As January 1, 2015 draws closer, many employers are gearing up for the “employer mandate” under the Affordable Care Act. For 2015, there is special transition relief for mid-size employers. Small employers (employers with fewer than 50 full-time employees, including full-time equivalent employees) are always exempt from the employer mandate and related employer reporting.
Under Code Sec. 4980H, an applicable large employer must make a shared responsibility payment if either:
- The employer does not offer or offers coverage to less than 95 percent (70 percent in 2015) of its full-time employees and their dependents the opportunity to enroll in minimum essential coverage and one or more full-time employee is certified to the employer as having received a Code Sec. 36B premium assistance tax credit or cost-sharing reduction (“Section 4980H(a) liability”); or
- The employer offers to all or at least 95 percent of its full-time employees and their dependents the opportunity to enroll in minimum essential coverage under an eligible employer-sponsored plan and one or more full-time employees is certified to the employer as having received a Code Sec. 36B premium assistance tax credit or cost-sharing reduction (“Section 4980H(b) liability”).
For purposes of the employer mandate shared responsibility provisions, an employee is a full-time employee for a calendar month if he or she averages at least 30 hours of service per week. Under final regulations issued by the IRS earlier this year, 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.
The IRS has provided two methods for determining whether a worker is a full-time employee: the monthly measurement method and the look-back measurement method. The monthly measurement method allows an employer to determine each employee’s status by counting the employee’s hours of service for each month. The look-back measurement method allows employers to determine the status of an employee as a full-time employee during a future period, based upon the hours of service of the employee in a prior period.
In September 2014, the IRS clarified the look-back method in certain circumstances. The IRS described application of the look-back method where an employee moves from one measurement period to another (for example, an employee moves from an hourly position to which a 12-month measurement period applies to a salaried position to which a 6-month measurement period applies). The IRS also described situations where an employer changes the measurement method applicable to employees within a permissible category (for example, an employer changes the measurement period for all hourly employees for the next calendar year from a 6-month to a 12-month measurement period).
Transition relief for mid-size employers
Mid-size employers are exempt from the Code Sec. 4980H employer mandate for 2015 under special transition relief. Employers qualify as mid-size if they employ on average at least 50 full-time employees, including full-time equivalents, but fewer than 100 full-time employees, including full-time equivalents.
The IRS has placed some restrictions on this transition relief for mid-size employers. During the period beginning on February 9, 2014, and ending on December 31, 2014, the employer that reduces the size of its workforce or the overall hours of service of its employees in order to satisfy the workforce size condition is ineligible for the transition relief. A reduction in workforce size or overall hours of service for bona fide business reasons will not be considered to have been made in order to satisfy the workforce size condition, the IRS explained.
Code Sec. 6056 requires certain employers to report to the IRS information about the health insurance, if any, they offer to employees. The IRS has posted draft forms and instructions about Code Sec. 6056 reporting on its website: Form 1094-C, Transmittal of Employer-Provided Health Insurance Offer and Coverage Information Returns, and Form 1095-C, Employer-Provided Health Insurance Offer and Coverage.
Information reporting encompasses (among other things):
- The employer’s name, address, and employer identification number;
- The calendar year for which information is being reported;
- A certification as to whether the employer offered to its full-time employees and their dependents the opportunity to enroll in minimum essential coverage under an employer-sponsored plan;
- The number, address and Social Security/taxpayer identification number of all full-time employees;
- The number of full-time employees eligible for coverage under the employer’s plan; and
- The employee’s share of the lowest cost monthly premium for self-only coverage providing minimum value offered to that full-time employee.
Code Sec. 6056 reporting for 2015 is mandatory. Although mid-size employers may be exempt from the employer mandate, they are not exempt from Code Sec. 6056 reporting for 2015. The IRS is requiring all Code Sec. 6056 information returns to be filed no later than February 28 (March 31 if filed electronically) of the year immediately following the calendar year to which the return relates.
Please contact our office if you have any questions about preparing for the employer mandate and Code Sec. 6056 reporting.