Wish you could change your health plan for 2021? In newly released guidance on new flexible rules for healthcare and dependent care FSAs, the Internal Revenue Service has included a new Covid-19-relief surprise: Employers can allow employees to make changes prospectively to health care coverage for 2021.
“The guidance is very employer and employee friendly; it really gives a lot of flexibility,” says Jake Mattinson, an employee benefits lawyer with McDermott Will & Emery in Chicago.
Notice 2021-15 allows for mid-year changes to employer-sponsored health care coverage, healthcare flexible spending accounts and dependent care accounts. It will help employees whose medical and caregiving situations have changed because of the coronavirus pandemic. That is, if your employer is on board.
Usually healthcare elections are set in stone on a calendar year basis. Last May, the Treasury Department came up with a partial mid-year fix for 2020, allowing prospective changes and extending grace periods and carryovers through year-end (IRS Notice 2020-29). But employees still cried foul: they had socked away more money than they could spend in these workplace tax-favored accounts, and would be subject to forfeiture rules.
In December, in the tax provisions tied onto the year-end spending package, Congress passed new special rules allowing rollovers and more for leftover 2020 and 2021 FSA money for employees and ex-employees. Notice 2021-15 answers a lot of the open questions about how to implement the new rules.
For 2021, you can revoke an existing healthcare plan election and make a new election, or revoke an existing election and attest that you’re getting coverage elsewhere. Say you picked an HMO plan, but really want to be in a PPO plan. Or say you decide you’d be better off under a spouse’s plan. This gives you the chance to make a mid-year change. That allowance is not in the December law, so it was a surprise, Mattinson says.
For healthcare and dependent care FSAs, the guidance says employers can allow employees to carryover unused amounts they’ve stashed in these accounts from the 2020 and 2021 plan years. It wasn’t clear before, but the IRS says that any plan can implement a 100% carryover or extended grace period, no matter what feature the plan had before, Mattinson says. That means employees might be able to carry over their whole balance (instead of just $550 under current law) from one year to the next.
The extended grace period could go out 12 months, instead of just 2.5 months. as of January 1, 2022, everything would shift back to the regular rules. Under the regular rules, you can stash up to $5,000 pretax per year in a dependent care FSA, but if you don’t use the money for the specified year, you lose it. You can put up to $2,750 in a healthcare FSA, and if you don’t use it, you may be able to either use it up during a grace period or carry over $550.
Don’t get your hopes up just yet: Employers have to adopt these changes, and while some have already been working on amendments to their plans based on the December law even before today’s guidance, others have decided to do nothing. “The reaction among employers is mixed; everyone has their own ideas of what to implement. It’s all optional,” says Mattinson. One client said they would implement it all, while another client said they wouldn’t make any of the changes, for example.
Some of the nitty-gritty guidance surrounds COBRA and health savings accounts. For COBRA, the guidance makes clear that if an employer lets terminated workers seek reimbursement from an FSA, that won’t hurt their qualification for COBRA. For health savings accounts, the guidance clarifies that for employees who want to make a midyear change into a high deductible health plan with an HSA, they could convert a general purpose FSA to a limited purpose FSA so as not to be disqualified from contributing to the HSA.
Notice 2021-15 is 34 pages long and includes detailed examples, suggesting this is an area of the tax code that could be simplified! Here’s a bullet point summary of the law changes addressed in the IRS guidance; employers can:
allow employees to carry over unused money up to the full annual amount from the plan year 2020 to 2021, and also from the plan year 2021 to 2022 for healthcare and dependent care FSAs
allow up to a 12-month grace period for employees to incur new expenses and submit claims against unused accumulated funds for plan years ending in 2020 or 2021 for healthcare and dependent care FSAs
allow midyear election changes on a prospective basis without a change in status event for plan years ending in 2021 for healthcare and dependent care FSAs
allow dependent care reimbursement up to age 14 in cases where an employee’s dependent turned 13 in 2020 and the employee had leftover funds from 2020 (this special carry forward rule helps employees whose dependents “aged out” during the pandemic) for dependent care FSAs
allow health FSA participants who stop participating in the plan (ex-employees) during calendar year 2020 or 2021 to continue to receive reimbursements through the end of the year, including grace periods (this post-termination benefit applies to healthcare FSAs, not dependent care FSAs)
I cover personal finance, with a focus on retirement planning, trusts and estates strategies, and taxwise charitable giving. I’ve written for Forbes since 1997. Follow me on Twitter: @ashleaebeling and contact me by email: ashleaebeling — at — gmail — dot — com
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Hear that? It’s the sound of millions of taxpayers cheering across the country: the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has announced the open of the tax filing season. That date is February 12, 2021.
