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RETIREMENT SAVINGS PLANS
- IRS Announces 2015 Pension Plan Limitations
EMPLOYER HEALTH INSURANCE
- Online Access to SHOP Marketplace Starts November 15, 2014
- ACA Transitional Reinsurance Program Submission Form Now Available
SOCIAL SECURITY DEVELOPMENT
- Social Security Announces 1.7 Percent Benefit Increase for 2015
- Ebola Concerns
RETIREMENT SAVINGS PLANS
IRS Announces 2015 Pension Plan Limitations
In October, the Internal Revenue Service announced cost‑of‑living adjustments affecting dollar limitations for pension plans and other retirement-related items for tax year 2015. Many of the pension plan limitations will change for 2015 because the increase in the cost-of-living index met the statutory thresholds that trigger their adjustment. However, other limitations will remain unchanged because the increase in the index did not meet the statutory thresholds that trigger their adjustment. Highlights include the following:
• The elective deferral (contribution) limit for employees who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan is increased from $17,500 to $18,000.
• The catch-up contribution limit for employees aged 50 and over who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan is increased from $5,500 to $6,000.
• The limit on annual contributions to an Individual Retirement Arrangement (IRA) remains unchanged at $5,500. The additional catch-up contribution limit for individuals aged 50 and over is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $1,000.
• The deduction for taxpayers making contributions to a traditional IRA is phased out for singles and heads of household who are covered by a workplace retirement plan and have modified adjusted gross incomes (AGI) between $61,000 and $71,000, up from $60,000 and $70,000 in 2014. For married couples filing jointly, in which the spouse who makes the IRA contribution is covered by a workplace retirement plan, the income phase-out range is $98,000 to $118,000, up from $96,000 to $116,000. For an IRA contributor who is not covered by a workplace retirement plan and is married to someone who is covered, the deduction is phased out if the couple’s income is between $183,000 and $193,000, up from $181,000 and $191,000. For a married individual filing a separate return who is covered by a workplace retirement plan, the phase-out range is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $0 to $10,000.
• The AGI phase-out range for taxpayers making contributions to a Roth IRA is $183,000 to $193,000 for married couples filing jointly, up from $181,000 to $191,000 in 2014. For singles and heads of household, the income phase-out range is $116,000 to $131,000, up from $114,000 to $129,000. For a married individual filing a separate return, the phase-out range is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $0 to $10,000.
• The AGI limit for the saver’s credit (also known as the retirement savings contribution credit) for low- and moderate-income workers is $61,000 for married couples filing jointly, up from $60,000 in 2014; $45,750 for heads of household, up from $45,000; and $30,500 for married individuals filing separately and for singles, up from $30,000.
Additional information on the adjusted and unchanged limitations is available by clicking HERE.
EMPLOYER HEALTH INSURANCE
Online Access to SHOP Marketplace Starts November 15, 2014
Online enrollment for small businesses to purchase health coverage your employees through the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) Marketplace will begin on November 15 for coverage starting January 1, 2015. Key points of the SHOP Marketplace:
• If your small business or non-profit organization has 50 or fewer full-time equivalent (FTE) employees, you can use the SHOP Marketplace to offer your employees affordable, high-quality health coverage.
• You control the coverage you offer and how much you pay toward employee premiums.
• When you compare health plans available in the SHOP Marketplace, you can choose from four Levels of Coverage. This makes it easier to find a plan that works for your business and your employees.
• If you enroll in SHOP coverage and have fewer than 25 employees, you may qualify for a Small Business Health Care Tax Credit worth up to 50% of your premium costs. The tax credit is available only for plans bought through the SHOP Marketplace.
You can apply for SHOP coverage any time. There’s no restricted enrollment period for SHOP coverage like there is in the individual Marketplace. Visit this PAGE for a quick overview of the SHOP application process and PREVIEW the 2015 SHOP plans and estimated prices available in your area right now.
ACA Transitional Reinsurance Program Submission Form Now Available
Section 1341 of the Affordable Care Act established a transitional reinsurance program to stabilize premiums in the individual market inside and outside of the Marketplaces. The transitional reinsurance program will collect contributions from health insurance issuers and certain self-insured group health plans (contributing entities) in the 2014, 2015 and 2016 benefit years to fund reinsurance payments to issuers of non-grandfathered reinsurance-eligible individual market plans, the administrative costs of operating the reinsurance program, and the General Fund of the U.S. Treasury.
HHS has implemented a streamlined process for the collection of reinsurance contributions where a contributing entity, or a third party administrator (TPA) or administrative-services only (ASO) contractor on behalf of the contributing entity, can complete all of the required steps for the reinsurance contribution submission process on Pay.gov: registration, submission of the annual enrollment count via the ‘ACA Transitional Reinsurance Program Annual Enrollment and Contributions Submission Form’ (the Form), and remittance of contributions.
The Form will be available via www.pay.gov on Friday, October 24, 2014 in time for the 2014 benefit year’s annual enrollment count submission deadline of November 15, 2014 set forth under 45 CFR 153.405(b). We note that reinsurance contribution payments are not due on November 15, 2014. HHS will offer contributing entities the option to pay: (1) the entire 2014 benefit year contribution in one payment no later than January 15, 2015, reflecting $63.00 per covered life; or (2) in two separate payments for the 2014 benefit year, with the first remittance due by January 15, 2015 reflecting $52.50 per covered life, and the second remittance due by November 15, 2015, reflecting $10.50 per covered life.
