The IRS Is Still Enforcing The Individual Mandate, Despite What Many Taxpayers Believe

Did you know that there are many people who still don't believe that they will be hit by tax penalty if they do not have health insurance? Here is an informative article by Timothy Jost from Health Affairs on why everyone should be keeping up with their health insurance in-order to avoid a tax penalty by the IRS.

There has been considerable speculation since President Trump’s Inauguration Day Affordable Care Act Executive Order as to whether the Internal Revenue Service is in fact enforcing the individual and employer mandates. The IRS website has insisted that the mandates are still in force, despite the Executive Order and despite the fact that the IRS decided not to implement for 2016 tax filings a program rejecting “silent returns” that did not indicate compliance with individual mandate requirements.

There is evidence, however, that many taxpayers do not believe it. An April report from the Treasury Inspector General for Taxpayer Services found that as of March 31, a third fewer taxpayers were paying the penalty than had been the case a year earlier. More importantly, insurers seem to believe that the IRS is not enforcing the mandate, or at least that taxpayers do not believe the IRS is enforcing the mandate, and are raising their rates for 2018 to account for the deteriorating of the risk pool that nonenforcement of the mandate will cause.

It is of note, therefore, that Robert Sheen at the ACA Times has identified several letters from the IRS reaffirming that it is still in fact enforcing the individual, and employer, mandates.

One is a letter reportedly sent in April by the IRS General Counsel to Congressman Bill Huizenga (R-MI) in response to an inquiry as to whether the IRS could waive the employer mandate with respect to a particular employer. The IRS replied that there was no provision in the ACA for waiver of the mandate penalty when it applied and that: “The Executive Order does not change the law; the legislative provisions of the ACA are still in force until changed by the Congress, and taxpayers remain required to follow the law and pay what they may owe.”

In a second letter in June, responding to an individual who had written to President Trump, the IRS similarly responded:

The Executive Order does not change the law; the legislative provisions of the ACA are still in force until changed by the Congress, and taxpayers remain required to follow the law, including the requirement to have minimum essential coverage for each month, qualify for a coverage exemption for the month, or make a shared responsibility payment.

Of course, whether taxpayers believe it, and whether insurers believe taxpayers believe it, is another question.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Jost T. (2017 August 21). The IRS is still enforcing the individual mandate, despite what many taxpayers believe [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://healthaffairs.org/blog/2017/08/21/the-irs-is-still-enforcing-the-individual-mandate-despite-what-many-taxpayers-believe/


Prospect for Tax Reform Remains Unclear as Mounting Priorities Compete for Attention

Has the news surrounding tax-reform left you worried about your employee benefits program? Check out this great article by Kathleen Coulombe from SHRM on what you should know about the potential over haul of our tax code and what it means for your employee benefits program.

As efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act continue to plod along in Congress, House and Senate tax writers have been working with the Trump administration to find a way forward on tax reform.

Hearings continue to take place, most recently last week with both the House Ways and Means Tax Policy Subcommittee and the Senate Finance Committee looking at a path forward on tax reform. One area Members of Congress are reviewing is the tax-favored status of employer-sponsored retirement and welfare benefits.  The House Ways and Means Tax Policy Subcommittee hearing focused on individual reform, which frequently touched on retirement security. One of the key issues discussed during the hearing was shifting the way individuals plan and save for retirement from a traditional pre-tax 401(k) account to an after-tax Roth model (aka "Rothification"). While hearing panelists noted that moving individuals saving for retirement to an after-tax 401(k) model would generate additional tax revenue for the U.S. Government, it could also disrupt the current retirement system.

SHRM believes a comprehensive employer-sponsored benefits package is a key component that employers use to attract and retain top talent. Two of the most widely utilized benefits are employer-provided health care and retirement plans. SHRM believes tax incentives should be used to expend access to and participation in health care and retirement savings plans.

The SHRM-led Coalition to Protect Retirement has expressed concerns to congressional members about moving individual retirement to an after-tax approach, as we believe it will undermine savings for retirement.

While tax reform legislation is not expected to be released until the fall, a set of principles will be released prior to the House adjourning for its August recess.

In the absence of a comprehensive tax reform plan moving ahead, there remains the strong possibility that a bill aimed strictly at tax cuts could be an alternative and could move as soon as members return to Washington in early September.

Aside from charting the course on tax reform, members must also fund the government for FY2018 by September 30 and increase the debt ceiling limit. While the House Budget Committee approved a FY18 budget resolution along party lines that contained tax reconciliation instructions, to move forward the resolution will have to pass both chambers and be signed by the president.

The resolution also requires congressional committees in both the House and Senate to achieve specific deficit reduction levels for 2018-2027 and submit recommendations by October 6, 2017. Given the challenges the budget resolution is facing and the fact that the House and Senate have not passed any of the 12 appropriations bills necessary to fund the government, a short-term continuing resolution will need to be enacted by October 1 to keep the federal government open and it could include an increase in the debt ceiling.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Coulombe K. (2017 August 1). Prospect for tax reforms remains unclear as mounting priorities compete for attention [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://blog.shrm.org/blog/prospect-for-tax-reform-remains-unclear-as-mounting-priorities-compete-for


retirement money

10 Ways Millennials are Saving for the Future

Have your millennial employees started saving for their retirement? Check out this article by Marlene Y. Satter from Benefits Pro and see what millennial across the country are doing to prepare themselves for retirement.

They’re called spendthrifts by other generations, are laden with student debt and burdened with lower-paying jobs.

But that doesn’t mean that millennials aren’t thinking about the future and saving for it.

And they could certainly use a little help—from human resources and from plan sponsors—to be more successful at it, since both the debt and the jobs don’t leave them much to work with when all expenses are accounted for.

Both HR and sponsors might want to consider how retirement savings plans and their features—auto-enrollment, auto-escalation, employer matching funds—could be tweaked to give millennials a boost in meeting major life goals and in saving for retirement, as well as for the health expenses it undoubtedly will bring along with it.

In the meantime, they can consider how millennials are already trying to stretch every dollar till it snaps—some in very unconventional ways.

In a survey, digital banking app Varo Money, Inc. has uncovered a range of methods millennials are using to make those paychecks go farther.

And while retirement is certainly on their radar, that’s not the only goal they’re pursuing; of course they have a whole life to live first. Some of their prime goals are travel, buying property and dreaming about a new car, while

Here are some of the strategies to which millennials resort in the quest to fund their futures. Can plan sponsors be less imaginative than some of these? Surely not….

10. Half of millennials surveyed save automatically.

While respondents say they aren’t fond of spreadsheets—they don’t track their money constantly, or input figures into programs like Excel or Mint to create detailed, category-based budgets—they do watch their bank balances regularly and are pretty aware of what they spend monthly.

They view it as “hands-off” money management.

What they do, however, is save automatically out of each paycheck, with 50 percent socking away a percentage every payday. So they’re prime candidates for savings plans with auto features—enrollment, escalation, etc.

report from the Society of Human Resource Management points to multiple studies indicating that auto escalation in particular—but to a high level such as 10 percent—results in higher savings for employees, since few actually opt out of a rate higher than they might have chosen for themselves.

9. Millennials are looking to climb the corporate ladder—to a higher paycheck.

An impressive 39 percent of millennials are on the prowl for a better-paying job opportunity, which is yet another reason that HR personnel and plan sponsors hoping to retain good staff might want to keep an eye on millennials’ rate of pay, as well as their rate of savings.

Reviewing other benefits wouldn’t hurt, either, since the more attractive an existing job is, the more likely an employee is to stay.

Considering the cost of finding, hiring and training replacements, a raise and better benefits might be cheaper in the long run.

