On December 20, 2019, President Donald Trump signed into law the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020 (Act). After years of delayed effective dates, the Act finally repeals the 40% excise tax on high-cost health coverage, often referred to as the “Cadillac tax.” Furthermore, the Act extends the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) fee scheduled to originally sunset at the end of 2019.

Morgan Lewis associate Samantha Kapnek co-authored this article.

On December 4, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued Notice 2019-64, which contains the 2019 Required Amendments List for individually designed tax-qualified retirement plans. As background, the IRS issues its Required Amendments List each year to identify statutory and administrative changes to the tax qualification rules that may require sponsors of individually designed retirement plans to amend their plans to comply with the changes. In general, the deadline for adopting any required amendments on the list is the end of the second calendar year after the list is issued.

The 2019 list identifies the following changes that may require amendments to an individually designed retirement plan:

In final regulations set to take effect for 2020 Forms W-2, the IRS gives employers the option of using truncated Social Security numbers (SSNs) on employee Forms W-2 issued after December 31, 2020. The new rules are an attempt to assist employer efforts to protect confidential employee identification information from identity theft.

As we look forward to 2020, we bring you a few key takeaways on the hot topics and trends that individuals operating in the employee benefits space are watching in health and welfare, plan sponsor considerations, executive compensation, fiduciary, and fringe benefits.

The Internal Revenue Service on September 23 finalized proposed regulations relating to hardship distributions under an IRC 401(k) plan. The final regulations differ little from the proposed regulations published on November 14, 2018, and, like the proposed regulations, reflect changes made under the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (BBA 2018), and provide updates reflecting changes (already in practice) made under the Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax Act of 2008 (HEART Act) and the Pension Protection Act of 2006 (PAP 2006). They also modify the existing “non-safe harbor” determination of whether a distribution is necessary to satisfy an immediate and heavy financial need. To learn about these changes, please read our LawFlash.

Congratulations to Steven P. Johnson on his election to the Morgan Lewis partnership in our employee benefits and executive compensation practice! Effective October 1, 2019, Steve, who is resident in Washington, DC, will join 29 other newly elected partners from 12 offices and nine practices. For information about all of the firm’s newly elected partners, please see Morgan Lewis Elects 30 New Partners.

The IRS continues to aggressively audit how free meals and snacks offered to employees in many workplaces are treated for federal tax purposes. Recent IRS guidance in this respect is Technical Advice Memorandum 201903017 (the TAM) published this spring. The TAM, which includes both employer-favorable and IRS-favorable provisions, is essentially the first guidance on employer-provided meals and snacks that the IRS has published in nearly two decades. (We previously discussed changes made to the on-site meal and snack deduction rules in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act for federal income tax purposes.)

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) amended Section 217 of the Internal Revenue Code (Code) to suspend the deduction for moving expenses from 2018 through 2025. This change has a subtle yet meaningful impact on many tax-qualified retirement plans.

When testing qualified plans for compliance with the Code’s coverage and nondiscrimination requirements, plans are required to use a definition of “compensation” that complies with Code Section 414(s). The default definition of compensation in Section 414(s) is “compensation” as it is defined in Code Section 415(c)(3), which includes nondeductible moving expenses, but excludes deductible moving expenses. The TCJA makes all moving expenses “nondeductible,” which means that all moving expenses should be included in compensation for plans that use the default Section 415 definition for testing purposes.

Internal Revenue Service Notice 2019-09 gives tax-exempt organizations interim guidance on how to identify covered employees, calculate remuneration, and allocate excise tax under Section 4960. Please see our recent LawFlash on this interim guidance, and reach out to the LawFlash authors or your Morgan Lewis contacts if you have additional questions.

Companies that provide meals and snacks on their “business premises,” as well as manufacturers of snack or breakroom products, will be particularly interested in a possible expansion of what many have assumed would be a 50% disallowance of deductions for all coffee, doughnuts, fruit, soft drinks, candy, and similar items, effective after 2017. A gap in the regulations points to the possibility that breakroom snacks that are considered de minimis fringe benefits provided on business premises might remain 100% deductible.