Employment LawScene Alert: ACA Employer Payment Notices Arriving Soon

Buried in IRS guidance issued on November 2 is news that the IRS will soon be issuing notices to employers of potential ACA taxes. While the ACA employer payments are widely referred to as “penalties,” they are actually “assessable payments” in the form an excise tax.

Specifically, the IRS has announced that applicable large employers (ALEs) will begin receiving notices of potential liability “in late 2017” if the information reported for 2015 on Forms 1094-C and 1095-C indicates that the employer may owe an employer shared responsibility payment. ALEs are employers with 50 or more full-time (including full-time equivalent) employees for a calendar year. Internal Revenue Code Section 4980H, generally, provides for two circumstances under which an employer may owe an employer shared responsibility payment.

First, under Section 4980H(a), an ALE in 2015 may be penalized if it did not offer health coverage to at least 70% of full-time (30 hour-per-week) employees (and their dependents). The Section 4980H(a) penalty, for 2015, was $177.33 per month (or $2,080 per year, if applicable in all months), multiplied by all full-time employees, and reduced by the first 80 full-time employees. This assessed payment would be triggered if at least one employee (of an ALE not offering coverage) enrolled in subsidized coverage through the Exchange.

Second, under Section 4980H(b), an ALE in 2015 may be penalized if although it offered coverage to at least 70 percent of its full-time employees (and their dependents), at least one full-time employee received a premium tax credit to help pay for coverage through the Exchange, which may occur because the ALE did not offer coverage to that particular employee or because the coverage the employer offered that employee was either unaffordable or did not provide minimum value. The Section 4980H(b) penalty, for 2015, was $260 per month (or $3,120 per year, if applicable in all months) per full-time employee who was not offered coverage (or was offered coverage that was either unaffordable, or did not provide minimum value), and who enrolled in subsidized coverage through the Exchange.

Any potential employer shared responsibility payment that might be assessed would relate to coverage offered (or not offered) to the employer’s full-time employees during the 2015 calendar year.

What Information Will the IRS Letter Contain?

The proposed payment notice will be in the form of IRS Letter 226J, which will include:

  • a brief explanation of Code Section 4980H;
  • an employer shared responsibility payment summary table itemizing the proposed payment by month and indicating for each month if the liability is under Code Section 4980H(a), Code Section 4980H(b), or neither;
  • an employer shared responsibility response form, Form 14764, “ESRP Response”; and
  • an employee PTC list, Form 14765, “Employee Premium Tax Credit (PTC) List” which lists, by month, the ALE’s assessable full-time employees (individuals who for at least one month in the year were full-time employees allowed a premium tax credit and for whom the ALE did not qualify for an affordability safe harbor or other relief (see instructions for Forms 1094-C and 1095-C, Line 16), and the indicator codes, if any, the ALE reported on lines 14 and 16 of each assessable full-time employee’s Form 1095-C.

The response to Letter 226J will be due by a specified date, which will generally be 30 days from the date of Letter 226J.

Letter 226J will contain the name and contact information of a specific IRS employee that the ALE should contact if the ALE has questions about the letter.

What Do I Need to Do?

If your business receives a Letter 226J from the IRS, you should carefully review all information and determine whether you believe the proposed payment amount is correct. You may want to consider whether your company was eligible for any transition relief in 2015.

If the Letter is Correct

If you agree with the payment amount determination, you should complete, and return to the IRS the enclosed Form 14764. You should also provide full payment for the amount, either by check, or electronically, using the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System EFTPS system.

If the Letter is Incorrect

If you disagree with the payment amount determination, you will be required to complete and return the “ESRP Response” section of the enclosed Form 14764 to substantiate the basis for your disagreement. Your response may include supporting documentation, such as proof that health insurance was offered, or relevant coverage records. Your response must also specify, on the “Employee PTC List,” which changes are requested in order to correct the Forms 1094-C and 1095-C filed for 2015. The Letter 226J will include instructions on how to complete the required forms.

The IRS will respond to an ALE’s formal disagreement by sending Letter 227, acknowledging the ALE’s response and describing any further actions required. If the ALE disagrees with the IRS conclusions in the Letter 227, the ALE may request, within 30 days, a “pre-conference assessment” with the IRS Office of Appeals.

If, after any additional correspondence or discussions, the IRS ultimately determines that the payment is owed, the ALE will be provide the ALE with Notice CP 220J, which is a notice and demand for payment.

In light of the imminent arrival of the ACA potential payment notices, employers should be prepared to review and respond to Letter 226J quickly. Now is a good time to revisit the coverage offered in 2015, and to ensure easy access to applicable records.

It is important to note that, while scammers might see an opportunity to contact employers to demand payments, the IRS will initially contact ALEs about ACA payments only by letter (and not by email or phone).

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