Welcome, Guest
(Login | My Resources)

Must we track Actual Hours Worked for ACA

Publication Date: 7/23/2014 3:58:47 PM

According to IRS Bulleting 2014-9 released on February 24 2014, the answer is yes.

Click on this link to see the complete IRS bulletin:
IRS 2014-9

 

General definition of hours of service

Section 4980H(c)(4)(B) provides that the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of Labor, will prescribe such regulations, rules and guidance as may be necessary to determine the hours of service of an employee, including rules for the application of section 4980H to employees who are not compensated on an hourly basis. In consultation with the Secretary of Labor, the Treasury Department and the IRS formulated rules set forth in the proposed regulations that generally were based on the definition of the term hour of service for purposes of the rules related to the crediting of hours of service under a qualified retirement plan (see 29 CFR 2530.200b–2(a)), with certain modifications.

Specifically, the proposed regulations define an hour of service to mean each hour for which an employee is paid, or entitled to payment, for the performance of duties for the employer, and each hour for which an employee is paid, or entitled to payment by the employer for a period of time during which no duties are performed due to vacation, holiday, illness, incapacity (including disability), layoff, jury duty, military duty or leave of absence (as defined in 29 CFR 2530.200b–2(a)).

For employees paid on an hourly basis, an employer is required to calculate actual hours of service from records of hours worked and hours for which payment is made or due. For employees paid on a non-hourly basis (such as salaried employees), an employer may calculate the actual hours of service using the same method as for hourly employees, or use a days-worked equivalency crediting the employee with eight hours of service for each day for which the employee would be required to be credited with at least one hour of service, or a weeks-worked equivalency whereby an employee would be credited with 40 hours of service for each week for which the employee would be required to be credited with at least one hour of service. The proposed regulations prohibit use of these equivalencies, however, in circumstances in which their use would result in a substantial understatement of an employee’s hours of service in a manner that would cause that employee not to be treated as a full-time employee.

Comments were received on the days-worked and weeks-worked equivalency methods. Commenters requested that the number of hours of service credited under the equivalency methods be increased from eight hours per day or 40 hours per week to 10 hours per day or 45 hours per week, consistent with equivalency methods contained in regulations issued by DOL. See 29 CFR 2530.200b–3(e). The higher equivalency amounts under the DOL regulations are intended to provide an expansive standard for the number of hours an employee is credited with for purposes of eligibility, vesting and accrual of benefits in a pension plan. In the context of section 4980H, an equivalency of eight hours per day or 40 hours per week is more appropriate.

Commenters requested clarification of the circumstances under which an employee must be credited with service under the equivalency methods. Specifically, commenters asked whether an employee must have actually worked one hour of service in a day or week to be credited with eight or 40 hours of service respectively for that period. The equivalency methods contained in the proposed regulations provide that hours must be credited for any day or week in which the employee would otherwise be required to be credited with one hour of service if treated as an hourly employee. As described previously in this section VI.A, under the service crediting method applicable to hourly employees, an hourly employee must be credited with hours of service for certain hours in which no services are performed but with respect to which payment is made or owed by the employer (such as certain hours of paid leave). Accordingly, the equivalency methods do not require that an employee have actually worked an hour of service in a day or week to be credited with eight or 40 hours of service with respect to that day or week. This approach is the same as the equivalency rule for crediting hours of service under an employee pension benefit plan under DOL regulations at 29 CFR 2530.200b–3(e).

The preamble to the proposed regulations states that an employer may change the method of calculating non-hourly employees’ hours of service for each calendar year. At one commenter’s request, this rule has been added to the text of the final regulations. As set forth in the proposed and final regulations, an employer is not required to use the same method of calculating a non-hourly employee’s hours of service for all non-hourly employees, and may apply different methods of calculating a non-hourly employee’s hours of service for different categories of non-hourly employees, provided that the categories are reasonable and consistently applied. An employer may change the method of calculating a non-hourly employee’s hours of service for one or more categories of non-hourly employees for each calendar year as well.

One commenter asked whether an employer is required to calculate hours of service using all three hours of service calculation methods provided for non-hourly employees (actual hours and two equivalencies), and if an employer is required to classify the employee as a full-time employee if the employee would have such status under any of the methods. The regulations indicate that the equivalency methods are optional, and that an employer choosing to use equivalencies may determine hours of service using one of the equivalency methods. Accordingly, employers are not required to use more than one method of determining hours of service for any particular employee.

Commenters requested that the equivalency methods be expanded to include employees who are compensated on an hourly basis. Because employers are required to maintain records of hours worked in the case of employees who are compensated on an hourly basis, and because use of the equivalency methods could in some cases understate or overstate the number of hours actually worked by such employees, the final regulations do not adopt this suggestion.

One commenter requested that the anti-abuse rule prohibiting the use of an equivalency method if the result is to substantially understate an employee’s hours of service in a manner that would cause the employee not to be treated as a full-time employee be expanded to also prohibit the use of an equivalency method if the result is to understate hours of service for a substantial number of employees (even if no given employee’s hours of service are understated substantially and even if the understatement would not cause the employee to not be treated as a full-time employee). This expanded rule could affect the calculation of FTEs as part of the applicable large employer determination. For example, if an employer had 100 non-hourly employees who each worked two days per week for 10 hours each day, the employer could not use the days-worked equivalency because that would result in 400 fewer hours of service being included in the FTE calculation for each week, even though the understatement would not affect the employees’ treatment as full-time employees (because these employees are not full-time employees, regardless of the use of equivalencies). The final regulations adopt this suggestion.

B. Exclusions from definition of hour of service

Commenters requested that hours of service performed in certain capacities not be counted as an hour of service. The final regulations adopt the following changes in response to these comments.[7]

1. Volunteer Employees

Commenters requested that hours of service performed in the capacity of a volunteer for a government entity or tax-exempt organization not be counted as hours of service for purposes of section 4980H. Under the definition of hour of service outlined in these regulations, an hour of service is generally defined as an hour for which an employee is paid or entitled to payment. Accordingly, hours worked by a volunteer who does not receive (and is not entitled to receive) compensation in exchange for the performance of services are not treated as hours of service for purposes of section 4980H.

Commenters noted, however, that some volunteers receive compensation in the form of expense reimbursements, stipends, contributions to employee benefit plans, or nominal wages. Local governments, for instance, noted that many volunteer firefighters or other emergency responders are paid a salary or an hourly wage, generally at a rate lower than the rate paid to non-volunteers performing services in a similar capacity. Other volunteer firefighters or emergency responders may receive expense reimbursements or other fees each time they respond to a call. Commenters generally expressed concern that volunteer service would be discouraged if volunteer hours were required to be counted when determining whether the individual is a full-time employee for purposes of section 4980H.

In response to these concerns, the final regulations provide that hours of service do not include hours worked as a “bona fide volunteer.” For this purpose, the definition of “bona fide volunteer” is generally based on the definition of that term for purposes of section 457(e)(11)(B)(i), which provides special rules for length of service awards offered to certain volunteer firefighters and emergency medical providers under a municipal deferred compensation plan. For purposes of section 4980H, however, bona fide volunteers are not limited to volunteer firefighters and emergency medical providers. Rather, bona fide volunteers include any volunteer who is an employee of a government entity or an organization described in section 501(c) that is exempt from taxation under section 501(a) whose only compensation from that entity or organization is in the form of (i) reimbursement for (or reasonable allowance for) reasonable expenses incurred in the performance of services by volunteers, or (ii) reasonable benefits (including length of service awards), and nominal fees, customarily paid by similar entities in connection with the performance of services by volunteers.

2. Student Employees

Commenters from educational organizations requested that special rules apply for determining the hours of service of employees who are also students of an educational organization. These comments generally fell into two categories. First, commenters expressed concern about the impact of section 4980H on federal work study programs under which a student receives financial aid in the form of a federally subsidized work assignment. Commenters posited that if educational organizations were required to aggregate hours of service performed by the student employee in the context of the work study program with hours of service performed by the student employee for the educational organization in other capacities (for example, a non-work study position with the campus bookstore) in determining whether the student is a full-time employee for purposes of section 4980H, it could discourage educational organizations from hiring students in other capacities in addition to their work study positions. Second, commenters requested that hours of service performed for an outside employer by students through an internship or externship program sponsored by an educational organization not be counted as hours of service for the outside employer for section 4980H purposes. The commenters suggested that, without such an exception, outside employers would be discouraged from offering internships or externships to students, which could have a detrimental impact on the educational system.

The federal work study program, as a federally subsidized financial aid program, is distinct from traditional employment in that its primary purpose is to advance education. See 34 CFR 675. To avoid having the application of section 4980H interfere with the attainment of that goal, the final regulations provide that hours of service for section 4980H purposes do not include hours of service performed by students in positions subsidized through the federal work study program or a substantially similar program of a State or political subdivision thereof. However, the final regulations do not include a general exception for student employees. All hours of service for which a student employee of an educational organization (or of an outside employer) is paid or entitled to payment in a capacity other than through the federal work study program (or a State or local government’s equivalent) are required to be counted as hours of service for section 4980H purposes.

With respect to internships and externships, services by an intern or extern would not count as hours of service for section 4980H purposes under the general definition of hours of service contained in the regulations to the extent that the student does not receive, and is not entitled to, payment in connection with those hours. However, excluding hours of service for which interns or externs receive, or are entitled to receive, compensation from the employer from the definition of hours of service for section 4980H purposes would be subject to potential misuse through labeling positions as internships or externships to avoid application of section 4980H. The final regulations do not adopt a special rule for student employees working as interns or externs for an outside employer, and, therefore, the general rules apply, including the option to use the look-back measurement method, as appropriate, or the monthly measurement method.

b/2014-9_IRB/ar05.html