer’s return outright if the taxpayer doesn’t answer the health coverage question. The IRS reserves the right to follow up with a taxpayer, at a future date, regarding his or her compliance with the individual mandate, if the person’s tax return doesn’t provide information about his or her health insurance coverage during 2016.”
For those individuals who previously filed without providing health insurance information or who indicated that they did not carry coverage as was required, “whether the IRS will assess penalties depends on the retroactive nature of [a possible future] repeal of the individual mandate or its penalties,” Carlson said.
While the IRS announcement does not suggest that the agency won’t be strictly enforcing the individual mandate tax penalty, “we just don’t know” what enforcement actions the agency might take, said Garrett Fenton, an attorney with Miller & Chevalier in Washington, D.C., whose practice focuses on employee benefits, tax and executive compensation.
While it’s unclear how strenuous IRS enforcement actions might be, “the individual mandate and its related tax penalties are certainly still on the books, and it would require an act of Congress to change that,” Fenton noted. If tax filers leave unchecked the box indicating that they have ACA-compliant coverage, “the IRS may come back and ask them follow-up questions, and they still may get audited and potentially owe the tax penalty.”
The ACA is still the law of the land and prudent employers will want to continue to comply with the ACA, including the play-or-pay mandate and reporting requirements, including furnishing Forms 1095-C to employees and making all required filings with the IRS, until formal guidance relieves them of those compliance obligations.
Despite the IRS announcement, employers are still required to file their ACA reporting forms and those forms will be rejected if they do not contain the requisite information. Because the President has indicated that we may not see a repeal until 2018, employers will still be required to operate their health plans in an ACA-compliant manner until notified otherwise.
In the context of the employer mandate, waiver of penalties seems unlikely because these penalties are written into law and are a significant source of revenue for the federal government.
The bottom line: Those who are responsible for issuing and filing 1094s and 1095s on behalf of their organizations should continue to comply with all relevant laws, regulations, reporting requirements and filing specifications during the repeal-and-replace process.
The IRS issued Notice 2016-70 in November 2016, giving employers subject to the ACA’s 2016 information-reporting requirements up to an additional 30 days to deliver these forms to employees. The notice affected upcoming deadlines for ACA information reporting as follows:
The Treasury Department and the IRS determined that a substantial number of employers and other insurance providers needed additional time “to gather and analyze the information [necessary to] prepare the 2016 Forms 1095-C and 1095-B to be furnished to individuals,” Notice 2016-70 stated. This extension applies for tax year 2016 only and does not require the submission of any request or other documentation to the IRS.
Although the date for filing with the IRS was not extended, employers can obtain a 30-day extension by submitting Form 8809 (Application for Extension of Time to File Information Returns) by the due date for the ACA information returns.
Note: For small businesses with fewer than 50 full-time equivalent employees that provide employees with an ACA-compliant group plan, the rules are a bit different. If fully insured, the insurance company that provides coverage is required to send enrollees a copy of Form 1095-B and to submit Forms 1995-B (along with transmittal Form 1094-B) to the IRS in order to report minimum essential coverage.
If a small company is self-insured and provides group coverage, it must also provide employees and the IRS with Form 1095-B. But small business that offer insurance are not required to send Form 1095-Cs to employees or to the IRS.
Small business that do not provide group coverage are not subject to ACA reporting.
While Congress considers options to repeal and replace the ACA, businesses should prepare to comply with the current employer mandate through 2018. Businesses should pay close attention to decisions over the next few weeks, but be prepared to stay patient because significant details on employer obligations are unlikely to take shape for some time.
In IRS Notice 2016-70, the IRS announced a 30-day automatic extension for the furnishing of 2016 IRS Forms 1095-B (Health Coverage) and 1095-C (Employer-Provided Health Insurance Offer and Coverage), from January 31, 2017 to March 2, 2017. This extension was made in response to requests by employers, insurers, and other providers of health insurance coverage that additional time be provided to gather and analyze the information required to complete the Forms. Notwithstanding the extension, the IRS encourages employers and other coverage providers to furnish the Forms as soon as possible.