8. Millennials know food is cheaper at home, especially with a partner to share it.

Millennials, despite their spendthrift reputation, are willing to skip little luxuries like the much-vaunted avocado toast or make coffee and meals at home.

In fact, 36 percent stick with the coffeepot on the counter instead of the barista at the corner, while 11 percent of men and 3 percent of women are willing to abandon the avocado toast—after all, everyone has his, or her, breaking point when economizing.

And 26 percent of respondents point out that cooking for two is cheaper than dining solo at home—much less in a restaurant.

7. Millennials recognize how much cheaper it is to live as a couple.

While 75 percent of millennials are conscious of the financial benefits in being half of a couple. 44 percent point to the cheaper rent when there are two to share the load.

And that helps them both save more.

Even those who aren’t part of a couple are looking for roommates, according to Mashable, which reports on a SmartAsset study finding that in high-rent cities like San Francisco, New York and Boston a person can save at least $700 a month by having a roommate.

Cue in the cooking-at-home technique for group meals, and the savings grow even more.

6. Millennials go on fewer dates to save money.

Being in a relationship, say 16 percent of millennials, is cheaper than still looking, since they save money by not going out on so many dates.

5. They save on taxes if they’re married.

Ever-practical, these millennials. They recognize that being half of a married couple can save on their tax bill—and they don’t forget that either when looking for cash to stash for the future.

4. They bargain-hunt for credit card perks.

Make no mistake, among millennials travel is a big deal: 58 percent said travel destinations are their favorite topic of conversation.

And asked what they would purchase with $2,000 if they could only spend it on one thing, 25 percent said plane tickets.

As a result, they tend to be particularly savvy when it comes to being able to travel, with 16 percent seeking out credit cards that provide big mileage bonuses.

3. They leverage perks to pursue other little luxuries without having to lay out cash for them.

In fact, they’re fond of doing it for travel, with 7 percent using airline miles to upgrade to business class.

In addition, 7 percent use status from premium credit cards for hotel upgrades, and 6 percent use premium cards for lounge access.

2. They’re planning on grad school.

While that may not seem like saving—even though it’s definitely ahead of the 11 percent of male millennials who are saving for a new luxury car and the 12 percent of female millennials saving for a new wardrobe—they’re looking toward an advanced degree for a leg up the job ladder.

Oh, and 27 percent are saving for a place of their own.

1. They stay away from credit cards.

Mashable reports that, despite their spendthrift reputations, millennials are actually opting for other types of technology—digital wallets, for instance—but not so much credit cards.

It cites a BankRate finding that in fact, 67 percent of millennials don't have credit cards—the lowest amount of people without credit cards in any demographic, among adults.

And they’d rather be paid in cash, thank you very much. So say 58 percent, and they’re smart; it wards off unnecessary purchases and helps keep them out of credit card debt.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Satter M.  (2017 June 29). 10 ways millennials are saving for the future [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/06/29/10-ways-millennials-are-saving-for-the-future?ref=mostpopular&page_all=1


The American Health Care Act: Economic and Employment Consequences for States

Could health insurance reductions under the American Health Care Act (AHCA) cause problems for employment in the future? Check out this article from The Commonwealth Fund to learn more.

Abstract

Issue: The American Health Care Act (AHCA), passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The Congressional Budget Office indicates that the AHCA could increase the number of uninsured by 23 million by 2026.
Goal: To determine the consequences of the AHCA on employment and economic activity in every state.
Methods: We compute changes in federal spending and revenue from 2018 to 2026 for each state and use the PI+ model to project the effects on states’ employment and economies.
Findings and Conclusions: The AHCA would raise employment and economic activity at first, but lower them in the long run. It initially raises the federal deficit when taxes are repealed, leading to 864,000 more jobs in 2018. In later years, reductions in support for health insurance cause negative economic effects. By 2026, 924,000 jobs would be lost, gross state products would be $93 billion lower, and business output would be $148 billion less. About three-quarters of jobs lost (725,000) would be in the health care sector. States which expanded Medicaid would experience faster and deeper economic losses.

Background

On May 24, 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA, H.R. 1628) to partially repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare. The U.S. Senate is currently developing its own version of the legislation.

A January 2017 analysis found that repealing certain elements of the ACA—the Medicaid expansion and premium tax credits—could lead to 2.6 million jobs lost and lower gross state products of $1.5 trillion over five years.1,2 That brief focused only on specific repeal elements because other details were not available. This brief examines all aspects of the AHCA, including restructuring Medicaid and health tax credits and repealing ACA taxes (Exhibit 1).

Exhibit 1
Key Provisions of the American Health Care Act as Passed by the U.S. House of Representatives
Eliminates individual penalties for not having health insurance and penalties for employers that do not offer adequate coverage to employees. Raises premiums for people who do not maintain continuous insurance coverage.
Replaces the current income-related premium tax credits to subsidize nongroup health insurance with age-based tax credits. Allows premiums to be five times higher for the oldest individuals, compared to the current threefold maximum.
Restricts state Medicaid eligibility expansions for adults, primarily by reducing federal matching rates from 90 percent beginning in 2020 to rates ranging between 50 percent and 75 percent.
Creates temporary funding for safety-net health services in states that did not expand Medicaid.
Restructures Medicaid funding based on per capita allotments rather than the current entitlement. States may adopt fixed block grants instead.
Creates a Patient and State Stability Fund and Invisible Risk-Sharing Program.
Terminates the Prevention and Public Health Fund.
Repeals numerous taxes included in the ACA, including Medicare taxes on investment income and on high-income earnings, taxes on health insurance and medical devices, and a tax on high-cost insurance (i.e., the “Cadillac tax”); raises limits for health savings accounts and lowers the threshold for medical care deductions.
Allows states to waive key insurance rules, like community rating of health insurance and essential health benefits. Creates a fund that states could use to lower costs for those adversely affected by the waiver.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported the AHCA would increase the number of uninsured Americans under age 65 by 14 million in fiscal year 2018, eventually reaching 23 million more by 2026.3 A RAND analysis of an earlier version of the bill was similar: 14 million more uninsured in 2020 and 20 million in 2026.4

This report examines the potential economic effects of the AHCA from calendar years 2018 to 2026, including:

    • employment levels, measured as changes in the number of jobs created or lost due to policy changes
    • state economic growth, as measured by changes in gross state products in current dollars, adjusted for inflation; an aggregate measure of state economies, analogous to the gross domestic product at the national level

state business output,

    as measured by changes in business receipts in current dollars at production, wholesale, and retail levels, encompassing multiple levels of business activity.

Our estimates are based on changes in federal funding gained or lost to states, consumers, and businesses. The AHCA significantly reduces federal funding for Medicaid. It lowers federal match funding for the 31 states and District of Columbia that expanded Medicaid, encouraging them to discontinue their expansions. It gives states an option to either adopt per capita allotments for Medicaid or fixed block grants; either option lowers federal Medicaid expenditures. Eliminating the tax penalty for individuals without health insurance reduces incentives to purchase insurance, raising the number of uninsured people. Restructuring premium tax credits and widening age-related differences in premiums are expected to shrink nongroup insurance coverage and reduce federal spending for health insurance subsidies. The AHCA is designed so that tax cuts take effect sooner than reductions in health insurance subsidies. Thus, state employment and economies could grow at first but shrink in later years as the coverage reductions deepen.

