On February 26, 2009, the Internal Revenue Service released detailed information that will help employers claim credit for the COBRA medical premiums they pay for their former employees.

Under the new law, eligible former employees, enrolled in their employer’s health plan at the time they lost their jobs, are required to pay only 35 percent of the cost of COBRA coverage.  Employers must treat the 35 percent payment by eligible former employees as full payment, but the employers are entitled to a credit for the other 65 percent of the COBRA cost on their payroll tax return.

  • Employers must maintain supporting documentation for the credit claimed. This includes:
  • Documentation of receipt of the employee’s 35 percent share of the premium.
  • In the case of insured plans: A copy of invoice or other supporting statement from the insurance carrier and proof of timely payment of the full premium to the insurance carrier.
  • Declaration of the former employee’s involuntary termination.

The informational Release is IR-2009-15, includes an amended Form 941 and the Instructions,  together with a Q&A for Employers.  The Q&A makes the following notes on implementing and claiming the subsidy:

  • The Employer may provide the subsidy (65%) and take the take the credit on its employment tax return only after it has received the 35% premium payment from then intdividual.
  • The law became effective on the date of enactment, Feb. 17, 2009. However, under a transition rule, the regular premium amount may continue to be paid for up to two months after enactment (e.g., for March and April), and the subsidy can be provided retroactively.
  • An employer can reduce its tax deposits or claim the credit on its quarterly return.
  • An assistance-eligible individual can be any COBRA qualified beneficiary associated with the related covered employee, such as a dependent child of an employee, who is covered immediately prior to the qualifying event. The qualifying event for purposes of eligibility for the subsidy is involuntary termination of the covered employee’s employment that occurs during the period beginning Sept. 1, 2008, and ending Dec. 31, 2009. The individual must also be eligible for COBRA coverage, or similar state coverage, during this period.
  • Model notices implementing the law will be issued shortly apparently by the Department of Labor.