Additional information regarding the transitional reinsurance program can be accessed HERE and payments can be made by clicking HERE.
SOCIAL SECURITY DEVELOPMENTS
Social Security Announces 1.7 Percent Benefit Increase for 2015
The Social Security Administration recently announced that monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for nearly 64 million Americans will increase 1.7 percent in 2015.
The 1.7 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will begin with benefits that more than 58 million Social Security beneficiaries receive in January 2015. Increased payments to more than 8 million SSI beneficiaries will begin on December 31, 2014. The Social Security Act ties the annual COLA to the increase in the Consumer Price Index as determined by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Some other changes that take effect in January of each year are based on the increase in average wages. Based on that increase, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax (taxable maximum) will increase to $118,500 from $117,000. Of the estimated 168 million workers who will pay Social Security taxes in 2015, about 10 million will pay higher taxes because of the increase in the taxable maximum.
DOWNLOAD a fact sheet showing the effect of the various automatic adjustments and to read more about the how COLA is calculated, click HERE.
Addressing Ebola Concerns
Ebola, previously known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever, is a rare and deadly disease caused by infection with one of the Ebola virus strains. Symptoms may appear from 2-21 days after exposure and include fever, severe headache, muscle pain, weakness, fatigue, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain and unexplained hemorrhage (bleeding or bruising).
Recovery from Ebola depends on good supportive clinical care and the patient’s immune response. People who recover from Ebola infection develop antibodies that last for at least 10 years. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), individuals can only get Ebola from touching:
• Blood or body fluids of a person who is sick with or has died from Ebola;
• Contaminated objects (e.g., needles); or
• Infected fruit bats or primates (e.g., apes and monkeys).
Individuals cannot get Ebola through the air, through water, or through food grown or legally purchased in the United States.Currently, most workers in the U.S. are unlikely to encounter Ebola virus or individuals with Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever (EHF). However, exposure to the virus or someone with EHF may be more likely in certain sectors, including the healthcare, mortuary/death care, and airline servicing industries. Workers who interact with people, animals, goods, and equipment arriving in the U.S. from foreign countries with current EHF outbreaks are at the greatest risk for exposure.
Precautionary measures for preventing exposure to the Ebola virus depend on the type of work, potential for Ebola-virus contamination of the work environment, and what is known about other potential exposure hazards. Infection control strategies may have to be modified to include additional selections of personal protective equipment (PPE), administrative controls, and/or safe work practices. OSHA has developed interim guidance to help prevent worker exposure to Ebola virus and individuals with EHF.
The following are OSHA’s requirements and recommendations for protecting workers whose work activities are conducted in an environment that is known or reasonably suspected to be contaminated with Ebola virus (e.g., due to contamination with blood or other potentially infectious material). These general guidelines are not intended to cover workers who have direct contact with individuals with EHF.
◾ Employers should follow recognized and generally accepted good infection control practices, and must meet applicable requirements in the Personal Protective Equipment standard (29 CFR 1910.132, general requirements) and the Respiratory Protection standard (29 CFR 1910.134).
◾ Use proper personal protective equipment (PPE) and good hand hygiene protocols to avoid exposure to infected blood and body fluids, contaminated objects, or other contaminated environmental surfaces.
◾ Wear gloves, wash hands with soap and water after removing gloves, and discard used gloves in properly labeled waste containers.
◾ Workers who may be splashed, sprayed, or spattered with blood or body fluids from environmental surfaces where Ebola virus contamination is possible must wear face and eye protection, such as a full-face shield or surgical masks with goggles. Aprons or other fluid-resistant protective clothing must also be worn in these situations to prevent the worker's clothes from being soiled with infectious material.
◾ Workers tasked with cleaning surfaces that may be contaminated with Ebola virus must be protected from exposure. Employers are responsible for ensuring that workers are protected from exposure to Ebola and that workers are not exposed to harmful levels of chemicals used for cleaning and disinfection. OSHA’s Cleaning and Decontamination of Ebola on Surfaces (PDF*) Fact Sheet provides guidance on protecting workers in non-healthcare/non-laboratory settings from exposure to Ebola and cleaning and disinfection chemicals. CDC also offers specific guidance for workers cleaning and disinfecting surfaces that have been in contact with blood or body fluids from a traveler known to have or suspected of having EHF.
◾ Employers must train workers about the sources of Ebola exposure and appropriate precautions. Employers must train workers required to use personal protective equipment on what equipment is necessary, when and how they must use it, and how to dispose of the equipment. In addition where workers are exposed to blood or other potentially infectious materials, employers must provide the training required by the Bloodborne Pathogens standard, including information about how to recognize tasks that may involve exposure and the methods to reduce exposure, including engineering controls, work practices, and personal protective equipment.
For more, visit the CDC's WEBPAGE or OSHA's WEBPAGE dedicated to Ebola education.