If you want to get your refund as fast as possible, the IRS recommends that you e-file your tax return and use direct deposit (be sure to double-check those account numbers before you send your return). If you file by paper, it will take longer. According to the IRS, eight out of 10 taxpayers get their refunds by using direct deposit.
Assuming no delays, here are my best guesses for expected tax refunds based on filing dates and information from the IRS. I can’t stress enough that these are simply educated guesses. I like math and charts as much as the next girl, but there are a number of factors that could affect your tax refund (keep reading)
* No matter when you filed your tax return, if you claimed the EITC or the ACTC, don’t forget to take into consideration that hold date.
My numbers are based on an expected IRS receipt date beginning on the open of tax season, February 12, 2021, through the close of tax season on April 15, 2021. To keep the chart manageable, I’ve assumed the IRS received your e-filed tax return on the first business day of the week; that’s usually a Monday, but if there’s a holiday (like President’s Day), I’ve skipped ahead until Tuesday. The same logic holds true for issuing refunds. In reality, the IRS issues tax refunds throughout the week, so the date could move forward or backward depending on the day your return was received.
Other sites may have different numbers but remember they’re just guessing, too: The IRS no longer makes their tax refund processing chart public.
Do not rely on any tax refund chart—this one included—for date-specific planning like a large purchase or a paying back a loan.
Remember that if you claim the earned-income tax credit (EITC) and the additional child tax credit (ACTC), the IRS must wait until February 15 to begin issuing refunds to taxpayers who claim the EITC or the ACTC (that’s pretty close to the start date). Don’t forget to consider regular processing times for banks and factor in weekends and the President’s Day holiday. The IRS expects to see tax refunds begin reaching those claiming EITC and ACTC during the first week of March for those who file electronically with direct deposit and there are no issues with their tax returns.
If you want to get your tax refund as fast as possible, the IRS recommends that you e-file your tax return and use direct deposit. Keep in mind that if you e-file, the day that the IRS accepts your return may not be the day that you hit send or give the green light to your preparer. Check your e-filing confirmation for the actual date that the IRS accepts your return.
If you file by paper, it will take longer. Processing times can take more than four to six weeks in the best of times (and these are not the best of times) since the IRS has to manually input data. Don’t forget about postal holidays, too, when counting on the mail. There’s just one official postal holiday during tax season, Monday, February 15 (President’s Day), and one that follows just after tax season, Monday, May 31 (Memorial Day).
Even if you request direct deposit, you may still receive a paper check. Since 2014, the IRS has limited the number of refunds that can be deposited into a single account or applied to a prepaid debit card to three. Taxpayers who exceed the limit will instead receive a paper check. Additionally, the IRS will only issue a refund by direct deposit into an account in your own name, your spouse’s name or both if it’s a joint account. If there’s an issue with the account, the IRS will send a paper check.
If you’re looking for more information about the timing of your tax refund, don’t reach out to your tax professional. Instead, the IRS encourages you to use the “Get Refund Status” tool. Have your Social security number or ITIN, filing status and exact refund amount handy. Refund updates should appear 24 hours after your e-filing has been accepted or four weeks after you mailed your paper return. The IRS expect that the refund tool will be updated for those claiming EITC and ACTC, beginning on February 22, 2021. Otherwise, the IRS updates the site once per day, usually overnight, so there’s no need to check more than once during the day.
If you’re looking for tax information on the go, you can check your refund status with IRS2Go, the official mobile app of the IRS. The app includes a tax refund status tracker.
Remember that the IRS will not contact you by phone or by email regarding your refund. If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from the IRS or a debt collection agency regarding your tax refund, hang up immediately: it is a scam. Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.
Kelly Phillips Erb Years ago, I found myself sitting in law school in Moot Court wearing an oversized itchy blue suit. It was a horrible experience. In a desperate attempt to avoid anything like that in the future, I enrolled in a tax course. I loved it. I signed up for another. Before I knew it, in addition to my JD, I earned an LL.M Taxation. While at law school, I interned at the estates attorney division of the IRS. At IRS, I participated in the review and audit of federal estate tax returns. At one such audit, opposing counsel read my report, looked at his file and said, “Gentlemen, she’s exactly right.” I nearly fainted. It was a short jump from there to practicing, teaching, writing and breathing tax. Just like that, Taxgirl® was born.
