HSA

House Passes Senate’s Coronavirus Response Bill Unchanged, President Trump Signs Into Law

The House of Representatives today passed—by an expedited procedure—the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was passed by the Senate late on Wednesday, March 25. This afternoon, President Trump signed the legislation into law.

The CARES Act has many elements intended to aid businesses and workers, and to assist the U.S. healthcare system in dealing with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. As noted in a prior announcement, it also contains the following key provisions that would affect retirement savings arrangements, health savings accounts (HSAs), Archer medical savings accounts (MSAs), health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs), and health flexible spending arrangements (FSAs).

 

Retirement Savings Provisions

  • (As originally drafted, this legislation extended the income tax return filing deadline from April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020. Prior to its enactment, however, the Treasury Department issued guidance extending the deadline and clarified other acts that are extended—including the ability to make IRA, HSA, and certain employer plan contributions—to July 15 for tax year 2019.)
  • Up to $100,000 in coronavirus-related distributions (CRDs) can be withdrawn by an individual from eligible retirement plans. These distributions will be exempt from the 10 percent early distribution penalty tax.
    • A CRD is defined as any distribution made on or after January 1, 2020, and before December 31, 2020, to a qualified individual, defined as
      • an individual (or the spouse or a dependent of that individual) who is diagnosed with COVID-19 or SARS-CoV-2 in an approved test; or
      • an individual who suffers related adverse financial consequences, or suffers from other factors as determined by the Secretary of the Treasury.

Plan administrators can rely on plan participants’ certification that they meet these requirements.

    • An eligible retirement plan is defined as a qualified retirement plan (e.g., a 401(k) plan), 403(a) plan, 403(b) plan, governmental 457(b) plan, or an IRA.
    • CRDs will be treated as meeting retirement plan distribution requirements, so long as all distributions from one employer—including members of a controlled group—do not exceed $100,000 to an individual.
    • There will be a three-year repayment period beginning the day after distribution, during which one or more repayments may be made, not to exceed, in aggregate, the amount distributed. Taxpayers can recontribute these amounts to an eligible retirement plan or IRA.
    • CRDs that are recontributed within the three-year period will be treated as having satisfied the general 60-day rollover requirement.
    • CRDs will be taxed ratably over a three-year period, unless an individual elects otherwise.
    • CRDs are not considered statutory “eligible rollover distributions” for purposes of 20 percent mandatory withholding, the notice provided to recipients of distributions eligible for rollover (i.e., “402(f) notice”) and direct rollover requirements (but do remain eligible for rollover).
  • The retirement plan loan maximum for a qualified individual (defined as meeting the COVID-19 or SARs-CoV-2 conditions described above) will increase to the lesser of $100,000, or 100 percent of a participant’s vested balance.
    • Retirement plan loan repayment dates that occur between the date of enactment and December 31, 2020, can be delayed for one year. Due dates of subsequent payments (payments after those that may be delayed one year) and the five-year amortization period will be adjusted accordingly.
  • Plan sponsors will generally be required to amend their retirement plans for these provisions by the last day of the 2022 plan year (government plans will have an additional two years), or such other date as the Secretary of the Treasury may prescribe, with operational compliance during the interim period.
  • Individuals, including beneficiaries, will not be required to take their 2020 required minimum distributions (RMDs) from their defined contribution plans or IRAs. This RMD waiver would also apply to individuals who turned 70½ in 2019 but did not take their RMD before January 1, 2020).
  • The 2020 year will not be counted for purposes of a five-year payout period for a beneficiary. (This provision will not alter a required beginning date for years after 2020.)
  • Single employer defined benefit pension plan minimum required contributions due during 2020 can be delayed to January 1, 2021 (adjusted for interim earnings). This provision will also provide an option to use an alternative funding target percentage.
  • This legislation adds “public health emergency” to those events that allow the Department of Labor to postpone certain deadlines governed by ERISA Section 518.