Notice 2016-70 does not extend the due date for employers, insurers, and other providers of minimum essential coverage to file 2016 Forms 1094-B, 1095-B, 1094-C and 1095-C with the IRS. The filing due date for these forms remains February 28, 2017 (March 31, 2017, if filing electronically), unless the due dates are extended pursuant to other available relief.
The IRS also indicates that, while failure to furnish and file the Forms on a timely basis may subject employers and other coverage providers to penalties, such entities should still attempt to furnish and file even after the applicable due date as the IRS will take such action into consideration when determining penalties.
Additionally, guidance provides that good faith reporting standards will apply for 2016 reporting. This means that reporting entities will not be subject to reporting penalties for incorrect or incomplete information if they can show that they have made good faith efforts to comply with the 2016 Form 1094 and 1095 information-reporting requirements. This relief applies to missing and incorrect taxpayer identification numbers and dates of birth, and other required return information. However, no relief is provided where there has not been a good faith effort to comply with the reporting requirements or where there has been a failure to file an information return or furnish a statement by the applicable due date (as extended).
Finally, an individual taxpayer who files his or her tax return before receiving a 2016 Form 1095-B or 1095-C, as applicable, may rely on other information received from his or her employer or coverage provider for purposes of filing his or her return. Thus, if employers take advantage of the extension in Notice 2016-70 and receive employee requests for 2016 Forms 1095-C before the extended due date, they should refer their employees to the guidance in Notice 2016-70.
You did it! Your 1095 forms are ready and going out to employees. Now what?
You guessed it: Employee confusion. You’re going to get some questions. If you’re the one in charge of providing the answers, remember a great offense is the best defense. You’ll want to answer the most common questions before they’re even asked.
We’ve put together a list of some basic things employees will want to know, along with sample answers. Tailor these Q&As as needed for your organization. and then send them out to employees using every channel you can (mail, e-mail, employee meetings, company website, social media, posters). Tell employees how to get more detailed information if they need it.
1. What is this form I’m receiving?
A 1095 form is a little bit like a W-2 form. Your employer (and/or insurer) sends one copy to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and one copy to you. A W-2 form reports your annual earnings. A 1095 form reports your health care coverage throughout the year.
2. Who is sending it to me, when, and how?
Your employer and/or health insurance company should send one to you either by mail or in person. They may send the form to you electronically if you gave them permission to do so. You should receive it by March 31, 2016. (Starting in 2017, you should receive it each year by January 31, just like your W-2.)
3. Why are you sending it to me?
The 1095 forms will show that you and your family members either did or did not have health coverage with our organization during each month of the past year. Because of the Affordable Care Act, every person must obtain health insurance or pay a penalty to the IRS.
4. What am I supposed to do with this form?
Keep it for your tax records. You don’t actually need this form in order to file your taxes, but when you do file, you’ll have to tell the IRS whether or not you had health insurance for each month of 2015. The Form 1095-B or 1095-C shows if you had health insurance through your employer. Since you don’t actually need this form to file your taxes, you don’t have to wait to receive it if you already know what months you did or didn’t have health insurance in 2015. When you do get the form, keep it with your other 2015 tax information in case you should need it in the future to help prove you had health insurance.
5. What if I get more than one 1095 form?
Someone who had health insurance through more than one employer during the year may receive a 1095-B or 1095-C from each employer. Some employees may receive a Form 1095-A and/or 1095-B reporting specific health coverage details. Just keep these—you do not need to send them in with your 2015 taxes.
6. What if I did not get a Form 1095-B or a 1095-C?
If you believe you should have received one but did not, contact the Benefits Department by phone or e-mail at this number or address.
7. I have more questions—who do I contact?
Please contact _____ at ____. You can also go to our (company) website and find more detailed questions and answers. An IRS website called Questions and Answers about Health Care Information Forms for Individuals (Forms 1095-A, 1095-B, and 1095-C) covers most of what you need to know.
In July 2015, President Obama signed into law the Trade Preferences Extension Act of 2015. Included in the bill was an important provision that affects welfare and retirement benefit plans. The Act sizably increases filing penalties for information return and statement failures under the Internal Revenue Code, effective for filings after December 31,2015. Employers now face significantly larger penalties for failing to correctly file and furnish the ACA forms 1094 and 1095 (shared responsibility reporting requirements) as well as Forms W-2 and 1099-R.
