The Department of Treasury (Treasury) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Feb. 10 issued a final rule implementing the employer mandate provisions included in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The final rule makes some changes to the proposed rule issued in December 2012, including phasing in provisions for businesses with 50 to 99 full-time employees and those that offer coverage to most but not yet all of their full-time workers. Generally, ACA mandates that employers with 50 or more full-time equivalent employees offer a certain level of health coverage or be subject to new taxes.

A fact sheet issued by the Treasury provides an overview of the phase-in included in the final rule:
  • While the employer responsibility provisions will generally apply to larger firms with 100 or more full-time employees starting in 2015, they will not apply until 2016 to employers with at least 50 but fewer than 100 full-time employees if the employer provides an appropriate certification described in the final rules.  
  • Employers that are subject to the employer responsibility provisions in 2015 must offer coverage to at least 70 percent of full-time employees as one of the conditions for avoiding an assessable payment, rather than the 95 percent which will begin in 2016 and beyond.

Treasury’s fact sheet also discusses the following transition rules that are extended to 2015 under the final regulations:
  • Employers first subject to shared responsibility provision: Employers can determine whether they had at least 100 full-time or full-time equivalent employees in the previous year by reference to a period of at least six consecutive months, instead of a full year. 
  • Non-calendar year plans: Employers with plan years that do not start on January 1 will be able to begin compliance with employer responsibility at the start of their plan years in 2015 rather than on January 1, 2015, and the conditions for this relief are expanded to include more plan sponsors. 
  • Dependent coverage: The policy that employers offer coverage to their full-time employees’ dependents will not apply in 2015 to employers that are taking steps to arrange for such coverage to begin in 2016. 
  • On a one-time basis, in 2014 preparing for 2015, plans may use a measurement period of six months even with respect to a stability period—the time during which an employee with variable hours must be offered coverage—of up to 12 months. 

Additionally, the fact sheet includes information about full-time status determinations, affordability safe harbors and various employee categories, such as seasonal employees.  

Further guidance on the employer mandate provisions included in the final rule is available here

On March 15, 2013, ABC submitted comments to Treasury and the IRS in response to the December 2012 proposed rule on the employer mandate. The comments can be read here. (Note: the comments were submitted before Treasury’s July 2, 2013 announcement that the employer mandate tax penalties would be delayed until 2015).  

Treasury further announced this week that the final rules on employer information reporting requirements will be issued in the near future.  ABC Nov. 7, 2013 submitted comments to the IRS on information reporting. 

ABC will continue to review the final rule and provide further information in the near future.
  
ABC members should remember this article is meant for educational purposes only and is not intended, and should not be relied upon, as legal advice. Members should seek advice based on their particular circumstances from an independent legal counsel.