Health Savings Arrangement-Related Provisions 

  • For plan years before 2022, health insurance plans can pay for telehealth and remote care services without first satisfying HSA-qualifying deductible conditions.
  • A medicine or drug need not be obtained by prescription to be a qualified medical expense for HSA, HRA, MSA, and health FSA purposes. This includes over-the-counter menstrual care products.

Further developments, including any clarifying guidance issued by the IRS or other governing agencies, will be shared on ascensus.com.

 


Senate Approves Massive Coronavirus Response Bill, with Significant Retirement Savings and Health Elements

On Wednesday night, March 25, shortly before midnight, Eastern Time, the U.S. Senate cleared lingering objections of both Democrat and Republican members and unanimously passed H.R. 748, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES Act. The legislation has many elements intended to aid businesses and workers, and assist the U.S. health care system in working through the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. It also contains multiple provisions that would affect retirement savings arrangements, health savings accounts (HSAs), Archer medical savings accounts (MSAs), health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs), and flexible spending arrangements (FSAs).

The next move is up to the U.S. House of Representatives, where a strategy known as “unanimous consent” could speed up passage of the legislation there, resulting in quicker delivery to President Trump for his signature. If there are objections to that strategy by House members, that body—currently in recess—may have to be recalled to the Capitol for a vote. Following are key provisions that would impact tax-favored retirement and health savings arrangements.

Retirement Savings Provisions

  • This legislation would extend the income tax return filing deadline from April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020. (The Treasury Department has already extended the deadline as described above and clarified other acts that are extended as a result—including the ability to make IRA, HSA, and certain employer plan contributions by July 15 for tax year 2019.)
  • Up to $100,000 in coronavirus-related distributions (CRDs) could be withdrawn by an individual from eligible retirement plans. These distributions would be exempt from the 10 percent early distribution penalty tax.
    • A CRD is defined as any distribution made on or after January 1, 2020, and before December 31, 2020, to a qualified individual, defined as
      • an individual (or the spouse or a dependent of that individual) who is diagnosed with COVID-19 or SARS-CoV-2 in an approved test; or
      • an individual who suffers related adverse financial consequences, or suffers from other factors as determined by the Secretary of the Treasury.

Plan administrators could rely on plan participants’ certification that they meet these requirements.

    • An eligible retirement plan is defined as a qualified retirement plan (e.g., a 401(k) plan), 403(a) plan, 403(b) plan, governmental 457(b) plan, or an IRA.
    • CRDs would be treated as meeting retirement plan distribution requirements, so long as all distributions from one employer—including members of a controlled group—do not exceed $100,000 to an individual.
    • There would be a three-year repayment period beginning the day after distribution, during which one or more repayments may be made, not to exceed, in aggregate, the amount distributed. Taxpayers could recontribute these amounts to an eligible retirement plan or IRA.
    • CRDs that are recontributed within the three-year period will be treated as having satisfied the general 60-day rollover requirement.
    • CRDs would be taxed ratably over a three-year period, unless an individual elects otherwise.
    • CRDs are not considered statutory “eligible rollover distributions” for purposes of 20 percent mandatory withholding, the notice provided to recipients of distributions eligible for rollover (i.e., “402(f)” notice) and direct rollover requirements (but do remain eligible for rollover).
  • The retirement plan loan maximum for a qualified individual (defined as meeting the COVID-19 or SARs-CoV-2 conditions described above) would increase to the lesser of $100,000, or 100 percent of a participant’s vested balance.
    • Retirement plan loan repayment dates that occur between the date of enactment and December 31, 2020, could be delayed for one year. Due dates of subsequent payments (payments after those that may be delayed one year) and the five-year amortization period would be adjusted accordingly.
  • Plan sponsors would generally be required to amend their retirement plans for these provisions by the last day of the 2022 plan year (government plans would have an additional two years), or such other date as the Secretary of the Treasury may prescribe, with operational compliance during the interim period.
  • Individuals would not be required to take their 2020 required minimum distributions (RMDs) from their defined contribution plans or IRAs. This RMD waiver would also apply to individuals who turned 70½ in 2019 but did not take their RMD before January 1, 2020).
  • The 2020 year would not be counted for purposes of a five-year payout period for a nonperson beneficiary. (This provision would not alter a required beginning date for years after 2020.)
  • Single employer defined benefit pension plan minimum required contributions due during 2020 could be delayed to January 1, 2021 (adjusted for interim earnings). This provision would also provide an option to use an alternative funding target percentage.
  • This legislation would add “public health emergency” to those events that would allow the DOL to postpone certain deadlines governed by ERISA Section 518.