How Federal Health Funding Stimulates Job Creation and State Economies

Federal health funds are used to purchase health care. Then, fiscal effects ripple out through the rest of the economy, creating employment and other economic growth. This phenomenon is called the multiplier effect. Health funds directly pay hospitals, doctors’ offices, and other providers; this is the direct effect of federal funding. These facilities use revenue to pay their employees and buy goods and services, such as rent or equipment; this is the indirect effect of the initial spending. In addition, there are induced effects that occur as health care employees or other businesses (and eventually their workers) use their income to purchase consumer goods like housing, transportation, or food, producing sales for a diverse range of businesses. Similarly, when federal taxes are reduced, consumers or businesses retain income and can purchase goods and services, invest, or save. Due to interstate commerce, each type of effect can flow across state lines.

Both government spending increases and tax reductions can stimulate job creation and economic growth. The relative effects depend on how the funds are used. Government spending or transfers, like health insurance subsidies, typically have stronger multiplier effects in stimulating consumption and economic growth than do tax cuts. Tax cuts usually aid people with high incomes who shift much of their gains into savings, stimulating less economic activity.5,6,7 A recent analysis found that 90 percent of the AHCA’s tax cuts go to the top one-fifth of the population by income.8

This report estimates how the AHCA will change federal funds gained or lost for all 50 states and the District of Columbia from 2018 to 2026. We allocate federal funding changes, based on CBO estimates, for each state. We then analyze how federal funding changes ripple through state economies, using the PI+ economic model, developed by Regional Economic Models, Inc. (REMI).9 (See Appendix B. Study Methods.)

Findings

Overall Effects

As illustrated in Exhibit 2, most of the AHCA’s tax repeals begin almost at once, while coverage-related spending reductions phase in. The net effect initially raises the federal deficit. In 2018, the number of jobs would rise by 864,000 and state economies would grow. Health sector employment begins to fall immediately in 2018, with a loss of 24,000 jobs, and continues dropping to 725,000 health jobs lost by 2026 (Exhibit 3). Most other employment sectors gain initially, but then drop off and experience losses.

By 2020, the reduction in federal funding for coverage would roughly equal the total level of tax cuts. By the following year, 2021, coverage reductions outpace tax cuts. As a result, there are 205,000 fewer jobs than without the AHCA and state economies begin to shrink.

By 2026, 924,000 fewer people would have jobs. Gross state products would drop by $93 billion and business output would be $148 billion lower. These downward trends would continue after 2026.

Looking at Coverage-Related and Tax Repeal Policies

To better understand how the AHCA affects state economies and employment, Exhibit 4 looks at the two major components of the AHCA separately. The coverage-related policies (Title I of the AHCA and sections related to premium tax credits and individual and employer mandates) generally lower federal spending, particularly due to cuts to Medicaid and premium tax credits. Some policies partially offset those large cuts, such as the Patient and State Stability Fund. The tax repeal policies (Title II, except for sections about premium tax credits and individual and employer mandates), such as repeal of Medicare-related taxes, Cadillac tax, or medical device tax, predominantly help people with high incomes or selected businesses.

Implemented alone, the coverage-related policies would lead to steep job losses over time, reaching 1.9 million by 2026, driven by deep Medicaid cuts (Exhibit 4). Job losses begin to mount in 2019.

Alternatively, the tax repeal policies on their own would be associated with higher employment and state economic growth. Gains begin with 837,000 more jobs in 2018; this rises through 2024, and leads to 1 million additional jobs in 2026. Combined, tax repeal and coverage-related changes lead to initial economic and employment growth but eventual losses.

The detailed employment results show how these two components of the AHCA affect different economic sectors. Coverage and spending-related policies are directly related to funding for health services (e.g., Medicaid, premium tax credits, high-risk pools). The reductions directly affect the health sector—hospitals, doctors’ offices, or pharmacies—but then flow out to other sectors. Thus, about two-fifths of jobs lost due to coverage policies are in the health sector while three-fifths are in other sectors. Tax changes affect consumption broadly, spreading effects over most job sectors.

Within the health sector, job losses due to coverage-related cuts are much greater than gains due to tax repeal; losses in health care jobs begin immediately. In other sectors, employment grows at the beginning but later declines.

State-Level Effects

Consequences differ from state to state. We summarize data for nine states: Alaska, Florida, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Exhibit 5 shows the effects of the AHCA in 2018 and in 2026. Complete results for all 50 states and the District of Columbia are available in Appendices A1–A4. In this analysis, states that expanded Medicaid tend to experience deeper and faster economic declines, although substantial losses occur even among nonexpansion states:

  • Eight of the nine states (Alaska, Florida, Kentucky, Maine, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia) begin with positive economic and employment effects in 2018, but are worse off by 2026, with outcomes typically turning negative well before 2026.
  • Michigan is worse off in 2018 and continues to decline through 2026. We assume Michigan will terminate its Medicaid expansion immediately because of a state law that automatically cancels the expansion if the federal matching rate changes.10 Six other states (Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Washington) have similar legislation and experience losses sooner than other states.
  • Most job losses are in health care. In six states (Florida, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Ohio, and West Virginia) health care job losses begin in 2018, but all nine states have significant reductions in health employment by 2026. Looking at the U.S. overall, in most states, losses in health care jobs begin by 2020 (Appendix A2).
  • States that expanded Medicaid have deeper and faster losses. Having earned more federal funds, they lose more when Medicaid matching rates fall. While cutting funds to states that expanded health insurance for low-income Medicaid populations, the bill temporarily increases funding to states that did not expand Medicaid. Nonetheless, states that did not expand Medicaid, like Florida and Maine, experience job and economic losses after a few years. In fact, Florida has the third-highest level of job loss in the nation by 2026.
  • Other factors that can affect the size of economic and employment effects include:
    • the extent to which states gained coverage in the ACA health insurance marketplaces; states with higher marketplace enrollment tend to lose more
    • the cost of health insurance in the state; the new tax credits are the same regardless of location, making insurance less affordable in high-cost states and reducing participation
    • age structure; older people will find insurance less affordable
    • state population size; the population size of states magnifies their losses or gains
    • other factors that affect tax distribution, like number of residents with investment income or high incomes or whether medical device or pharmaceutical manufacturers are located in the state.

Overall, the 10 states with the largest job losses by 2026 are: New York (86,000), Pennsylvania (85,000), Florida (83,000), Michigan (51,000), Illinois (46,000), New Jersey (42,000), Ohio (42,000), North Carolina (41,000), California (32,000), and Tennessee (28,000). Forty-seven states have job losses by 2026; four states (Colorado, Hawaii, Utah, and Washington) have small job gains in 2026, but would likely incur losses in another year or two (Appendix A1).

Conclusions

The House bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act would greatly reduce the number of people with insurance coverage, effectively reversing gains made since the law’s enactment. The AHCA would initially create more employment and economic growth, driven by a federal deficit increase in 2018 and 2019, but the effects turn negative as coverage reductions deepen, with job losses and lower economic growth beginning in 2021. By 2026, 924,000 jobs would be lost, gross state products would be $93 billion lower, and business output could fall by $148 billion.

Health care has been one of the main areas of job growth in recent years.11 Under the AHCA, the sector would lose jobs immediately, with a loss of 24,000 jobs in 2018. By 2026, 725,000 fewer health sector jobs would exist. This would be a major reversal from current trends. While our analysis shows other employment sectors grow initially, most other sectors would experience losses within a decade.

It may be useful to look at these findings in a macroeconomic context. The U.S. unemployment rate for May 2017 was 4.3 percent, the lowest in 16 years and about half as high as during the recent recession. When unemployment is low, additional job growth creates a tighter labor market, so that businesses often have greater difficulties filling job vacancies. In turn, this can accelerate inflation.

It is likely that the business cycle will eventually slow down again. In that event, the AHCA could accentuate job loss and economic contraction. Combined with major increases in the number of uninsured, this could contribute to a period of economic and medical hardship in the U.S. The AHCA could exaggerate both the highs and lows of the business cycle. From a national policy perspective, it may be more useful to develop countercyclical policies that strengthen employment and the economy during times of contraction.

