Giving employees a taxable stipend to go toward medical costs is a common choice made by small firms who cannot afford to provide formal health coverage. The value of these dollars is reduced since a health insurance stipend payment is regarded as an integral component of employees’ salary and not as a distinct benefit, despite the fact that this option is simple to administer and saves employers time.
This means that unlike tax-free health benefits, stipends have payroll and income tax ramifications. Additionally, companies are not allowed to demand that workers provide proof that they used their stipend money to pay for health insurance.
So, in the end, is receiving a health insurance stipend worthwhile? The advantages and disadvantages of taxable health insurance stipends will be discussed in this article along with best practices and a tax-free method of providing health insurance to your staff.
What is the procedure for a health insurance stipend?
Employees who receive a health insurance stipend are given a set, taxable amount to utilize for out-of-pocket expenses or to purchase an individual health insurance plan.
This gives you the opportunity to let them choose a health insurance plan of their own rather than having to pay for group health insurance for all of your employees, which may be more affordable for you given the escalating cost of healthcare.
The monthly contributions made by the employer are often included in the employee’s paycheck as earnings. You have the option of giving your employees a monthly stipend through an expense card or a lifestyle savings account (LSA), or you can pay for their medical bills.
Pros of a health insurance stipend
A stipend may have some special benefits. Employees will get access to a variety of coverage choices, be able to compare them, and be able to choose the health insurance strategy that best meets their requirements, among other advantages.
With a health stipend, you can easily give overseas employees and 1099 contractors a benefit without impacting their employment status.
You can completely tailor your stipend levels to your organization’s needs without any contribution limits as a stipend isn’t a recognized health benefit.
A health insurance stipend could be a good idea for your business if…
If your company qualifies, a health insurance stipend can be an excellent option.Offering a formal corporate health insurance plan is not something you can afford.
You shouldn’t have to be concerned about any ERISA, HIPAA, or IRS compliance requirements.Through automatic payroll increases, you want something straightforward and simple to operate.
For the cost of their individual health insurance premiums, your employees can earn advance premium tax credits (APTC).
Cons of a health insurance stipend
Employees who get stipends are not required to utilize the funds to pay for health insurance. You can only assume that your employees will use the stipends for health insurance and other medical costs. Employees may also perceive the removal of the stipend as a pay decrease if they consider it to be a component of their earnings. By doing this, morale can decline.
Other cons of a health insurance stipend include:
Payroll tax is due by employers on reimbursements reaching 7.65%.
Employees pay taxes on their income, which typically ranges from 20% to 40%.
It may not achieve your intended goal of providing a health benefit because you cannot ask employees to produce proof of insurance.
The very people you were trying to hire might be turned off because many potential employees might not consider a stipend to be a true “benefits package.”
Guidelines for health insurance reimbursements When you adhere to local tax requirements, stipends are acceptable. Stipends are now generally used as a supplemental benefit to regular salary, but they have occasionally been misused in the past. Stipends shouldn’t ever be used as a general rule to exempt a worker from a salaried position, whether they work full- or part-time.
Here are three excellent practices to take into account when providing employees with a health insurance stipend:
Never demand proof of health insurance from employees.
For health insurance, direct payment or direct reimbursement is seen as an employer payment arrangement, and the firm may be penalized for requesting proof.
Consider the allowance as taxable income.
Remind workers on a regular basis that the stipend is meant to be a health benefit. By doing this, workers will be more inclined to use it for medical needs rather than just seeing it as extra money.
stipends versus health insurance plans (HRAs)
As previously indicated, stipends are subject to payroll and income taxes, which reduces how far employer expenditures can go. Fortunately, there is a tax-free substitute for stipends.
An IRS-approved employer-funded health benefit called a health reimbursement arrangement (HRA) allows employees to receive tax-free reimbursement for certain out-of-pocket medical costs and individual health insurance premiums.
Because they offer greater financial flexibility and tax benefits, many businesses prefer HRAs to healthcare stipends. You choose the monthly tax-free allowance amount you want to give your employees. Your payment quantities cannot go beyond an allowance once it has been established.
The insurance and services that employees select are paid for out of their own pockets. Employees then provide evidence of a paid eligible expense, typically in the form of a receipt, and the employer reimburses them after verifying the expense.
Other pros of an HRA are:
They are tax-exempt. Payroll taxes are not applied to reimbursements for either the employer or the employee. If the employee has minimal necessary coverage, they are also exempt from income taxes (MEC).
They mandate that the money be used for medical costs by the employees. According to IRS Publication 502, employees may only utilize the funds for approved costs. Plans that further limit the costs that can be reimbursed can be created by employers.
They are simple to use. Companies like PeopleKeep offer administration software that is entirely compliant and simple to use to make submitting and paying for expenses easier. To guarantee that you only compensate employees for legitimate expenses, a team of professionals evaluates all expense documentation.
They aid in luring in and keeping top talent. Small and medium-sized businesses can provide a high-quality health benefit without breaking the bank thanks to HRAs.
No of the size, status, or financial constraints of your company, PeopleKeep offers HRAs that are suitable for all employers.
Three of the most well-liked HRA varieties are as follows:
the acceptable tiny business HRA (QSEHRA) (QSEHRA) The personal insurance HRA (ICHRA) (ICHRA) group insurance GCHRA, also referred to as an integrated HRA
One option to assist employees with the cost of health insurance is to provide health insurance stipends. Employees may treat them as a standard bonus despite the fact that they are cost-effective, simple to administer, and subject to taxes.
PeopleKeep can assist determine if a health stipend is the best option for your company. Organizations can quickly and inexpensively set up employee stipend benefits with our WorkPerks benefits platform.
HRAs are another excellent option for paying for healthcare expenses incurred by employees, but they are tax-free and can only be used for medical bills and insurance premiums.
Schedule a conversation with a specialized benefits advisor if you think an HRA or health stipend is the best option for your company, and we’ll help you get started. The first version of this blog post was released on August 25, 2020. The most recent update was on September.
Additional advantages of an HRA include:
They do not pay taxes. Reimbursements to either the employer or the employee are exempt from payroll taxes. They are also free from paying income taxes if they have the bare minimum of coverage (MEC).
They provide that the employees must spend the funds for their medical expenses. Employees are only permitted to use the money for approved expenses, according to IRS Publication 502. Employers are able to design plans that further restrict the expenses that can be reimbursed.
They are easy to operate. To make filing and paying for costs easier, businesses like PeopleKeep offer administration software that is completely compliant and user-friendly. A team of experts reviews all expenditure documents to ensure that you only pay employees for justified expenses.