Health FSA Limit Will Increase for 2017

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) imposes a dollar limit on employees’ salary reduction contributions to health flexible spending accounts (FSAs) offered under cafeteria plans. This dollar limit is indexed for cost-of-living adjustments and may be increased each year.

On Oct. 25, 2016, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released Revenue Procedure 2016-55 (Rev. Proc. 16-55). Rev. Proc. 16-55 increased the FSA dollar limit on employee salary reduction contributions to $2,600 for taxable years beginning in 2017. It also includes annual inflation numbers for 2017 for a number of other tax provisions.

ACTION STEPS
Employers should ensure that their health FSA will not allow employees to make pre-tax contributions in excess of $2,600 for 2017, and they should communicate the 2017 limit to their employees as part of the open enrollment process.

An employer may continue to impose its own health FSA limit, as long as it does not exceed the ACA’s maximum limit for the plan year. This means that an employer may continue to use the 2016 maximum limit for its 2017 plan year.

The ACA initially set the health FSA contribution limit at $2,500. For years after 2013, the dollar limit is indexed for cost-of-living adjustments.

  • 2014: For taxable years beginning in 2014, the dollar limit on employee salary reduction contributions to health FSAs remained unchanged at $2,500.
  • 2015: For taxable years beginning in 2015, the dollar limit on employee salary reduction contributions to health FSAs increased by $50, for a total of $2,550.
  • 2016: For taxable years beginning in 2015, the dollar limit on employee salary reduction contributions to health FSAs remained unchanged at $2,550.
  • 2017: For taxable years beginning in 2017, Rev. Proc. 16-55 increased the dollar limit on employee salary reduction contributions to health FSAs to $2,600.

The health FSA limit will potentially be increased further for cost-of-living adjustments in later years.

Employer Limits
An employer may continue to impose its own dollar limit on employees’ salary reduction contributions to health FSAs, as long as the employer’s limit does not exceed the ACA’s maximum limit in effect for the plan year. For example, an employer may decide to continue limiting employee health FSA contributions for the 2017 plan year to $2,500.

Per Employee Limit
The health FSA limit applies on an employee-by-employee basis. Each employee may only elect up to $2,600 in salary reductions in 2017, regardless of whether he or she also has family members who benefit from the funds in that FSA. However, each family member who is eligible to participate in his or her own health FSA will have a separate limit. For example, a husband and wife who have their own health FSAs can both make salary reductions of up to $2,600 per year, subject to any lower employer limits.

If an employee participates in multiple cafeteria plans that are maintained by employers under common control, the employee’s total health FSA salary reduction contributions under all of the cafeteria plans are limited to $2,600. However, if an individual has health FSAs through two or more unrelated employers, he or she can make salary reductions of up to $2,600 under each employer’s health FSA.

Salary Reduction Contributions
The ACA imposes the $2,600 limit on health FSA salary reduction contributions. Non-elective employer contributions to health FSAs (for example, matching contributions or flex credits) generally do not count toward the ACA’s dollar limit. However, if employees are allowed to elect to receive the employer contributions in cash or as a taxable benefit, then the contributions will be treated as salary reductions and will count toward the ACA’s dollar limit.

In addition, the limit does not impact contributions under other employer-provided coverage. For example, employee salary reduction contributions to an FSA for dependent care assistance or adoption care assistance are not affected by the health FSA limit. The limit also does not apply to salary reduction contributions to a cafeteria plan that are used to pay for an employee’s share of health coverage premiums, to contributions to a health savings account (HSA) or to amounts made available by an employer under a health reimbursement arrangement (HRA).

Grace Period/Carry-over Feature
A cafeteria plan may include a grace period of up to two months and 15 days immediately following the end of a plan year. If a plan includes a grace period, an employee may use amounts remaining from the previous plan year, including any amounts remaining in a health FSA, to pay for expenses incurred for certain qualified benefits during the grace period. If a health FSA is subject to a grace period, unused salary reduction contributions that are carried over into the grace period do not count against the $2,600 limit applicable to the following plan year.

