Proposed Bill Would Streamline Employer Reporting Under ACA

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October 16, 2017

On October 3, bipartisan legislation was introduced in the House and the Senate to streamline the employer health-coverage reporting requirements under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  In contrast to the ACA repeal-and-replace bills proposed in the past several months, which do not directly affect ACA information reporting provisions (see prior coverage), the Commonsense Reporting Act would direct the Treasury Department to implement a more streamlined, prospective reporting system less burdensome than the current requirements.  Specifically, the legislation would create a voluntary prospective reporting system for employer-provided health coverage and permit employers who use this system to provide employee statements under section 6056 only to employees who have purchased coverage through an exchange, rather than to the entire workforce.  The Commonsense Reporting Act has bipartisan support, and may gain more traction if Congress seeks to improve the ACA and its exchanges rather than repeal and replace the ACA entirely.

The ACA requires employers and insurance carriers to gather monthly data and report them to the IRS and their employees annually under sections 6055 and 6056.  This reporting is intended to verify compliance with the individual and employer mandates, and to administer premium tax credits and cost sharing subsidies under the state and federally-facilitated insurance exchanges.  Section 6056 requires applicable large employers (ALEs) to file a return with the IRS and provide a statement to each full-time employee with information regarding the offer of employer-sponsored health care coverage.

At its core, the Commonsense Reporting Act would create a voluntary prospective reporting system.  This system would allow employers to make available data regarding their health plans not later than 45 days before the first day of open enrollment, rather than at the end of a tax year.  The data required includes the employer’s name and EIN, as well as certifications regarding:

  • whether minimum essential coverage under section 5000A(f) is offered to the following groups: full-time employees, part-time employees, dependents, or spouses;
  • whether the coverage meets the minimum value requirement of section 36B;
  • whether the coverage satisfies one of the affordability safe harbors under section 4980H; and
  • whether the employer reasonably expects to be liable for any shared responsibility payments under section 4980H for the year.

The employer would also need to provide the months during the prospective reporting period that this coverage is available, and the applicable waiting periods.

The proposed legislation would also ease an employer’s obligation to furnish employee statements (Forms 1095-C) regarding employer-provided coverage pursuant to section 6056.  Specifically, employers who use the voluntary prospective reporting system must provide employee statements only to those who have purchased coverage through an Exchange (based on information provided by the Exchange to the employer), rather than to the entire workforce.  Presumably, the rationale is that an employee covered through an Exchange can use information provided in Part II of the Form 1095-C—regarding whether, in each month, the employer offered minimum essential coverage (MEC) that is affordable and that provides minimum value—to apply for the premium tax credit.  This credit is available only for employees covered through an Exchange and only for the months in which the employee was not eligible for affordable employer-provided MEC that provides minimum value and any other MEC outside the individual market.

In addition to these changes to employer health-coverage reporting, the proposed legislation would also: (a) direct the IRS to accept full names and dates of birth in lieu of dependents’ and spouses’ Social Security numbers and require the Social Security Administration to assist in the data-matching process; (b) allow for electronic transmission of employee and enrollee statements without requiring recipients to affirmatively opt-in to electronic receipt; and (c) require the Government Accountability Office to study the functionality of the voluntary prospective reporting system.

Although the legislation has attracted the support of a large number of business groups, it remains unclear whether it can overcome the current reluctance among Republican Representatives and Senators to take any action that may further entrench the ACA.  Given the White House’s recent actions that appear designed to weaken the ACA, White House support may also be difficult to garner.  We will monitor the legislation for further developments.

Five New CAAs on Exchange of CbC Reports Pushes Total to 27

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October 9, 2017

The IRS has concluded competent authority arrangements (“CAAs”) for the exchange of country-by-country (“CbC”) reports with the Czech Republic, Finland, Greece, Italy, and Sweden.  The new arrangements bring the number of CAAs for the exchange of CbC reports to 27.  The CAAs for the exchange of CbC reports generally require the competent authorities of the foreign country and the United States to exchange annually, on an automatic basis, CbC reports received from each reporting entity that is a tax resident in its jurisdiction, provided that one or more constituent entities of the reporting entity’s group is a tax resident in the other jurisdiction, or is subject to tax with respect to the business carried out through a permanent establishment in the other jurisdiction.

In the United States, CbC reporting is required for U.S. persons that are the ultimate parent entity of a multinational enterprise (“MNE”) with revenue of $850 million or more in the preceding accounting year, for reporting years beginning on or after June 30, 2016, under the IRS’s final regulations issued last summer (see prior coverage).  Reporting entities must file a new Form 8975 (“Country by Country Report”) and Schedule A to Form 8975 (“Tax Jurisdiction and Constituent Entity Information”).  In Revenue Procedure 2017-23, the IRS announced that U.S. MNEs may voluntarily file Form 8975 with the IRS for taxable years beginning on or after January 1, 2016, and before June 30, 2016.  U.S. MNEs that do not voluntarily file with the IRS may be subject to CbC reporting in foreign jurisdictions in which they have constituent entities.