Health Savings Arrangement-Related Provisions 

  • For plan years before 2022, health insurance plans could pay for telehealth and remote care services without first satisfying HSA-qualifying deductible conditions.
  • A medicine or drug need not be prescribed to be a qualified medical expense for HSA, HRA, MSA, and health FSA purposes. This includes over-the-counter menstrual care products.

Further progress of this legislation will be monitored and developments shared on ascensus.com

 


IRS FAQs Confirm July 15, 2020, Deadline to Make 2019 IRA, HSA, and Certain Employer Retirement Plan Contributions

The IRS has updated the frequently-asked-question (FAQ) information at its website, confirming that IRA, HSA, and certain retirement plan contributions otherwise due by April 15, 2020, can be made as late as July 15, 2020. This aligns with the three-month tax return filing deadline extension the IRS announced in Notice 2020-18, issued on March 20, 2020.

While Notice 2020-18 addressed the three-month tax return deadline extension, it did not address contribution deadlines that generally align with the year’s tax filing deadline. Nor did Notice 2020-18 cite other guidance—such as natural disaster declarations—that are sometimes relied on to confirm extension of contribution deadlines.

The posting of these new FAQ items, #17, #20, and #21, give the guidance that has been awaited. IRA and HSA contributions for 2019, and employers wanting to make retirement plan contributions aligned with a business tax filing deadline of April 15, 2020, have an extended deadline of July 15, 2020, to make these contributions.

 


Washington Pulse: Congress and the IRS Provide Separate COVID-19 Guidance that Addresses Payment for Diagnosis and Treatment

The U.S. government has delivered two pieces of welcome relief in the midst of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. First, the President has signed legislation that requires healthcare insurance providers to cover COVID-19 testing without charging the patient. Second, the IRS has indicated that high deductible health plans (HDHPs) will retain their qualified status even if they cover the cost of COVID-19 testing and treatment before the satisfaction of the plan deductible. This will enable individuals with health savings accounts (HSAs) to continue to make tax-deductible contributions.

 

Legislative Relief for COVID-19 Testing

President Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (the Act) on March 18, 2020, to address the many disruptions caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. One of the primary concerns addressed in this bill is the fear that those exposed to the virus might hesitate to be tested for the disease if they have to pay for such testing out of pocket. To encourage testing, the Act requires group and individual health insurance plans to provide coverage for two items.

  • Diagnostic testing products. This refers to federally approved products that detect the COVID-19 virus.
  • Items and services that are associated with the use of such a diagnostic product. Simply put, this requires health insurance plans to cover the costs of
    1. the office visit (even if virtual),
    2. any materials or services needed to determine whether testing is needed, and
    3. administering the test.

Health insurance plans must provide this coverage with no cost sharing (e.g., no deductibles, copayments, or coinsurance) and with no prior authorization. The statute gives joint enforcement authority to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Secretary of Labor, and the Secretary of Treasury, and each of these departments has the authority to issue guidance to implement these provisions.

 

IRS Relaxes HDHP Rules

To help facilitate the nation’s response to the COVID-19 virus, the IRS issued Notice 2020-15 on March 11. This guidance provides a green light for insurers offering HSA-compatible HDHPs to cover the cost of the COVID-19 diagnostic testing and associated treatment without application of a deductible or other cost sharing. The IRS notes that doing so will not disqualify the HDHP, so individuals covered by these plans may continue to contribute to their HSAs.

Normally, individuals can make HSA contributions only if they maintain HSA-compatible HDHPs. This means that the HDHP must meet certain requirements such as minimum deductibles and maximum out-of-pocket expenses. In general, individuals must not also be covered by a non-HDHP.

