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November 6, 2008
2009 Retirement Plan COLAS
Following are highlights of the 2009 cost-of-living adjustments issued by the IRS, applicable to defined benefit and defined contribution plans.
2009 Cost of Living Adjustments Applicable to Various IRS Benefits, Social Security, and Medicare
In Revenue Procedure 2008-66, the IRS released several cost of living adjustments for various benefits. Following are amounts applicable to tax years beginning in 2009.
Qualifying Child Redefined… Again!
A few weeks ago, President Bush signed the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 (“Adoptions Act”, Pub. L. No. 110-351), which, among other things, amends the definition of qualifying child found in IRC Section 152(c) yet again. This definition, along with the definition of qualifying relative (which remains unchanged), is important for determining who can receive tax-advantaged benefits, such as benefits from a:
San Francisco’s Health Care Ordinance Challenged Again
As a follow-up to last month’s Benefit Beat article, San Francisco’s Health Care Ordinance Stands, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals’ three-judge panel decision was not good enough for the Golden Gate Restaurant Association (GGRA). The GGRA has requested a rehearing of this matter before the whole (en banc) 9th Circuit Panel. In the meantime, employers still have to grapple with satisfying San Francisco’s HCSO mandate.
Agencies Finalize Rules on Maternity Hospital Length of Stay
The IRS, DOL and HHS have issued final rules relating to the federal Newborns’ and Mothers’ Health Protection Act of 1996 (“Newborns’ Act”). These rules are substantially the same as the interim regulations issued several years ago. Nevertheless, it is a good time to review plans to ensure compliance.
October 12, 2008
HEART Act FSA Cash-out Explained
In June, 2008, a law was passed (Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax Act of 2008, “Heroes Act” or “HEART Act”, Public Law 110-245; see the June 2008 edition of Benefit Beat), addressing several employment and benefit-related matters specifically applicable to employees called to active service. One of these provisions allow a distribution for non-medical reasons from a health flexible spending account (health FSA). The IRS has issued Notice 2008-82 flushing out this provision.
San Francisco’s Health Care Ordinance Stands
On September 30, 2008, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rendered its Opinion relating to ERISA preemption of the City of San Francisco’s Health Care Security Ordinance (Golden Gate Restaurant Assn. vs. City and County of San Francisco; Case No: 07-17370, 9/30/08). The 9th Circuit Court has upheld the Ordinance, which went into effect 1/9/08 for employers with 50+ employees; 4/1/08 for employers with 20+ employees.
Massachusetts Fair Share Requirement Relaxed?
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has issued new regulations relating to the fair share contribution requirement. While the Massachusetts health care reform experiment does not require employers to provide, or make a contribution toward, health coverage for their employees, it does impose an annual financial fee assessment ($295 per employee) upon employers who do not.
Health Coverage Rights for Students on Medical Leave: “Michelle’s Law”
On October 9, 2008, President Bush signed a law (H.R. 2851) that requires individual and group health plans to extend health coverage to dependent college students who take a medically-necessary leave of absence due to a serious illness or injury. This law was enacted as a result of the death of a seriously-ill college student forced to retain full-time student status in order to maintain much needed health coverage.
Mental Health Benefits Expanded
As part of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (H.R. 1424), a new mental health parity provision becomes law. The existing federal mental health parity law requires that annual and lifetime limits for mental health services be comparable to those for medical and surgical services. Under the new law, mental health services must be treated in a substantially similar manner to medical and surgical services. This would include: