IRS Q&As on Form W-2 ReportingPosted on: November 25, 2014Categories: HR & Compliance
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) added Internal Revenue Code (Code) section 6051(a)(14), which requires employers to report the aggregate cost of employer-sponsored group health plan coverage on their employees’ Forms W-2. This reporting requirement was originally effective for the 2011 tax year. However, the IRS later made reporting optional for 2011.
In April 2011, the IRS issued Notice 2011-28, which furthered delayed the Form W-2 reporting requirement for small employers and provided interim guidance on the reporting requirement. On Jan. 3, 2012, the IRS issued Notice 2012-9, which revised and clarified the IRS’s interim guidance on the Form W-2 reporting requirement.
The IRS’s interim guidance is written in question-and-answer (Q&A) format and provides information on a variety of issues related to the Form W-2 reporting requirement. The interim guidance is generally applicable beginning with the 2012 Forms W-2. Employers that voluntarily reported the cost of coverage on the 2011 Forms W-2 were also allowed to rely on the interim guidance.
This Legislative Brief contains the Q&A interim guidance as provided by the IRS in Notice 2012-9. It has been updated to include additional Q&As provided by the IRS.
Q-1: What does Code § 6051(a)(14) require?
A-1: Section 6051(a)(14) generally requires the aggregate cost of applicable employer-sponsored coverage to be reported on Form W-2.
Q-2: Does the requirement under § 6051(a)(14) to report the aggregate cost of employer-sponsored coverage on Form W-2, or compliance with this requirement, have any impact on whether such coverage is taxable?
A-2: No. The requirement is informational only. The provisions of § 6051(a)(14) do not affect whether any particular coverage is excludable from gross income under § 106 or any other Code provision, and the reporting of any amount on Form W-2 in compliance with the requirements of § 6051(a)(14) will not affect the amount includable in income or the amount reported in any other box on Form W-2. The purpose of the reporting is to provide useful and comparable consumer information to employees on the cost of their health care coverage.
Employers Subject to the Reporting Requirement
Q-3: What employers are subject to the reporting requirement under § 6051(a)(14)?
A-3: Except as provided in this Q&A-3, all employers that provide applicable employer-sponsored coverage (see Q&A-12) during a calendar year are subject to the reporting requirement under § 6051(a)(14). This includes employers that are federal, state and local government entities, churches and other religious organizations and employers that are not subject to the COBRA continuation coverage requirements under § 4980B, to the extent such employers provide applicable employer-sponsored coverage under a group health plan. (Notice 2010-69, 2010-44 I.R.B. 576, provides that reporting by these employers is not mandatory prior to the issuance of the 2012 Forms W-2 (the forms required for the calendar year 2012 that employers generally are required to furnish to employees by the end of January 2013 and then file with the Social Security Administration (SSA))).
Employers that are federally recognized Indian tribal governments are not subject to the reporting requirements of § 6051(a)(14). Until further guidance is issued, employers that are tribally chartered corporations wholly-owned by a federally recognized Indian tribal government also are not subject to the reporting requirements.
Also, in the case of the 2012 Forms W-2 (and Forms W-2 for later years unless and until further guidance is issued), an employer is not subject to the reporting requirement for any calendar year if the employer was required to file fewer than 250 Forms W-2 for the preceding calendar year. (This rule is based upon the rule in § 6011(e) that exempts employers from filing returns electronically if they file fewer than 250 returns.) Therefore, if an employer is required to file fewer than 250 2011 Forms W-2, the employer would not be subject to the reporting requirement for 2012 Forms W-2. For this purpose, whether an employer is required to file fewer than 250 Forms W-2 for a calendar year is determined based on the Forms W-2 that employer would be required to file if it filed Forms W-2 to report all wages paid by that employer and without regard to the use of an agent under § 3504. For example, an employer that would have filed only 100 Forms W-2 for the previous year had it not used an agent under § 3504 will not be subject to the reporting requirement for the year, nor will an agent under § 3504 with respect to that employer’s Forms W-2 for the year. In contrast, if the same employer would have filed 300 Forms W-2 for the previous year had it not used an agent under § 3504 of the Code, that employer would be subject to the reporting requirement for the year so that if an agent under § 3504 is used again the information will need to be provided to the agent and reported on the Form W-2.
See also Q&A-21 for an exception to the reporting requirement for coverage under a self-insured plan that is not subject to any federal continuation coverage requirements and Q&A-22 for an exception from the reporting requirement for plans maintained primarily for members of the military, or primarily for members of the military and their families.
Note: The IRS has indicated that for purposes of determining whether an employer filed fewer than 250 Forms W-2 for the prior year, the employer is determined without the application of any aggregation rules.
Method of Reporting on the Form W-2
Q-4: Is the reporting of the aggregate cost of applicable employer-sponsored coverage required for Forms W-2 issued for the 2010 or 2011 calendar years?
A-4: No. Section 6051(a)(14) does not apply to Forms W-2 for calendar years prior to 2011 and, accordingly, reporting of the aggregate cost of applicable employer-sponsored coverage is not required for Forms W-2 issued for the 2010 calendar year. Moreover, Notice 2010-69 provides that reporting will not be mandatory for the 2011 calendar year and, accordingly, an employer will not be treated as failing to meet the requirements of § 6051 for 2011, and will not be subject to any penalties for failure to meet such requirements, merely because it does not report the aggregate cost of applicable employer-sponsored coverage on Forms W-2 for 2011.
Q-5: How is the aggregate reportable cost reported on Form W-2?
A-5: The aggregate reportable cost is reported on Form W-2 in box 12, using code DD