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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.
The next ACA compliance hurdle employers are set to face is managing subsidy notifications and appeals. Many exchanges recently began mailing out notifications this summer and it’s important for employers to make sure they’re prepared to manage the process. Why? Well, subsidies—also referred to as Advanced Premium Tax Credits, are a trigger for employer penalties. If you fail to offer coverage to an eligible employee and the employee receives a subsidy, you may be liable for a fine.
If an employee receives a subsidy, you’ll receive a notice. This is where things can get complicated. You need to ensure that the notifications go directly to the correct person or department as soon as possible, because you (the employer) only have 90 days from the date on the notification to respond. And rounding up these notices may not be so easy. For example, your employee may not have put the right employer address on their exchange / marketplace application. Most often, employees will list the address of the location where they work, not necessarily the address where the notification should go, like your headquarters or HR department. If the employee is receiving a subsidy but put a wrong address or did not put any address for their employer, you will not even receive a notice about that employee.
Once you receive the notification, you must decide whether or not you want to appeal the subsidy. If you offered minimum essential coverage (MEC) to the employee who received a subsidy and it met both the affordability and minimum value requirements, you should consider appealing.
You may think that appealing a subsidy and potentially getting in the way of your employee receiving a tax credit could create complications. Believe it or not, you may actually be doing your employee a favor. If an employee receives a subsidy when they weren’t supposed to, they’ll likely have to repay some (or all) of the subsidy amount back when they file their taxes. Your appeal can help minimize the chance of this happening since they will learn sooner rather than later that they didn’t qualify for the subsidy. Plus, the appeal can help prevent unnecessary fines impacting your organization by showing that qualifying coverage was in fact offered.
If you have grounds to appeal, you can complete an Employer Appeal Request Form and submit it to the appropriate exchange / marketplace (Note: this particular form is intended to appeal subsidies through the Federal exchange). The form will ask for information about your organization, the employee whose subsidy you’re appealing, and why you’re appealing it. Once sent, the exchange will notify both you and the employee when the appeal was received.
Next, the exchange will review the case and make a decision. In some cases, the exchange may choose to hold a hearing. Once a decision is made, you and your employee will be notified. But it doesn’t necessarily end there. Your employee will have an opportunity to appeal the exchange’s decision with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). If HHS decides to hold a hearing, you may be called to testify. In this situation, HHS will review the case and make a final decision. If HHS decides that the employee isn’t eligible for the subsidy, then the employee may have to repay the subsidy amount for the last few months. On the other hand, if the HHS decides the employee is eligible for the subsidy, it will be important for you to keep your appeal on file since this can potentially result in a fine from the IRS later in the year.
Sound complicated? It certainly can be. Managing subsidies and appeals could quickly add up to a substantial time investment, and if handled improperly you could see additional impacts to your bottom line in the form of fines. Handling subsidy notifications and appeals properly up front can lead to fewer fines down the road, benefiting both you and your employees.
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.
Form 1095-A is a tax form that will be sent to consumers who have been enrolled in health insurance through the Marketplace in the past year. Just like employees receive a W-2 from their employer, consumer who had a plans on the Marketplace will also receive form 1095-A from the Marketplace, which they will need for taxes. Similar to how households receive multiple W-2s if individuals have multiple jobs, some households will get multiple Form 1095-As if they were covered under different plans or changed plans during the year. The 1095-A forms will be mailed direct to consumer’s last known home address provided to the Marketplace and will be postmarked by February 2, 2015.
Form 1095-A provides information to consumers that is needed to complete Form 8962, Premium Tax Credit (PTC). The Marketplace has also reporting this information to the IRS. Consumers will file Form 8962 with their tax returns if they want to claim the premium tax credit or if they received premium assistance through advance credit payments made to their insurance provider.