At the beginning of this year, we wrote about changing standards applicable to audits of financial statements of employee benefit plans subject to ERISA. Specifically, we explained that the Auditing Standards Board (ASB) of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) issued new standards for what are currently known as “limited-scope audits.” Initially, the changed audit standards were effective for plan years ending on or after December 15, 2020, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic the AICPA delayed the implementation of the standards to audits of plan years ending on or after December 15, 2021. We want to remind plan sponsors of employee benefit plans required to include an auditor’s report as part an annual Form 5500 filing that the changed audit standards create new responsibilities for plan sponsors in 2022.
As the number of people receiving a COVID-19 vaccine has decreased, employers have tried to find ways to incentivize their employees to get vaccinated. While some employers have imposed COVID-19 vaccine requirements, others have searched for alternative methods to motivate employees to receive the vaccines. One method some employers have considered is imposing a surcharge on health insurance premiums for employees and their dependents who are unvaccinated. The Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Labor, and the Department of the Treasury issued guidance this week that addresses COVID-19 vaccine premium surcharges.
In 2018, the Auditing Standards Board (ASB) of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) changed the audit standards applicable to audits of financial statements of employee benefit plans subject to ERISA. These standards impact what is currently known as “limited-scope audits.” Initially, the new standards were to apply to audits of plan years ending on or after December 15, 2020, which means they would apply to 2020 plan year audits performed in 2021. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the AICPA changed the effective date of the standards to plan years ending after December 15, 2021, extending the implementation of the standards for one year. Plan sponsors of plans subject to ERISA should be aware of the new responsibilities the standards impose on auditors, as these changes also indirectly create new responsibilities for plan sponsors.
I previously examined the proposed rule by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to expand so-called Association Health Plans, or AHPs, under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). In a nutshell, the proposed rule was designed to make it easier for employers to form a group in order to provide health benefits to their employees through an AHP. These new AHPs would have more freedom to restrict benefits in order to provide more affordable coverage.
The Department of Labor (DOL) recently reiterated its position that plan fiduciaries are not permitted to sacrifice investment return or take additional investment risk to promote “collateral social policy goals.”
The DOL reasoned that environmental, social and governance factors are not typically relevant economic factors that should be used to evaluate investment alternatives. In some situations, when they reflect business risks or opportunities, they can be treated as economic considerations and more than mere tie-breakers. However, ERISA fiduciaries must always put the economic interests of the plan first.
In Executive Order 13813, President Donald Trump made it the official policy of the executive branch to find ways to expand the use of Association Health Plans (AHPs) as a means of providing quality, affordable coverage across state lines.
On January 4, 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor issued a proposed rule designed to do just that. Based on 2015 figures, the proposed rule has the potential to impact the health coverage of about 44 million people, whether by expanding coverage to the uninsured, by making more affordable coverage available to sole proprietors and small employers, or by cutting back some individuals’ benefits.
Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election, combined with the Republican Party’s retention of a majority in both houses of Congress, is likely to lead to significant changes in laws, regulations and policies that will impact many aspects of life and business in the United States for the foreseeable future. In the coming weeks and months, many employers will be asking how the election will affect the benefits they provide to employees.
UPDATE (Sept. 29, 2016):
On Sept. 23, 2016, the Department of Labor announced that the deadline for submitting comments would be extended by more than two months, to Dec. 5, 2016.
The Department of Labor (DOL) — jointly with the IRS and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation — has proposed major revisions to the Annual Returns/Reports under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), more commonly known as Form 5500s. The proposed revisions will require plan sponsors to provide more information, some of which may open the door to litigation risks.
The Department of Labor, the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have released final versions of the Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC) template and Uniform Glossary documents required under the Affordable Care Act.
The U.S. Department of Labor recently issued a proposed prohibited transaction exemption allowing privately held conglomerate ABARTA to contribute real property to its defined benefit plan and simultaneously lease back the property.