This analysis finds that the net effect of the AHCA would be a loss of almost 1 million jobs by 2026, combined with 23 million more Americans without health insurance, according to the CBO. In late May, the Trump administration released its budget proposal, which appears to propose an additional $610 billion in Medicaid cuts, beyond those included in the AHCA.12 Such deep cuts would further deepen the employment and economic losses discussed in this study.

This analysis has many limitations. We do not know whether or when the AHCA or an alternative will be enacted into law. Alternative policies could yield different effects. We focus only on the consequences of the AHCA. Other legislation, such as infrastructure, trade, national security, or tax policies, may be considered by Congress and might also affect economic growth and employment.

These projections, like others, are fraught with uncertainty. Economic, technical, or policy changes could alter results. In particular, the AHCA grants substantial discretion to states, such as in Medicaid expansions, waivers of federal regulations, and use of new funds like the Patient and State Stability Fund. While this analysis is aligned with CBO’s national estimates, we developed state-level projections, introducing further uncertainty. Our approach conservatively spreads changes across states and may underestimate the highs and lows for individual states.

See original article Here.

Source:

Ku, L., Steinmetz, E., Brantley, E., Holla, N., Bruen, B. (14 June 2017). The American Health Care Act: Economic and Employment Consequences for States. [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address http://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/issue-briefs/2017/jun/ahca-economic-and-employment-consequences


401(k) Borrowing Isn’t Free

Have your employees been dipping into their 401(k)s to support their financial needs? Then take a look at this article by David Sherman from Employee Benefit Adviser on why employees shouldn't dip into their 401(k)s and what employers can do to help employees support themselves financially without having to use the money saved in their 401(k)s.

When dire financial need strikes, employees often tap their retirement accounts. While there are cases in which a 401(k) withdrawal makes sense, these loans should be viewed as an absolute last resort.

There are significant downsides related to 401(k) loans such as including penalties, administration and maintenance fees as well as “leakage” from retirement accounts. This occurs when an employee takes a loan on their 401(k), cashes out entirely or leaves their job and rolls over their account to their new employer.

Borrowing from retirement plans presents hazards to the employer, as well. More employers are minimizing the ability of employees to dip into their 401(k) savings by limiting the number of loans from 66% in 2012 to 45% in 2016, according to SHRM. Despite this, the bottom line is that employees need access to low cost credit.

More than 1-in-4 participants use their 401(k) savings for non-retirement needs, according to financial education provider HelloWallet. That amounts to a startling $70 billion of retirement savings that employees are siphoning away from their future.

There are hidden costs to 401(k) loans. One of the perceived benefits of a 401(k) loan is that the borrower isn’t charged any interest. That’s a fallacy: 401(k) loans typically include interest rates that are 1 to 2 points higher than the current Prime Rate plus administrative fees. While the borrower pays this money to him or herself rather than to a bank, these “repayments” don’t take into account penalty of taking money out of a 401(k) for months or years when it might have enjoyed market gains.

The downside of the interest rate is that it makes paying back the loan more difficult and this will likely lead to 401(k) leakage. In some cases, loopholes that allow employees to raid their 401(k)s before retirement reduce the aggregate wealth in those accounts by 25%. Simply put, this translates into having the most senior and highest paid employees stay on the job because they do not have enough funds in their account to retire. From an HR administrator’s standpoint, that can increase overall costs, since employees who cannot afford to retire are drawing higher-than-average salaries. And thanks to their advanced age, they also run-up costs on the employer’s medical plan.

The financial wellness alternative

Employers should offer socially responsible alternatives to borrowing from their 401k. Not only to ensure that older workers can afford to retire and make room for younger, less-expensive hires, but to ease the financial burden for employees when emergencies do happen. This should be offered as a voluntary benefit with no risk to employers. In a recent Wall Street Journal article, “The Rising Retirement Perils of 401(k) ‘Leakage’” Redner’s Markets made that leap offering a low-cost Kashable loan to its employees. It stopped leakage and offered employees of the online grocer much needed relief from financial stress.

Adding a financial wellness solution to the employee voluntary benefits package that provides access to responsible credit is a first step in untangling employees’ financials. For employees struggling with college loans and credit card debt, this financial-wellness benefit allows them to borrow when needed at a low rate. For the 35% of employees surveyed by PWC in 2016 that said they had trouble meeting their monthly household expenses and the 29% that said they had trouble meeting their minimum credit card charges each month, this voluntary program provides multiple benefits. For the employee, it is an opportunity to build or improve their credit score, and provide relief from financial stress. To the employer, it’s a risk-free solution to stop the leakage from retirement accounts.

 

See the original article Here.

Source:

Sherman D. (2017 June 5). 401(k) borrowing isn't free [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/401-k-borrowing-isnt-free?feed=00000152-1377-d1cc-a5fa-7fff0c920000


The 10 Biggest 401(k) Plan Misconceptions

Do you know everything you need to know about your 401(k)? Check out this great article from Employee Benefit News about the top 10 misconceptions people have about their 401(k)s by Robert C. Lawton.

Unfortunately for plan sponsors, 401(k) plan participants have some big misconceptions about their retirement plan.

Having worked as a 401(k) plan consultant for more than 30 years with some of the most prestigious companies in the world — including Apple, AT&T, IBM, John Deere, Northern Trust, Northwestern Mutual — I’m always surprised by the simple but significant 401(k) plan misconceptions many plan participants have. Following are the most common and noteworthy —all of which employers need to help employees address.

1. I only need to contribute up to the maximum company match

Many participants believe that their company is sending them a message on how much they should contribute. As a result, they only contribute up to the maximum matched contribution percentage. In most plans, that works out to be only 6% in employee contributions. Many studies have indicated that participants need to average at least 15% in contributions each year. To dispel this misperception, and motivate participants to contribute something closer to what they should, plan sponsors should consider stretching their matching contribution.

2. It’s OK to take a participant loan

I have had many participants tell me, “If this were a bad thing why would the company let me do it?” Account leakage via defaulted loans is one of the reasons why some participants never save enough for retirement. In addition, taking a participant loan is a horribleinvestment strategy. Plan participants should first explore taking a home equity loan, where the interest is tax deductible. Plan sponsors should consider curtailing or eliminating their loan provisions.

3. Rolling a 401(k) account into an IRA is a good idea

There are many investment advisers working hard to convince participants this is a good thing to do. However, higher fees, lack of free investment advice, use of higher-cost investment options, lack of availability of stable value and guaranteed fund investment options and many other factors make this a bad idea for most participants.

4. My 401(k) account is a good way to save for college, a first home, etc.

When 401(k) plans were first rolled out to employees decades ago, human resources staff helped persuade skeptical employees to contribute by saying the plans could be used for saving for many different things. They shouldn’t be. It is a bad idea to use a 401(k) plan to save for an initial down payment on a home or to finance a home. Similarly, a 401(k) plan is not the best place to save for a child’s education — 529 plans work much better. Try to eliminate the language in your communication materials that promotes your 401(k) plan as a place to do anything other than save for retirement.

5. I should stop making 401(k) contributions when the stock market crashes

This is a more prevalent feeling among plan participants than you might think. I have had many participants say to me, “Bob, why should I invest my money in the stock market when it is going down. I'm just going to lose money!” These are the same individuals who will be rushing into the stock market at market tops. This logic is important to unravel with participants and something plan sponsors should emphasize in their employee education sessions.