Once the tax liability has been determined, we must consider the final three items in income tax preparation: tax credits, other taxes, and payments. When an overpayment occurs, the taxpayer has the option of receiving a refund or applying the amount of the overpayment to next year’s estimated tax.
Thoughts on the Beginning by Al Sikes talbotspy.org – Today[…] faced by small businesses, I also noted how big businesses operate within a framework of tax advantage. They retain a variety of international experts to help them minimize taxes. Tax specialists guide them through the intricacies of reduction as they move manufacturing, sales […] intricacies of reduction as they move manufacturing, sales, distribution and even headquarters to tax-advantaged locations. President Biden is recommending a corporate tax increase going from 21% to 28%. Specific tax thresholds can get very complicated and are well beyond these several paragraphs […]0
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Getting a nice tax refund back is one of the best feelings in the world for small business owners. The big question is: how to spend that dough? We have a couple of suggestions on how to spend that money so that you can rejuvenate your business in the process.
Spend it on marketing (in the right places).
According to Cyber Alert, non-software companies with revenues less than $100 million spend between 3 percent and 10 percent of revenues on marketing. That’s a pretty decent amount of money to put towards marketing. That’s because, for small businesses, marketing efforts are hugely important when trying to grow their brands and gain new customers.
This year, put some of your tax refund towards marketing your business, but don’t just throw money blindly at your same old marketing tactics. Take this as an opportunity to try something new and really track your ROI. How much did you put in, how many clicks back did it earn? How many new or return customers did it bring in? What was the viewership like? Put some of your refund into trying new efforts and tracking their progress meticulously.
Once you’ve tested a couple new options, you should know what’s most worth your business’s money in the future. Some areas you could spend this money on: boosting different types of posts on Facebook and Twitter, creating advertisements for different social sites, and trying out different press release publication sites.
Thinking of investing in a CRM? We’ve answered your questions in our free e-book.
Add a pop of color to your office and team-build at the same time.
A couple years ago, we had a paint night at the office after hours. We enjoyed some wine and cheese while an instructor walked us through how to paint a beautiful landscape filled with brightly colored trees. It was such a fun team-building activity, and we ended up with lots of great paintings! We liked them so much, we ended up painting our entire office based on the colors used in the paintings, and then we hung everyone’s painting above his/her desk. Using some of your tax refund on an activity like this is a great way to change up the look of your office and it’s a lot of fun, too.
Replace old equipment.
It’s always good to take inventory of the equipment your business uses on a regular basis. Just as you couldn’t run your business without your employees, you couldn’t run your business without the equipment you use. Though it can be pricey to replace something, it’ll more than make up for it in the long run by ensuring you keep on providing your customers with the best possible products or service, plus, it’ll eliminate the stress of having to worry about whether your equipment will break down on you or not. It’s important to take care of what takes care of you.
Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation.com. MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing start-up bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark & copyright filing services. MyCorporation does all the work, making the business formation and maintenance quick and painless, so business owners can focus on what they do best. Follow her on Google+ and on Twitter @mycorporation.
As the coronavirus crisis continues to force business closures and layoffs across the country, state and local finances are stretched to the limit. The cost of healthcare and public services is soaring as states attempt to contain the virus. Meanwhile, tax revenues are plummeting as jobs disappear and spending slows.
That’s the percentage of cities that say it will be more difficult to meet the financial needs of their communities in fiscal year 2021 compared to the prior, according to a new report from the National League of Cities.
That’s the portion of cities that delayed capital expenditures or infrastructure projects in June, according to the NLC.
That’s how many local government jobs have been lost since pandemic hit the United States in February, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
That’s the weekly payment states were initially asked to contribute to President Trump’s proposed federal unemployment supplement. States immediately balked at the plan, with many refusing to commit or saying their budgets were already stretched too thin. New guidance this week clarified that states won’t have to chip in, after all, to be eligible to pay out a federal $300 benefit through the new program.
That’s the amount of federal aid the Cares Act, signed into law in March by President Trump, provided for state and local governments.
That’s how much additional aid Democrats allotted for state and local governments in the Heroes Act, the $3+ trillion aid package they passed in May. Republicans, on the other hand, didn’t include any additional state aid in their proposal. This issue has been a major sticking point in negotiations over the next bill. So far, top Democrats and the Trump Administration have not been able to reach an agreement.
I’m a breaking news reporter for Forbes focusing on economic policy and capital markets. I completed my master’s degree in business and economic reporting at New York University. Before becoming a journalist, I worked as a paralegal specializing in corporate compliance.
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