Also, if a health FSA does not include a grace period, it may allow participants to carry over up to $500 of unused funds into the next plan year. This is an exception to the “use-it-or-lose-it” rule that generally prohibits any contributions or benefits under a health FSA from being used in a following plan year or period of coverage. A health FSA carryover does not affect the limit on salary reduction contributions. This means the plan may allow the individual to elect up to $2,600 in salary reductions in addition to the $500 that may be carried over.

Plan Amendments
Plan documents that specify the health FSA dollar limit must be amended if the higher limit will be used in 2017.

National Fall Car Care Awareness

Fall is National Car Care Awareness! Hooray? Ok, it’s not the most exciting thing on your calendar. I don’t think there’s a Hallmark card for the occasion. Nonetheless, it could be one of the most important times of the year for your car or truck. A well cared for car or truck is a happy car or truck. And a happy car or truck means a happy driver, or at least a reasonably-satisfied-with-their-ride-to-work driver.

If you’d like to fall into this category, October is a great time to take advantage of all the hype and get your vehicle some well-deserved maintenance or repair work taken care of.

What type of work should you be doing or getting done this time of year?

Early fall is a great time to get your car ready for cold temperatures. The cool mornings are enough to remind you winter is coming but it’s still warm enough to spend some time with a cold wrench in your hand. But even if you don’t live in an area that gets winter weather it’s a great time for maintenance. In colder climates, there are lots of things to think about.

Here are some things that you can get done in celebration of National Car Care Awareness.

  1. Add some winter air to your tires. What exactly is “winter air?” Isn’t air the same no matter what time of year it is? Actually no. Well, yes, but also no. Without getting into the full description here, suffice to say that you need to add a little air at the beginning of the winter season.
    You can read more here.
  2. Check, check and check. There are numerous checks to do on your vehicle regularly. Some people think that with all of the warning lights and computer diagnostics that are constantly running, the days of physically checking levels of things like coolant, brake fluid, power steering fluid and oil are over. While these monitoring systems are able to alert you when there is a serious issue, some of them don’t activate until you are at point blank. For instance, if your low coolant light comes on, many vehicles’ warning systems tell the driver to stop the engine immediately. This avoids costly damage to the engine, sure, but you’re left sitting in a parking lot or (even worse) on the side of the road trying to figure out how to get some coolant into the engine. Checking these levels on your own can help avoid delays as well as breakdowns.
  3. Think about safety. Car Care Awareness may conjure images of oil changes and brake pads, but you probably aren’t thinking of bottled water or winter blankets. Just like Daylight Savings Time is the perfect random point on the calendar to replace the batteries in your smoke detector, National Car Care Awareness is a great time to check and replace your emergency preparedness supplies. If you live in an area that sees winter weather, this is even more important. You never know for sure when you may find yourself temporarily stranded. Be prepared.

National Car Care Awareness was created by AAA back in the 1980s to promote safety and efficiency in vehicles and emphasize the responsibility of car owners in maintaining their vehicles. AAA has launched a number of effective safety and efficiency campaigns over the years in a continuing effort to help drivers live more responsibly and affordably with their cars and trucks.

Group Captives Questions and Answers

Why join a Captive Insurance Company? The insurance marketplace commonly goes through its “hard and soft” cycles where premium fluctuations have little relation to individual loss experience. By pooling your resources and creating your own captive reinsurance company, these swings can be avoided, making your costs more predictable. Also, by pooling your resources, you can […]

Workers Compensation Leave? Consider FMLA!

If you are an FMLA-covered employer, you should always consider whether an employee who requires time off of work due to a work-related injury or illness is eligible for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) (and/or possibly leave under a state law).

Certain workers’ compensation (WC) leaves may also be covered under the FMLA.  An employee’s FMLA leave may run concurrently with a WC absence when the injury is one that meets the criteria for a “serious health condition” under the FMLA (and the employee satisfies all other eligibility criteria).

It’s important to note that, in general, an employer is responsible for designating an employee’s leave as FMLA leave as soon as it has enough information to believe the employee’s leave is covered.

Failing to designate this leave as FMLA leave may be a violation of the FMLA, and the employee may still be entitled to FMLA leave once the WC absence has ended.

Where an employee’s WC leave is also covered by FMLA, the employer should run the FMLA leave concurrently (at the same time) with the WC absence. Doing so will help ensure the employer complies with all of its obligations. For example, when an employee’s WC leave is also covered under the FMLA, the employer must maintain group health coverage for the duration of the employee’s FMLA leave.