6. Actively trading my 401(k) account will help me maximize my account balance

Trying to time the market, or following newsletters or a trader's advice, is rarely a winning strategy. Consistently adhering to an asset allocation strategy that is appropriate to a participant's age and ability to bear risk is the best approach for most plan participants.

7. Indexing is always superior to active management

Although index investing ensures a low-cost portfolio, it doesn't guarantee superior performance or proper diversification. Access to commodity, real estate and international funds is often sacrificed by many pure indexing strategies. A blend of active and passive investments often proves to be the best investment strategy for plan participants.

8. Target date funds are not good investments

Most experts who say that target date funds are not good investments are not comparing them to a participant's allocations prior to investing in target date funds. Target date funds offer proper age-based diversification. Many participants, before investing in target date funds, may have invested in only one fund or a few funds that were inappropriate risk-wise for their age.

9. Money market funds are good investments

These funds have been guaranteed money losers for a number of years because they have not kept pace with inflation. Unless a participant is five years or less away from retirement or has difficulty taking on even a small amount of risk, these funds are below-average investments. As a result of the new money market fund rules, plan sponsors should offer guaranteed or stable value investment options instead.

10. I can contribute less because I will make my investments will work harder

Many participants have said to me, “Bob, I don’t have to contribute as much as others because I am going to make my investments do more of the work.” Most participants feel that the majority of their final account balance will come from earnings in their 401(k) account. However, studies have shown that the major determinant of how much participants end up with at retirement is the amount of contributions they make, not the amount of earnings. This is another misconception that plan sponsors should work hard to unwind in their employee education sessions.

Make sure you address all of these misconceptions in your next employee education sessions.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Lawton R. (2017 April 4). The 10 biggest 401(k) plan misconceptions[Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/the-10-biggest-401-k-plan-misperceptions?brief=00000152-14a5-d1cc-a5fa-7cff48fe0001


How Affordable Care Act Repeal and Replace Plans Might Shift Health Insurance Tax Credits

Find out how your health insurance tax credits will be impacted with the repeal of the ACA in this great article by Kaiser Family Foundation.

An important part of the repeal and replacement discussions around the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will involve the type and amount of subsidies that people get to help them afford health insurance.  This is particularly important for lower and moderate income individuals who do not have access to coverage at work and must purchase coverage directly.

The ACA provides three types of financial assistance to help people afford health coverage: Medicaid expansion for those with incomes below 138% of poverty (the Supreme Court later ruled this to be at state option); refundable premium tax credits for people with incomes from 100% to 400% of the poverty level who purchase coverage through federal or state marketplaces; cost-sharing subsidies for people with incomes from 100% to 250% of poverty to provide lower deductibles and copays when purchasing silver plans in a marketplace.

This analysis focuses on alternative ways to provide premium assistance for people purchasing individual market coverage, explaining how they work, providing examples of how they’re calculated, and presenting estimates of how assistance overall would change for current ACA marketplace enrollees.  Issues relating to changing Medicaid or methods of subsidizing cost-sharing will be addressed in other analyses.

Premium Tax Credits Under the ACA and Current Replacement Proposals

The ACA and leading replacement proposals rely on refundable tax credits to help individual market enrollees pay for premiums, although the credit amounts are set quite differently.  The House Leadership proposal released on March 6, the American Health Care Act, proposes refundable tax credits which vary with age (with a phase-out for high-income enrollees) and grow annually with inflation.  The tax credits under the ACA vary with family income and the cost of insurance where people live, as well as age, and grow annually if premiums increase.

These various tax credit approaches can have quite different implications for different groups of individual market purchasers.  For example, the tax credits under the ACA are higher for people with lower incomes than for people with higher incomes, and no credit is provided for individuals with incomes over 400% of poverty.  The current replacement proposal, in contrast, is flat for incomes up to $75,000 for an individual and $150,000 for a married couple, and so would provide relatively more assistance to people with upper-middle incomes.  Similarly, the ACA tax credits are relatively higher in areas with higher premiums (like many rural areas), while the replacement proposal credits do not vary by location.  If premiums grow more rapidly than inflation over time (which they generally have), the replacement proposal tax credits will grow more slowly than those provided under the ACA.

What is a Tax Credit, and How is it Different from a Deduction?

A tax credit is an amount by which a taxpayer can reduce the amount they owe in federal income tax; for example, if a person had a federal tax bill of $2,500 and a tax credit of $1,000, their tax liability would be reduced to $1,500.  A refundable tax credit means that if the amount of the tax credit is greater than the amount of taxes owed, the taxpayer receives a refund of the difference; for example, if a person had a federal tax bill of $1000 and a tax credit of $1,500, they would receive a refund of $500.  Making the credit refundable is important if a goal is to assist lower-income families, many of whom may not owe federal income tax. An advanceable tax credit is made available at the time a premium payment is owed (which similarly benefits lower-income families so that they can receive the financial assistance upfront). The ACA and a number of replacement proposals allow for advance payment of credits.

A tax credit is different from a tax deduction.  A deduction reduces the amount of income that is taxed, while a credit reduces the amount of tax itself.  For example, if a person has taxable income of $30,000, a $500 deduction reduces the amount of taxable income to $29,500.  If the person’s marginal tax rate is 15%, the deduction reduces the person’s taxes by 15% of $500, or $75. Because people with lower incomes have lower marginal tax rates than people with higher incomes – and, typically don’t itemize their deductions – tax credits are generally more beneficial to lower income people than deductions.

The next section describes the differing tax credit approaches in more detail and draws out some of the implications for different types of purchasers.

How the Different Tax Credits Are Calculated

The ACA provides tax credits for individuals with family incomes from 100% to 400% of poverty ($11,880 to $47,520 for a single individual in 2017) if they are not eligible for employer-provided or public coverage and if they purchase individual market coverage in the federal or a state marketplace.  The tax credit amounts are calculated based on the family income of eligible individuals and the cost of coverage in the area where the live. More specifically, the ACA tax credit for an eligible individual is the difference between a specified percentage of his or her income (Table 1) and the premium of the second-lowest-cost silver plan (referred to as the benchmark premium) available in the area in which they live.  There is no tax credit available if the benchmark premium is less than the specified percentage of premium (which can occur for younger purchasers with relatively higher incomes) or if family income falls outside of the 100% to 400% of poverty range.  For families, the premiums for family members are added together (including up to 3 children) and compared to specified income percentages. ACA tax credits are made available in advance, based on income information provided to the marketplace, and reconciled based on actual income when a person files income taxes the following.

Take, for example, a person age 40 with income of $30,000, which is 253% of poverty.  At this income, the person’s specified percentage of income is 8.28% in 2017, which means that the person receives a tax credit if he or she has to pay more than 8.28% of income (or $2,485 annually) for the second-lowest-cost silver premium where he or she lives.  If we assume a premium of $4,328 (the national average benchmark premium for a person age 40 in 2017), the person’s tax credit would be the difference between the benchmark premium and the specified percentage of income, or $4,328 – $2,485 = $1,843 (or $154 per month).

The American Health Care Act takes a simpler approach and specifies the actual dollar amounts for a new refundable tax credit that could be used to purchase individual market coverage.  The amounts vary only with age up until an income of $75,000 for a single individual, at which point they begin to phase out. Tax credits range from $2,000 for people under age 30, to $2,500 for people ages 30 to 39, $3,000 for people age 40 to 49, $3,500 for people age 50 to 59, and $4,000 for people age 60 and over starting in 2020. Eligibility for the tax credit phases out starting at income above $75,000 for single individuals (the credit is reduced, but not below zero, by 10 cents for every dollar of income above this threshold, reaching zero at an income of $95,000 for single individuals up to age 29 or $115,000 for individuals age 60 and older). For joint filers, credits begin to phase out at an income of $150,000 (the tax credit is reduced to zero at an income of $190,000 for couples up to age 29; it is reduced to zero at income $230,000 for couples age 60 or older; and it is reduced to zero at income of $290,000 for couples claiming the maximum family credit amount). People who sign up for public programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, public employee health benefit programs, would not be eligible for a tax credit. The proposal further limits eligibility for tax credits to people who do not have an offer available for employer-provided health benefits.