Sections 6721 and 6722 of the IRC impose penalties associated with failures to file- or to file correct- information returns and statements. Section 6721 applies to the returns required to be filed with the IRS, and Section 6722 applies to statements required to be provided generally to employees.These penalty provisions apply to the ACA shared responsibility reporting Forms 1094-B, 1094-C, 1095-B, and 1095-C (Sections 6055 & 6056) failures as well as other information returns and statement failures, like those on Forms W-2 and 1099.
The Sections 6055 & 6056 reporting requirements are effective for medical coverage provided on or after January 1, 2015, with the first information returns to be filed with the IRS by February 29, 2016 (or March 31,2016 if filing electronically) and provided to individuals by February 1, 2016.
Increase in Penalties
The Trade Preferences Extension Act of 2015 (Act) contains several tax provisions in addition to the trade measures that were the focus of the bill. Provided as a revenue offset provision, the law significantly increases the penalty amounts under Sections 6721 and 6722. A failure includes failing to file or furnish information returns or statements by the due date, failing to provide all required information, as well as failing to provide correct information.
The law increases the penalty for:
Other penalty increase also apply, including those associated with timely filing a corrected return. Penalties could also provide a one-two punch under the ACA for employers and other responsible entities. For example, under Sec 6056, applicable large employers (ALE) must file information returns to the IRS (the 1094-B and 1094-C) as well as furnish statements to employees (the 1095-B and 1095-C). So incorrect information shared on those forms could result in a double penalty- one associated with the information return to the IRS and the other associated with individual statements to employees.
Final regulations on the ACA reporting requirements provide short-term relief from these penalties. For reports files in 2016 (for 2015 calendar year info), the IRS will not impose penalties on ALE members that can show they made a “good-faith effort” to comply with the information reporting requirements. Specifically, relief is provided for incorrect or incomplete info reported on the return or statement, including Social Security numbers, but not for failing to file timely.
Last week, the IRS issued its “final” versions of the forms 1094-B,1094-C, 1095-B and 1095-C along with instructions for the “B” forms and instructions for the “C” forms. The good news is that the forms are pretty much the same from the drafts released in mid 2014. What has changed is that the revised instructions have filled in some gaps about reporting, some of which are highlighted below:
1. Employers with 50-99 FTEs who were exempt from compliance in 2015 must still file these forms for the 2015 tax year.
2. For employers that cover non-employees (COBRA beneficiaries or retirees being most common), they can use forms 1094-B and 1095-B instead of filing out 1095-C Part III to report for those individuals.
3. With respect to reporting for employees who work for more than one employer member of a controlled group aggregated “ALE”, the employee may receive a report from each separate employer. However, the employer for whom he or she works the most hours in a given month should report for that month.
4. Under the final instructions, a full-time employee of a self-insured employer that accepts a qualifying offer and enrolls in coverage, the employer must provide that employee a 1095-C. The previous draft indicated that it would be enough to simply provide an employee a statement about the offer rather than an actual form
5. For plans that exclude spouses covered or offered health coverage through their own employers, the definition of “offer of health coverage” now provides that an offer to a spouse subject to a reasonable, objective condition is treated as an offer of coverage for reporting purposes.
6. There are some changes with respect to what days can be used to measure the “count” for reporting purposes. Employers are allowed to use the first day of the first payroll period of each month or the last day of the first payroll period of each month, as long as the last day is in the same month as when the payroll period starts. Also, an employer can report offering coverage for a month only if the employer offers coverage for every day of that month. Mid-month eligibilities would presumably be counted as being covered on the first day of the next month. However, in the case of terminations of employment mid-month, the coverage can be treated as offered for the entire month if, but for the termination, the coverage would have continued for the full month.
Now as a refresher about what needs to be filed:
Bear in mind that there is a considerable amount of time between now and the final filing obligation so there may be additional revisions to these instructions, or at least some further clarification. But in the meantime, read the instructions and familiarize yourself with the reporting obligations as well as beginning the steps to collecting the necessary data to make completing the forms next year easier.