The employer is required to maintain the group health plan benefits on the same terms and conditions as prior to the employee going on leave.  This includes the employee continuing to pay his or her required portion of the premium.

Also, offers of light duty may be affected when an employee’s work-related injury or illness is covered by the FMLA.  An employee may decline the employer’s offer of a light-duty job, if it is not the same or is not an equivalent job to the job the employee left.  However, an employee who turns down a light-duty job may lose WC payments, but is entitled to remain on unpaid FMLA leave until the FMLA entitlement is exhausted.

If the employee accepts the light-duty position in lieu of FMLA leave, the employee retains the right to the original or to an equivalent position.

If an employee is unable to return to work or is still in a light-duty job after the FMLA leave entitlement has been exhausted, the employee no longer has the protections of the FMLA.  However, an employer must examine the workers’ compensation statute and the Americans with Disabilities Act to determine if the employee has further protections.

Four Reasons to Love Your Mortgage

1.     It’s probably the cheapest way to borrow  –  The interest incurred is tax-deductible and the rate should be low as the loan is secured by your home.

2.     It creates leverage – A mortgage can be compared to opening a margin account at a brokerage because it can increase your assets with borrowed money.  The difference is your mortgage lender can’t demand it’s money back if your home price drops.

3.     It’s a back-up source of funds for emergencies – If you have some equity built up, consider setting up a home-equity line of credit.  Large medical bills or repairs can be funded by borrowing against the equity you have built up.

4.     It makes inflation your friend – Like other hard assets, real estate tends to hold its value when inflation picks up. With a mortgage, you get double the protection.  The payments on a fixed rate mortgage stay constant even with rising inflation, which means in the future you are paying with less valuable dollars while the value of your home could be increasing.

National Cyber Security Awareness Month

The news headlines are filled with stories about high profile cyber breaches.  Recent examples include Yahoo, the Democratic National Committee (DNC), and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).  These high profile cases can affect very large number of customers (Yahoo) or sensitive information (DNC emails, WADA test results).   Most businesses do not have the public profile of these three victims but the threat to small and mid-sized businesses is very real.  According to Symantec, 43% of cyber attacks target small businesses.

The potential cyber exposure can take on many forms.  Hacking and stealing sensitive information is one common and well documented cause.  Other causes can include theft of a laptop or cell phone, careless disposal of paper records, and theft / vandalism by a disgruntled or former employee.  Medical records are one of the more sought after targets by cyber criminals.  Other types of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) that must be legally protected include drivers’ licenses, credit card numbers, birth dates, court records, banking records and email addresses.  Social Engineering theft where outside party tries to mimic a manager in order to obtained wired funds is another common criminal tactic.

Relying on a third party such as cloud storage firm or credit card processing service does not insulate you from cyber exposure.   Contracts with these providers will favor the bank or servicing firm.  In fact, a merchant responsible for a breach might be contractually liable for damages incurred by the bank or processor.

Limiting your exposure to a cyber breach starts with good internal controls and employee training.  Keeping your software and firewall up to date are also important risk management strategies.  According to the Ponemon Institute, the causes for breaches involve human error (23%), system glitch (27%) and malicious or criminal act (50%).

The Department of Homeland Security has made October the National Cyber Security Awareness Month.  You can find a number of articles regarding various cyber issues on their website at  https://www.dhs.gov/national-cyber-security-awareness-month.  A data breach calculator can be found at http://www.ibmcostofdatabreach.com/.

Cyber Risk insurance is now widely available and affordable.  This type of insurance can be written to defend against litigation resulting from a breach as well as providing coverages for incurred expenses such as notification of impacted individuals, credit monitoring, business interruption, theft and extortion.  Please contact us if you would like to learn more about this insurance or if you would like to obtain pricing for this coverage.

Medicare D Compliance Overview

Employers with group health plans that provide prescription drug coverage must notify Medicare Part D eligible individuals by October 14th of each year about whether the drug coverage is at least as good as the Medicare Part D coverage (in other words, whether their prescription drug coverage is “credible”).

Please click here to learn more.