Table 2 shows how projected ACA tax credits in 2020 compare to what would be provided under the American Health Care Act for people at various incomes, ages, and geographic areas. To show the ACA amounts in 2020, we inflated all 2017 premiums based on projections for direct purchase spending per enrollee from the National Health Expenditure Accounts. This method applies the same premium growth across all ages and geographic locations.  Note that the table does not include cost-sharing assistance under the ACA that lowers deductibles and copayments for low-income marketplace enrollees. For example, in 2016, people making between 100 – 150% of poverty enrolled in a silver plan on healthcare.gov received cost-sharing assistance worth $1,440; those with incomes between 150 – 200% of poverty received $1,068 on average; and those with incomes between 200 – 250% of poverty received $144 on average.

Under the ACA in 2020, we project that a typical 40-year-old making $20,000 per year would be eligible for $4,143 in premium tax credits (not including the additional cost-sharing subsidies to lower his or her deductibles and copayments), while under the American Health Care Act, this person would be eligible $3,000. For context, we project that the average ACA premium for a 40-year-old in 2020 would be $5,101 annually (meaning the tax credit in the ACA would cover 81% of the total premium) for a benchmark silver plan with comprehensive benefits and reduced cost-sharing. A $3,000 tax credit for this same individual under the American Health Care Act would represent 59% of the average 40-year-old benchmark silver premium under the ACA.

Generally, the ACA has higher tax credit amounts than the replacement plan for lower-income people – especially for those who are older and live in higher-cost areas – and lower credits for those with higher incomes. Unlike the ACA, the replacement plan provides tax credits to people over 400% percent of the poverty level (phasing out around 900% of poverty for a single person), as well as to people current buying individual market coverage outside of the marketplaces (not included in this analysis).

While replacement plan tax credits vary by age – by a factor of 2 to 1 for older adults relative to younger ones – the variation is substantially less than under the ACA. The big differences in ACA tax credits at different ages is due to the fact that premiums for older adults can be three times the level of premiums for younger adults under the ACA, but all people at a given income level are expected to pay the same percentage of their income towards a benchmark plan. The tax credit fills in the difference, and this amount is much higher for older adults. These differences by age would be even further magnified under the American Health Care Act (which permits premiums to vary by a factor of 5 to 1 due to age). Before the ACA, premiums for older adults were typically four or five times the premiums charged to younger adults.

The tax credits in the ACA vary significantly with premium costs in an area (see Table 2 and Figure 2). At a given income level and age, people receive bigger tax credits in a higher premium area like Mobile, Alabama and smaller tax credits in a lower premium area like Reno, Nevada. Under the ACA in 2017, premiums in Mobile, Alabama and Reno, Nevada approximately represent the 75th and 25th percentile, respectively.

The disparities between the ACA tax credits and those in the American Health Care Act will therefore vary noticeably across the country. For more on geographic differences between the ACA and the replacement plan, see Tax Credits under the Affordable Care Act vs. the American Health Care Act: An Interactive Map.

The same general pattern can be seen for families as individuals, with lower-income families – and particularly lower-income families in higher-cost areas – receiving larger tax credits under the ACA, while middle-income families in lower-cost areas would receive larger tax credits under the American Health Care Act (Figure 3).

Figure 4 below shows how tax credits under the ACA differ from those in the American Health Care Act for a couple in their 60’s with no children. In this scenario, because premiums for older adults are higher and the ACA ties tax credits to the cost of premiums, a 60-year-old couple would receive larger tax credits under the ACA than the American Health Care Act at lower and middle incomes, but would receive a larger tax credit under the American Health Care Act at higher incomes.

Estimates of Tax Credits Under the ACA and the American Health Care Act Over Time

We estimated the average tax credits that current ACA marketplace enrollees are receiving under the ACA and what they would qualify for if the American Health Care Act were in place.

The average estimated tax credit received by ACA marketplace enrollees in 2017 is $3,617 on an annual basis, and that this amount will rise to $4,615 by 2020 based on projected growth rates from the Congressional Budget Office. This includes the 81% who receive premium subsidies as well as the 19% who do not.

We estimate – based on the age distribution of marketplace enrollees – that current enrollees would receive an average tax credit under the American Health Care Act of $2,957 in 2020, or 36% less than under the ACA (see Table 3 and Figure 3). While many people would receive lower tax credits under the Affordable Health Care Act, some would receive more assistance, notably the 19% of current marketplace enrollees who do not qualify for ACA subsidies.

While ACA tax credits grow as premiums increase over time, the tax credits in the American Health Care Act are indexed to inflation plus 1 percentage point. Based on CBO’s projections of ACA tax credit increases and inflation, the disparity between the average credits under the ACA and the two replacement plans would widen over time. The average tax credit current marketplace enrollees would receive under the American Health Care Act would be 41% lower than under the ACA in 2022 and 44% lower in 2027.

Discussion

Like the ACA itself, the American Health Care Act includes refundable tax credits to help make premiums more affordable for people buying their own insurance. This might seem like an area where a replacement plan could preserve a key element of the ACA. However, the tax credits are, in fact, structured quite differently, with important implications for affordability and which groups may be winners or losers if the ACA is repealed and replaced.

For current marketplace enrollees, the American Health Care Act would provide substantially lower tax credits overall than the ACA on average. People who are lower income, older, or live in high premium areas would be particularly disadvantaged under the American Health Care Act. People with incomes over 400% of the poverty level – including those buying individual market insurance outside of the marketplaces – do not get any financial assistance under the ACA but many would receive tax credits under the replacement proposal.

The underlying details of health reform proposals, such as the size and structure of health insurance tax credits, matter crucially in determining who benefits and who is disadvantaged

See the original article Here.

Source:

Cox C., Claxton G., Levitt L. (2017 March 10). How affordable care act repeal and replace plans might shift health insurance tax credits [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.kff.org/health-reform/issue-brief/how-affordable-care-act-repeal-and-replace-plans-might-shift-health-insurance-tax-credits/


10 tips to boost retirement savings

Do you need help boosting your savings for your retirement? Check out these great tips from Benefits Pro on how to increasing your retirement savings by Marlene Y. Satter

Americans are struggling to save enough money for retirement.

Now that pensions are going the way of the dodo and workers are relying primarily on Social Security and 401(k) plans—the latter if they’re lucky—it’s a struggle to find extra money to set aside against the day they leave the workplace.

In fact, many workers never plan to retire.

Considering how many workers don’t even have access to a retirement plan at work, trying to stretch dollars even a little bit further to set aside money for retirement can be a real challenge.

That’s pretty clear from the zero-to-minimum savings held by many Americans.

In fact, with 40 million working-age households lacking any retirement savings at all, and the average balance of retirement accounts a pitiful $2,500 across all households, it’s obvious that something needs to be done. But how much can people do on low incomes, fighting against the gender wage gap and shrinking benefits packages?

Perhaps it’s only baby steps they can take, but even those baby steps can pay off over the span of a career. So here are some suggestions that workers could definitely benefit from on how they might be able to squeeze just a little more out of that paycheck.

Depending on a worker’s age, some of these strategies will be more helpful for some than for others—but all can make a difference in the end result: stashing away enough money to pay for retirement.