As we have previously reported, a CAA generally must be in force with a foreign jurisdiction for CbC reports filed with the IRS by a U.S. MNE to satisfy the CbC reporting requirements under foreign law.  Although the new agreements are welcome, the pace at which the IRS has concluded CAA negotiations with foreign jurisdictions continues to raise concerns that U.S. MNEs may be subject to foreign filing requirements, as many foreign jurisdictions that have adopted CbC reporting requirements under the OECD’s Base Erosion and Profit Shifting Action 13 have done so with respect to reporting years beginning on or after January 1, 2016.  The United States’ decision to pursue bilateral CAAs with each foreign jurisdiction rather than sign a multilateral CAA has made the implementation process longer than that in other jurisdictions.  The U.S. CAAs are substantially similar to the multilateral CAA, but numerous foreign jurisdictions have not yet signed a bilateral CAA with the IRS, including China, France, Germany, Mexico, and Japan, although a number of these jurisdictions are in negotiations with the United States.

The IRS maintains a status table of foreign jurisdictions on its CbC Reporting web site.  The table identifies foreign countries with which the U.S. is in negotiations for a CAA and that have satisfied the United States’ data safeguards and infrastructure review.  Although the foreign jurisdictions listed have consented to being listed, the web site warns that taxpayers cannot rely on the table for assurances that the CAAs will be adopted by the end of 2017.  Although U.S. voluntary reporting for early reporting periods began on September 1, U.S. MNEs should monitor continuing developments to determine whether delays in the U.S. CAA process may necessitate the filing of CbC reports in foreign jurisdictions in addition to the United States.

First Friday FATCA Update

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October 6, 2017

Since our last monthly FATCA update, the IRS has issued Notice 2017-46, providing welcomed reprieve for U.S. financial institutions with respect to the collection of foreign taxpayer identification numbers (FTINs) required of them by FATCA to avoid Chapter 3 withholding.  The notice delays the date on which U.S. financial institutions must begin collecting FTINs to January 1, 2018, provides a phase-in period for obtaining FTINs from account holders documented before January 1, 2018, that will end on December 31, 2019, and limits the circumstances in which FTINs are required (see prior coverage).  This week, an IRS official reiterated that a change in an accountholder’s address to another jurisdiction is a change in circumstances that will invalidate the Form W-8 for payments made after the change provided an FTIN is otherwise required, necessitating the collection of an FTIN if an FTIN is otherwise required with respect to the payment(s).

Additionally, the Treasury Department has also released the Model 1A intergovernmental agreement (IGA) between the United States and Kazakhstan.

Under FATCA, IGAs come in two forms: Model 1 or Model 2.  Under a Model 1 IGA, the foreign treaty partner agrees to collect information of U.S. accountholders in foreign financial institutions operating within its jurisdiction and transmit the information to the IRS.  Model 1 IGAs are drafted as either reciprocal (Model 1A) agreements or nonreciprocal (Model 1B) agreements.  By contrast, Model 2 IGAs are issued in only a nonreciprocal format and require FFIs to report information directly to the IRS.

A competent authority agreement (CAA) is a bilateral agreement between the United States and the treaty partner to clarify or interpret treaty provisions.  A CAA implementing an IGA typically establishes and prescribes the rules and procedures necessary to implement certain provisions in the IGA and the Tax Information Exchange Agreement, if applicable.  Specific topics include registration of the treaty partner’s financial institutions, time and manner of exchange of information, remediation and enforcement, confidentiality and data safeguards, and cost allocation.  Generally, a CAA becomes operative on the later of (1) the date the IGA enters into force, or (2) the date the CAA is signed by the competent authorities of the United States and the treaty partner.

The Treasury Department website publishes IGAs, and the IRS publishes their implementing CAAs.

IRS Updates List of Countries Subject to Bank Interest Reporting Requirements

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October 2, 2017

Last week, the IRS issued Revenue Procedure 2017-46 to supplement the list of countries subject to the reporting requirements of Code section 6049, which generally relate to reporting on bank interest paid to nonresident alien individuals.  The expansion is not unexpected, as this list of countries, originally set forth in Revenue Procedure 2014-64 and modified a handful of times since, will likely continue to expand as more countries enter into tax information exchange agreements with the U.S. in order to implement the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA).  Specifically, the Revenue Procedure adds the Faroe Islands and Greenland to the list of countries with which the U.S. has a bilateral tax information exchange agreement, and adds Croatia and Panama to the list of countries with which Treasury and IRS have determined the automatic exchange of information to be appropriate.  Coverage of previous updates to these lists can be found here and here.

Prior to 2013, interest on bank deposits was generally not required to be reported if paid to a nonresident alien other than a Canadian.  In 2012, the IRS amended Treas. Reg. § 1.6049-8 in an effort to provide bilateral information exchanges under the intergovernmental agreements between the United States and partner jurisdictions that were being agreed to as part of the implementation of FATCA.  In many cases, those agreements require the United States to share information obtained from U.S. financial institutions with foreign tax authorities.  Under the amended regulation, certain bank deposit interest paid on accounts held by nonresident aliens who are residents of certain countries must be reported to the IRS so that the IRS can satisfy its obligations under the agreements to provide such information reciprocally.

The bank interest reportable under Treas. Reg. § 1.6049-8(a) includes interest: (i) paid to a nonresident alien individual; (ii) not effectively connected with a U.S. trade or business; (iii) relating to a deposit maintained at an office within the U.S., and (iv) paid to an individual who is a resident of a country properly identified as one with which the U.S. has a bilateral tax information exchange agreement.  Under Treas. Reg. § 1.6049-4(b)(5), for such bank interest payable to a nonresident alien individual that exceeds $10, the payor must file Form 1042-S, “Foreign Person’s U.S. Source Income Subject to Withholding,” for the year of payment.