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Calculating FT and FTE employees in 2018

ACA is still the law of the land and the enforcement of being noncompliant is quickly being enforced by the IRS.  These penalties are going to be back breaking for most employers, and there is not going to be any grace/forgiveness period. ACA factual knowledge and understanding is key to your future success.  All legal experts agrees that the biggest pit fall for employers is not properly identifying if they are an Applicable Large Employer (ALE) and not offering benefits to those eligible employees.

As part of their annual filing of healthcare coverage information with the IRS, organizations must determine if they are Applicable Large Employers (ALEs) for purposes of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – that is, whether they have an average of 50 or more full-time or full-time-equivalent employees over the course of a year.

This calculation is important because of two provisions of the ACA that apply to ALEs.

First, the Employer Shared Responsibility Provisions outlines what penalties an ALE faces if they have failed to comply with theACA. The IRS has already started issuing Letter 226J tax penalty notices to ALEs for failure to comply with ACA regulations. These notices contain ACA penalty assessments pertaining to ACA information filings for the 2015 tax year. Some of these IRS Letter 226J notices contained penalties in the millions of dollars. More are expected to be issued this year, including for 2016 tax year filings. For an infographic on how to respond to Letter 226J penalty notices, click here.

Second, the employer information reporting provision requires that an annual information return be submitted to the IRS. The return provides information on whether ALEs offered to their employees and their dependents, and, if so, what type of insurance was offered to the employees (e.g., affordable and minimum value). These reports can either be submitted using paper returns or submitted electronically through the Affordable Care Act Information Returns (AIR) Program. You can learn more about 2018 filing dates for submitting 2017 tax year information by clicking here.

In addition, self-insured ALEs – that is, employers who sponsor self-insured group health plans – have additional provider information reporting requirements. The vast majority of employers will fall below the ALE threshold, the IRS noted. These companies, therefore, will not be subject to the employer shared responsibility provisions.

In determining whether they are an ALE, in general, employers average their number of employees across the months in a calendar year to see whether they have at least 50 FT or FTE employees.

Here are three terms important in determining whether an organization is an ALE:

A full-time employee in general is an employee who, on average, works at least 30 hours per week, or at least 130 hours in a calendar month.

A full-time equivalent employee is a combination of employees, each of whom individually is not a full-time employee, but who, in combination, are equivalent to a full-time employee. For example, two employees who each work an average of 15 hours per week are equivalent to one full-time employee.

To determine if an organization is an applicable large employer for a year, in general, the organization counts its full-time employees and full-time equivalent employees for each month of the prior year, and calculates the average number of FT and FTE employees during the year.

In making the ALE calculation, companies must determine if they are a member of an aggregated group of two or more commonly owned, related or affiliated employers.

Members of an aggregated group must combine their employees to determine their workforce size. The members of the group must count the full-time and full-time equivalent employees of all members of the group for each month of the prior year, and calculate the average number of FT and FTE employers for the year.

For example, if three firms are jointly owned, with one on average having 20 full-time employees during the year, another having 25 and the third with 12, the three firms together are an ALE.

There are additional rules for determining who is a full-time employee, including what counts as hours of service. For more information on these rules, see the employer shared responsibility final regulations and related questions and answers on IRS.gov.

For more information, see the Determining if an Employer is an Applicable Large Employer page on the IRS.gov website.

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