Courtesy of a range of sources, including Schwab Retirement Plan Services, Forbes, Fidelity and others, here are 10 strategies to help workers boost their retirement savings.

10. Take advantage of the employer match.

If you’re lucky enough to work at a company that provides a 401(k) plan, Schwab suggests that you make sure your contribution level is high enough to take full advantage of the employer matching contribution.

Not saving enough to get the full employer match is leaving free money on the table. Look for economies elsewhere (fewer trips to the barista, brown-bag lunches) to increase your contribution till you get the full benefit of whatever your employer is willing to give.

9. No matter what you’re saving, keep increasing it.

Some people up their retirement contributions every time they get a raise; others do it when they hit some other significant milestone, such as an anniversary with the company.

Schwab, again, suggests that whether it’s a performance review, a birthday or some other occasion, you keep raising your retirement contribution even if it’s only by one percent at a time. It will all add up by the time you’re ready to retire.

8. Automate retirement plan increases.

While you’re busy increasing those contributions, automate them.

Set up an automatic increase that will add to your savings at regular intervals, even if you forget.

That way, whether you’re the type that actually remembers those special occasions on which you plan to boost contributions or you forget them, you can set it and forget it—and your retirement plan will do the rest.

7. Don’t forget the catch-up contribution.

If you’re 50 years old or older, remember that you’re allowed to put an extra $6,000 into your retirement account to catch up to where you ought to be.

That can help a lot as you approach retirement, particularly if you haven’t saved the maximum allowable in years past.

6. Check the fees on your investments.

This one doesn’t actually require you to find additional money to save. What it does require is that you review the investments in your retirement accounts and see how much the fees add up to.

If there are cheaper investments available in your plan—exchange-traded funds, for example, or target-date funds that offer lower fees—make sure they’re suitable for your particular needs and risk tolerance and then, if they’re appropriate, make the switch. Cutting down on the fees you pay will keep your balance growing.

5. Put yourself on a budget.

Particularly if you haven’t saved all that much for retirement and the Big Day is drawing near, see if you can adjust to a budget that reflects lower spending levels—something you might have to do in retirement anyway, if money is tight.

Whether or not you can sustain living on that budget, while you’re experimenting, take any money that you save from your usual outlay and put it into your retirement account. Better yet, open a Roth if you’re eligible. You’ll have already paid taxes on the money, if it’s coming out of your regular pay, and when you take it out of a Roth however much it’s grown to will be tax free. That will save you money both now and then.

 

4. Look into your health savings account.

If your benefits plan at work includes an HSA, check it out as a potential investment vehicle. While most people just put money in it to pay approved medical expenses, many don’t know that they can actually invest the money in an HSA and just let it grow; it’s not a use-it-or-lose-it account.

If it grows into retirement, you can then use the money to pay approved medical expenses tax free, which will stretch your other retirement savings further. (You can also use it for nonapproved expenses, but you’ll have to pay tax on the money upon withdrawal if you do that.)

3. Make sure you’re using the right kind of account.

Don’t just stick your money into a savings account and wait for retirement. Check out the potential of and differences among different types of accounts—savings, HSAs, Roths, traditional IRAs, 401(k)s—and put your money where you’ll get the most bang for the buck.

Contribute the maximum to your 401(k) to get full matching funds at work, and then look into opening a traditional or a Roth IRA. As previously mentioned, if you’ve already paid taxes on money contributed to a Roth, when you withdraw it in retirement it will be tax free (so it will go further).

 

2. Don’t forget about the Saver’s Credit.

Your income and income tax filing status determine whether you’re eligible for this one, aimed at low- to moderate-income households, but it’s a goodie—and if you’re married and filing jointly, both of you might be able to claim it.

The program, the official name of which is the Retirement Savings Contributions Credit, can give you $1,000 for contributing to a qualifying retirement account. Whether your retirement plan is an IRA, a 401(k), 403(b), 457(b) or even a SEP or SIMPLE IRA, you contribute the allowable amount, assuming your income level makes you eligible, and the government credits you 10 percent, 20 percent, or 50 percent of the first $2,000 you contribute to retirement savings for the year.

1. Remember that payroll contributions to a retirement plan can lower your taxes.

Yes, by following the instructions in earlier steps and boosting your retirement contribution at work, you could lower your tax bracket—and that could have you losing less of your take-home pay to increase that contribution than you thought.

Depending on your withholding rate, an increased retirement contribution might hurt less than you think—and that can encourage you to do even more. You can check with human resources or the payroll department to find out just how much the hit will save you. And who knows? It might lower your adjusted gross income enough to let you qualify for the Saver’s Credit—a real win-win situation.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Satter M. (2017 March 07). 10 tips to boost retirement savings [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/03/07/10-tips-to-boost-retirement-savings?ref=mostpopular&page_all=1


How are your retirement health care savings stacking up?

Are you properly investing in your health saving account? Take a look at the this article from Benefits Pro about the importance of saving money for your healthcare by Reese Feuerman

For all ages, it's imperative to balance near-term and long-term savings goals, but the makeup of those savings goals has changed dramatically over the past 10 years.

With the continued rise in health care costs, and increased cost sharing between employers and employees, more employees and employers have been migrating to consumer-driven health care (CDH) to provide lower-cost alternatives.

With the increased adoption in these plans for employee cost savings purposes, employers have likewise realized similar cost savings to their bottom line. But what role does CDH play in the long term?

Republicans trying to find a way to repeal the ACA are turning to health savings accounts -- new ones, called...

The Greatest Generation was able to rely on their pensions, Social Security, Medicaid, and the like as a means to support them in retirement for both medical and living expenses. However, as the Baby Boomers continue their journey towards retirement, reliance upon future proof retirement funds are fading into the sunset for coming generations. According to a 2015 study from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), 29% of American’s 55 and older do not have money set aside in a pension plan or alternative retirement plan.

To make matters worse, some experts are forecasting Social Security funding will be depleted by 2034, leaving even more retirees potentially without a plan. As such, Generation X and beyond must look for more creatives measures for savings to make up the difference.

In 1978, 401(k) plans were introduced to provide the workforce with a secondary means for retirement savings while also providing significant tax benefits. However, even when actively funded, with rising health care costs and a depleted Social Security system—the solution this workforce has paid into for their entire career—will not be enough.

According to Healthview Services, the average retiree couple will spend $288,000 for just health care expenses during retirement. This sum could easily consume one-third of total retiree savings. This is a contributing factor to the rise and rapid adoption of tax-advantage health accounts to supplement retirement savings. Introduced to the market in 2003, Health Savings Accounts (HSA) have provided employees with an option to set aside pre-tax funds to either cover current year health care expenses, like the familiar Flexible Spending Account (FSA), or carry over the funds year-over-year to pay for medical expenses later or during retirement. The pretax money employees are able to set aside in these accounts to cover health care expenses, will over time, be on par with retirement savings contributions, such as a 401(k) and 403(b), because of increasing costs and triple-tax savings.

It is important for consumers to understand these retirement options and how they could be leveraged for greater financial wealth. As a result, the Health Care Stack, an analysis authored by ConnectYourCare, acts as a life savings model and illustrates the amount of pretax money consumers can contribute for both their lifestyle and health expenses in retirement.

 

For illustrative purposes, according to current IRS guidelines, the average American under the age of 50 could set aside up to $24,750 each year pre-tax for retirement to cover their health care and living expenses. In this example, if a worker in his or her 30s starts to set aside the maximum contributions (based on IRS guidelines) for HSA contributions, assuming a rate of return of 3%, they would have $330,000 saved in their HSA to cover health care expenses once they reach the retirement age of 65. This number could be even greater if President Trump’s administration passes any number of proposed bills to increase the HSA contribution limits to match the maximum out-of-pocket expenses included in high deductible health plans. This allocation would not only cover average medical expenses, but also provide a triple-tax advantage for consumers from now through retirement.

