The Internal Revenue Service has for some time made available a comprehensive set of Questions & Answers covering the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) employer shared responsibility rules. (These are the rules that are codified in Section 4980H of the Internal Revenue Code, the compliance with which is reported on IRS Forms 1094-C and 1095-C, etc.) Entitled, “Questions and Answers on Employer Shared Responsibility Provisions Under the Affordable Care Act,” this web-based resource provided generally useful information about how the rules worked. Until recently, however, the IRS’ Questions and Answers merely said that the IRS “expects to publish guidance of general applicability describing the employer shared responsibility payment procedures in the Internal Revenue Bulletin before sending any letters to ALEs [Applicable Large Employers] regarding the 2015 calendar year” (Q&A 57). On November 2, that changed. This post explains what happened, and what it means for employers.
The Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) employer shared responsibility rules provide applicable large employers (i.e., those with 50 or more full-time and full-time equivalent employees on business days during the preceding calendar year) with a choice: make an offer of group health plan coverage to substantially all of the employer’s full-time employees or pay a non-deductible excise tax if at least one full-time employee qualifies for a premium tax credit from a public insurance exchange or marketplace. (The particulars of the tax are explained in a set of Questions and Answers issued by the Internal Revenue Service.) Because the amount of the tax for failing to offer any coverage is substantial, most employers view the employer shared responsibility rules as imposing a mandate rather than offering a meaningful choice. Consequently, what constitutes an offer of coverage, and how the offer is reported, is of interest to employers.