The concern that the cost of COVID-19 testing could be a barrier to seeking medical care during this outbreak led the IRS to relax current rules. The IRS states in Notice 2020-15, that

Due to the nature of this public health emergency, and to avoid administrative delays or financial disincentives that might otherwise impede testing for and treatment of COVID-19 for participants in HDHPs, this notice provides that all medical care services received and items purchased associated with testing for and treatment of COVID-19 that are provided by a health plan without a deductible, or with a deductible below the minimum annual deductible otherwise required . . . for an HDHP, will be disregarded for purposes of determining the status of the plan as an HDHP.

This easing of the existing HSA-compatible HDHP rules should be a welcome relief for many individuals who may be affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

 

The Interaction of Legislative Relief and Notice 2020-15

IRS Notice 2020-15 states that an HDHP  that covers the cost of COVID-19 testing or treatment will still be considered an HSA-compatible HDHP—and eligible HSA owners will still be able to make tax-deductible contributions. The new federal statute, on the other hand, requires health plans to cover COVID-19 testing expenses, but not treatment expenses.

Individuals participating in HDHPs or any other type of health plan should consult the insurer regarding their costs associated with COVID-19 testing and treatment, including the potential application of any deductible or cost sharing. Watch ascensus.com Latest News for further developments regarding the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on both health and welfare and retirement arrangements.

 

Click here for a printable version of this edition of the Washington Pulse.


GOP Legislative Package Would Alter Retirement Plan and HSA Provisions as Part of COVID-19 Pandemic Response

Senate Republican coronavirus response legislation—the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES Act—has been proposed in order to assist Americans affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The proposal has multiple provisions that would affect retirement savings arrangements and health savings accounts (HSAs). This legislative proposal is being monitored closely, and further developments will be shared as warranted.

Retirement Savings Provisions

  • Would extend the income tax return filing deadline from April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020. (The IRS has since issued Notice 2020-18, which officially delayed the deadline to July 15, 2020.)
  • Would exempt up to $100,000 withdrawn from an Eligible Retirement Plan from the 10% early distribution penalty tax for Coronavirus-Related Distributions (CRDs).
    • A CRD is defined as a distribution made on or after the date of enactment and before December 31, 2020, to a Qualified Individual, defined as
      • an individual (or the spouse of the individual) who is diagnosed with COVID-19 or SARS-CoV-2 in an approved test;
      • an individual who suffers related adverse financial consequences, or suffers from other factors as determined by the Secretary of the Treasury.
    • An Eligible Retirement Plan is defined as a qualified retirement plan, including a 403(b) plan, governmental 457(b) plan, SEP plan, SIMPLE IRA plan, or an IRA.
    • CRDs would be treated as meeting retirement plan distribution requirements, so long as all distributions from one employer—including members of a controlled group—do not exceed $100,000.
    • There would be a 3-year repayment period, in one or more repayments, not to exceed the amount distributed. Taxpayers could recontribute these amounts to any retirement plan or IRA that the Internal Revenue Code permits.
    • CRDs that are recontributed within the 3-year period will be treated as having satisfied the general 60-day rollover requirement.
    • CRDs would be taxed ratably over a 3-year period, unless a taxpayer elects otherwise.
    • CRDs are not considered eligible rollover distributions. Plan sponsors will need to adjust their 402(f) statements to explain that these distributions are not subject to the mandatory 20% withholding and direct rollover rules (though they are still eligible for rollover).
  • The retirement plan loan maximum for a Qualified Individual (defined as meeting the COVID-19 or SARs-CoV-2 conditions described above) would increase to the lesser of $100,000, or 100% of a participant’s vested balance.
  • Retirement plan loan repayment dates between the date of the legislation’s enactment and December 31, 2020, could be delayed for 1 year, with the amortization period—including the 5-year repayment deadline—adjusted accordingly.
  • Retirement plan amendments for these provisions would generally be required by the last day of the 2020 plan year (government plans would have an additional two years), or such other date as the Secretary of the Treasury may prescribe, with operational compliance during the interim period.

