Answers to the Top 4 Questions about Section 105(h) Nondiscrimination Testing
By Danielle Capilla, Chief Compliance Officer at United Benefit Advisors
Under Internal Revenue Code Section 105(h), a self-insured medical reimbursement plan must pass two nondiscrimination tests. Failure to pass either test means that the favorable tax treatment for highly compensated individuals who participate in the plan will be lost. The Section 105(h) rules only affect whether reimbursement (including payments to health care providers) under a self-insured plan is taxable.
When Section 105(h) was enacted, its nondiscrimination testing applied solely to self-insured plans. Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), Section 105(h) also applies to fully-insured, non-grandfathered plans. However, in late 2010, the government delayed enforcement of Section 105(h) against fully-insured, non-grandfathered plans until the first plan year beginning after regulations are issued. To date, no regulations have been issued so there is currently no penalty for noncompliance.
Practically speaking, if a plan treats all employees the same, then it is unlikely that the plan will fail Section 105(h) nondiscrimination testing.
What Is a Self-Insured Medical Reimbursement Plan?
Section 105(h) applies to a “self-insured medical reimbursement plan,” which is an employer plan to reimburse employees for medical care expenses listed under Code Section 213(d) for which reimbursement is not provided under a policy of accident or health insurance.
Common self-insured medical reimbursement plans are self-funded major medical plans, health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs), and medical expense reimbursement plans (MERPs). Many employers who sponsor an insured plan may also have a self-insured plan; that self-insured plan is subject to the Section 105 non-discrimination rules. For example, many employers offer a fully insured major medical plan that is integrated with an HRA to reimburse expenses incurred before a participant meets the plan deductible.
What If the Self-Insured Medical Reimbursement Plan Is Offered Under a Cafeteria Plan?
A self-insured medical reimbursement plan (self-insured plan) can be offered outside of a cafeteria plan or under a cafeteria plan. Section 105(h) nondiscrimination testing applies in both cases.
Regardless of grandfathered status, if the self-insured plan is offered under a cafeteria plan and allows employees to pay premiums on a pre-tax basis, then the plan is still subject to the Section 125 nondiscrimination rules. The cafeteria plan rules affect whether contributions are taxable; if contributions are taxable, then the Section 105(h) rules do not apply.
What Is the Purpose of Nondiscrimination Testing?
Congress permits self-insured medical reimbursement plans to provide tax-free benefits. However, Congress wanted employers to provide these tax-free benefits to their regular employees, not just to their executives. Nondiscrimination testing is designed to encourage employers to provide benefits to their employees in a way that does not discriminate in favor of employees who are highly paid or high ranking.
If a plan fails the nondiscrimination testing, the regular employees will not lose the tax benefits of the self-insured medical reimbursement plan and the plan will not be invalidated. However, highly paid or high ranking employees may be adversely affected if the plan fails testing.
What Are the Two Nondiscrimination Tests?
The two nondiscrimination tests are the Eligibility Test and Benefits Test.
The Eligibility Test answers the basic question of whether there are enough regular employees benefitting from the plan. Section 105(h) provides three ways of passing the Eligibility Test:
- The 70% Test – 70 percent or more of all employees benefit under the plan.
- The 70% / 80% Test – At least 70 percent of employees are eligible under the plan and at least 80 percent or more of those eligible employees participate in the plan.
- The Nondiscriminatory Classification Test – Employees qualify for the plan under a classification set up by the employer that is found by the IRS not to be discriminatory in favor of highly compensated individuals.
The Benefits Test answers the basic question of whether all participants are eligible for the same benefits.
For information on who is a highly compensated individual, how the tests are applied, when to test, and what to do if you fail the test (including excess reimbursement examples), request UBA’s Compliance Advisor, “Section 105(h) Nondiscrimination Testing”.