Did you get the Wellness Program notice from the IRS? Jared Bilski outlines how the new memorandum may impact your wellness benefits in the article below.

Original Post from HRMorning.com on June 10, 2016

Most HR pros are focused on ensuring their wellness rewards meet the strict requirements of the ACA and the ADA. But the IRS just reminded employers there are other considerations as well.

Via its Office of Chief Counsel, the agency just released a memorandum on its views of the tax treatment of rewards under employer wellness plans.

Note: IRS memoranda don’t constitute formal advice. However, they do give employers a good understanding of how the agency views compliance topics.

Cash, cash-equivalent rewards

The memorandum confirms that certain tax rules apply to employer-sponsored wellness program. Coverage — including health screenings and other medical care — provided by an employer-sponsored wellness program is generally excluded from an employee’s income under specific sections of The Tax Code. But cash rewards or cash-equivalent rewards earned as a result of a wellness program are a different story.

According to the IRS, if an employee earns a cash reward under the program, that reward must be included in the employee’s gross income under Code Section 61 and is a payment of wages subject to employment taxes.

In addition, if an employee earns a cash-equivalent reward that isn’t excludible from his or her income — e.g., the payment of gym membership fees — the fair market value of that reward will be included in the employee’s gross income and is a payment of wages subject to employment taxes.

Additional clarifications

A few additional clarifications in the IRS memorandum:

  • If employers reimburse all or a portion of the premiums paid by the employee through a cafeteria plan for the company’s wellness plan, those reimbursements will be included in the employee’s gross income and are payments of wages subject to employment taxes.
  • Although some non-cash benefits may be excludible as de minimis fringe benefits (e.g., a T-shirt for a company wellness plan), cash fringe benefits generally aren’t eligible to be treated as excludable de minimis fringe benefits.

Find the original article here.


Bilski, J. (2016, June 10). Fed reveal how to handle tax treatment of wellness rewards [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.hrmorning.com/feds-reveal-how-to-handle-tax-treatment-of-wellness-rewards/