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March 2, 2011

Marriage - Where Does It Stand?

Even without a full blown philosophical discussion of the meaning of marriage, the issues surrounding this concept are fraught with uncertainty.  On February 23, 2011, in a letter to John Boehner, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, and by an Official Statement, Attorney General Eric Holder, on behalf of the Department of Justice (DOJ), indicated that the DOJ will no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  DOMA is a federal law, enacted in 1996 (codified at 1 U.S.C. §7 and 28 U.S.C. §1738C), that defines marriage as, “a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word “spouse” refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife”.

February 9, 2011

COBRA Process Important

Several recent court decisions remind us of how important it is to have a COBRA procedure that is well documented and followed meticulously.

February 9, 2011

Benefit Plans Impacted by Evolving World of Recognized Relationships

The landscape of recognized relationships continues to evolve.  Illinois becomes the newest in the line of states sanctioning “alternative relationships” to traditional marriage between a man and a woman. 

January 31, 2011

2010 Tax Relief/Job Creation Act

President Obama signed a multi-billion dollar tax cut package, the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010 (2010 Tax Relief Act) (P.L. 111-312), on December 17, 2010.

January 10, 2011

HRB 30 - Limited Relief for Debit Card Purchases of OTC Medications

January 10, 2011 --  As part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, over-the-counter (OTC) medications, excluding insulin, cannot be reimbursed from medical spending accounts, such as flexible medical spending accounts, health reimbursement arrangements, or health savings accounts, unless a prescription for the OTC medication has been issued.  Medical supplies, such as crutches, band-aids, or blood sugar test kits, can continue to be reimbursed from medical spending accounts, without a prescription.  According to IRS Notice 2010-59, after January 15, 2011, debit cards can no longer be used for the purchase of these items, given the complexity of proving (substantiating) the prescription (see

January 5, 2011

Extension of Health Coverage Tax Credit Available for Certain Individuals

The Trade Act of 2002 established a premium assistance program to individuals whose jobs are lost due to foreign trade-related agreements, with the purchase of COBRA or other health coverage. The assistance is in the form of a refundable tax credit, equaling 65% of the health premium.  The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) increased the tax credit from 65 to 80%, and provided an extension of the credit through December 31, 2010.  Two days before the credit would have expired, Congress passed and President Obama signed the Omnibus Trade Act of 2010 (H.R. 6517) extending the HCTC provision through February 13, 2011.

January 5, 2011

Qualified Transportation Limit Clarified

Shortly after last month’s Benefit Beat was published, President Obama signed the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-312; enacted 12/17/10).   This law extends the mass transit benefit that was enhanced by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, through 2011. What this means is that the mass transit benefit amount mirrors the qualified parking amount through December 31, 2011. This was followed by an IRS pronouncement (Revenue Procedure 2011-12) which clarifies that the exclusion amount for transportation in a commuter highway vehicle, any transit pass, and parking for 2011 is $230.

January 5, 2011

2010 Form M-1 Filing

The DOL has released the 2010 edition of the Form M-1 Filing Packet. If you sponsored a multiple employer welfare arrangement (MEWA) in 2010, make certain that you file the Form M-1 annual report by March 1, 2011 (an automatic 60-day extension to May 3, 2011 can be requested).

December 23, 2010

HRB 29 - Agencies Issue Additional PPACA Clarifications

December 23, 2010 --  In their on-going effort to assist employers in complying with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and other laws, the issuing Agencies (DOL, HHS and IRS) have just provided some sub-regulatory guidance, in the form of Questions and Answers. Of particular note, are the following:

December 23, 2010

HRB 28 - Implementation of Salary-based Discrimination Rules Delayed

December 23, 2010 --  The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) imposes salary-based discrimination rules on insured health plans (see our CBIZ Bulletin, Salary-based Discrimination Rules Applicable to Fully Insured Group Health Plans). The IRS, with the endorsement by the Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services, has just issued Notice 2011-01, delaying the effective date of these rules. No penalties will be imposed until after implementing regulations are issued.
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