HSA-Related Provisions

  • Telehealth and remote care services associated with the coronavirus pandemic could be paid by a health insurance plan without first satisfying a deductible, and would not be treated as violating HSA requirements.
  • Certain “direct primary care” arrangements for services between health care providers and clients would be treated as not violating HSA requirements.
  • Over-the-counter menstrual care products would be considered qualified medical expenses for HSA purposes.

 


Treasury Secretary Announces Tax Return Deadline Extension; Expected to Extend Contribution Deadlines

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has announced in a Twitter message this morning that the April 15, 2020, tax return filing deadline will be extended 90 days, to July 15, 2020. Formal guidance confirming this is expected. It is further expected that the deadline to make certain contributions to tax-advantaged savings arrangements—such as IRAs—will be similarly extended. This has been the case with certain previous federally-declared natural disasters. More information, including confirmation in formally-issued guidance, will be provided in a future communication.


IRS Provides Guidance on HSAs and Associated HDHPs, and Coverage of COVID-19 Testing

The IRS has issued Notice 2020-15, addressing requests made to the agency for health savings account (HSA)-related guidance as the nation responds to the challenges of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak in the U.S. and worldwide.

The IRS was asked for confirmation that a high deductible health plan (HDHP) associated with an HSA could cover the cost of COVID-19 patient testing with no deductible—or a lower deductible—first being paid, and still remain an HSA-eligible health plan. An HDHP must generally meet certain plan deductible requirements in order for an individual to make HSA contributions. There are certain exceptions that allow health plan coverage without satisfying the plan deductible. One of these is for preventive care costs. There has been uncertainty as to whether COVID-19 testing would be considered preventive care.

In Notice 2020-15, the IRS states, “Until further guidance is issued, a health plan that otherwise satisfies the requirements to be a high deductible health plan (HDHP) under section 223(c)(2)(A) of the Internal Revenue Code (Code) will not fail to be an HDHP under section 223(c)(2)(A) merely because the health plan provides health benefits associated with testing for and treatment of COVID-19 without a deductible, or with a deductible below the minimum deductible (self only or family) for an HDHP. Therefore, an individual covered by the HDHP will not be disqualified from being an eligible individual under section 223(c)(1) who may make tax-favored contributions to a health savings account (HSA).”


Senators Cruz, Braun Introduce Legislation to Expand HSAs

Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Braun (R-IN) have announced the introduction of the Personalized Care Act of 2019. The legislation is intended to make health savings accounts (HSAs) accessible to more Americans, and to enhance HSA provisions. (This legislation has not yet been posted to the official congressional website. The provisions listed below are based on legislative text provided by the office of Sen. Cruz.)

The legislation as released by the senators would do the following.

  • End the restriction that requires health coverage only by a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) in order to make HSA contributions.
  • Permit those participating in Medicare and certain other health care financing programs to contribute to HSAs.
  • Permit use of HSA assets to pay health insurance premiums.
  • Allow HSA assets to be used for direct primary care and certain other direct medical care arrangements.
  • Increase maximum annual HSA contribution limits from $3,550 (2020) to $10,800 for those with individual insurance coverage, and from $7,100 (2020) to $29,500 for those with family coverage.
  • Expand HSA qualified medical expense coverage of over-the-counter (OTC) medicines.
  • Allow HSAs to pay the costs of participation in certain health care sharing ministries.
  • Reduce penalties for use of HSA assets for certain nonqualifying expenses.

IRS Seeks Continued Information Collection Authority

Today’s Federal Register contains an IRS solicitation of public comments on the agency’s request for continued authority to collect information on use of the Form 8809, Application for Extension of Time to File Information Returns. The form can be used by entities seeking an extension of time to file (with the IRS) certain annual information returns, including those that report transaction and account information for IRAs, employer-sponsored retirement plans, health savings accounts, medical savings accounts, Coverdell education savings accounts, 529 plans, and ABLE accounts.

Public comments on whether the IRS should have continued authority to collect information on use of this form must be received by the agency on, or before, January 31, 2020.