In addition to the long-term retirement goals, the yearly pre-tax savings may be even greater if notional accounts are factored in, with approved IRS limits of a $2,600 per year maximum for Flexible Spending Accounts, $5,000 per year maximum for Dependent Care FSA, and $6,120 per year maximum for commuter plans. This equals $38,470 (or $44,820 if HSA contributions increase) of pre-tax contributions that consumers could save by offsetting the tax burden and could invest towards retirement.

 

For those consumers over the age of 50, the savings potential is even greater as they can contribute to a post retirement catch-up for their 401K plans equaling a total of $24,000, plus they may take advantage of the $6,750 HSA savings, as well as the additional $1,000 catch up. If certain proposed bills are passed, the increase could be $38,100 a year that they could set aside, in pre-tax assets, for retirement.

Not only will an individual’s expenses be covered, but there are other benefits brought forth by proper planning, including the potential to reach ones retirement savings goals early. Let’s say that after meeting with a licensed financial investor it was determined that an individual needed $1.8 million in order to retire, and according to national averages, close to $288,000 to cover health care costs.

 

Given the proper investment strategy around contributions to both retirement and  HSA plans, an individual could - theoretically -save enough to meet their retirement investment needs by the age of 60 for both lifestyle and health care expense coverage, if they started making careful investments in their 20s (assuming the worker is making $50,000 per year with a 3% annual increase).

In comparison, under current proposals, which include the increased HSA limits, retirement savings could be achieved even earlier with the coverage threshold being at 57 for the average worker. This is a tremendous opportunity to transform retirement investment programs for all American workers who would otherwise be left on their own. Talk about the American dream!

While there is not a one-size fits all strategy, it is important for everyone to understand their options and see how these pretax accounts outlined in the Health Care Stack play an important consideration in ones future retirement planning.

Taking the time now to fully understand tax-favored benefit accounts will provide him or her with the appropriate coverage to enjoy life well into their golden years. Retirement is just around the corner, are you ready?

See the original article Here.

Source:

Feuerman (2017 March 02). How are your retirement health care savings stacking up?[Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/03/02/how-are-your-retirement-health-care-savings-stacki?ref=hp-in-depth


IRS may have big ACA employer tax woes, advocate says

IRS may play a big part in your company's ACA tax filing. Checkout this article from Benefits Pro about what the IRS will be looking for in companies ACA filings this year by Allison Bell

An official who serves as a voice for taxpayers at the Internal Revenue Service says the IRS may be poorly prepared to handle the wave of employer health coverage offer reports now flooding in.

The Affordable Care Act requires "applicable large employers" to use Form 1095-C to tell their workers, former workers and the IRS what, if any, major medical coverage the workers and former workers received. Most employers started filing the forms in early 2016, for the 2015 coverage year.

This year, the IRS is supposed to start imposing penalties on some employers who failed to offer what the government classifies as solid coverage to enough workers.

If Donald Trump's promise holds true, the Affordable Care Act could be on its way out. Along with it may...

Nina Olson, the national taxpayer advocate, says the IRS was not equipped to test the accuracy of ACA health coverage information reporting data before the 2016 filing season, for the 2015 coverage year. The IRS expected to receive just 77 million 1095-C forms for 2015, but it has actually received 104 million 1095-C's, and it has rejected 5.4 percent of the forms, Olson reports.

"Reasons for rejected returns include faulty transmission validation, missing (or multiple) attachments, error reading the file, or duplicate files," Olson says.

Meanwhile, the IRS has had to develop a training program for the IRS employees working on employer-related ACA issues on the fly, and it was hoping in November to provide the training this month, Olson says.

"The training materials are currently under development," Olson says. She says her office did not have a chance to see how complete the training materials are, or how well they protect taxpayer reports.

Olson discusses those concerns about IRS efforts to administer ACA tax provisions and many other tax administration concerns in a new report on IRS performance. The Taxpayer Advocate Service prepares the reports every year, to tell Congress how the IRS is doing at meeting taxpayers' needs.

In the same report, Olson talks about other ACA-related problems, such as headaches for ACA exchange plan premium tax credit subsidy users who are also Social Security Disability Insurance program users, and she gives general ACA tax provision administration data.

APTC subsidy

The ACA premium tax credit subsidy program helps low-income and moderate-income exchange plan users pay for their coverage.

Exchange plan buyers who qualify can get the tax credit the ordinary way, by applying for it when they file their income tax returns for the previous year. But about 94 percent of tax credit users receive the subsidy in the form of an "advanced premium tax credit."

When an exchange plan user gets an APTC subsidy, the IRS sends the subsidy money to the health coverage issuer while the coverage year is still under way, to help cut how much cash the user actually has to pay for coverage.

When an APTC user files a tax return for a coverage year, in the spring after the end of the coverage year, the user is supposed to figure out whether the IRS provided too little or too much APTC help. The IRS is supposed to send cash to consumers who got too little help. If an APTC user got too much help, the IRS can take some or all of the extra help out of the user's tax refund.

Another ACA provision, the "individual shared responsibility" provision, or individual coverage mandate provision, requires many people to obtain what the government classifies as solid major medical coverage or else pay a penalty.

Individual taxpayers first began filing ACA-related tax forms in early 2015, for the 2014 coverage year. Early last year, individual taxpayers filed ACA-related forms for the second time, for the 2015 coverage year.

Only 6.1 million taxpayers told the IRS they owed individual mandate penalty payments for 2015, down from 7.6 million who owed the penalty for 2014.

But, in part because the ACA designed the mandate penalty to get bigger each year for the first few years, the average penalty payment owed increased to $452 for 2015, from $204 for 2014.

The number of households claiming some kind of exemption from the penalty program increased to 8.6 million, from 8.4 million.

The number of filers who said they had received APTC help increased to 5.3 million for 2015, up from 3.1 million for 2014. And the amount of APTC help reported increased to $18.9 billion for 2015, from $11.3 billion in APTC subsidy help for 2014.

That means the 2015 recipients were averaging about $3,566 in reported subsidy help in 2015, down from $3,645 in reported help for 2014.

Olson says her office helped 10,910 taxpayers with ACA premium tax credit issues in the 12-month period ending Sept. 30, 2016, up from 3,318 in the previous 12-month period.

One of her concerns is how the Social Security Disability Insurance program, which is supposed to serve people with severe disabilities, interacts with the ACA provision that requires people who guess wrong about their income during the coverage year to pay back excess APTC subsidy help.

SSDI lump-sum payment headaches

Some Social Security Disability Insurance recipients have to fight with the Social Security Administration for years to qualify for benefits. Once the SSDI recipients win their fights to get benefits, the SSA may pay them all of the back benefits owed in one big lump sum.

The big, lump-sum disability benefits payments may increase the SSDI recipients' income for a previous year so much they end up earning too much for that year to qualify for ACA premium tax credit help, Olson says in the new report.

The SSDI recipients may then have to pay all of the ACA premium tax credit help they received back to the IRS, Olson says.

So far, IRS lawyers have not figured out any law they can use to protect the SSDI recipients from having to pay large amounts of premium tax credit help back to the government, Olson says.

For now, she says, her office is just trying to work on a project to warn consumers about how accepting any lump-sum payment, including an SSDI lump-sum benefits payment, might lead to premium tax credit headaches.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Bell A. (2017 January 16). IRS may have big ACA employer tax woes, advocate says [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/01/16/irs-may-have-big-aca-employer-tax-woes-advocate-sa?page_all=1