How to Use the HSA, for Medical or Retirement Savings

Health savings accounts offer a unique triple tax advantage

The health savings account, or HSA, can be a powerful savings tool—if you approach it the right way.

These accounts, which Congress authorized in 2003, are more than just a simple savings tool for medical emergencies. Retirement planners laud the HSA’s triple tax advantage and its use as a complementary savings vehicle to 401(k) plans.

Oftentimes when people first hear of HSAs, it is during this time of year. For companies with policies that start in January, open enrollment typically happens in the fall. During this period, many employees are already stressed about choosing and selecting other benefits.

“I don’t think most people understand HSAs from the get-go,” said Roy Ramthun, a consultant who specializes in HSAs. “From my experience, the HSA gets 30 seconds of the health benefit presentation. It’s all about the insurance, and then ‘Oh, you have this.’”

HSAs are unique in the triple tax advantage they offer: You can contribute to them by setting aside pretax earnings without paying federal or state income tax. From there, that money can be invested and grows tax-free. Additionally, if used for medical expenses, you can withdraw this money tax-free before retirement, which you can’t do with a 401(k) or an individual retirement account.

Eric Remjeske, president of Devenir Group LLC, said since Congress authorized these accounts in 2003, the number of accounts and the average account balance have both grown over time. By 2011, there were 6.2 million HSAs, according to Devenir Research; this past June, that number had grown to 26.3 million.

More money is flowing into HSAs every year. Devenir Research data show that $43.5 billion was deposited in HSAs in 2018, with $10.2 billion invested, a sharp increase from the year before when $31.5 billion was deposited and $5.5 billion invested. By 2021, Devenir estimates that number will rise to $67 billion deposited with $21.2 billion invested.

While the 401(k) remains the predominant retirement savings vehicle, Mr. Ramthun recommends contributing to both a 401(k) and HSA, especially if your employer offers a match for either.

“Advisers are now asking the question: Where do you put the money, 401(k) or HSA?” said Steve Christenson, executive vice president at Ascensus, a retirement and college savings service provider. “They’re seeing more of a balance amongst consumers.”

To make the most of both, research if your employer offers matches. If your employer also offers an HSA match, Mr. Ramthun recommends prioritizing that contribution, as you’ll eventually be able to reap greater benefits from the HSA’s triple tax advantages. From there, contribute to your 401(k), and if your employer also offers a match there and you’re taking advantage of it, you’ll be benefiting from both savings plans.

The HSA contribution limits for 2020 are $3,550 for an individual with a high deductible health plan and $7,100 for an individual with family coverage. The catch-up contribution amount for those 55 years old or above is an additional $1,000. The amount contributed to an HSA doesn’t affect the contribution limits for 401(k) plans or IRAs, which are $19,500 and $6,000 respectively for 2020.

One approach to the HSA is to consider paying for current medical expenses out-of-pocket after establishing the HSA; you can then file for reimbursement in retirement. This way, you can supplement your retirement income—entirely tax-free.

If you’re taking this approach, you should make sure you invest your HSA balance in a diversified portfolio, so you can maximize its potential return. According to 2019 data from Ascensus, less than a third of HSA account holders eligible to invest their funds actually did so.

Meanwhile, keep track of the medical expenses you pay out of pocket. Keeping these receipts on hand means you can then file during retirement to have them reimbursed. But remember: You have to keep the receipts from any medical expenses you paid for out-of-pocket before retirement, just in case the IRS ever comes knocking for an audit.

An HSA can also be considered as a “rainy day” medical fund that works in tandem with your 401(k) to help offset the cost of out-of-network care, over-the-counter medicines or other things your insurance may not cover. Even if you’re healthy now, studies show you could still be spending much more on medical expenses once you enter retirement.

Remember: You can’t keep contributing to your HSA once you’re enrolled in Medicare. So maximizing contributions now will allow the miracle of compounding to work, growing that money in your HSA over time.

“Everything about retirement planning says, ‘Start young, be regular and invest,’” Mr. Ramthun said. “That’s what we want people to hear about HSAs.”